France Builds World’s Greatest Defense System (Mar, 1931)

That sure worked out well…

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France Builds World’s Greatest Defense System

In spite of the recent peace treaties and disarmament conferences, Europe is preparing for war. This article describes the French reaction to current peace talk.

NOT since the ancient Mongols erected the great Chinese wall more than two thousand years ago, has any nation conceived so gigantic a system of defensive fortifications as is now under construction on the eastern frontier of France and Belgium.

This system, when completed, will provide a chain of forts stretching from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea. Two hundred miles of this chain, reaching from the Mediterranean to Lorraine, are now ready; and that this southern half should be rushed to completion first, shows that the French Republic fears Italy at this time more than disarmed Germany.

This defensive chain consists of armored concrete cupolas placed three-quarters of a mile apart, with a secondary chain of similar “pill-boxes” placed farther to the rear and half way between the first line. Any two of the front line forts, with its corresponding member in the rear, will form a triangle three-quarters of a mile on each side with its base toward the front. In wartime they are to be linked together with a system of trenches and underground passages connecting with each other and with the rear. The entrenched protection line connects to the rear with an underground railway for bringing up munitions and evacuating the wounded.

Each of these miniature forts will be equipped with heavy guns for long-distance firing, and will bristle with machine guns for use against attacking infantry.

The crew for each casemate numbers thirty men, and comfortable living quarters are provided forty feet underground. Under this forty feet of earth is a ten-foot layer of concrete, while the turrets themselves, which project but slightly above the surface of the ground, will be of heavily armored concrete.

18 comments
  1. hip2b2 says: March 23, 20116:42 am

    The defensive line to the South was called the Alpine Line while the defensive line between Germany and France to the North-East was called the Maginot line. In hindsight it belongs to the category of “It seemed like a good idea at the time” as it turned out to be a total waste of money and resources.

  2. Mitch says: March 23, 201111:21 am

    How do those guys in the turret not become immediately dead the first time that big gun fires off? Go visit a fort that was active during WWII and you’ll see that the big guns are invariably out in the open – specifically to keep the operators from turning into strawberry jam from the shock wave.

  3. John says: March 23, 201111:31 am

    Mitch: I dunno, probably the same way that Navy gunners in a battleship turret didn’t become jelly whenever the gun fired http://upload.wikimedia…

    The shockwave comes out of the muzzle which you’ll no doubt note is extending out of the dome?

    Good thing you caught that after it was actually built. I guess they had to replace the entire dead crew every time a shot was fired.

    I don’t know too many “forts” that were attacked in WW2 apart from Eben Emael. You would see field artillery out in the open because it was just too much trouble building a concrete dome overhead whenever they relocated the guns.

  4. Fred says: March 23, 201111:51 am

    John: You don’t remember the moving forts of WWII? You know, the ones with the open air artillery?

  5. John says: March 23, 201112:01 pm

    Fred: You know that reminds me that tank turrets are a stupid idea too! You have a gun going off in an space smaller than a Maginot line turret! Oh all those jellified crews! Leave it to the Government to hush up all those poor lads being jellified while defending democracy.

  6. TomB says: March 23, 201112:48 pm

    Also, two of the guys have to sleep with their buddies’ feet in their face. Bummer.

  7. JMyint says: March 23, 201112:48 pm

    There was Fort Eben-Emael and several lesser forts in Belgium that were attacked and over run by the Germans in 1940. Their design was a bit more conservative than the Maginot line, but the guns were mounted in both turrets and casements.

    http://www.fronta.cz/zb…

    The page is in Czech but has some good pictures of the gun installations.

  8. John says: March 23, 20112:41 pm

    JMyint: So that’s how the Germans defeated Eben Emael. They allowed the Belgians to fire their guns, reducing everyone inside to strawberry jam and the rest was easy. And I always thought that it was the shaped charges.
    http://www.johnsmilitar… (in English)

  9. Charlene says: March 23, 20116:43 pm

    TomB: They just have to find the right kind of guy….

  10. Repack Rider says: March 23, 201110:17 pm

    Talk about your border fence…

  11. Hirudinea says: March 24, 201111:49 am

    The French invested in static defences and the Germans invested in mobile warfare, guess who won?

  12. John says: March 24, 20111:08 pm

    Hirudinea: What, WW2? Why, the French of course.

  13. Toronto says: March 24, 20112:49 pm

    @Charlene: Men of that caliber don’t show up every day.

  14. jayessell says: March 24, 20114:06 pm

    Would 2000 German speaking French secret agents have been cheaper?
    Time Travelers are forbidden to assassinate Hitler, but that
    wouldn’t apply to the locals.

  15. Mcubstead says: March 24, 20115:54 pm

    About the photo with the path cut into the underbrush?? What happens if the invaders went around the path…oh yea, the Germans tried that didn’t they. I notice there’s not one AA-gun in the whole article.

  16. Hirudinea says: March 25, 20116:52 pm

    Sorry I should have said who won the Battle of France, and as to the French winning WWII, well if you consider collaboration and rescue to be winning then, yes, they did win. :)

  17. John says: March 25, 20117:11 pm

    Hirudinea: They kicked the Germans out of Paris with the 2nd French Armored Division (along with the American 4th Infantry Division) and got their country back. Vichy government was exiled and the Republic re-established. They were one of the Allies that was on the winning side against the Axis. I’d say that qualifies as winning.

  18. Martin says: September 13, 201112:41 pm

    JMyint: I also wrote an article about french weapons of the Maginot line: http://www.fronta.cz/zb…
    I hope Google translator will be sufficient to understand this article.

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