How would you influence France so that it would build a better Maginot Line?

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,251
#51
That "something was very wrong at the top of the French military, and it was not a money thing" is I think partly what was implied by "morale".
I'd like to add my voice to the line of though pointing out the decisive French weakness in 1940 as being communications, rather than the sneaky concept of "moral".

Gamelin upon becoming CiC installed his HQ in the Chateaa de Vincennes outside Paris. He didn't think the role of the HQ was such that it needed a telephone line. I.e. in the Battle of France in 1940, the French CiC was impossible to reach by telephone from the outside, and saw no reason why he should communicate out of the HQ by using one either. So yes, despatch riders it was.

The major French problem was pacing and timing. The Germans could run rings around them since the French communications were so sluggish as to make sure that by the time a commander somewhere high up enough had been passed the info and made a plan, by the time the horizon of events had moved on, and whatever he had in mind was obsolete before anyone could get going. (A certain French rationalist, "Cartesian" tendency for how the chain-of-command ought to work also seems to have been unhelpful.) The Germans consciously kept the pace up, and so kept the French on the wrong foot. It clearly worked. The German also fought according to the precept of an OK plan that can be implemented immediately is always better than a better plan that has to wait until tomorrow.

St Éxupery, the novelist/aviator, who flew as a combat pilot in 1940 described things from above (possibly imagery conceived in hindsight but still evocative) as a matter of the German army being this viscous, toxic fluid, seeping in between the units of the French army – and if the French army was seen as a living organism, and its various units as "organs" within that living system, what this German "fluid" was doing was to cut them off from one another, shutting down communication, shutting down coordination, at which point the French army as a living entity started to die. Various "organs" (units) responding differently. Some just shutting down going still, dying, some responding frantically and violently, but overall in a futile fashion, because with the German army "seeping" in, between and through, lack of coordination doomed them. (I've forgotten the original French title, but in Swedish it's called "På spaning mot Arras".)
 
Apr 2018
951
Upland, Sweden
#52
Ah yes I actully have that book in my bookshelf at home from French class in high school (I was a sneaky and bad student and did not give it time beyond the cover and the first chapter)! I should actually read it some time...

Very interesting points overall.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
8,963
USA
#53
Um- bull. purest bull and revisionist history.

If the threat was from germany, why not build the maginot line all the way across the border with the low countries? What possible 'defense' could it offer if their entire plan was that germany could just go around it.
If they foresaw Germany could just go around it... then why didn't they stop germany ?

Surely if their entire Intention was to direct german invasion thru the low countries then PART of that plan Must have been STOPPING germany at the belgian border?

In fact- they did not build it fronting the low countries because that would be politically sensitive, and because they simply did not have the funds. They assumed that any gripe Germany had with France would NOT involve the low countries and so the Germans would not cross them.

In fact they did not stop Germany because they flat out lacked the armaments and manpower to stop them- which is because of all the money and resources and manpower sucked up by that imbecilic fortification.

The French imagined another WWI- so they built a Super Trench. They utterly failed to imagine what could be done with tanks and modern air power.


Oh- and Mechanized warfare does not refer only to tanks. Infantry was transported by trains, trucks, and AIR.
It refers to the ability to Move materiel forward in your logistics chain at the same speed your aircraft can gain superiority and your tanks can advance.

Germany built autobahns- france still relied on a maze of dirt/mud roads that passed thru the heart of every village.


France not only failed on the battlefield- not only failed in diverting massive resources to a useless series of bunkers-
they strategically failed in terms of infrastructure.

They built something enormous that played ZERO part in the war. When they could have built paved highways so they could move armaments and men more rapidly.


Sorry, but apologias over the moronic Maginot are as toothless as was the Maginot line.
Its clear you never read anything about this subject beyond generalized articles or posts on the internet. You know how I know this? Because the reasoning behind the Maginot Line was never a secret, they were quite candid about what the purpose was and what it wasn't. And it does not at all coincide with anything you're writing.

