“I went over to the Tuileries Garden to sit in the warm sunshine. Several of
our American boys were playing baseball. Their lean, strong, young bodies assumed true
professional baseball curves as they pitched swift
straight balls. A little crowd of Parisians, old men, young girls and children,
gathered. They gazed open mouthed and with wide-eyed admiration at our handsome
lads. When a ball went wide of its mark a child would
dash after it and bring it proudly back, to the Americans. The boys were
chewing gum and ragging one another, but they always paused to smile and give
the French kiddie a reassuring pat. This American game of baseball was more interesting to the spectators than the great gun…”
“When the bomb fell, the midwife had just handed a newborn to his mother.”
“Paris, April 12 1918 – Yesterday afternoon the Big Bertha scored another hit, this time upon a maternity hospital; the shell burst in the midst of a room in which were twenty convalescent women and a
number of new-born babes. In addition to killing a number of these
poor women and their innocent babes, the Germans
this time accomplished a new sort of atrocity by causing a “mix-up”. Dozens of babies were rushed out of
the ruined place to near-by houses, a wise
move, as far as saving their lives is concerned. But now nobody knows which
baby is which, and consternation reigns among the mothers.
The bombardment of Paris
now goes on night and day.“
American diplomat in Paris – The War Diary of a Diplomat. Photo: the scene in the maternity after the bombardment. This room was the newborn nursery. Here 4 photos showing the damages in the maternity.
is Paris doing for protection besides her anti-aircraft guns and her wonderful system of searchlights in the skies? Walk through the Gardens of the Tuileries
or the Champs Elysées or any of the little parks, and you will see great golden
balloons dazzling in the sunlight, which remind you of those you had as a
child, only much overgrown.
signals that the German raiders are
on their way, these captive balloons are immediately released, erecting a
gigantic wire fence about the city. Suspended from the balloons are huge wire
nets and streamers which in circling the city and form a complete barrage through
which the enemy dares not risk driving his planes. The French applies the old
principle of the spider and the fly in guarding Paris, thus preventing the
enemy from flying low and picking out the precious objects he wants to destroy.’
March 29 1918, Paris–The Germans’ “Paris Gun” continued its random shelling of Paris while the German armies attacked the British to the north. Its deadliest day came on March 29, when a shell hit the roof of the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church during one of its Good Friday services. The whole roof collapsed, killing 91 and injuring 68. More than a third of the total deaths caused by the Paris Gun came from that single shell. While it did frighten the Parisian population, the Good Friday attack on Paris mainly served to increase hatred of the Germans. The French Socialist leader said in Parliament: “At the moment when women, children and he aged were imploring Heaven to end this horrible butchery, the roof of the church, shattered by steel, responded with blood to their prayers.”
Paris – March 29 1918 – This afternoon while I was at the Bon Marché, the long-range gun dropped a shell on the church of St. Gervais,
one of Paris’ most ancient edifices. It killed 75
people, mostly women and children, and wounded 90. It is Good Friday and the church was crowded with worshippers; the shell hit one of the massive
stone supporting piers and when the pier fell, down
came the roof, crushing the praying
people beneath its ruins. I did not hear the bomb,
neither did anyone in the store: business continued as usual and I did not
know of the tragedy until later.
Paris is thrilled with horror that the Germans should choose Good
Friday of all other
days as the time to commit such a senseless crime. The killing of these women and children in a
church does not lessen the morale of the French people and its army. On the contrary it embitters them more than ever and makes them grimly
determined to end the Prussian autocracy at all costs.
American Diplomat in Paris – The War
Diary of a Diplomat – Photo: March 30 1918, inside the St Gervais Church. Photos of this destruction here on Gallica.fr. Illustrations showing the scene inside the church right after the shell hit: here and here.
‘Starting on Wednesday, March
27th, we helped the American Red Cross to care for the refugees arriving from the
invaded districts, at the Gare du Nord in Paris. Our trucks
and ambulances remained on service twenty
four hours a day, and the refugees were transferred to other train stations
in the day-time or to shelters at night. Our cars were driven by ambulance drivers on leave in Paris at the time.
It was the
second or third time these refugees had been forced to leave their homes and their cases were extremely sad; one old man who had been driven out for the third time had lost his mind
and was weeping like a child.
They came in hordes and at times the place was very crowded. However, every refugee was given
refreshments at the Canteen, before being transferred. The Canteen also gave
out clothing and shoes.
We feel that we have never done a more
March 27 1918 American Field Service bulletin # 39 – Photo: Spring 1918, Paris, Gare du
Nord, American Red Cross ladies & ambulance
drivers welcoming an elderly refugee and young children. Library of Congress – Here, awesome photos showing
the American Red Cross workers & ambulance drivers taking care of the
refugees arriving in Paris during spring 1918.
There is only one “That
Morning.” Some people here in Paris spoke of it as
“that awful morning.” But generally it was referred to just as “That Morning.” “That Morning” when the Boche fired the big gun the first time.” The date was, to be
exact, Saturday morning, March 23. It is still referred to as “That Morning” indefinitely, instead of by date, because the morning itself was so indefinite,
the sense of danger unseen so horrifying,
Now, in addition to
the nightly raids over Paris, the Boches would
come over by the hundreds some bright day soon. Paris was
on an uneasy seat. Imagine the consternation when, on “that morning,” at seven o’clock, bombs (or at least we
thought they were bombs) began to drop here and there all over the city at
regular intervals, fifteen minutes between times. This was as regular as clock
work. The Germans are regular and systematic if they are nothing else.
was Paris on “That Morning.”
1918, Paris, “That Morning” by William V. Kelley – Photo: La contemporaine – France – Here, several great photos showing Big Bertha’s “work”.
March 23 1918, Paris–Two days after the German offensive against the British began, there were mysterious explosions throughout Paris. The first assumption was an air raid by German Gothas or Zeppelins, but unlike on the Somme, skies were clear in Paris and no planes were in sight, leading to wild speculation about the cause of the explosions. By the end of the day, however, the army had realized that they were caused by German shells fired by an unprecedentedly large artillery piece, firing from a range of 75 miles away. The projectiles from this “Paris Gun” rose to a height of 25 miles in flight, by far the highest any altitude any human-made object had ever reached. As a result, the ballistics calculations necessary to hit Paris needed to fully take into account the Coriolis effect from the rotation of the earth to have a chance of anything resembling accuracy.
Even so, the gun was still highly inaccurate, basically hitting random targets in Paris no more than once every half hour with 264-pound shells. Despite this, Ludendorff was ecstatic that evening, believing that Operation Michael had defeated the British and the Paris Gun would destroy French morale; champagne toasts were drunk at OHL that evening. Apart from an acceleration in the rate of civilian evacuation from Paris, the gun had little of its desired effect, only serving to anger the French more and giving them a nice propaganda tool as the “barbarous” Germans continued their shelling of the City of Light.