Liberation of France

The Liberation of France is the sequence of events and military campaigns during the Second World War in which German-occupied France was progressively liberated by the Allied forces, with internal support by the French Resistance. France was mostly free by September 1944, with some clean-up operations continuing, especially along the Atlantic coast until the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.

Liberation of France
De Gaulle speaking from Cherbourg City Hall balcony 20 August 1944
France, North Africa


Fall of France and rise of VichyEdit

France was invaded by Nazi Germany beginning on 10 May 1940. The Nazis rapidly conquered France by bypassing the highly fortified Maginot Line and invading through Belgium. By July, the military situation of the French was dire, and it was apparent that the French had lost. The French government began to discuss the possibility of an armistice. Paul Reynaud resigned as prime minister of the Third French Republic rather than sign an armistice, and Marshal Philippe Pétain, a hero of World War I, became prime minister. Shortly thereafter, Pétain signed the Armistice of 22 June. On 10 July, the Third Republic was effectively dissolved as Pétain was granted essentially dictatorial powers by the National Assembly.

At Vichy, Pétain established an authoritarian government that reversed many liberal policies and began tight supervision of the economy. Conservative Catholics became prominent and Paris lost its avant-garde status in European art and culture. The media were tightly controlled and promoted anti-Semitism, and, after June 1941, anti-Bolshevism.[1] The occupation presented certain advantages, such as keeping the French Navy and French colonial empire under French control, and avoiding full occupation of the country by Germany, thus maintaining a degree of French independence and neutrality. Despite heavy pressure, the French government at Vichy never joined the Axis alliance and even remained formally at war with Germany. Conversely, Vichy France became a collaborationist regime, and was little more than a Nazi client state.

French military tacticians had failed to predict the German invasion route through the Ardennes, considered impassable by tanks. French defenses swiftly crumbled as the Germans swept through the Lowlands and around the heavily fortified Maginot Line. The only question in French politics was whether to seek an armistice, fight on, or simply surrender. Paul Reynaud wanted to fight on from North Africa but had no support and resigned rather than seek an armistice.[2] The Assemblée Nationale voted to give World War hero Philippe Pétain the power to write a new constitution, which he interpreted as a writ of absolute power, dissolving the constitution of the French Third Republic that had been in existence since the fall of the monarchy. In hopes of preventing it's destruction, Reynaud declared Paris an open city. The Pétain administration fled, but not to North Africa as Reynaud had wanted, establishing itself instead at Vichy in the southern zone.[3] The Germans advanced to Paris, and down the Atlantic coast. The Vichy régime nominally governed all of France, but in practice the Zone occupée was a Nazi dictatorship, and Vichy's power even in the zone libre was limited and uncertain.

De Gaulle in LondonEdit

Poster of the 18 June appeal distributed in Occupied France through underground means as pamphlets and plastered on walls as posters by supporters of the Résistance.

Refusing to accept his government's armistice with Germany, Charles de Gaulle fled to England on 17 June and exhorted the French to resist occupation and to continue the fight in his Appeal of 18 June on BBC radio.

De Gaulle also tried, largely in vain, to attract the support of French forces in the French Empire. His overtures to General Charles Noguès (Resident-General in Morocco and Commander-in-Chief of French forces in North Africa) were refused, and Noguès forbade the press in French North Africa to publish de Gaulle's appeal.[4] After the armistice was signed on 21 June 1940, de Gaulle spoke at 20:00 on 22 June to denounce it.[5] The French government, which now convened in Bordeaux, declared de Gaulle compulsorily retired from the Army with the rank of colonel on 23 June 1940.[6] On 23 June the British Government denounced the armistice and stated that they no longer regarded the Bordeaux Government as a fully independent state. They also noted the plan to establish a French National Committee in exile, but without mentioning de Gaulle by name.[7]

The armistice took effect from 00:35 on 25 June.[5] On 26 June de Gaulle wrote to Churchill demanding recognition of his French Committee.[8] On 28 June, after Churchill's envoys had failed to establish contact with the French leaders in North Africa, the British Government recognized de Gaulle as leader of the Free French, despite the reservations of the foreign office.[9]

De Gaulle had little success in attracting the support of major figures.[10] While Philippe Pétain's government was recognized by the US, the USSR, and the Papacy, and controlled the French fleet and the forces in almost all the colonies, de Gaulle's retinue consisted of a secretary, three colonels, a dozen captains, a law professor, and three battalions of legionnaires who had agreed to stay in Britain and fight for him. For a time the New Hebrides were the only French colony to back de Gaulle.[11]

The Vichy regime sentenced de Gaulle to death by court martial in absentia.[6] De Gaulle said of the sentence, "I consider the act of the Vichy men as void; I shall have an explanation with them after the victory".[12] De Gaulle and Churchill reached agreement on 7 August 1940, that Britain would fund the Free French, with the bill to be settled after the war (the financial agreement was finalized in March 1941). A separate letter guaranteed the territorial integrity of the French Empire.[13]

French ResistanceEdit

The French Resistance was a decentralized organization of small cells of fighters with the tacit or overt support of many French civilians. Some were former Republican fighters from the Spanish Civil War; others were workers who went into hiding rather than report for the mandatory Service du travail obligatoire in Germany.[14] In the south of France especially, Resistance fighters took to the mountainous maquis and conducted guerilla warfare on the German occupation forces, cutting telephone lines and destroying bridges.

