Saturday, June 9, 2012

NOT a Bullshit Building: The Maginot Line

One of the turret in the Maginot Line
One colossal building that many people think is a bullshit building: The Maginot Line of France. I disagree with that. I'll make this article to refute that notion.

The Beginning & The Design
The country of France in 1930 faced a problem: she is very close with Germany, while has dwindling demographic. The hero of the first world war, Marshall Joffre, suggested to build a fortification line along the border with Germany to compensate for this weakness. Mandy modern-oriented military leaders, e.g.; Charles de Gaulle, disagreed with this plan, but Joffre's plan prevailed.

The fortification was not one single solid wall like the ancient Chinese great wall, but bunkers, casemates, turrets, and fortresses interconnected with underground tunnel. And as you can see in the next picture, the line behind the direct French-German border was far stronger than the line behind the Belgium and Luxembourg borders.

According to the wikipedia's article, the specific objectives of this fortification are:
The location of the fortification

  • To avoid surprise attack
  • To delay the enemy, covering the time for mobilization (2-3 weeks)
  • To save manpower
  • To protect Alsace-Lorraine (Elsaß-Lothringen, the area behind the "strong fortification" line on the map on the left.)
  • To be used as base in counter-attack operation
  • To force the enemy to attack France NOT from the direct French-German border (See the map on the left.)
  • To show non-aggressive stance of France

For me all of these objectives are rational, feasible, and achievable objectives. And indeed they achieved all of that.

The War
When the German's finally came in May 10th 1940, the line functioned as intended. Everybody know that France was not the aggressor, they also forced the German's NOT to attack from their shared borders, they forced the German's to attack in another direction, they detected German's invasion of Belgium, and  finally, they managed to delay the Germans long enough to mobilize their forces, for counter-offensive together with British Expeditionary Forces (BEF).

But they still lost the war. 

How come?

The German's invasion of Belgium was just a diversion. The main thrust of attack came from Ardennes forest (The area in South Belgium, near Luxembourg.), that was very weakly defended.  After puncturing the defense line, the German's armored corps swung North, cutting the France army and the BEF logistic line, trapping them in Belgium without fuel. 

This could be only temporary setback for the France, IF they had a reserve forces. Unfortunately, the didn't have it. They throw everything to Belgium, nothing could stop the German Panzers to roll to Paris and to the South coast.

The End Verdict:
So, the Maginot Line is never a bullshit building because it already fulfilled its rational purpose. The fault was in the hand of its designer, who like a construction worker prepared himself  to work on a wall, bringing an expensive drill, only to find out he drill in the wrong place, and he didn't bring a screwdriver to put the screw. Don't blame the drill, blame the worker.

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