Paris France: French historians and engineers at the Montmartre Institute of Technology (MIT) are perusing a cache of documents pertaining to the Maginot Line that was found by a German tourist visiting one of the restored sites.
The Maginot Line built between 1930 and 1940 was a massive system of fixed defenses that failed to stop a German (NAZI) invasion in May 1940. This invasion of France came through the undefended, supposedly impenetrable, Ardennes forest in Belgium. (It should be noted the French did have a sizeable tank force, but poor tactical command and control capabilities.)
The Maginot Line, named after French Minister of War André Maginot, consisted of a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defenses, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy. This defensive thinking was based on French Army experience in WW I and events leading up to WW II.
The Maginot Line appears to demonstrate that the French Army in the 1930's had no concept of utilizing mobile forces for both offense and defense. Au contraire, a veteran of World War I, Monsieur Charles de Gaulle (became a general in WW II) in the 1920s/1930s recognized that mobile armored divisions would become central to modern land warfare. As did the German generals!
Professor Robespierre of MIT, a historian, indicated that the discovered documents reveal that when Monsieur Maginot took up his post in 1930 there was another goal in addition to constructing fixed border fortifications. This goal was to develop a medium tank that the French Army could quickly deploy offensively to any trouble spots along the German border or use for defensive purposes.
A mobile medium tank design was proposed of 33 tons encompassing a 75 millimeter cannon, one machine gun, approximately three inches of armor, a 400 horse power engine, a top speed of 25 miles per hour and at a cost of $33,500. The machine must also be able to be produced fast and in quantity. Some MIT engineers insisted this was the US Sherman M4 Tank (1940).
As the French tank development proceeded, French intelligence picked up rumors that the Germans were developing a super tank or heavy tank design of 63 tons encompassing an 88 millimeter cannon, two machine guns, up to five inches of armor mainly in front, a 690 horse power engine, a top speed of 24 miles per hour and at a cost of $66,000. The machine could only be produced in limited quantities. Some MIT engineers insisted this was the German Tiger I Tank (1941).
The French tank designers went back to the drawing boards and came up with a proposed heavy tank design of 70 tons encompassing a 105 millimeter cannon, four machine guns, up to eight inches of armor all around, two 400 horse power horse power engines (right and left) and a top speed exceeding 25 miles per hour. The generals also wanted a land mine destroying capability and the ability to carry troops. Some MIT engineers insisted this might be the forerunner of the US M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (1972).
Professor Robespierre of MIT further postulates that Monsieur Maginot was very skeptical that such a French heavy tank design could be realized at an affordable cost, when tanks of the 1930's encompassed 15 to 20 tons, engine technologies of 240 horse power and supported cannon sizes of 47 millimeters. The professor added "this last proposed tank design is a good example of requirements crepe, excusez-moi, creep!"
French Minister of War André Maginot concluded that a line of gigantic 950 mile stationary concrete and steel forts (heavy tanks with no treads) would be built containing multiple caliber armaments, manned by male soldiers sans women, narrow-gauge rail transportation, commissaries and communications, similar to a cold war ICBM complex.
The rest is history!