In 2008, while working on a road construction project just outside of Paris, a group of road workers stumbled upon something unexpected buried deep beneath the earth. As they dug deeper, they quickly realized that they had uncovered a hidden piece of history dating back to WWII. The workers couldn't believe their luck as they uncovered this long-forgotten relic. Scroll on to learn more about this extraordinary find.
It All Started On A Construction Site Just Outside Of Paris
More than seventy years have passed since the Liberation of France, yet fascinating remnants from World War II continue to be unearthed and reported. These discoveries encompass a wide array of artifacts, including hidden bunkers, explosives, looted artworks, and more.
While the anticipation of finding relics from this era was not entirely surprising, each new revelation carried an inherent excitement. Recently, a group of construction workers embarked on a digging project near Paris and were thrilled when they stumbled upon an intriguing object concealed beneath the street.
They Weren't Expecting To Find Something Extraordinary
On an unassuming day in Chartres, a town located approximately an hour away from Paris, a group of workers was assigned a routine road repair task. Little did they know that their day would take an unexpected turn, transforming into a newsworthy event.
As the workers delved deeper into their excavation beneath the road's surface, their attention was drawn to a colossal and mysterious contraption concealed under layers of debris. Recognizing the formidable weight of the object, they realized that a regular construction truck wouldn't suffice for its extraction. It was time to call upon the assistance of their specialized mechanical digger to handle the task at hand.
They Discovered A Colossal Military Tank Buried In The Ground
With meticulous care, the workers managed to raise the object from its hiding place, and an immediate sense of importance came over them. Recognizing the potential significance, they wasted no time in summoning a team of experts to evaluate their find.
The arrival of the experts brought about a sense of awe as they beheld the uncovered treasure. After a comprehensive examination, their amazement turned into confirmation – the workers had indeed stumbled upon an exceedingly rare and precious military tank. This particular tank held a vital role in the operations of the Allied forces during World War II, serving as a crucial asset in the historic Liberation of France in 1944.
Understanding France's Role In WWII
In order to understand the background of this historic discovery, it's important to learn about what was happening in France during World War II. France and Great Britain declared war on Germany directly after German forces invaded Poland.
France had one of the largest armed forces in the world, but they were still recovering from their efforts in World War I. They had the potential to prevent German forces from taking over, but they fell short.
The Germans Invaded France
Germany was able to successfully invade France within six weeks of their invasion of Poland. The French had planned to stop this by relying on the Maginot Line.
This was the French line of defense that featured obstacles, weapon installations, and more that were designed to deter invasion and force the Germans to go a different way. The Germans were able to ignore the Maginot Line and make their way into France.
The Germans Used The "Blitzkrieg" Tactic
The Germans were able to invade France and keep the invasion going for years because of a special tactic called "blitzkrieg." Even though blitzkrieg was established by the British in the 1920s, it's most commonly associated with the Germans during World War II.
Blitzkrieg allowed the Germans to move quickly and overwhelm the Allied forces who were in charge of keeping them out. The Allied forces were forced to retreat in Dunkirk where they waited to be evacuated to England.
France Was Forced To Surrender
Following the German victory in the Battle of France, the French were forced to waive their rights to the Germans. This was known as the Armistice of 22 June 1940, or the Surrender of France.
The armistice established that the Germans would occupy Northern and Western France and all ports along the English Channel and Atlantic Ocean. It was signed in Compiègne Forest because that was the same place the 1918 Armistice with Germany was signed, in which Germany surrendered during World War I.
People Needed To Flee The Country
After the armistice was finalized, residents of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands began to flee their homes and were known as refugees. According to History Hit, about eight million people left those countries during the summer of 1940.
Since the northern half of France, including Paris, was under German control, it wasn't safe for people to be living there. The southern section was now under the Vichy regime, which was an independent ally of the Germans. That lasted for two years until Berlin took full control of France.
The Germans Continued To Occupy The Country
For the next four years, France continued to be directly under German control. Residents faced food shortages, persecution, and an immense loss of their freedom. The Germans would march every day down the Champs-Élysées to show their dominance.
All French residents were given a strict curfew, while the German soldiers were free to go out whenever they wanted. The Germans also stripped the right of French people to drive cars and only allowed them to use public transportation.
There Were Massive Food Shortages
The French faced a multitude of restrictions after the German occupation. There was a massive food shortage because people had to ration everything they ate. Most of their food was going toward the German war effort.
That meant that the French were forced to get creative when it came to food, so they wouldn't starve. For example, one French adult was only allowed 2.5 ounces of boneless meat each week. Some people were forced to eat rabbits, rats, cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals.
Germans Were Given Priority
The Germans were power-hungry and took away as much as they could from the French. This was meant to make the French submissive and obedient to German control.
One of the most astonishing things the Germans did to maintain power was taking charge of all the famous French galleries, museums, and other landmarks. According to Absolute History and other sources, the Germans took a ton of priceless artwork from the French and either had it destroyed or hid it in unknown locations.
The Liberation Of Paris
France remained under German occupation for four years and one military battle allowed them to be free. The French, along with their allies the United States and the United Kingdom, battled against Germany in the Liberation of Paris.
