The Maginot Line was considered to be a technological marvel during its time. Having been constructed as a reaction to the number of French casualties during World War I, it had obvious design flaws, the largest of which was the fact that it stopped at the border point of the countries of France, Germany and Belgium. It actually stopped at the Ardennes Forest, which France thought was an impenetrable region. For libertarians and other free-market thinkers, the Maginot Line is a typical production of government bureaucracy – incredibly expensive and ultimately useless.
The purpose of the Maginot Line was to protect France from a direct invasion from Germany. In this regard, the Maginot Line was successful; in the larger sense it was not, as the Germans merely went around it at the beginning of World War II. In addition, it was designed with an elaborate series of tunnels and a re-supply system that worked well for the intended purpose. The line made ground attack from the east of France nearly impossible with the exception of the nation of Belgium.
The Maginot Line also featured electrical power to operate the numerous facilities. It incorporated a small-gauge rail system to transport supplies and manpower to any particular area. It included backline facilities and was much deeper than it appeared from above ground. It was primarily an underground military base that would have been highly effective in World War I, but World War II brought new technology and foot-soldier warfare would change forever.
Built largely because the French government was aware that Germany's military elite was angry over the Treaty of Versailles and would eventually find a reason to attack, it was constructed as a defensive military tactic. Military professionals such as General Charles de Gaulle were not in favor of building the system, claiming a waste of financial resources and a lack of offensive capability. Their position would prove to be accurate after Germany moved around the wall undetected.
De Gaulle and his followers wanted to develop a more powerful air force as an offensive tool instead of using national funds on what would be a bunker system. The Germans had been developing the Luftwaffe during the same time period and France had no defense for Germany's air superiority. Upon advancing through the Ardennes Forest, Germany took command of the Maginot Line and moved directly to Paris.
France had maintained a good diplomatic relationship with Belgium and was very apprehensive about continuing the Maginot Line along the Belgium border to the English Channel. This would prove to be a major part of the ineffectiveness of the barrier, as Germany would find a path through the Ardennes Forest and work their way behind the Maginot Line and into France. Once Germany entered France from the north they were in Paris quickly, as the Panzer tank divisions moved unimpeded in the historical Blitzkrieg. The Luftwaffe, Germany's elite air brigade, merely flew over the line.
Construction on the Maginot Line began in 1930 shortly after being voted into law. Named after French Ministry of War, Andre Maginot, the project was commonly called the Maginot after his death. It would be a disaster when Germany advanced into France, as Germany would take over the system in 1940 and use it to re-supply its own advances westward and northward. The nine-year development process of the Maginot made the notion of inevitable war a general theme for Adolph Hitler, as he built support for the Nazi Party that controlled Germany.
The primary portion of the Maginot Line was built between 1930 and 1935. It was very expensive, especially for the days of the Great Depression. It contained over 500 major houses that supported 1000 soldiers and equipment and was interspersed with smaller houses in between, which would accommodate more than 100. The cost of building such an elaborate system drained the French national budget and proved to be the most ineffective military project in history, as technology changed faster than France was able to build the line.