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 • UpThe FortressReal BitchDesignPlanArtillery"Sluggers"ArmorAssaultUnit Citation: 71st •    

The Maginot Line was built between 1929 and 1940 for the purpose of protecting France from Germany.  The Maginot Line was a powerful line of defenses.  To defeat France, the Maginot was avoided by the Germans, if possible.  The Germans went around and ‘over’ the forts to prevail.  An intelligent strategy, the Maginot proper proved itself very capable when confronted directly.  This state-of-the-art, ultra-modern defensive system was, for the most part, not stormed by the Germans until victory was certain.  The irony is Germany won the Battle of France by avoiding the Maginot.  Yet, once the outcome of the Battle of France was without any doubt and a sure German victory, the mighty German army tried earnestly and failed miserably to reduce and capture a single Maginot proper fortresses. 

At Bitche, Fort Simserhof was part of the largest and most powerful  Maginot 'great forts', the Ensemble de Bitche. Simserhof consisted of 10 steel and concrete blockhouses, perched on commanding Vosges hills. Any movement was visible and the attack must come through open valleys, up-hill to get at the fort.  Its weapons covered every angle of attack. One facet of the design did favor the attackers.  The French lost grievously to recapture the Fortress at Verdun, in World War One.  One reason was this fort's structure was symmetrical in strength, making its recapture more difficult.  The fortification walls of Maginot were designed from the onset, weaker facing France than toward the Reich.  Yet the Germans had this same advantage in 1940 when they surrounded the fortress on all sides.  The length of the gallery from Simserhof's entrance to the furthest combat blocks was 2.2km in length.  The fort could fire three tons of shells per minute.

The 44th faced 10 independent yet supporting system of bunkers, each with custom build 57mm, 75mm , 135mm guns plus many machine guns.  The defenders bunkered in air conditioned, dynamo powered equipment, with many layers of shelter, one bunker was eleven floors deep.  Defensive options include the counter-attack.   At Bitche, mobile and potent German armor units represented a serious threat to the flanks of the 44th.   Add external German artillery, the 1st line defenders from the solid German units, the 11th and 25th Panzer, and supporting firepower from other Maginot fortress, the 'real bitch' nickname was appropriate.
 
Inventory of Captured Simserhof Crew Served Arms December 1944Quantity
Machine Guns- Models Unknown25
French 47mm Reibel Anti-Tank Gun2
French 75mm Howitzer14
French 80mm Mortar2
French 130mm Cannon2
French 135mm Heavy Mortar4
Maginot fortress inside destroy by US Army 1944 French 135mm Heavy Mortar Simserhof twin mortars
500 lbs TNT destroyed a Maginot observation turret Simserhof bitche
maginot fort simserhof bitche 1944  inside observation aperture french 75

 

 

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