Biography of World War I Sergent Andre Maginot

About the World War I Sergent Andre Maginot his history and biography, how he developed the Maginot Line.


Although Andre Maginot (1877-1932) had barely escaped with his life in W.W. I when severely wounded during the defense of Verdun, contaminated oysters finally caused his death from typhoid. Decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor and the Medaille Militaire, the former sergeant, who had enlisted as a private despite the fact that he was French Undersecretary of War in 1913, returned to government service and eventually became Minister of Defense. Determined that France would never be invaded again, he and his generals proceeded to plan and have a fortified wall built along the eastern border from Switzerland to Belgium, a wall which extended 314 km. [195 mi.] at $2 million a mile. The Maginot Line, complete with self-sufficient forts dug 7 floors deep into the earth, was meant to warn against surprise attacks from Germany into Alsace and Lorraine, but only engendered a false sense of security in France that became known as the "Maginot mentality," even though the wall was never extended to the coast.

Maginot's death spared him from seeing it easily bypassed by the Germans in W.W. II when they entered France through Belgium. The line's impregnability was never tested, but it could easily have been blasted by bombs, battered by tanks, or circumvented by paratroopers if it had been finished. The fault lay not so much with Maginot as with a war-weary country almost wanting to be lulled into a sense of false security. This the Maginot Line, like the Great Wall of China before it, readily provided.

Even now the smaller Maginot Line fortresses are being sold by the French Government. Most have been bought by those with romantic attachments to futile things, for the structures are uninhabitable white elephants with little practical use. Some of the line has already been purchased by the same Germans against whom it was built, as no French law prohibits the sale to foreigners. "It is conceivable," says one French official "that each of the fortifications could be bought by a different officer of the German General Staff."

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