Customer Reviews: Maginot Line 1940: Battles on the French Frontier (Campaign)
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2010
Although there have been a number of good books written about the German attack on France in 1940, traditional historiography has been skewed toward just the first three weeks of the campaign and emphasizing the German breakthrough at Sedan, the dash to the sea and the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk. Most accounts mention the role played by the French Maginot Line in shaping the German breakthrough plan, but rarely discuss what the Maginot Line troops were doing during the actual campaign. Indeed, the follow-up German invasion of metropolitan France (Fall Rot or Plan Red) and the final three weeks of the campaign are usually absent entirely or skimmed over quickly in standard accounts. However, Marc Romanych's Maginot Line 1940 not only fills both these gaps admirably but it succeeds in presenting fresh content about the German efforts to reduce the Maginot Line. Whereas most accounts suggest that little happened around the Maginot Line while the Germans were overrunning the rest of France, Romanych details seven different German operations to reduce and capture various sections of the line. This book is well-researched and put together with an eye for detail that makes it particularly useful for specialist readers.

Maginot Line 1940 begins with a brief overview of the German invasion plan (Fall Gelb or Plan Yellow), the brief French offensive into the Saar in 1939 and a campaign chronology, followed by the usual sections on opposing commanders, forces and plans. These opening sections are decent, but a bit brief, except for the 3-page order of battle. One good point that the author makes in these sections is that despite the fact that the Maginot Line was created to guard the French border with Germany and thereby allow the French Army to reduce the number of troops committed to static defensive roles, they violated this intent by deploying almost half their divisions to support the Maginot Line. Clearly some of these divisions could have been bettered employed in the general reserve.

The campaign narrative proper begins with the opening German moves through the Ardennes and the breakthrough at Sedan, but the author does not belabor material that has been well-trodden in standard accounts. It is with the German capture of Fort La Ferte, the western end of the Maginot Line, that the author finds his groove. He discusses how the Germans massed over 250 guns against the fort and spent two days reducing its outer defenses until it was finally captured. This was the first Maginot Line fort captured and the author notes that the French high command was stunned that it had fallen so quickly. From this point on, the author discusses the capture of the Maubeuge fortifications and then moves from west to east down the Maginot Line, detailing the German operations that occurred in the final two weeks of the war to reduce the line. As it turns out, there was quite a lot of fighting around the Maginot Line but the Germans only captured 10 of 58 major defensive works before the Armistice. There is a great deal of detail in his narrative and the tactical dynamic tends to be similar for most of these operations: French interval troops withdraw leaving the Maginot Line forts isolated, German troops move in, pound the forts with point-blank fire from 88-mm flack guns then assault with artillery and engineers. Rinse and repeat. This tactical dynamic and the author's recounting of it does get a bit repetitive, particularly since there are no first-person accounts included. On the other hand, much of this information has not appeared in English before so think of it as a helpful dose of medicine. One of the few disappointments I had about the author's research was that the analysis in the Aftermath section seemed incomplete, particularly in regard to casualties. Given that Paris had already fallen by the time that many of these operations were occurring and an armistice was imminent, the question is not asked whether these later attacks on the Maginot Line really contributed to the defeat of France and were the casualties suffered worth what was gained. Some of the German attacks just before the armistice seemed a bit gratuitous and it begs the question who was ordering these attacks.

