Our last stop on our way through Alsace, France we took a trip underground. It made me consider all of the underground sight-seeing we’ve done while in Europe. We’ve been on a visit to a Coal Mine and a Salt Mine. We held our noses while touring the Paris Sewers and paid a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. We went on a tour of the bunkers at Obersalzburg, and of course we’ve been on the subway (tube, underground, metro) in various cities.
The underground destination this time was Fort Hackenburg, an outpost along the Maginot Line. The French built the Maginot Line as a defense against the Germans; unfortunately they were invaded from another point along the border (through Belgium) so it wasn’t too effective.
Fort Hackenburg (pronounced by our tour guide as Ackenberg) was an immense underground fortress. It was so large that there is a train used for transportation within the fort.
The train is still working and we got to take a ride on it. That was good news for kids who don’t like to walk.
The first stop on our tour was the magazine – the ammunition storage area.
There were several tanks and other artillery in the halls of the fortress.
A few hundred soldiers lived at Hackenburg and our guide said that most really did not enjoy it. They were each given a half-liter of wine each day (250ml at lunch and dinner) but apparently that wasn’t enough to help morale. The kitchen (shown here) has been restored to what it was like during World War II. Of course there were plenty of mannequins. (More on that in a later post.)
Space was quite limited in the fort. Along the hallways were tables that could be folded down when not in use. Our guide said the hallway that housed the ammunition magazine also doubled as a movie theater. (Obviously recreation opportunities were also quite limited in the fort.)
The generator room was an engineering marvel (for those who marvel at engineering.) The diesel generator is still used during the summer to keep it in good working order. During the early war years the exhaust from the generator had to be filtered so that a big plume of black smoke did not reveal the location of the fort.
This is an example of Officer’s quarters. When the soldiers were off duty they were housed just down the road from the fort (above ground). These barracks are now a paintball facility. Hackenberg had an extensive medical facility, including an operating theater.
This was a pretty good place to hide a fort, right along the ridge.
This turret was restored and was supposedly fully functional. They demonstrated the mobility of the turret but did not demonstrate its fire power, much to the disappointment of the boys.
The fort was occupied by the Germans from 1940 until 1944. The Allies advanced against it in 1944 and, after three days of fighting, were successful. Our guide said that they probably were assisted by someone who was formerly stationed at Hackenburg because he had intel on the best angle of attack.
The last stop on the tour was (of course) the gift shop. We added to our collection of WWII graphic novels with a purchase of a book about the Maginot Line. Our next WWII destination is the big Kahuna: Normandy. We’ll be visiting there in April.