A Dummy Paris City Was Built in WWI to Fool German Bombers

Few Frenchmen and women knew about it, until now.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Aerial view of the Bastille, Paris, France. Note the Caudron G.III aircraft of the Armée de l'Air in flight at the centre of the photo.SDASM Archives/iStock

In late January of 1918, German planes dropped about 1,320 lb (600 kilograms) of explosives on Paris, killing 26 Parisians and wounding nearly 200 others. Indeed, attacking the city of lights was something the French knew the Germans could not resist. So the DCA air defense group (Défense Contre Avions) came up with a brilliant plan according to archives uncovered by the Le Figaro newspaper.

The French decided to build a dummy city to fool German bombers. The fake city was located on the northern outskirts of Paris and even included fake streets lined with electric lights, replica buildings, and a double of the famous busy Gare du Nord.

"It's an extraordinary story and one which even Parisians knew very little about," said to The Telegraph leading French historian Professor Jean-Claude Delarue. "The plan was kept secret for obvious reasons, but it shows how seriously military planners were already taking the new threat of aerial bombardment."

The second city was built in 1918, as the war was coming to an end and it never got the chance to be tested but this does not take away from the beauty of its design. First of all, it was built on an area around the commuter town of Maisons-Laffitte on the River Seine close to where the real capital actually was situated.

Famous areas of Paris, such as those around the Arc de Triomphe and Opera, and industrial suburbs, such as Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers, were recreated almost to perfection using wooden buildings complete with details that mimicked the dirty glass roofs of factories. 

Perhaps the most important part of this project was recreating Paris' lights. It is called the city of lights for a good reason after all.

The man in charge of the process was an electrical engineer called Fernand Jacopozzi and he handled the task magnificently with white, yellow, and red lamps also used to create the impression of machines in operation at night. No word, however, was said on whether the Eiffel Tower, built in 1887, was recreated.

So, what happened to this city after the war came to an end? It was rapidly deconstructed which is a shame; because today, it would have made for a great tourist attraction.

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