Un volontaire de la Résistance
- libération de Paris août 1944 -
Gouache de René Gaillard
Un moment de pur bonheur,
la 2e DB est arrivée...
La foule en liesse,
massée sur les trottoirs
de la rue de Rivoli,
salue l'équipage d'un half-track
25 août 44,
le Général De Gaulle
défile sous l'Arc de Triomphe
Worl War :
liberation of Paris
august 1944 : The liberation of Paris
Early August 1944, allied forces who had landed in Normandy
on June 6, were already counting their second month in fighting
against German troops who would all but let go French territory.
On August 15, a 400 000-man Franco-American army landed
in Provence , and resolutely forged their way towards Toulon
Two fronts having thus been opened in France , German armoured
troops became dispersed. Hope rekindle in the minds of the
citizens as they realized the page of the four-year long period
of humiliation under German occupation would soon be flipped
French flags on public buildings
French citizens, especially those
of Paris , who with indignity lived through this gloomy period
while inwardly seething with rage, became impatient. They
too wanted to contribute to the liberation of their land.
On August 18, the Internal French Forces (Forces Françaises
de l’Intérieur) called for a revolt.
French flags were hoisted on public buildings. The police
went on strike; sit-ins were staged at some town halls and
several police stations. Skirmishes broke out with the German
Informed of these events, Führer Adolf Hitler immediately
ordered General Von Scholtitz, commander of the greater part
of Paris , to burn down and destroy the French capital.
The nearest allied troops, which could confront the 20
000 soldiers, 80 armoured and 60 cannons of the German army
present in the capital, were still 200 kilometres away. The
liberation of Paris did not constitute a priority to the
Allied High Command.
With insufficient arms and equipment, Parisians decided
to revolt. Though legitimate, this action turned out to be
too premature and irrational as it almost plunged the French
capital into the kind of disaster that struck Warsaw at that
same period. This heroic Polish capital, which the Red Army,
even though camping just at its gates, failed to rescue during
the Warsaw revolt, was destroyed.
Leclerc rushed into Paris
If Paris had not become the heap
of rubble the Führer had ordered, it was thanks to two
factors. First, General Leclerc’s expeditious initiative
to force-march one of his division’s light armoured
units into Paris against instructions he had received
from the 3rd American Army to which he was attached. Secondly,
the Swedish Consul personally entered into negotiations with
General Von Scholtitz. The latter consequently decided to
save the French capital in defiance of the Führer’s
On August 23, 1944, Leclerc’s Division, having finally
received orders from General Bradley to march into Paris
, hit the road with enthusiasm in a bid to cover the 200
kilometres separating them from the capital in no time. Rapid
action became the topmost priority, surpassing all issues
of strategy or safety.
At 1p.m. on 23rd August, Leclerc and his men were already
at Rambouillet. On the 24th at 2p.m., they reached the Bièvre
valley, at 7p.m., they had gone passed Fresnes and la Croix
de Berny, and at 9p.m. they crossed the Sèvres Bridge
at Boulogne .
Leclerc in Paris
Their progression was intermittently punctuated with fierce
confrontations from German troops who laid in ambush.
Finally, at 8:45 p.m., Captain Dronne’s detachment
entered Paris through the Italian gateway. Then, taking the
road through the Austerlitz Bridge and the Seine banks, they
advanced towards the town hall where they arrived at 9p.m.
During the multiple-front clashes that ensued, the resistance
of the German troops turn out to sag quite fast. Everywhere,
the anxiety of the previous days was giving way to euphoria
- a memory which could never scraped off by time from the
minds of these soldiers who brought freedom to the inhabitants
The surrender act was signed
on August 25, 1944, at 4:15 p.m. at the Montparnasse train
station by General Von Scholtitz, in the presence of General
Leclerc, Jacques Chaban Delmas, Rol Tanguy and Colonel Billotte.
Sporadic fighting, however, still continued for three
The liberation of Paris claimed the over 1000 French
lives - civilians and servicemen, soldiers and resistance
fighters. As for the injured, they numbered about 8000.
On August 26, came the triumphant Champs Elysées
march by General de Gaulle and the Leclerc Division, amidst
a crowd in total jubilation.