When you go looking for dumb shit from the past, especially when said dumb shit has to do with military matters, the French are easy targets.Â The two greatest military minds in French history are a 16-year-old girl and a midget from Corsica.
It’s often said that in each new war, the generals start out trying to re-fight the last war, and that was never more true than during the lead-up to World War II.Â France had spent nearly all of World War I on the defensive in their own territory, fighting off the invading Germans with neither side ever able to score a decisive breakthrough.
After the war, the French figured they’d build a huge defensive line of forts on their eastern border with Germany, which became known as the Maginot Line.Â In fairness to the French (note: this may be the last time you ever hear me say those words), the Line was not supposed to be the be-all, end-all of defense against the Germans.Â It was merely supposed to hold them off long enough to allow the French army to mobilize to meet the threat, which could take as long as two to three weeks.
Well, it sort of worked.Â Hitler took one look at the long line of forts that stood between him and Paris, and did what any sensible person would have done:Â he went around it.Â Â He faked a frontal assault on the Line, and then attacked through Belgium.Â France was, for some reason, counting on the Belgians and their own line of defensive forts to hold off the Germans just in case they turned out to be smart enough not to just barrel-ass headlong into the Maginot Line.Â Needless to say, this was not the best plan ever.Â Once the French and the British moved into Belgium to offer help in fighting off the Germans, the bulk of Hitler’s forces then moved through the “impenetrable” Ardennes region and flanked the allies.Â Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe just, you know, flew over the Line, dropping paratroopers and just generally bombing the shit out of whatever they felt like.
The whole thing was over in less than six weeks, with the British heroically running away at Dunkirk and the French surrendering and being occupied by the Germans.Â Oddly, this was exactly the outcome the Germans had expected to achieve in World War I, so in this instance, maybe the Germans are the first people in history to successfully fight the previous war during the successive campaign.