Thursday, June 20, 2013

“Taxis Of The Marne”

One of the legendary “Taxis Of The Marne”, now on display in the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée at Les Invalides.

When my brother and I had visited Paris in 2003 and 2004, the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée had been closed for a multi-year redesign and reinstallation. It was only in January of this year that we were able at last to visit the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée.

In early September 1914, one month into the war, German forces were already at Paris’s outskirts. The ease of the German advance through Belgium and Northern France en route to Paris had shocked British and French command. By September 6, German troops were in position to capture Paris within the following 24 hours.

In desperation, French authorities decided to send to the front 6,000 troops being held in reserve for the defense of Paris.

There was a problem: the French rail network, already clogged (to the extent it was working at all), was not in a position to transport 6,000 reserve troops to the front.

To accomplish the troop movement, French officials ordered 600 Paris taxis to assemble at Les Invalides. Each taxi was ordered to deliver five soldiers to the front, return to Paris, and pick up another five soldiers for transport to the front.

The tactic worked. The German advance was halted. Within days, British and French forces were able to mount an effective counterattack that drove German forces 40 miles from the city.

Paris had been saved.

And stalemate set in for the next four years.

Chief Of The German General Staff Helmuth von Moltke knew instantly that the war on The Western Front had been lost in the 72 hours that had transpired between September 6 and September 8—and he informed the Kaiser by cable that defeat was now inevitable against Britain and France.

Moltke was soon thereafter relieved of command.

Within days, Moltke’s health collapsed, mental and physical, and he was forced to return to Berlin.

Eighteen months later, during Berlin funeral services for Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz, Moltke himself keeled over.

He had died on the spot.

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