The Maginot Line was a series of defensive fortifications built by the French after WWI to guard against invasion by Germany or Italy. It is considered by many to be one of the great military mistakes of all time, since it ultimately made little difference in WWII, and was fairly easily bypassed by the Germans, who conquered France by 1942. Today some may use the term in reference to actions or objects that do not sufficiently protect. One might say, “Failing to provide US soldiers with body armor is a Maginot Line.”
The Maginot Line was composed of gun posts, obstructions like tanks, and forts. The weakest point of the line was the border between France and Belgium. Belgium and France were allied prior to WWII, but Belgium declared neutrality in 1936. This resulted in a flurry of activity to extend the line across Belgium.
Unfortunately, the sections that were to protect France from invaders failed terribly. This is where France actually met its downfall. Germany had stationed a dummy army outside the strongest part of the Maginot Line and then used ground troops to invade through Belgium. They were able to cut off the rest of the line from within France, and cut off France’s access to its own soldiers. This forced the French to sign an armistice and allow German occupation of their country.
The Germans then held the Maginot Line but this made little difference when allied troops were able to liberate France. Instead the Allies went around the line, and thus didn’t have to work on defeating the many fortifications and obstacles now held by the Germans.
Both the French and the Germans overestimated the importance of the Maginot Line. In fact, many military historians believe that France’s dependence upon the Line for protection was its downfall. Since most of their military power was concentrated on the line, France was barely able to defend itself from invaders inside its borders. Initially line was meant to be just one means for defense from invaders, but it quickly provided the French with a false feeling of security.
It should be noted that the Maginot Line did succeed at its strongest points. It did keep Italian troops from invading France, and forced the Germans to invade through Belgium. However, that mattered little when France was forced to sign the armistice.
Today, there are a few remnants of this border. Most of the land it occupied is now privately owned, or simply has not been maintained and is in a pronounced state of decay.