1944. Liberation of Paris. The end

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Previously on “Liberation”: the gallant crew of TSS Equinox has gone back in time to Paris, August 1944, in search of the Captain’s uncle Gérard Leclerc who participated in the fighting to liberate Paris.

Above: two high-ranking German officers are taken prisoners. The private driving the Jeep seems to be asking: “Where to now, General?”.

The French Second Armoured Division entered Paris on the 24th by the South after two days of full-speed driving through the small villages South of Paris. The joy and crowds in the villages were such that progress was sometimes slow. The troops had fought without sleep for two days.

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Most fighting inside Paris took place on la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli and Ile de la cité. The light artillery position above was set up on Place du Châtelet. One can recognize the fountain with the Sphinxes in the background left. (Couldn’t find a contemporary picture in my archives.)

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Another German officer is led away by the police. War is over for him. Cease-fire and capitulation is signed by the German military commander of Paris Von Choltitz on the 25th, though fighting continues by SS units. The 4th US Infantry Division, sent by Bradley and Eisenhower as back-up enters Paris on the 25th.

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All want to be in the picture.

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German prisoners disarmed near the gates of the Luxembourg. The two soldiers on the left and the centre, with their flat cap and red pompom are Fusilier-marins, French Marines.

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“Here fell on August 24, 1944, Simon Roch. Died for France.” My faithful readers must now be familiar with those plaques. Whenever you go to Paris, look for them. They’re all over the place.

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Palais-Bourbon, home to the National Assembly, on the left bank, across from La Concorde.

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Artillery position in front of Notre-Dame.

“Scotty. Can you hop back to the 21st century, please?”

“Hopping back, Sir.”

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Notre-Dame, c. 2014. 70 years later.

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German Panzer tank, at the corner of the Rue de Rivoli. The smartly dressed gentleman on the right can’t seem to believe his eyes. In retrospect, those terrifying war machines look very small.

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Place de la Concorde, August 25th. The building in the background used to be the Ministry of the Navy. When Paris was occupied in June 1940, the German Kriegsmarine (War navy) installed its headquarters there, flying the red, white and black swastika flag. On that day of August 44 the French colours, the blue, white and red French flag, are back on the building. (Jump Scotty!)

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Concorde, c.2014

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General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, the liberator of Paris. (Photo displayed in 2014 for the 70th anniversary.)

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Charles de Gaulle, August 1944. A two-star general, he always refused additional stars.

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General Leclerc, standing in the front of the half-track. Sitting behind him is most likely General Dietrich Von Choltitz, the German military commander. At the risk of shocking some, I believe Von Choltitz should have a statue in Paris. By Hitler’s orders all bridges and most monuments in Paris had been rigged with explosives. Despite repeated orders by Hitler to “burn down” Paris to the ground, Von Choltitz refused to blow up the “city of lights”. Those interested in the history of the Liberation might want to see the movie “Is Paris burning?” directed by René Clément.

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August 26, 1944, despite continuing fighting in the suburbs and isolated snipers, Parisians flood the Champs-Elysées with De Gaulle and the 2e D.B. (2nd Armoured). (From my brother’s den)

Paris is free!

“Scotty, prepare to warp.”

“Aye, Sir. But what about your Uncle?”

“Hah! on the 23rd of August my uncle Gérard was driving a Jeep, at the forefront of the 2nd Armoured. Crossing village after village on their way North to Paris. The crowds were dense, cheering, shouting: ‘It’s the French troops! It’s the French troops! We are free!’ The narrow village streets made progress difficult at times…”

“And?”

“As the 2nd Armoured was entering a village a few kilometers away from Paris, my Uncle’s jeep broke down. Engine ‘Kaput’. Or the battery. Who knows? Truth of the matter was that my Uncle was unwillingly  but effectively blocking the entire Division behind on the narrow road.”

“As my Uncle was desperately trying to revive the Jeep, an officer came running from behind. Oh no! General Leclerc himself!”

‘What the bloody hell are you doing?!’ (Original French: ‘Qu’est-ce que c’est ce bordel?’)

My uncle got out of the Jeep, saluted: ‘Sorry, Sir, the Jeep’s engine…’

‘What a Goddam useless… What is your name, private?’ Asked General Leclerc in this ice-cold “General” tone only those who have been in the Army know. And fear.