Some organizations grew up around one of the many clandestine presses of the time. Stalin supported the effort once the Nazis invaded Russia. French prisoners of war were held hostage against the French government providing a sufficient workforce for German factories, but when the Vichy government began wholesale impressment of able-bodied civilians to meet German demands, railway workers (cheminots) went on strike.[15] They eventually formed their own organization, Résistance-Fer. The Unione Corse and the milieu, the criminal underground of Marseilles, gleefully provided logistical assistance for a price, although some such as Paul Carbone worked with the Carlingue instead.

The French Forces of the Interior, as de Gaulle came to call Resistance forces, were an uneasy alliance of multiple maquis and other organizations , including the Communist-organized Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP) and the Armée secrète in southern France. In addition, escape networks helped Allied airmen who had been shot down get to safety.

The Germans had begun to demand French workers for German arms factories. Dissatisfied with the number of volunteers, the German military administration in occupied France during World War II had the Government of Vichy France enact the mandatory Service du travail obligatoire, and able-bodied French citizens began to disappear into forests and mountain wildernesses to join the maquis.[citation needed]

Military forcesEdit


The contribution to France's liberation made by French colonial African soldiers, who comprised 9% of the French army, has largely been ignored. The Gaullists made their base in African territory to launch the military liberation. Among the populations colonized by France, it was African troops who made the largest contribution to the liberation campaign. [16][17]

The Armée d’Afrique was formally a separate army corps of the French metropolitan army, the. 19th Army Corps (19e Corps d'Armée) so named in 1873. The French Colonial Forces on the other hand came under the Ministry of the Navy and comprised both French and indigenous units serving in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the French colonial empire.


De Gaulle set up his Free French intelligence system to combine both military and political roles, including covert operations. He selected journalist Pierre Brossolette (1903-44) to head the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (BCRA). The policy was reversed in 1943 by Emmanuel d'Astrier the interior minister of the exile government, who insisted on civilian control of political intelligence.[18]

Military campaignsEdit

After the Fall of France, the battle to retake France began in Africa in November 1940. By September 1945, after the liberation of Paris and the southern France campaign and taking of Mediterranean ports in Marseille and Toulon, the country was largely liberated. The Allied Forces were driving into Germany from the west and the south. The liberation of France didn't finally end till the elimination of some pockets of German resistance along the Atlantic coast at the end of the war in May 1945.

The gradual loss of all Vichy territory to Free France and the Allies by 1943. Legend.

France's colonial empire at the start of World War II stretched from territories and possessions in Africa, the Middle East (Syria and Lebanon), ports in India, Indochina, Pacific islands, and even territories in North and South America.

During World War II, allied Free France, often with British support, and Axis-aligned Vichy France struggled for control of the colonies, sometimes with outright military combat. By 1943, all of the colonies, except for Indochina under Japanese control, had joined the Free French cause.[19]

Gabon – November 1940Edit

The Battle of Gabon resulted in the Free French Forces taking the colony of French Gabon and its capital, Libreville, from Vichy French forces. It was the only significant engagement in Central Africa during the war.[citation needed]

Algeria – November 1942Edit

American soldiers land near Algiers. The soldier at the dune line is carrying a flag because it was hoped the French would be less likely to fire on Americans.

Operation Torch was a three-pronged Allied assault against Vichy régime targets in North Africa. The landing forces of Operation Torch came in at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. Following Case Anton, French colonial governors had found themselves taking orders from the German military administration, and did so with varying degrees of enthusiasm. A few colonies such as French India pragmatically agreed that they did not wish to tangle with neighboring British colonies, which were larger and better-armed. Others had Axis neighbors, such as Tunisia or Somaliland. The American consul in Algiers believed that Vichy forces would welcome US forces.


A Western Task Force (aimed at Casablanca) was composed of American units, with Major General George S. Patton in command and Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt heading naval operations. This Western Task Force consisted of the U.S. 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions, and two battalions from the U.S. 2nd Armored Division — 35,000 troops in a convoy of over 100 ships. They were transported directly from the United States in the first of a new series of UG convoys providing logistical support for the North African campaign.

The Center Task Force, aimed at Oran, included the U.S. 2nd Battalion,509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, and the U.S. 1st Armored Division—a total of 18,500 troops.

The Eastern Task Force—aimed at Algiers—was commanded by Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson and consisted of a brigade from the British 78th and the U.S. 34th Infantry Divisions, along with two British commando units (No. 1 and No. 6 Commandos), together with the RAF Regiment providing five squadrons of infantry and five Light anti-aircraft flights, totalling 20,000 troops. During the landing, ground forces were commanded by U.S. Major General Charles W. Ryder, of the 34th Division and naval forces were commanded by Royal Navy Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Burrough.

Corsica – 1943Edit

US B-25 bomber at Solenzara Air Base in Corsica in late 1944.

Except for a brief period, Corsica had been under the control of France since the Treaty of Versailles (1768). In World War II, Corsica was occupied by the Kingdom of Italy from November 1942, through September 1943.[20] Italy initially occupied the island (as well as parts of France) as part of Nazi Germany's Operation Anton on 11 November 1942. At its peak, Italy had 85,000 troops on the island.[21] There was some native support among Corsican irredentists for the occupation.[citation needed] Benito Mussolini postponed the annexation of Corsica by Italy until after an assumed Axis victory in World War II, mainly because of German opposition to the irredentist claims.[22]

Although there was mild support for the occupation among collaborationists[23] and resistance was initially limited, it grew after the Italian invasion and by April 1943 became united, and was armed by airdrop and shipments by the Free French submarine Casabianca and establish some territorial control.[24]

After Mussolini's imprisonment in July 1943, German troops took over the occupation of Corsica. The Allied invasion of Italy began 3 September 1943, leading to Italy's surrender to the Allies, with the main invasion force landing in Italy on 9 September.[citation needed] The local resistance signaled an uprising for the same day, beginning the liberation of Corsica (Operation Vesuvius).