It lasted from August 19 to August 25, 1944, with the Germans finally surrendering. Pariss gained back its independence. It took about another year for the fighting to end in other parts of France.
The History Of Tanks In Warfare
While the use of tanks in warfare dates back to the early 20th century during World War I, they weren't a new concept. It took centuries for tanks to come to fruition because the technology just wasn't there yet.
According to Absolute History, Leonardo da Vinci thought tanks would be a good invention, and that was all the way back in 1484. History states that the very first tank was called Little Willie. It weighed 14 tons and was released on September 6, 1915.
The French Had A Giant Tank Force
The French first began using tanks during World War I and they got more advanced as the years went on. By the start of World War II, they had one of the largest tank forces in the world.
This meant they could keep up with the Soviets, Germans, and British forces with about 5,800 tanks total. The French believed that World War II would be a defensive war, so they built many infantry tanks. These were meant to be heavily armored.
How Tanks Were Used During The Battle Of France
The process of Germany moving in on French territory and subsequently occupying the country was known as the Battle of France. While the French had significantly more tanks and armor, it still wasn't enough to defeat the Germans.
Their tanks were very strong but faced several issues that subsequently gave the Germans their victory. Historian Karl G. Larew stated that there were several reasons why French tanks failed. Weaker strategies, tactics, and organization within the Cavalry units caused the French to surrender.
The Different Kinds Of Tanks
World War II took place a little less than 30 years after the first tank was created, so technology became more advanced. The military tanks could be divided into three separate tiers, which included light, medium, and heavy.
Light tanks were meant to be used ahead of the main force. Medium tanks were used to accompany the heavy tanks during a larger battle. Heavy tanks were a lot slower and were used during a significant opposition.
The Most Powerful German Tank
The French were defeated in the Battle of France in part because of the massively powerful German tanks. One of the most iconic was called the Tiger I.
Although it faced several mechanical malfunctions, this heavy tank meant business. It had tons of armor and could shoot high explosives and missiles at one of the quickest rates possible. There are only seven Tiger I tanks in existence today, which are displayed in museums and private collections around the world.
Why The Tank Was Important
Since the tank had been sitting underground for decades, it wasn't in the best shape. It was covered in rust, dirt, and other debris, but was still completely recognizable.
Experts told the Daily Mail that this tank was an M5 and was part of the American 31st Tank Battalion. They actually found witnesses who remembered seeing this tank during the Liberation of France in 1944 before it was abandoned by the American soldiers.
How The Tank Disappeared
Even though there were several eyewitnesses who had seen the tank during the Liberation of France in 1944, nobody was sure what caused it to become stuck under the road for 64 years.
According to the Daily Mail, it was most likely on a reconnaissance mission to gather information about the Germans. As to how it was abandoned by the rest of the battalion, experts speculated that it either slipped out of its tracks or ran out of gas.
Local Residents Stepped In
While it's not known for sure what caused the M5 to have been separated from the rest of the battalion, the American soldiers were forced to go on and leave it behind.
After the Liberation of France and the end of World War II, the M5 was still unaccounted for until some local residents got involved. They decided to bury it underground because they figured no one was coming back for it. It must have slipped their minds because none of them had it retrieved as the decades passed.
The Origins Of The M5 Tank
After digging the tank up from out of the street, experts were able to gather that it was an M5. These are light tanks that were meant to improve on earlier models such as the M2 and M3.
M5 tanks had their glory days against the Japanese, but their armor and weapons were far too weak to compete with the Germans. Also, Absolute History said there were some problems with their engines, which needed a redesign.
Why There Wasn't An M4 Tank
The M5 tank was produced in order to improve upon faults that the M2 and M3 tanks had. It may seem odd that the next one was named the M5, instead of the M4.
This is because a different tank called the M4 Sherman was already being used in combat and it would have been too confusing to have two with similar names. The Online Tank Museum reported that the M5 improved by being quieter, with more space inside and a strengthened hull.
Impressive Features Of The M5
American forces used the M5 as their standard light tank during World War II. It featured a rotatable hatch with a periscope for both the driver and gunner.
The back of the tank was stocked with various tools such as crowbars, pickaxes, shovels, and hammers. It was heavily armored, so if it was hit by the opposition it would be safer for the four-person crew than previous tank models.
The Legacy Of The M5
It's estimated that there were 2,074 M5 tanks produced, but very few are left. After the M5 was released in the early 1940s, tank manufacturers tried to improve upon it.
Various versions of the M5 were used by the Americans during World War II. It served as an early reference for tanks used in warfare that followed. The M5 is remembered for playing an important role in infantry support by helping soldiers as they advanced in battle.
People In France Continue To Find World War II Items
Although the war has been over for several decades, there are still a number of cases of people finding various historical items from the era. War History Online states that a couple who was remodeling their home found a cache of weapons hidden in the walls of their home.
Also, researchers hit it big when they discovered secret bunkers used by the German soldiers that were used against U.S. forces during D-Day in Normandy, France. There's no doubt that people will continue to discover items in this historically significant region.