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Maginot Line 1940: Battles on the French Frontier

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  • Posted 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 not, then I strongly recommend you buy this book.

    The Maginot Line 1940 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 to know about German-French battles, they really 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 (1999) 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 thoroughly (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 for a review.)

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