The Charlotte News

Thursday, September 21, 1939


Site Ed. Note: See map below for German Siegfried Line and French Maginot Line, as appearing in this day's News.

Cash here again plays Zarathustra and predicts the next war move of Berlin, which would not occur until first Norway was secure in the spring.

Scraps Of Paper?

Belgian And Holland As The German Pathway

The German concentration of troops at Aachen (German named for Aix-la-Chapelle, Charlemagne's old seat) and their clearing and observation of the Holland border, is quite possibly no more than a feint, designed to draw French forces away from the Saar and Moselle. It is pretty clear that the German armies are eager not to encounter the major push of the French in these last areas. Perhaps merely because they don't want the Saar coal basin paralyzed. (Germany's Ersatz economy depends mainly on coal, and her production has been falling rapidly). Perhaps also because Coblentz, which would be the final objective of the drive, is the key to the Rhine--and they want to take no chance, however small, of the French achieving that.

But perhaps also because the area is genuinely the most vulnerable part of the West Wall, as General Gamelin at present appears to have judged.

On the other hand, the Nazis may actually be planning to strike through Belgium and Holland. (They are pretty sure to come through both this time, if they come at all; otherwise it would be too easy for the French to stop them in the narrow plain between the Belgian hills and the Maastrich district on the border of the Netherlands).

The plan would have many advantages. The Maginot Line of the French is much lighter and shallower along the Belgian frontier than on the eastern border. The Belgians have a much stronger series of fortifications on the eastern front than they had in 1914. But the Germans are also better equipped to deal with them, and as compared to the Maginot Line their resistance is apt to be negligible.

As for the Dutch, their eastern fortifications amount to little, but they do have the great advantage of being able to flood the country through which the Germans must march. However, that takes time, and if the Germans can duplicate the rapidity of their entry into Poland, the move can be checkmated.

Altogether this route offers the Germans the best chance of successfully breaking into France. And that offers the immediate advantage of pulling the bulk of French troops away from any attack on the West Wall.

In addition, it is quite possible that the attack here would be the signal for an Italian attack across the French Alps. It would have little chance of success. For the few passes are very narrow and are occupied by the French. Moreover the lay of the land is such that all the few roads which snake up to these passes from Tenda and the other Italian cities, lie for an incredible number of miles directly under the French guns. Nevertheless, such a move would force France to fight on three fronts to Germany's two. And if, what now begins again to seem remotely possible, the Italians could persuade the Spaniards to attack also, the odds would be four fronts to two.

The last front, however, would require no great number of men, for the Pyrenees barrier is even more impregnable than that of the Alps. And in view of the British and French naval power, it would not be likely to last long.

Against these advantages there is a consideration that the invasion of Belgium and Holland would be certain to further anger the United States, already dangerously angry toward the Nazis. And in recent days the Nazis have plainly been attempting to conciliate opinion over here, as in their suddenly, and elaborately punctilious submarine campaign. That, however, is not in the true Nazi vein--is very much as though Gargantua the Great were required to dine by the standards of Lord Chesterfield each evening. And in any case nature is likely to assert itself again before long.

What is more serious from the Nazi viewpoint is that the enterprise is decidedly risky. It may be that Gamelin's strategy has all along been directed to making the Nazis take the offensive. At the worst, that involves two advantages: (1) France will be fighting on interior lines, and (2) the losses of the attacking side are always at least three to one for the defensive, may be even greater in this war. If France could hold her borders intact and steadily wear down the Nazi manpower for many months, the British blockade would have an excellent chance of succeeding to the point of making the German people sick and tired of it all--ready to hand over Hitler and his conquest.

But there is another danger. When the Nazis violate the neutrality of Belgium and Holland, this route will also be open to the British and the French. The Germans themselves, swollen with the Polish victory, may be confident that they can overwhelm the French and British armies in the open field. The military observers are agreed that the French army is the best in Europe. And in two branches which count heavily in open field fighting, artillery and machine gunnery, it is generally credited with being the best in the world. Hence it is quite possible that the German armies might be decisively defeated on the plains of Belgium. And if that happened, Germany would lie wide open to invasion. The Siegfried Line does not extend along the northern border of Holland. And once the Siegfried Line is turned, it can be destroyed rapidly. Moreover, the Baltic plain, as little capable of defense as Poland, stretches over Northern Germany all the way to Berlin, and beyond to Poland itself.


Senator From North Dakota Wants His Pound Of Flesh

Senator Gerald Nye may be a true neutral, but he gives every indication of bearing a dark grudge against the European democracies, our late Allies and present first line of defense. Only treasured spite could be behind the proposal that 20 to 25 per cent be added to the cost of supplies purchased and applied as interest on debts from the last war.

With their fallen exchange and a stiff price rise, England and France are going to have to pay dearly as it is for what they buy in the United States. And whereas it is freely conceded that the removal of the arms embargo is designed for their benefit exclusively, a surcharge on goods to pay old debts could be designed only to benefit Germany.

Germany proper owes no war debts to the United States. Plenty of them she owes to England and France, to be sure, and it was her default which first interrupted payments of Allied debts.

But the countries taken over by Hitler's Reich owe vast sums to the United States, which have been immediately repudiated by the new management. Austria that was, Czechoslovakia that was, Poland that was--together they owed the United States in excess of $400,000,000. Try and get it.

In any case, let Senator Nye recall that the onus of defaulted debts lies equally upon both sides in the European conflict, which will compel him to invent some other reason for harming England and France to the benefit of Germany and Russia.


General Ironpants Plays Both Ends Against Middle

In his column today, General Ironpants Johnson, in addition to arranging the facts of history in the present situation to suit himself, has to say:

"The 'peace-loving nations' sacrificed Czechoslovakia to their blundering--guessing wrongly that Hitler would not march. They sacrificed Poland to hopeless resistance, promising aid, but guessed wrongly that Russia would not march. They gambled madly on war when they were not ready for war and had no conception of the opposition. They stake what? Not their own countries and armies, but Poland and her armies--and now these are gone the way of Czechoslovakia and her armies."

This is pretty wonderful. When the Czecho-Slovak business was arranged last September and most Americans were swearing at Chamberlain, Ironpants went on record to the effect that it was the only sensible solution of a bad business, that England and France were plainly in no condition to fight. Now he turns around and pans the British for having sold out the Czechs, and in a breath pans them for not having sold out Poland!

Rather, he insinuates that both the refusal to fight for the Czechs and the determination to fight for Poland are sellouts! And he cinches that with the last two sentences--which in view of the British and French announcements yesterday, is just snide.

Map of France and Germany, showing Siegfried Line (in bold), and Maginot Line, (broken solid and west bank of Rhine). Turrets=heavy fortifications; rectangles with double projections=block houses.

1939 by National Geographic Society; "Military information added on basis of latest reports."

(Click map to enlarge image, re-click to reduce)

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The text above reads: "The northern flank of the Western Front, where the forts, hidden pill boxes and block houses of the Maginot line in France and the Siegfried line in Germany face each other along the border. Between the lines of block houses and protecting all of the heavier fortifications, are lines of smaller concrete dugouts and pill boxes. It is between the main Maginot and Siegfried lines indicated by the block houses that the action on the Western Front has centered, with the French driving into German territory but not yet penetrating the rear lines of heavy German fortifications. Keep this map to chart the course of the fighting."

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