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The Maginot Line

The Maginot Line was a series of fortifications and defenses built by France between the First and Second World Wars along its borders with Germany and Italy. Named after French Minister of Defense André Maginot, it was intended to prevent surprise attack and slow an attacking force long enough to allow France time to mobilize it's armed forces who were suffering from a personnel shortage during these years. The fortifications were built in several phases from 1930 to 1940 and extended from Switzerland to Luxembourg. Lighter defenses were extended all the way to the Strait of Dover. Although the name suggests that it was a thin linear defense line, it was actually 12 to 15 miles deep and consisted of an intricate system of fortifications and military facilities.

From front to rear, the defenses themselves consisted of blockhouses and outposts followed by anti-tank obstacles made of vertical metal rails planted into the ground and anti-personnel obstacles in the form of very dense barbed wire. Beyond these were the infantry casemates which were armed with machine guns and anti-tank guns housed in cloches or turrets mounted on top of the structures. These were crewed by 20 - 30 men each. The next line of defense was the petits ouvrages which reinforced the infantry casemates. These consisted of several infantry bunkers connected by an underground network of tunnels which connected them to barracks and other infrastructure. These were crewed by 100 - 200 men each. The most important fortifications of the Maginot Line were the gros ouvrages. These had the sturdiest construction and the largest artillery. These consisted of at least six forward bunker systems or "combat blocks" which were interconnected by a network of tunnels and narrow gauge railway systems. These were a city unto themselves with their own infrastructure including power stations, ventilation systems, barracks, workshops, ammunition stores and food supplies. These were crewed by 500 to over 1,000 men each.

These defenses were supplemented by observation posts situated on hilltops, a redundant telephone network, infantry reserve shelters, and heavy rail artillery. A network of 2-foot guage railways helped to supply the ouvrages from ammunition and supply depots up to 30 miles behind the lines. In addition to these, certain basins and rivers could be flooded on demand creating another obstacle for advancing forces. There were 142 ouvrages, 352 casemates, 78 shelters, 17 observatories and around 5,000 blockhouses in the Maginot Line.

Ouvrage Bois-du-Four

Ouvrage Bois-du-Four is a petit ouvrage that lies about a mile south of Villers-la-Montagne and about a mile and a half east of Morfontaine. This petit ouvrage was made up of only one combat block and had no underground tunnel system. It was originally planned to be expanded into a gros ouvrage but was never completed. Ouvrage Bois-du-Four was part of the Fortified Sector of the Crusnes. The combat block was armed with three automatic rifle cloches (GFMs), one observation cloche (VDP), and one machine gun turret. Other defenses included seven light machine guns, two heavy twin machine guns, three machine gun / 47-mm anti-tank guns all in embrasures, and two 81-mm mortars. Ouvrage Bois-du-Four saw little action in the Battle of France in 1940 and was stripped of its furnishings and equipment by the German occupiers. Likewise, it saw little action in the Lorraine campaign of 1944.

Casemates de Verbusch East and West

The infantry Casemates de Verbusch East and Verbusch West lie about two miles east of Morfontaine and about a half mile southeast of Bois-du-Four. The casemate de Verbusch East consisted of a single combat block with one JM / AC47 (machine gun / anti-tank embrasure), one JM embrasure armed with twin machine guns, one 81-mm mortar cloche and one GFM cloche (a lookout and firing position for light weapons). About 170 meters to the north and west lies Casemate De Verbusch West which was designed to be a mirror-image of it's counterpart to the East. It had similar armaments but had two GFM cloches and lacked the 81-mm cloche. Today the area of the Casemate de Verbusch East has been totally overgrown with forest.