‘Er…’ my Uncle said. ‘My name, Sir? Er… like you Sir. Leclerc is my name. Sir’

General Leclerc froze for a second. Looked at my Uncle in the eye. Then turned around, waved at a few soldiers watching the scene. ‘Push that stupid jeep in the nearest ditch. Come on! Move!’

Uncle Gérard hopped into another vehicle. Fought his way through the Battle of Paris, and went with General Leclerc, his namesake, all the way to Berlin in 1945.

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Uncle Gérard in 1943. Casablanca apparently, after the Allied landing in North Africa.

This post is for my cousins, his sons, Gaëtan, Gilles and Guillaume. Grosses bises, cousins.

Bon week-end to all.

 

42 thoughts on “1944. Liberation of Paris. The end

  1. Brian, lovely post for the cousins and family. Wonderful photos, are some of taken by your father? (I remember not the numbered ones for sure.) Uncle Gérard went all the way to Berlin with General Leclerc, quite something. The portrait of your uncle is priceless, what a handsome gentleman with crystal eyes. Wishing you a bon week-end too. ~ Mia

  2. It’s hard to imagine the beauty of Paris flanked by jeeps and tanks. And as hard as it is to believe it would be so easy for it to happen again. I wonder what Gerard would think of all of the explosions and bombings and protesting in Paris in modern times. Wonderful stories.

    • It’s part of the purpose of this post. There were tanks and jeeps and occupying soldiers for 4 years. And yes, it can happen again. My Uncle would be appalled I guess. Have a lovely week-end my “Niece”. 🙂

  3. Bravo et merci à Gérard Leclerc ! Fortunately, peace came to this part of the world. It may be good to see what a war is doing to one’s place when this same one is sending his, or her though it is most likely “his”, soldiers to somewhere on Earth. A great weekend to the GGG and to you, Brieuc.

  4. Has mankind learnt anything out of this? I fear No and all this reminded to a visit of the National Museum in Algiers full of bloody pictures dealing about their fight for independence. Never seen so much blood in a museum. @ Ulli

  5. Is there anything more French than “Qu-est ce que c’est ce bordel?”
    I personally agree with you about Von Choltitz. There are a precious few German commanders who, despite having been fighting with the Nazis and everything, did not fall for Hitler’s madness. Perhaps even Paulus, who decided to surrender to the Russians rather than have his men totally annihilated. May we not see anything of this kind in Europe anymore!

    • Glad you agree. Paulus is another good example. I do hope we won’t see that madness in Europe again, but I have my doubts. (Remember the Balkans in the 90’s)

      • True… Well, I’m hoping that as we evolve we’ll learn, for instance, to think at the French as people we can argue about cheese and wine and Zidane with, not people to pick a fight with…

      • Amen to that. (With Lemaire’s comments, looks like we are off to a bad start.) 😉
        I also have another wish that as many French learn Italian as Italians speak French…
        Ciao, ciao…

      • Well, you probably know more about those two guys. (I don’t want to know the Italian adjectives… something starting with stron…?)
        😉
        Having said that I am increasingly concerned about the slide of democracy electing… thugs. That’s the correct word. Like the one on Pennsylvania Av.
        E pericoloso… Molto.

      • You can say that again…On Thursday last week, there was a mini-war about five kilometers from our home. Two cash in transit armoured vehicles were blown apart by eight heavily armed scoundrels. They shot randomly all over the place and fled with a lot of money. This happens regularly in SA and one can just be in the wrong place at any time.SA is sometimes a very scary place.

      • I can’t even begin to tell you what is going on here. We just keep our heads up and carry on with life, as if nothing is wrong. Otherwise one won’t stay sane!

      • I know, I know. I receive enough bits of info from my cousins, you and a few other South-Africans. But no world media talks about it. It would be improper…
        Watch your back. (As we do here. To be honest, I now refuse to travel in the interior. Not worth it. But then the city as dangerous…) Tsss.

  6. Pingback: 1944. Liberation of Paris. The end — Equinoxio – SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS COVENANT HOUSE

  7. What a fabulous ending to your uncle’s story! The conté drawing is beautiful. I agree that those plaques are very moving, all the more so for there being so many of them. I have just seen Francophonia by the director of Russian Ark. It covered the German occupation of Paris/France, so seeing these two posts meant more to me than had I not seen the film.

  8. Amazing photos Brian, and an incredible story to go with them. Glad your uncle made it all the way to Berlin, and hopefully back again?

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