The Maginot Line was supposed to lock down the direct French German border to deter a German attack from THAT AREA. It was to protect vital French strategic industrial areas, and to allow a large bulk of barely trained and quickly inducted reservists to man sturdy fixed fortifications that would allow them to fight in smaller numbers than being exposed. The French didn't want to fight Germany again inside French territory. In WW1, it had devastated French economy and society and they were still recovering from that in the 30s. The French German border is more mountainous than flat, it was not even a great invasion route to get to France, which historically had been through the Low Countries anyway. So the idea was to fight the Germans inside Belgium specifically, and the Netherlands and Luxembourg if possible, with the bulk of the best mobile units of the French military, coupled with allies like the Belgians, British, anyone else that would help, in a relatively small sector where they could mass their forces while using economy of force on the French German border by having those units stationed there performing strictly defensive functions from fixed fortifications.

Being that they would fight from fixed fortifications, reinforced concrete and steel plating, troops needed far less training to accomplish their mission, ranging from advanced individual skills but especially unit training focusing on maneuver, which is actually very hard to teach, and very costly and time consuming. Soldiers only needed to know exactly how to fire weapon systems and to fire preplanned fires on preplanned sectors all written down, and officers only needed to control those non mobile forces under their command, which would actually be relatively simple. It didn't require highly disciplined and trained soldiers, in great shape. It didn't require them to have a large amount of equipment like artillery or trucks or horses or tanks. It only requires a low amount of mobile forces behind the defensive line who would be responsible for counteattacking any breakthroughs. Overall, it saved money because once the initial cost of the concrete and steel was paid for, overhead was very low. Far cheaper when considering the cost of holding that same sector while fighting outside of well constructed fixed fortifications.

The German went around it. Which was the plan. The problem with that plan was where the Maginot Line ended and where the French expected the main effort attack to occur left a decent sized area that was weakly covered by troops fighting from outside the very strong forts of the Maginot Line, near Sedan. Because opposite to them was the Ardenne, thought to be too constraining for a large German advance, French high command ignored the sector and placed two literal second rate infantry divisions with poor training, almost no land mines, to block the sector which turned out to be the focal point of the German combined arms attack.

The German success had nothing at all to do with the Maginot Line, it had to do with where French failed to place forces in the sector of the battlefield where they actually did want to fight a war of maneuver. They gambled the Germans wouldn't attack there, so when they did, and when neither France nor the BEF could provide a large enough reserve force to stop the breakthrough, it meant the entire northern sector, which contained nearly the entire BEF and most of the best of the French army, was enveloped and cut off from their supply lines. The BEF largely managed to escape at Dunkirk, while most of the encircled French were forced to surrender. That left the rest of France, especially Paris, completely open to attack, as the rest of French forces, by design, were largely holding the French German border, which German Army Group C was positioned against, so they were essentially prevented from responding, and that doesn't even factor in that they lacked the equipment and training to conduct a rapid march to form a new line to defend Paris. Ergo, the French govt realized they lost, so they surrendered.
 
Likes: Teslatron

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,762
Lorraine tudesque
#54
I'd like to add my voice to the line of though pointing out the decisive French weakness in 1940 as being communications, rather than the sneaky concept of "moral".

Gamelin upon becoming CiC installed his HQ in the Chateaa de Vincennes outside Paris. He didn't think the role of the HQ was such that it needed a telephone line. I.e. in the Battle of France in 1940, the French CiC was impossible to reach by telephone from the outside, and saw no reason why he should communicate out of the HQ by using one either. So yes, despatch riders it was.

The major French problem was pacing and timing. The Germans could run rings around them since the French communications were so sluggish as to make sure that by the time a commander somewhere high up enough had been passed the info and made a plan, by the time the horizon of events had moved on, and whatever he had in mind was obsolete before anyone could get going. (A certain French rationalist, "Cartesian" tendency for how the chain-of-command ought to work also seems to have been unhelpful.) The Germans consciously kept the pace up, and so kept the French on the wrong foot. It clearly worked. The German also fought according to the precept of an OK plan that can be implemented immediately is always better than a better plan that has to wait until tomorrow.