Maginot Line 1940 has a total of five 2-D maps (overview of the campaign, 10 May - 25 June 1940; overrun of the Ardennes defenses, 12-16 May 1940; Battle for the Mauberge fortifications, 12-27 May 1940; envelopment of the Metz region, 10-21 June 1940; attacks in Alsace, 15-21 June 1940) and three 3-D BEV maps (Battle for Fort La Ferte, 16-19 May 1940; infantry attack on Fortress Fermont, 21 June 1940; Operation Tiger, 14-16 June 1940; assault across the Rhine near Kunheim, 15 June 1940) that do an admirable job of supporting the campaign narrative. Simply put, the maps are superb. The three battle scenes by artist John Whitte (the assault on Fort La Ferte, 18 May 1940; the end of Fort Kerfent, 21 June 1940; the fight for casemate Oberroedern-Nord, 20 June 1940) are also very nice but all are from the German perspective. The B/W photos are also very good and most have not appeared elsewhere in English sources. One of the few shortcomings in this volume is the bibliography, which is rather anemic with only five works cited, including one other Osprey volume. Although the author clearly used German archival records at NARA, he did not list any or provide the specific URLs of some of the Maginot Line-related Internet websites that he mentions in the text. Overall, this volume is not only an excellent addition to Osprey's Campaign series but a serious piece of historical research in its own right.
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on April 19, 2010
Did you know that some of the battles fought along the Maginot Line delayed the German advance long-enough to facilitate the evacuation of British, French, and other allied forces at Dunkirk? If this one of the many things you never knew about the Maginot Line, then I strongly suggest you read the Maginot Line 1940 as it fills a gap in standard military history books describing the campaigns and battles on the Western Front in World War II. Based on the subject, it's clearly a specialized (and small) book that fills a narrow niche, but for those WWII buffs who think they know all there is about German-French battles, they probably don't until they read this book. The book is definitely a labor of love for who usually considers the battles fought along the Maginot Line as major WWII reading? Most histories that mention the Maginot Line dismiss it as a useless or foolish French endeavor quickly bypassed by the Germans and with no impact to the overall German invasion of France. Reading this book provides a context for where the Line fit in French defenses overall, where it failed and why, and where it almost succeeded in its purpose and why. The book is beautifully and carefully complemented by an enormous number of period photographs, order-of-battle listings, unit location and campaign maps, two-page color terrain maps with descriptions of specific key actions, and artist drawings (from photographs) with notable activities described. The photos, maps, and illustrations bring the narrative alive and give one the feel for the frustrations German units felt in their difficulties overcoming some of the positions as well as the desperate exhaustion some French defenders must have felt in holding off German units for up to 3 days through pounding artillery and infantry and engineer attacks. This book is clearly a labor of love by the authors. For full disclosure, I know one of the authors (M. Romanych) and was privileged to receive a personal tour by him of one of the Line's positions in France. (We were both returning from a deployment to SFOR headquarters in Bosnia and stopped at Ramstein AB for a couple of days before flying back to the U.S. From Ramstein, he hired a car and drove us both to France for a one-day tour.) Among the many things I discovered that day was that Marc Romanych has an extensive background on the Maginot Line and had explored it extensively (courtesy of several U.S. Army tours in Germany). This book makes the tour he gave me of the Line (including several hours walking through one of the accessible positions and surrounding grounds) more meaningful. Despite my acquaintance with Marc, I would not write a favorable review for anything he wrote if I didn't believe in the quality of what he (and his co-author) produced. This book is a short yet fascinating read; it's well worth the time and money. (And yes, I bought my own copy of the book and no, he didn't ask me to write a review.)
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on March 3, 2010
This highly focused and highly informative book far surpassed my expectations for an Osprey Campaign. It had material that even a full size book didn't have concerning the history of the building of the fortifications, the layout and manning of those buildings and the eventual penetration of the Maginot network by the Germans.
The coverage, in typical Osprey format, was concise, informative and logical. In the introductory chapters, the brief history of the Maginot fortifications is discussed. As the "Phoney War" with Great Britain progresses, the authors discuss the French manning the Line as well as the mobilization of its reserves. At the same time, the Germans spent a lot of time studying the best way to conquer their old adversary.

Opposing Commanders lists the four top officers of each side. It was adequate but this was the only chapter in the book that I wished for more information. It would have been nice to have greater coverage of the French Commanders but space was a limiting factor.
Opposing Armies was excellent, especially the French side when describing the disposition of troops in the different fortifications as well as surrounding areas along the line. A spreadsheet was also presented of each Order of Battle, helping to understand the combatants.
A Chronology summarized the key events of the campaign.

The authors devoted 61 pages to the campaign and the coverage was very detailed and from my perspective one of the best in the entire series. There were 58 forts along the line but not all fort fighting was covered but all the key forts that had an impact of the German penetration were covered. There were some forts that were still held by the French at the time of the surrender; the Germans decided it wasn't necessary to capture all forts to win the war. The maps and illustrations highlight the key battles.