The Allies did not initially want such a movement, preferring to focus their forces on the invasion of Italy. However, in light of the insurrection, the Allies acquiesced to Free French troops landing on Corsica, starting with an elite detachment of the reconstituted French I Corps landing (again by the submarine Casabianca) at Arone near the village of Piana in northwest Corsica. This prompted the German troops to attack Italian troops in Corsica as well as the Resistance. The Resistance, and the Italian 44 Infantry Division Cremona and 20 Infantry Division Friuli engaged in heavy combat with the German Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS. The Sturmbrigade was joined by the 90th Panzergrenadier Division and the Italian 12th Parachute Battalion of the 184th Parachute Regiment,[25] which were retreating from Sardinia through Corsica, from Bonifacio to the northern port of Bastia. There were now 30,000 German troops in Corsica withdrawing via Bastia. On 13 September elements of the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division landed in Ajaccio to try to stop the Germans. During the night of 3 to 4 October, the last German units evacuated Bastia, leaving behind 700 dead and 350 POWs.[citation needed]

Battle of Normandy – June 1944Edit

A landing craft at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France 6 June 1944

Operation Overlord was launched on 6 June 1944 with troops landing in Normandy. Attacks by 1,200 planes preceded an amphibious assault by more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June.

The Battle of Normandy was won due to what is still today the largest ever military landing logistical operation; three million soldiers, mostly American, British, Canadian, Australian and Kiwis, but also other allied forces such as the Free French Forces, Polish Armed Forces in the West, Belgians, Czechoslovakian, Dutch and Norwegians crossed over the Channel from Britain.

Some of the German Army units they met in this operation were Ostlegionen, part of the German 243rd and 709th Static Infantry Divisions, near the Utah, Juno and Sword invasion beaches.[26]

Paris – August 1944Edit

Parade on the Champs Elysees, 26 August 1944 after Liberation

The Liberation of Paris was an urban military battle that took place over the period of a week from 19 August 1944 until the German garrison surrendered the French capital on 25 August 1944. Paris had been ruled by Nazi Germany since the signing of the Armistice on 22 June 1940, after which the Wehrmacht occupied northern and western France. The Germans surrendered Paris and the French took over, led by General de Gaulle, on 25 August 1944.[citation needed]


As the the final phase of Operation Overlord was still going on in August 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, te hSupreme Commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, was not considering the liberation of Paris to be a primary objective. The goal of the U.S. and British Armed Forces was to destroy the German forces, and end World War II in Europe, to allow the Allies to concentrate their efforts on the Pacific war.[27]

Uprising – 15 AugustEdit

As the French Resistance began to rise in Paris against the Germans on 15 August, Eisenhower stated that it was too early for an assault on Paris. he was also aware that Hitler had ordered the German military to completely destroy the city in the event of an Allied attack, and Paris was considered to have too great a value, culturally and historically, to risk its destruction.

Armored vehicles of the 2nd Armored Division fighting at the Palais Garnier, a German tank in flames (Aug 25)

On the 15th employees of the Paris Métro, the Gendarmerie, and Police went on strike; postal workers followed the next day. They were soon joined by workers across the city, causing a general strike to break out on 18 August. Barricades began to appear on 20 August, with Resistance fighters organizing themselves to sustain a siege. Trucks were positioned, trees cut down, and trenches were dug in the pavement to free paving stones for consolidating the barricades.

Skirmishes reached their peak on 22 August, when some German units tried to leave their fortifications. At 09:00 on 23 August, under Choltitz's orders, the Germans opened fire on the Grand Palais, an FFI stronghold, and German tanks fired at the barricades in the streets. Adolf Hitler gave the order to inflict maximum damage on the city.[28]

De Gaulle and his entourage stroll down the Champs Élysées (Aug 26)

Allied arrival – 24-25 AugustEdit

The liberation began when the French Forces of the Interior—the military structure of the French Resistance—staged an uprising against the German garrison upon the approach of the US Third Army led by General George Patton. On the night of 24 August, elements of General Philippe Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division made their way into Paris and arrived at the Hôtel de Ville shortly before midnight. The next morning, 25 August, the bulk of the 2nd Armored Division and the US 4th Infantry Division and other allied units entered the city. Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison and the military governor of Paris, surrendered to the French at the Hôtel Meurice, the newly established French headquarters. General Charles de Gaulle of the French Army arrived to assume control of the city.[citation needed]

It is estimated that between 800 and 1,000 Resistance fighters were killed during the Battle for Paris, and another 1,500 were wounded.[29]

U.S. 28th Infantry Division in the "Victory Day" parade (29 Aug)

German surrender – 25 AugustEdit

Despite repeated orders from Adolf Hitler that the French capital be destroyed before being given up,[30] Dietrich von Choltitz, as commander of the German garrison and military governor of Paris, surrendered on 25 August at the Hôtel Meurice. He then signed the official surrender at the Paris Police Prefecture. Choltitz later described himself in Is Paris Burning? as the saviour of Paris, for not blowing it up before surrendering.[31]

The same day, Charles de Gaulle, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic moved back into the War Ministry and made a rousing speech to the crowd from the Hôtel de Ville. The day after de Gaulle's speech, General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division paraded down the Champs-Élysées, while de Gaulle marched down the boulevard and entered the Place de la Concorde.[citation needed] On 29 August, the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry Division paraded 24-abreast up the Avenue Hoche to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs Élysées, greeted by joyous crowds.[32]


The uprising in Paris gave the newly established Free French government and its president, Charles de Gaulle, enough prestige and authority to establish a provisional French Republic, replacing the falled Vichy regime),[33] which had fled into exile.

