Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Our Article #3,000: What's the Closest the German Army Got to Paris in 1918?


Present-Day View from the Marine Front Line
at Les Mares Farm

The answer is 45.3 miles. That is the distance from Les Mares Farm, located northwest of Château-Thierry, to the Eiffel Tower. It is the place where U.S. Marines held the line against the advancing German forces in the final stage of their third offensive of the spring, Operation Blücher.

Germans Advancing, May 1918

By 3 June, the German offensive had lost momentum and the French rearguard resistance stiffened. West of Château-Thierry, battered French units rallied behind the American 2nd Division’s line. South of the Marne river, fresh French units and the U.S. 3rd Division formed a defensive barrier.

Initially, the U.S. 2nd Division units were attached to the French 43rd and 164th Divisions. Taking position as they arrived on the field and thinly spread on a front of 15 km, soldiers of the 3rd Brigade were split on both flanks, with marines of the 4th Brigade in the center. . . On 3 June, the last exhausted rear guard French elements withdrew and regrouped behind the line formed by the marines and soldiers of the 2nd Division. During the evening of 3 June, the marines of 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, repulsed the attack of the German 273rd Reserve Infantry Regiment, 197th Division, at Les Mares Farm; this would be as close as the German Army would get to Paris for the remainder of the war. 

Marines Arriving in the Sector

The  accurate, long-range rifle fire by marines of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, supported by machine guns and artillery, stopped the massed attack of the German 197th Division’s 273rd Reserve Infantry Regiment, reinforced with the 26th Reserve Jaeger Battalion, in front of Les Mares Farm. This action, plus stiffened resistance all along the Allied line, stood as the highwater mark of the German spring offensive’s Operation Blücher.

Source:  The Bravest Deeds of Men, Colonel William T. Anderson (USMCR)


  1. Is there a marker?

    PS: CONGRATULATIONS on 3,000 posts!

  2. Mentally and physically fresh troops make the difference.

  3. Over eight years of informative and readable articles! Can't beat that. Thank you, Mike and all our contributors.

  4. Congratulations on your articles - great material and greatly appreciated.

  5. Congratulations for the work involved in these 3000 articles - you keep finding new (to me) angles, such as this one!

  6. I second, third and .... the thanks to you Mike for your work.

  7. Thanks Mike for a job well done. Germans got a lot closer in 1914. I think 1914 front line German units could see the Eiffel Tower top. In 1918 at 45.3 miles the Eiffel Tower top would be barely visible looking from a 20 foot elevation.