On May 19, 1940, as the Blitzkrieg overwhelmed France, German troops captured Le Petit Ouvrage La Ferté, a northern outpost of the lengthy, heavily fortified and much-maligned Maginot Line.
In the wake of the French collapse that entire system of fortifications became a byword for strategic stupidity and backward thinking.
But in fact the Maginot Line did its job, keeping the Germans and Italians out of the large part of France it defended.
Even the poorly built and ineptly defended La Ferté, the only part taken during the initial Nazi assault, gave the Germans such trouble they hailed its capture as a major achievement.
The Maginot Line cost far less than the French navy and performed much better.
As for the French army, despite the bravery of its soldiers and the quality of its equipment, French generals and French politicians so mishandled it in the spring of 1940 as to produce sudden, almost inexplicable disaster.
But the Maginot Line itself held firm and it, and the men who manned it, deserve a much better reputation than they normally enjoy.
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