Southern France – August 1944Edit

The Operation Dragoon invasion fleet, Côte d'Azur, France

Planning and goalsEdit

When first planned, the campaign in southern France and the landings in Normandy were to take place simultaneously—Operation Overlord in Normandy, and "Anvil" (as the southern campaign was originally called) in the south of France. A dual landing was soon recognized to be impossible; the southern campaign was postponed. The ports in Normandy had insufficient capacity to handle Allied military supply needs and French generals under de Gaulle pressed for a direct attack on southern France with the participation of French troops. Despite objections by Churchill, the operation was authorized by the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff on 14 July and scheduled for 15 August.[34][35][36]

The goal of the southern France campaign, now known as "Operation Dragoon" was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and pressure German forces with another front. The US VI Corps landed on the beaches of the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) on 15 August 1944 shielded by a large naval task force, followed by several divisions of French Army B. They were opposed by the scattered forces of the German Army Group G, which had been weakened by the relocation of its divisions to other fronts and the replacement of its soldiers with third-rate Ostlegionen outfitted with obsolete equipment.

Objectives and forcesEdit

The chief objectives of Operation Dragoon were the important French ports of Marseille and Toulon. The Western Naval Task Force was formed under the command of Vice Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt to carry the U.S. 6th Army Group to the shore. The 6th Army Group was formed in Corsica and activated on 1 August.[37] The main ground force for the operation was the US Seventh Army commanded by Alexander Patch, followed by the French Army B under command of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.[38] The French Resistance played a major role in the fighting. As the Allies advanced into France, the Resistance evolved from a guerilla fighting force to a semiorganized army called French Forces of the Interior (FFI).[39] The Allied ground and naval forces were supported by a fleet of 3470 planes, mostly stationed on Corsica and Sardinia.[40]

They were opposed by German Army Group G (Heeresgruppe G), including the 19th Army, led by Friedrich Wiese. The Army was understrength, most of the units having been sent north earlier.[41][42] The units were spread thinly, made up of second rate units from eastern Europe with low morale and poor equipment.[41][43] The coastal defenses had been improved by the Vichy regime and later improved by the Germans after they took over in November 1942.[44]


On 14 August, preliminary landings took place in the Hyères Islands by the First Special Service Force, a joint U.S.-Canadian special-forces unit, to secure a staging area and for amphibious landing training. After sporadic resistance, driving the German garrison to the western part of the island, the Germans surrendered on 17 August. The Force transferred to the mainland, becoming part of the First Airborne Task Force. Meanwhile, French commandos were active to the west in Operation Romeo and Operation Span.[45][46]

(from the Lead)Edit

Jean de Lattre de Tassigny walking through the liberated city of Marseille

Hindered by Allied air supremacy and a large-scale uprising by the French Resistance, the weak German forces were swiftly defeated. The Germans withdrew to the north through the Rhône valley, to establish a stable defense line at Dijon. Allied mobile units were able to overtake the Germans and partially block their route at the town of Montélimar. The ensuing battle led to a stalemate, with neither side able to achieve a decisive breakthrough, until the Germans were finally able to complete their withdrawal and retreat from the town. While the Germans were retreating, the French managed to capture the important ports of Marseille and Toulon, putting them into operation soon after.[citation needed]

The Germans were not able to hold Dijon and ordered a complete withdrawal from Southern France. Army Group G retreated further north, pursued by Allied forces. The fighting ultimately came to a stop at the Vosges mountains, where Army Group G was finally able to establish a stable defense line. After meeting with the Allied units from Operation Overlord, the Allied forces were in need of reorganizing and, facing stiffened German resistance, the offensive was halted on 14 September. Operation Dragoon was considered a success by the Allies. It enabled them to liberate most of Southern France in just four weeks while inflicting heavy casualties on the German forces, although a substantial part of the best German units were able to escape. The captured French ports were put into operation, allowing the Allies to solve their supply problems soon after.[citation needed]

Pockets of German resistance – to May 1945Edit

French Army armored car which participated in the liberation of La Rochelle in 1945. Musée d'Orbigny-Bernon

The pocket of La Rochelle was a zone of German resistance at the end of the Second World War. It was made up of the city of La Rochelle, the submarine base at La Pallice, of the Ile de Ré and of most of Ile d'Oléron (the southern part of the island was part of the Royan pocket).


Journal American of 7 May 1945 announcing Victory in Europe (Musée de la Reddition)


The subsections below overlap in time, and can't be put in strict chrono order, so the intro or first sentence of each should make it clear what the time range is for the subtopic.

