BERLIN, June 15, 1940 (UP) -- German troops breached the Maginot Line "on a wide front" tonight and captured the town and citadel of Verdun where the French watchword -- "They shall not pass!"-- was written in the blood of a million men from 1914 to 1918.
Under the pressure of German military might France was said here by Nazi spokesmen to be on the brink of surrender.
A Nazi war banner waved over the historic and beautiful palace of Versailles and the triumphal entry of Chancellor Adolf Hitler into fallen Paris was believed near.
(The Germans also reported their troops had penetrated to Chaumont, 135 miles southeast of Paris and half way between the French capital and the Swiss border. Chaumont was General Pershing's headquarters in the World War.)
France, said the Germans, is tonight on the verge of capitulation because her military strength has been broken, a major share of her industrial strength captured and the bulk of her war factories are in German hands.
In this desperate plight, German sources said that if Premier Paul Reynaud and Waygand still refused to give up the losing fight the power of decision would be wrested from their grasp. They forecast a "coup de main"-seizure of the government by force and predicted that it would be led by Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, political group led by former Premier Edouard Daladier.
Leburn and Daladier assisted by Pierre Laval, have made previous efforts toward a separate peace, the Germans said, but were frustrated by the iron will of Reynaud. This time, they said, Reynaud's efforts to keep France on the field of battle will fall.
There was no definite information here as to when Hitler is likely to make his entry into Paris. One date suggested was June 28, anniversary of the signing of the treaty of Versailles twenty-one years ago.
The might of lighting war was striking France on all sides.
Verdun, the former bastion of France against whose ramparts the armies of the Crown Prince surged and were broken had fallen.
The Maginot Line, the most powerful wall of modern fortifications ever constructed -- the pride of French military genius built at a cost of $500,000,000 -- was broken through. It was reported from south of Saarbruecken by the high command that German troops breached the chain "on a wide front."
German power was reported rolling at flood tide over broke, retreating elements of what only a month ago had been hailed as the finest army in Europe - the army of the French Republic.
Special communiques flashed by the German high command from the Fuehrer's field headquarters told the story.
The first said:
"After breaking through the line of forts on both sides of the Meuse the town and citadel of Verdun, which was hotly contested in the World War has been taken."
The second said:
"After a severe battle our troops have broken through the Maginot Line south of Saarbreucken on a wide front."
The communiques were read over the Berlin radio with ceremony. They were preceded by a roll of military drums and a choir singing all the verses of "Deutschland Umber Alles," song, "The Watch on the Rhine" and "We Go Marching Into France."
The German drive which took Verdun apparently slashed down along the Meuse from the direction of Montmedy, northern bastion of yesterday. First the forts of Vaux, four miles northeast of Verdun, and Marre, four miles northwest, were taken.
Then the Germans, fighting hard, pushed on into the city which had resisted the finest armies of Kaiser Wilhelm, led by the Crown Prince himself, for four long, bloody years of World War battles.
The capture of the two outlying forts and the citadel did not mean that all of Verdun was lost to the French. Verdun is a massive collection of fortresses.
But the forts face east to Germany and the German drive is from the northwest and the west. It was suspected, too, that the eastern line of fortifications, including both Verdun and the Maginot Line, have been stripped to a bare minimum of defense force to give manpower for the desperate fighting westward.
The action at Verdun and the breach of the Maginot Line meant that France's eastern bulwarks were falling even as the retreating armies of Gen. Maxime Weygand were striving to call back rapidly enough to make establishment of a new and perhaps final defense line possible.
The Germans were racing for the Valley of the Loire, 130 miles southwest of Paris, where it was believed Weygand hoped to make a last-ditch stand.
Simultaneously, Germany launched the massive assault on the French "security triangle," Verdun-Metz-Belfort, probably the world's most heavily fortified area.
A frontal attack with infantry tanks, artillery and Stuka dive bombers was hurled squarely against the Maginot Line in the Saar sector and smashed through the fortifications.
A hard-driving German column was slashing its way southeastward against the rear communications of the Maginot forts, trying to snap them one-by-one and threatening the entire system from the rear.