The MegaMilitary Project | Online Edition #343
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A German in Paris (17th August 1914)

A German in Paris (17th August 1914)

People of Paris! The Germans are at your Gates. Tomorrow you will be ours!

On the 17th of August 1914, the Parisians woke up to find thousands of paper leaflets blowing around the boulevards and streets. The puzzled Parisians picked them up to look at them, and were at once both outraged and worried.

Each leaflet was printed in black on one side only. At the top was a savage-looking German Imperial Eagle. Underneath in large letters was written "People of Paris! The Germans are at your Gates. Tomorrow you will be ours!"

The police stations of Paris were soon overwhelmed with people bringing in handfuls of the leaflets. How had they got on to the streets? There was only one answer: Spies. The French capital must have German spies and saboteurs active and roaming the streets. The police agreed. By lunchtime it was clear that large areas of the city had been deluged with thousands of leaflets. The numbers of spies in the city must be enormous. Orders went out that that police were to stop and search anyone who looked either Germanic or suspicious.

Mayhem and confusion followed. Enthusiastic police officers were soon rounding up dozens of people who had left their identity papers at home or who spoke with a funny accent. Police stations were soon bulging, and the police were so busy checking up on the suspects that they had little time for anything else.

When the dust had settled, the French found that they had arrested no German spies at all. The search went on, but no German was ever found in Paris, and no more leaflets were ever distributed. How so many leaflets had been distributed over such a wide area of Paris in a single night remained a mystery to the French.

The Germans, of course, knew how they had done it. Or at least some Germans did, and that did not include the German High Command, because it was done without their knowledge or approval.

The men responsible were two lieutenants in the German Air Force - Jacob Werner and Fritz von Hiddeson. On their own initiative, they had the leaflets printed and tied up in bundles. They then took off in their Taube monoplanes. Reaching their destination, they throttled down their engines, literally gliding over the still sleeping city, throwing out the leaflets from their cockpits to litter the streets.

paris german taube airplane
Artwork of German Taube (Pigeon) Airplane flying over Paris/France during World War I

Aircraft were so new in the summer of 1914 that no Parisian thought to look up for a source of the leaflets, but assumed there must be a mass of Germans running about the streets.

Country:
French Third Republic (1870-1940)
Period/s:
WWI (1914-1918)
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