Advance to the RhineEdit

Fighting on the Western front seemed to stabilize, and the Allied advance stalled in front of the Siegfried Line (Westwall) and the southern reaches of the Rhine. Starting in early September, the Americans began slow and bloody fighting through the Hurtgen Forest ("Passchendaele with tree bursts"—Hemingway) to breach the Line.

The port of Antwerp was liberated on 4 September by the British 11th Armoured Division. However, it lay at the end of the long Scheldt Estuary, and so it could not be used until its approaches were clear of heavily fortified German positions. The Breskens pocket on the southern bank of the Scheldt was cleared with heavy casualties by allied forces in Operation Switchback, during the Battle of the Scheldt. This was followed by a tedious campaign to clear a peninsula dominating the estuary, and finally, the amphibious assault on Walcheren Island in November. The campaign to clear the Scheldt Estuary along with Operation Pheasant was a decisive victory for the Allies, as it allowed a greatly improved delivery of supplies directly from Antwerp, which was far closer to the front than the Normandy beaches.

American troops cross the Siegfried Line into Germany.

In October the Americans decided that they could not just invest Aachen and let it fall in a slow siege, because it threatened the flanks of the U.S. Ninth Army. As it was the first major German city to face capture, Hitler ordered that the city be held at all costs. In the resulting battle, the city was taken, at a cost of 5,000 casualties on both sides, with an additional 5,600 German prisoners.

South of the Ardennes, American forces fought from September until mid-December to push the Germans out of Lorraine and from behind the Siegfried Line. The crossing of the Moselle River and the capture of the fortress of Metz proved difficult for the American troops in the face of German reinforcements, supply shortages, and unfavorable weather. During September and October, the Allied 6th Army Group (U.S. Seventh Army and French First Army) fought a difficult campaign through the Vosges Mountains that was marked by dogged German resistance and slow advances. In November, however, the German front snapped under the pressure, resulting in sudden Allied advances that liberated Belfort, Mulhouse, and Strasbourg, and placed Allied forces along the Rhine River. The Germans managed to hold a large bridgehead (the Colmar Pocket), on the western bank of the Rhine and centered around the city of Colmar. On 16 November the Allies started a large scale autumn offensive called Operation Queen. With its main thrust again through the Hürtgen Forest, the offensive drove the Allies to the Rur River, but failed in its core objectives to capture the Rur dams and pave the way towards the Rhine. The Allied operations were then succeeded by the German Ardennes offensive.

End of VichyEdit

The Vichy government moved to the castle in Sigmaringen, Germany

Under pressure of the advancing Allied forces, Pierre Laval held the last government council on 17 August 1944, with five ministers.[47] With permission from the Germans, he attempted to call back the prior National Assembly with the goal of giving it power[48] and thus impeding the communists and de Gaulle.[49] So he obtained the agreement of German ambassador Otto Abetz to bring Édouard Herriot, (President of the Chamber of Deputies) back to Paris.[49] But ultra-collaborationists Marcel Déat and Fernand de Brinon protested this to the Germans, who changed their minds[50] and took Laval to Belfort[51] along with the remains of his government, "to assure its legitimate security", and arrested Herriot.[52]

On 20 August 1944 Pierre Laval was taken to Belfort[51] by the Germans along with the remains of his government, "to assure its legitimate security". Vichy head of state Marshal Philippe Pétain was conducted against his will to Belfort on 20 August 1944. A governmental commission directed by Fernand de Brinon was proclaimed on 6 September.[53] On 7 September, they were taken ahead of the advancing Allied Forces out of France to the town of Sigmaringen, where they arrived on the 8th, where other Vichy officials were already present.[54] Rather than resign his post, Pétain wrote in a letter to the French "I am, and remain morally, your leader", but this was a fiction.[citation needed]

Hitler requisitioned the Sigmaringen Castle for use by top officials.[citation needed] This was then occupied and used by the Vichy government-in-exile from September 1944 to April 1945. Pétain resided at the Castle, but refused to cooperate, and kept mostly to himself,[53] and ex-Prime Minister Pierre Laval also refused.[55] Despite the efforts of the collaborationists and the Germans, Pétain never recognized the Sigmaringen Commission.[56] The Germans, wanting to present a facade of legality, enlisted other Vichy officials such as Fernand de Brinon as president, along with Joseph Darnand, Jean Luchaire, Eugène Bridoux, and Marcel Déat.[57]

On 7 September 1944,[58] fleeing the advance of Allied troops into France, while Germany was in flames and the Vichy regime ceased to exist, a thousand French collaborators (including a hundred officials of the Vichy regime, a few hundred members of the French Militia, collaborationist party militants, and the editorial staff of the newspaper Je suis partout) but also waiting-game opportunists[a] also went into exile in Sigmaringen.

The commission had its own radio station (Radio-patrie, Ici la France) and official press (La France, Le Petit Parisien), and hosted the embassies of the Axis powers: Germany, Italy and Japan. The population of the enclave was about 6,000, including known collaborationist journalists, the writers Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Lucien Rebatet, the actor Robert Le Vigan, and their families, as well as 500 soldiers, 700 French SS, prisoners of war and French civilian forced laborers.[59] Inadequate housing, insufficient food, promiscuity among the paramilitaries, and lack of hygiene facilitated the spread of numerous illnesses including flu and tuberculosis) and a high mortality rate among children, ailments that were treated as best they could by the only two French doctors, Doctor Destouches, alias Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Bernard Ménétrel.[58]

On 21 April 1945 General de Lattre ordered his forces to take Sigmaringen. The end came within days. By the 26th, Pétain was in the hands of French authorities in Switzerland,[60] and Laval had fled to Spain.[55] Brinon,[61] Luchaire, and Darnand were captured, tried, and executed by 1947. Other members escaped to Italy or Spain.

