|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 1944||Quantity|
|Machine Guns- Models Unknown||25|
|French 47mm Reibel Anti-Tank Gun||2|
|French 75mm Howitzer||14|
|French 80mm Mortar||2|
|French 130mm Cannon||2|
|French 135mm Heavy Mortar||4|