Maginot Line at War 1939-1940

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The Combatants

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men.

Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), President of France

A tank of Panzer Group Kleist passes Casemate Bellevue near Sedan
War is an human endeavor.  The stories of the individual soldiers are the true story of combat.  Here are some that we know:   

German Senior Commanders

Studio photograph of Generaloberst von Leeb

Generaloberst Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, Commander of Army Group C, 1938-1940.  An authority on defensive warfare, von Leeb was the ideal officer for operations against the permanent fortifications.  Under his command, Army Group C conducted two major offensives to pierce the Maginot Line.  For his part in the French Campaign, von Leeb was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall.  After the war, he was captured by the US Army.  While in captivity he helped the European Command Historical Division compile a historical study of German operations in the war.  His personnel file from that period is below:

Post-war personnel file of Generalfeldmarschall von Leeb (pdf)


German Soldiers

Card with Alfred Germer's signature (J Scott Collection)

Oberleutnant Alfred Germer (71st Infantry Division).  As the commander of 1st Kompanie, Pionierbataillon 171, Alfred Germer led the assault on Fort La Ferté (known to the Germans as Panzerwerk 505).  On 18 May, Germer's detachment of combat engineers and infantry attacked and disabled the fort's armored cupolas and turret with explosive charges.  The charges set off secondary detonations inside the turret and started several fires inside the fort.  Smoke and fumes from the fires killed the entire French crew which refused to surrender even though their position was hopeless.  La Ferté was the first Maginot Line fort to fall to the German army.  For his part in the action Germer was awarded the Knight's Cross.


During the invasion of Russia, Germer fought at Kiev in 1941.  Afterward, he was assigned to the army engineer school.  In spring 1943, Germer returned to the 71st Infantry Division and was appointed commander of Pionierbataillon 171.  He left the 71st Infantry Division in 1944 to attend general staff training at the war academy.  In September 1944, now a major, Germer was assigned to the VI Army Corps, participating in the retreat to East PrussiaHe was reported missing in action at Breslau in March 1945.

Personnel file of Oberleutnant (later Major) Alfred Germer

Photograph from Franz Netzsch's Soldbuch

Unteroffizier Franz Netzsch (215th Infantry Division).   Born in 1913 in Bavaria, Franz Netzsch was a musical instrument maker by trade.  He joined the Wehrmacht as an engineer (pionier) and was called up to the 215th Infantry Division on 26th August 1939.  At the time of the 215th Infantry Division’s attack on the Maginot Line, he was a junior non-commissioned officer (unteroffizier) in 3. Kompanie, Pionierbataillon 204.  For his part in the action, Netzsch received the Iron Cross Second Class (EKII) on 03 July 1940.

In January 1941 Netzsch's unit was transferred to the 6th Mountain Division where he participated in the invasion of Greece and later served on the Finnish front at Murmansk and Petsamo.  He was awarded the General Assault Badge and Ostmedaille in 1942 and then promoted to sergeant (feldwebel) on 01 June 1944.  When the German Army retreated from Finland, he served in Norway until the end of the war where his unit surrendered to British Forces.  In total, Netzsch served six years in the Wehrmacht and survived the war.

Click here for Unteroffizier Netzsch's view of an attack on the Maginot Line