Justice and retributionEdit

French women accused of collaboration with the enemy during the occupation are led through the streets of Paris barefoot, and with their heads shaved.

Elections of May 1945Edit

Provisional governmentEdit

Fourth RepublicEdit

Campaign poster for Charles de Gaulle's RPF party: "We can overcome this; My fellow French citizens, vote for the Rassemblement du Peuple Français slate". Lithograph, Paris, 1944-1947



After a period of penury and hardship, the economy shot up, beginning what became known as the "Trente glorieuses" (30 glorious years).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Debbie Lackerstein, National Regeneration in Vichy France: Ideas and Policies, 1930–1944 (2013)
  2. ^ Shlaim, Avi (July 1974). "Prelude to Downfall: The British Offer of Union to France, June 1940". Journal of Contemporary History. 3. 9: 27–63. doi:10.1177/002200947400900302. JSTOR 260024.
  3. ^ Priscilla Mary Roberts, ed. (2012). World War II: The Essential Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 78. ISBN 978-1610691017.
  4. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 229-30.
  5. ^ a b Lacouture 1993, p. 236.
  6. ^ a b Lacouture 1993, p. 243-4.
  7. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 236-7.
  8. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 208.
  9. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 243.
  10. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 239.
  11. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 244.
  12. ^ "French Take Part in Air Raids". St. Petersburg Times. 3 August 1940. p. 1. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  13. ^ Lacouture 1993, p. 261.
  14. ^ "STO" (in French). Larousse.
  15. ^ Philip Nord. "Ordinary Workers, Vichy and the Holocaust: French Railwaymen and the Second World War by Ludivine Broch (review)". Journal of Interdisciplinary History. The MIT Press.
  16. ^ Tony Chafer , "Forgotten Soldiers: Tony Chafer examines the paradoxes and complexities that underlie belated recognition of the contribution of African soldiers to the liberation of France in 1944" History Today 58#11 (November 2008): 35–37.
  17. ^ Panivong Norindr, "Incorporating Indigenous Soldiers in the Space of the French Nation: Rachid Bouchareb's Indigènes." Yale French Studies 115 (2009): 126-140 online.
  18. ^ Sébastien Laurent, "The free French secret services: Intelligence and the politics of republican legitimacy." Intelligence and National Security 15.4 (2000): 19-41.
  19. ^ Martin Thomas, The French Empire at War, 1940–1945 (Manchester University Press, 2007)
  20. ^ Rodogno, Davide. Il nuovo ordine mediterraneo - Le politiche di occupazione dell'Italia fascista in Europa (1940-1943) Chapter: France
  21. ^ Dillon, Paddy (2006). Gr20 - Corsica: The High-level Route. Cicerone Press Limited. p. 14. ISBN 1852844779.
  22. ^ Marco Cuzzi: La rivendicazione fascista della Corsica (1938-1943) p. 57 (in Italian)
  23. ^ Italian irredentists of Corsica
  24. ^ Hélène Chaubin; Sylvain Gregory; Antoine Poletti (2003). La résistance en Corse (CD-ROM). Histoire en mémoire, 1939-1945. Paris: Association pour des Études sur la Résistance Intérieure. OCLC 492457259.
  25. ^ "Esercito Italiano: Divisione "Nembo" (184)". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009.
  26. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1997). D-Day, June 6, 1944: the Battle for the Normandy Beaches. London: Simon & Schuster. p. 34. ISBN 0-7434-4974-6.
  27. ^ "Les Cahiers Multimédias: Il y a 60 ans : la Libération de Paris" Archived 14 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine (in French). Gérard Conreur/Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc et de la Libération de Paris. Radio France. 6 July 2004.
  28. ^ Libération de Paris: Balises 1944, L'Humanité, 23 August 2004.
  29. ^ Thorton, Willis (1962). The Liberation of Paris – Google Books. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  30. ^ "... Brennt Paris?". Retrieved 25 August 2008.
  31. ^ Choltitz, von, Dietrich (1950). Brennt Paris? Adolf Hitler ... Tatsachenbericht d. letzten deutschen Befehlshabers in Paris [Factual report of the last German commander in Paris] (in German). Mannheim: UNA Weltbücherei. OCLC 1183798630.
  32. ^ Stanton, Shelby L. (Captain U.S. Army, Retired), World War II Order of Battle, The encyclopedic reference to all U.S. Army ground force units from battalion through division, 1939–1945, Galahad Books, New York, 1991, p. 105. ISBN 0-88365-775-9.
  33. ^ "1944–1946: La Libération" (in French). Charles de Gaulle foundation official website. 15 June 2007. Archived from the original on 15 June 2007.
  34. ^ Yeide (2007), p. 13.
  35. ^ Zaloga (2009), pp. 6–8.
  36. ^ Tucker-Jones (2010), p. 69.
  37. ^ Potter & Nimitz 1960, pp. 588–598.
  38. ^ Pogue (1986), p. 227.
  39. ^ Zaloga (2009), pp. 8, 29.
  40. ^ Vogel (1983), pp. 584–586.
  41. ^ a b Vogel 1983, pp. 588–598.
  42. ^ Clarke & Smith 1993, p. 63.
  43. ^ Zaloga 2009, pp. 16–19.
  44. ^ Tucker-Jones 2010, p. 78.
  45. ^ Zaloga 2009, pp. 36–41.
  46. ^ Vogel 1983, p. 597.
  47. ^ Brissaud 1965, p. 504-505.
  48. ^ Paxton-fr 1997, p. 382-383.
  49. ^ a b Kupferman 2006, p. 520–525.
  50. ^ Brissaud 1965, p. 491-492.
  51. ^ a b Jäckel-fr 1968, p. 495.
  52. ^ Kupferman 2006, p. 527–529.
  53. ^ a b Aron 1962, p. 40,45.
  54. ^ Aron 1962, p. 41-45.
  55. ^ a b Aron 1962, p. 81–82.
  56. ^ Sautermeister 2013, p. 13.
  57. ^ Rousso 1999, p. 51–59.
  58. ^ a b Béglé 2014.
  59. ^ Jackson 2001, p. 567–568.
  60. ^ Aron 1962, p. 48–49.
  61. ^ Cointet 2014, p. 426.
  1. ^ "waiting-game opportunists": Attentistes in the original.

