The Ardennes is a mountainous, forested region, most of which is in Belgium
, with parts extending into France
, and Luxembourg
The Ardennes region is best known for being a blind spot
to the people planning for the defense of France. In times of peace, it is thought to be impassable to an invading army. Nevertheless, it has figured in both conquests of France by Germany.
In the 1870 Franco-Prussian War
, the French general staff moved the army to the Lorraine
region near its border with Germany to wait for the Prussian army. This force moved through the Ardennes to Sedan
, surrounding the French army and forcing it to capitulate (at Metz
). The terms of peace gave Germany Alsace and the aforementioned Lorraine (along with Bismarck
's real goal, the unification of Germany).
One would think that being conquered would force a hard-learned lesson. World War I
saw a German army marching through Belgium again to the murderous and destructive Western Front, which was mostly in France.
But the story doesn't end there.
In the 1920s
, France built a massive system of fortifications along its border with Germany, known as the Maginot Line
. However, military planners did not extend this system along its border with Belgium, a friendly country. Besides, the forest was supposed to be impassable to tank
Somehow confident of their security, France joined the rest of the West in sitting around and doing nothing while Adolf Hitler
built German armed might to a level only useful in a war of conquest. Occupying French troops were removed from the Rhineland
, on the German side of the Ardennes, in 1935
So it was the situation in May, 1940
that the French Army had been waiting behind the Maginot Line for a year (the so-called sitzkrieg
) when the Blitzkrieg
rolled through the Ardennes, capturing Sedan
quickly and surrounding the French army (which surrendered at Metz
But the story doesn't even end there
After the Normandy invasion in 1944
, Allied armies were quickly liberating France and Belgium. Now it was time for American and British military planners to be caught off guard. In October, Hitler launched his hallucination of an offensive, now known as the Battle of the Bulge
, through... you guessed it. What had been a romp
quickly turned into a bloodbath.