St Éxupery, the novelist/aviator, who flew as a combat pilot in 1940 described things from above (possibly imagery conceived in hindsight but still evocative) as a matter of the German army being this viscous, toxic fluid, seeping in between the units of the French army – and if the French army was seen as a living organism, and its various units as "organs" within that living system, what this German "fluid" was doing was to cut them off from one another, shutting down communication, shutting down coordination, at which point the French army as a living entity started to die. Various "organs" (units) responding differently. Some just shutting down going still, dying, some responding frantically and violently, but overall in a futile fashion, because with the German army "seeping" in, between and through, lack of coordination doomed them. (I've forgotten the original French title, but in Swedish it's called "På spaning mot Arras".)
You are talking about the book Flight to Arras

Flight to Arras - Wikipedia
 
Aug 2014
218
New York, USA
#55
Um- bull. purest bull and revisionist history.
Please do not accuse me of revisionism if you didn't read a single serious history book about the subject. Other posters have covered it well already.
Hint: if multiple people, who clearly know more about the subject than you, are saying that you are wrong, instead of launching into insults and trying to score internet points in a debate, just read and learn. Learning about history is what this forum is for.
I'd like to add my voice to the line of though pointing out the decisive French weakness in 1940 as being communications, rather than the sneaky concept of "moral".
The French army had many weaknesses at the time, but in my opinion communications/morale or even doctrine were not the decisive weaknesses. Even with all of these the French could've slugged it out with the Germans for months or maybe even years like in WW1. They would probably still loose due to the weaknesses you mention, but it wouldn't be a quick loss at all. The decisive moment that quickly ended the campaign was the failure to check the German breakthrough out of the Ardennes, and lacking any strategic reserve to mount a quick counter-attack on the 8 overextended German panzer divisions. Remember, everyone was expecting another re-run of the classic hammer-and-anvil Schlieffen plan, and not the cut through the Ardennes that basically decapitated 4 Allied armies (French, BEF, Belgians, and the Dutch).
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
8,963
USA
#56
The French army had many weaknesses at the time, but in my opinion communications/morale or even doctrine were not the decisive weaknesses. Even with all of these the French could've slugged it out with the Germans for months or maybe even years like in WW1. They would probably still loose due to the weaknesses you mention, but it wouldn't be a quick loss at all. The decisive moment that quickly ended the campaign was the failure to check the German breakthrough out of the Ardennes, and lacking any strategic reserve to mount a quick counter-attack on the 8 overextended German panzer divisions. Remember, everyone was expecting another re-run of the classic hammer-and-anvil Schlieffen plan, and not the cut through the Ardennes.
I think more than communication the problem with France was unity. Their military leadership was made up of traditional officer corps that were very right winged who opposed the ever increasing powers of civilian govt, influenced by republicans, center right to far left who (probably) rightly feared giving them too much power or control of large bodies of well organized troops as were considered a reactionary threat. There is a reason no republic in history has ever eagerly empowered a standing army, especially in times of political turmoil.

I'm not doing it justice, this video does a good job explaining the problems with assumed loyalties, and the resulting chaos it caused in terms of French military preparedness:

Development of French Armoured Doctrine, 1918-1939
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,342
Sydney
#57
It should be well to remember that the Wehrmacht pulled a similar trick in late 1944 with some quite interesting results
against a much better command
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,342
Sydney
#59
Battle of the bulge , pretty much in the same terrain , pretty much a nasty surprise
better coms. mobility and mobile battle experience made a difference
also the Wehrmacht was on a thin logistic thread , unless 1940 the tanks could not refill on French petrol stations
 
Jul 2016
8,963
USA
#60
Battle of the bulge , pretty much in the same terrain , pretty much a nasty surprise
better coms. mobility and mobile battle experience made a difference
also the Wehrmacht was on a thin logistic thread , unless 1940 the tanks could not refill on French petrol stations
A bit different situation but had the US Army responded as slowly as Germans thought, the Germans definitely would have taken the Meuse. Nobody within OB West on down ever planned anything seriously beyond the Meuse but they were sure they'd be able to reach that and at least destroy a bunch of US Army divisions along the way, force a large number of surrenders.

There was no strict timeline for the offensive but the basic expectation was based off an intelligence estimation the US Army would need roughly six days to form a proper response, and in reality they did it within one. But that was due to the fact the US Army was highly mobile, very flexible, extremely accomplished at maneuver warfare, with very experienced HQs from army group level down to regimental level. Very much a different situation than France in May 1940. Their best most mobile troops were fixed in place in the northern sector in the Low Counties facing off frontally against Army Group B. At the Ardenne in 1944, the strongest British and US forces capable of responding, uncommitted, was pretty much the entire 21st Army Group, which didn't do much in the battle as the entire US Ninth Army and half the First Army on the northern side of Bulge could still maneuver and fight, and Patton's Third Army was already prepped to move in days from the South.

German military operational success in maneuver 1939-41 was a trick they just couldn't repeat once their enemy understood their playbook.