During the 1930s,
France got a bit fed up with having the German army roll through at
regular intervals and decided to put a stop to the whole tiresome
business by building that monument to the folly of static defences
known as the Maginot Line; a vast network of fortifications, tank
traps, armoured cupolas and fixed artillery stations stretching along
the Franco-German frontier from Belgium to Switzerland.
It was the 20th
century's answer to the Great Wall of China and about as effective in
keeping the Germans out as a sieve is in holding broth.
1935, French engineer Henri Lossier proposed to do for air defence
what the Maginot Line did for ground defence. He planned to keep
the Luftwaffe at bay by protecting Paris with a tower of reinforced
concrete 1.23 MILES high.
This staggering edifice, almost
six times as tall as the newly completed Empire State Building,
would be ringed at regular intervals with what looked like dovecotes
of the gods, but were, in fact, gigantic aerodromes to launch fighter
planes against the invading German bombers while anti-aircraft guns on
the tower helped with the heavily lifitng. The idea was that
rather than spending precious minutes climbing to fighting altitude,
the fighters could swoop down on the Hun like eagles-- French eagles,
but eagles none the less.
Of course, since war doesn't
break out everyday, the tower was designed for other uses in
peacetime, such as office rental, weather prediction and a sanitarium
where tuberculosis patients could recuperate in the clean,
On hearing the claim that a
penny tossed from the top of the Empire State Building would kill a
passerby on the ground, rumour has it that in the event of a German
invasion squads of schoolboys with bags of centimes would be deployed
on the tower to combat the Wehrmacht should the Maginot line fail to
hold back the Boche.
"Zut alors, Jacques! C'est un Panzer
tank down there! Donnez-moi a few of those francs, old boy. Merci!"