Ft. Hackenberg - Maginot Line

Part of the intent of the Maginot Line was to deter war.  In this, obviously, it failed.  Allied propaganda touting the strength of the line, combined with its secrecy extending into the 1970s, has led to many mis-perceptions.  News accounts in the 1930s made mention of massive underground barracks, underground garages for armored fighting vehicles, and even underground airplane hangers.  None of these things existed.  Much was made of the tunneling, with claims that all the forts were connected to each other underground.  This too was untrue.  Another misconception was that France's construction of the fort prevented France from modernizing and motorizing its army.  This too was untrue.  The French army in 1940 was the most motorized in history up to that point.  The French military in 1940 was impressive in a number of ways.  Unfortunately, it also had many flaws.  Faced with a competently enemy - equipped, organized,and led along visionary lines, France folded quickly.  Most other defense establishments would have also - and many did.

The Maginot Line was never intended to be impregnable.  No fortification is, but it held up well to attacks, even after the interval troops between and near the forts were withdrawn.  Of all the permanent fortifications of the Second World War, those of the Maginot Line were most successful.  The line was designed to give France the time it needed to mobilize in the event of war.  In this, it succeeded.  The forts, stretching along the German and Luxembourg borders were to be defended with the help of troops in the intervals between them.  Maginot Line defenses were also constructed on the border with Italy, where they were very successful in repelling attacks.  Less extensive defenses were built along the Rhine and along the Belgian border, but these works were not part of the Maginot Line proper.  Extensive fortifications along the Belgian border were ruled out for several reasons.  Firstly, the water table was low, preventing extensive digging.  France was also allied with Belgium until 1936 so building strong defenses along the border would suggest an unwillingness on the part of France to actively aid its ally.  

Reverse Slope

Personnel Entrance


Munitions Entrance

EM = Munitions Entrance
EH = Personnel Entrance
M1 = Magazine

Switching Area

Diesel powered locomotives from the outside system of military railways supplying the Maginot Line could leave their trains to be picked up by the electric powered trains inside.

The magazine is to the left.




Airlock System

The door provided protection from chemical weapons, allowed the garrison to seal off sections that had been captured, and protected against an explosion in the magazine.  The door was damaged in 1944


The eating area is not as generous as in contemporary artists' conceptions.  The men would often eat in the barracks area.



Fortified electrical facilities to the rear of the Maginot Line forts connected with multiple forts through underground wires to supply electricity.  Forts also contained their own engines and generators.  


Among other items, the train ran by electricity supplied from overhead wires.

Note wall decoration

Eastern Section

Western Section

Western Section

Block 8 – 3 x 75mm
Block 7 – MG, infantry
Block 9 – 2 x 135mm howitzers
Block 10 – 81mm mortar

Looking over Block 7


Block 9

Block 9

Note the overhead equipment for ammo transport.


Block 9 - 135 mm Retractable turret

This turret is still in working order!


Block 8

This block, with three 75mm pieces, was damaged in September 1944 by the US Army.  The ditch was designed to keep debris from interfering with the weapons in addition to being an obstacle to the enemy.  Note the bridge.  In a combat situation, a board would likely be used instead.


Block 8 - 75mm 

Note grenade dropper at left and communication device at right.  The fort was run like a ship.  Empty shells were expelled down the chute for recycling.


Block 8

Copyright 2010-11 by John Hamill

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