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Desperate times call for desperate, and sometimes highly creative, measures.  And the French, during World War I, had one of the most ingenious ideas I’ve ever seen.  They actually designed and partially built a sham Paris on the outskirts of the real Paris, hoping that German bombers would become disoriented and bomb the fake city instead.  They even outfitted Sham Paris with electric lights lining the streets and fake railway stations in order to draw the enemy there and away from the real Paris.  From the start, Sham Paris was a city built purely to be destroyed.

“Sham Paris” (via http://kottke.org/14/05/sham-paris)

Article describing ‘Sham Paris’ from The Illustrated London News, November 6, 1920 (via http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2011/09/a-paris-made-to-be-destroyed-sham-paris-191718-1.html)

Since flight technology was still rudimentary, and radar was not yet in use, it was easier then it would be today to confuse the bombers.  One can imagine the pilot sitting in the plane ready to drop the bomb, scanning the ground for the target “city of lights”, and being understandably duped by the fake city instead.

However, we cannot know how effective it might have been, because the city was actually not completed before the end of the war in November, 1918.  It was then revealed to the world in a 1920 newspaper article, seen above, and would therefore never be put to use.  Nevertheless, it was still an awfully clever idea, and yet another testament to the power of cartography (even though in this case it is the power to confuse, rather than enlighten).

Happy mapping!

Source: http://kottke.org/14/05/sham-paris and http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2011/09/a-paris-made-to-be-destroyed-sham-paris-191718-1.html

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