Works citedEdit

  • Brissaud, André (1965), La Dernière année de Vichy (1943-1944) [The Last Year of Vichy] (in French), Paris: Librairie Académique Perrin, OCLC 406974043
  • Clarke, Jeffrey J. & Smith, Robert Ross (1993). Riviera To The Rhine. United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations. Washington DC: Center of Military History, United States Army. ISBN 978-0-16-025966-1.
  • Jäckel, Eberhard (1968) [1st pub. 1966: Deutsche Verlag-Anstalg GmbH (in German) as "Frankreich in Hitlers Europa – Die deutsche Frankreichpolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg"]. La France dans l'Europe de Hitler [France in Hitler's Europe - Germany's France foreign policy in the Second World War]. Les grandes études contemporaines (in French). Paris: Fayard.
  • Paxton, Robert O. (1997) [1st pub: 1972: Knopf (in English) as "Vichy France: old guard and new order, 1940-1944" (978-0394-47360-4)], La France de Vichy – 1940-1944, Points-Histoire (in French), translated by Bertrand, Claude, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, ISBN 978-2-02-039210-5
  • Pogue, C. (1986). The Supreme Command. United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army. ISBN 978-0-16-001916-6.
  • Potter, E.B. & Nimitz, Chester W. (1960). Sea Power. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-796870-1.
  • Tucker-Jones, Anthony (2010). Operation Dragoon: The Liberation of Southern France 1944. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-84884-140-6.
  • Vogel, Detlef (1983). "Deutsche und Alliierte Kriegsführung im Westen [German and Allied warfare in the West]". In Boog, Horst; Krebs, Gerhard; Vogel, Detlef (eds.). Das Deutsche Reich in der Defensive [The German Reich on the Defense: The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia 1943–1944/5]. Germany and the Second World War (in German). VII. Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. pp. 419–642. ISBN 978-3-421-05507-1.
  • Yeide, Harry (2007). First to the Rhine: The 6th Army Group In World War II. Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-3146-0.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2009). Operation Dragoon 1944: France's other D-Day. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-367-4.

Further readingEdit

  • Aron, Robert. France reborn; the history of the liberation, June 1944-May 1945 (1964) online
  • Diamond, Hanna, and Simon Kitson, eds. Vichy, resistance, liberation: new perspectives on wartime France (Bloomsbury, 2005).
  • Gordon, Bertram M. Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy, and the Resistance, 1938-1946 (1998).
  • Jackson, Julian. France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944 (Oxford UP, 2004).
  • Paxton, Robert. Vichy France: Old Guard, New Order, 1940-1944 (Knopf, 1972). online


  • Berthon, Simon. Allies at War: The Bitter Rivalry among Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle. (2001). online
  • Bourque, Stephen Alan. Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France (Naval Institute Press, 2018).
  • Dodd, Lindsey, and Andrew Knapp. "'How many Frenchmen did you kill?' British bombing policy towards France (1940-1945)" French History (2008) 22#4 pp 469-492.
  • Dougherty, James. The Politics of Wartime Aid: American Economic Assistance to France and French Northwest Africa, 1940-1946 (Greenwood, 1978).
  • Funk, Arthur L. "Churchill, Eisenhower, and the French Resistance." Journal of Military History 45.1 (1981): 29+.
  • Hurstfield, Julian G. America and the French Nation 1939-1945 (U North Carolina Press, 1986). online
  • Kersaudy, Francois. Churchill and De Gaulle (2nd ed 1990) online
  • Pratt, Julius W. "De Gaulle and the United States: How the Rift Began," History Teacher (1968) 1#4 pp. 5–15 in JSTOR
  • Rossi, Mario. Roosevelt and the French (Praeger, 1994).
  • Rossi, Mario. "United States Military Authorities and Free France, 1942–1944," Journal of Military History (1997) 61#1 pp. 49–64 in JSTOR


  • Clayton, Anthony. Three Marshals of France: Leadership After Trauma (Brassey's, 1992) on Alphonse Juin, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque.
  • Fenby, Jonathan. The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved. (Simon and Schuster. 2011), popular history; online
  • Funk, Arthur Layton. Charles de Gaulle: The Crucial Years, 1943–1944 (1959) online edition
  • Jackson, Julian, A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle (2018) 887pp; the latest biography
  • Weinberg, Gerhard L. Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders. (2005). 292 pp. chapter on de Gaulle


  • Hirschfeld, Gerhard, and Patrick Marsh, eds. Collaboration in France: Politics and Culture during the Nazi Occupation, 1940-1944 (Berg, 1989).
  • Novick, Peter. The Resistance versus Vichy: the Purge of Collaborators in Liberated France. (Columbia UP, 1968).