In aftermath the authors give their appraisal of the war. While the Maginot Line was a help to the French, it did have several weaknesses. First the forts didn't have enough firepower; the Germans were able to stand back and shell the forts with impunity for days with their big guns which had greater range. Another weakness was the lack of antiaircraft fire which allowed the Luftwaffe to attack at will from the air. It was also shown that the poor disposition of the French troops along the line contributed to their loss. The French and their Allies suffered approx 90,000 dead, 200,000 wounded and 1.9 million men were POWs. These figures were missing from the text and a minor omission by the authors.

There were six excellent 2-D maps and three 3-D maps. The 2D maps were extremely well drawn and were very helpful in following the narrative. The maps were of: the Overview of the campaign, 10 May - 25 June 1940; the Overrun of the Ardennes defenses, 12-16 May 1940; Battle for the Mauberge fortifications, 12-27 May 1940; Envelopment of the Metz region, 10-21 June 1940; Operation Tiger, 14-16 June 1940; Attacks in Alsace, 15-21 June 1940. The three 3-D maps are the Battle for Fort La Ferte, 16-19 May 1940; Infantry attack on Fortress Fermont, 21 June 1940; Assault across the Rhine near Kunheim, 15 June 1940. The maps were well populated with key towns and rivers and showed troop dispositions, axes of advance and clear points of penetration on the front line.
The three battle scenes include the assault on Fort La Ferte, 18 May 1940; the end of Fort Kerfent, 21 June 1940; the fight for casemate Oberroedern-Nord, 20 June 1940. The maps and artwork were awesome!!

The many photos were also interesting; many of which were of the different casemates. You didn't have to be told, you could see by the photos that the German Hi-Velocity 88 Flak Gun played an important part in penetrating the Maginot line. It was more effective in breaching the walls than some of the bigger guns.
This was an interesting book that I learned a lot from. Its highly recommended to all who want to learn about the battles of the French frontier or have an interest in great maps and photos of the campaign.
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on July 1, 2016
The battle of France in 1940 was a major victory for Germany in the opening days of World War II. The illustrations and bird's eye view maps in this book are among the best I have ever seen in Osprey books, and I have read quite a few. I really enjoyed the author's narrative of the campaign and this is a fine addition to a WWII library.
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VINE VOICEon March 19, 2010
This is an excellent, concise book on the Maginot Line, its history, why the French built it, its strengths and weaknesses. Authors Romanych and Rupp spell out the French and German Armies, commanders and plans for the German attack on France in 1940. The majority of the German attack found a gap in the Maginot Line and raced through it to defeat the French in six weeks. Some attacks were made against the 1930's fortresses and those battles are told here.

Plenty of B&W photos, maps, 3-D illustrations help the reader understand what the fortification line really looked like. It was never an unbroken chain, but a series of forts built at key places to provide mutual fire support. Take out one, and the line begins to unravel.

The Germans were most successful when they used the 88 mm Anti Aircraft cannon in direct fire mode against the concrete bunkers and armored cupolas. The Germans showed the forts could be attacked and defeated with the correct tactics and weapons, sometimes at heavy costs.

One thing surprised me - there were no cut-aways showing the inside of the major blockhouses or casemates. But the illustrations that are there more than make up for this one missing piece. I'm lucky enough to have seen some of these blockhouses - they size and effort put into them is incredible - almost as much as the battles fought in 1940. Even if the Germans had attacked head long into the Maginot Line, they would have still won, but at a much greater price.

Highly recommended reading to fill a gap not addressed elsewhere. I think all students of WW2 will enjoy this very much as well as anyone with an interest in fortifications.
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on January 22, 2014
This book is written in military style and prose which, many readers, such as myself, will appreciate. The "Order of Battle" for both the opposing forces is welcomed as well as the excellent maps (~8). There is a symbol chart of unit designations which is a must for non-military readers. The art work depicting key moments of the battles add a careful yet accurate touch which reminds us that real young men suffered here although it has been still for nearly 75 years. I consider this book a necessary addition for the libraries of students and historians of the Battle for France in 1940.
Kermit R. Mercer
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on April 23, 2013
Truly Excellent book !!! Describing in detail lesser known part of Fall Gelb operation with lots of previously unpublished pictures and many maps showing how the operations progressed !!!!
It would be nice addition to anybody interested on the subject !!! Highly recomended !!!
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on February 8, 2016
Great book!
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on August 18, 2013
Often the "forgotten story" of the 1940 campaign. The detail on each attack on forts, fortresses and fortified regions is much appreciated.
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on December 28, 2014
nice book
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