Daily LifeEdit

  • Gildea, Robert. Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation (Metropolitan Books, 2002).
  • Vinen, Richard. The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation (Yale UP, 2006).


  • Broch, Ludivine. Ordinary workers, Vichy and the Holocaust: French railwaymen and the Second World War (Cambridge UP, 2016).
  • Broch, Ludivine. “Professionalism in the Final Solution: French Railway Workers and the Jewish Deportations, 1942-1944” Contemporary European History (2014) 23:3.
  • Brunet, Luc-André. "The new industrial order: Vichy, steel, and the origins of the Monnet Plan, 1940-1946" (PhD. Diss. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), 2014) online.
  • Imlay, Talbot C., Martin Horn, and Talbot Imlay. The Politics of Industrial Collaboration During World War II: Ford France, Vichy and Nazi Germany (Cambridge UP, 2014).


  • Imlay, Talbot. "The German Side of Things: Recent Scholarship on the German Occupation of France." French Historical Studies 39.1 (2016): 183-215.
  • U Laub, Thomas J. After the fall: German policy in occupied France, 1940-1944 (Oxford UP, 2010).


  • Caddick-Adams, Peter. Sand and Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France (Oxford UP, 2019).
  • Cross, Robin. Operation Dragoon: The Allied Liberation of the South of France: 1944 (Pegasus Books, 2019).
  • Holland, James. Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France. A New History (Grove Atlantic, 2019)
  • Keegan, John Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris (1994) online
  • Tucker-Jones, Anthony. Operation Dragoon: The Liberation of Southern France 1944 (Casemate, 2010).
  • Wilkins, Thomas Stow. "Analysing coalition warfare from an intra-alliance politics perspective: the Normandy campaign 1944." Journal of Strategic Studies 29#6 (2006): 1121-1150.
  • Wilt, Alan F. "The Summer of 1944: A comparison of Overlord and Anvil/Dragoon." Journal of Strategic Studies 4.2 (1981): 187-195.

Jews and minoritiesEdit

  • Echenberg, Myron. "'Morts Pour la France'; The African Soldier in France During the Second World War." Journal of African History (1985): 363-380 online.
  • Marrus, Michael R. and Robert O. Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews (1981) online
  • Woodfork, Jacqueline. "'It Is a Crime To Be a Tirailleur in the Army': The Impact of Senegalese Civilian Status in the French Colonial Army during the Second World War." Journal of Military History 77.1 (2013).
  • Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews (Basic Books. 1993).

Regions and localitiesEdit

  • Cipko, Serge. "Sacred Ground: The Liberation of Alsace-Lorraine, 1944-1946." Past Imperfect (1994), Vol. 3, pp 159-184. online
  • Diamond, Hanna. "The Return of the Republic: Crowd Photography and the Liberation in Toulouse, 1944–1945." French Politics, Culture & Society 37.1 (2019): 90-116.
  • Kedward, Harry Roderick. In Search of the Maquis: Rural Resistance in Southern France 1942-1944 (Clarendon Press, 1993).
  • Knutson, Elizabeth, and Michael MacQueen. "Regional Identity and German Policy in Alsace 1940–1944." Contemporary French Civilization 18.2 (1994): 151-166.
  • Moorehead, Caroline. Village of secrets: defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Random House, 2014), a village in eastern France
  • Reid, Donald. "Un village français: Imagining lives in occupied France." French Cultural Studies 30.3 (2019): 220-231.
  • Sica, Emanuele. Mussolini's Army in the French Riviera: Italy's Occupation of France (U of Illinois Press, 2015). online review
  • Smith, Jean Edward. The Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, De Gaulle, and Von Choltitz Saved the City of Light (Simon & Schuster), 2020.
  • Zaretsky, Robert. Nîmes at war: religion, politics, and public opinion in the Gard, 1938-1944 (1995) online

The ResistanceEdit

  • Ehrlich, Blake. Resistance; France 1940-1945 (1965) online
  • Kedward, H. R. and Roger Austin, eds. Vichy France and the Resistance: Culture & Ideology (Croom Helm, 1985).
  • Kedward, H. R. Resistance in Vichy France: a study of ideas and motivation in the Southern Zone, 1940-1942 (Oxford UP, 1978).
  • Kedward, H. R. "Patriots and Patriotism in Vichy France." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 32 (1982): 175-192 online.
  • Kedward, H. R. "Mapping the Resistance: An Essay on Roots and Routes." Modern & Contemporary France 20.4 (2012): 491-503.

Women, family, genderEdit

  • Diamond, Hannah. Women and the Second World War in France 1939-1948 (1999); agues that it was not a liberation for women.
  • Dodd, Lindsey. French children under the Allied bombs, 1940–45: An oral history (Manchester UP, 2016).
  • Gorrara, Claire. Women's Representations of the Occupation in Post-'68 France (Macmillan, 1998).
  • Jakes, Kelly. "Songs of Our Fathers: Gender and Nationhood at the Liberation of France." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 20.3 (2017): 385-420 online.
  • Rossiter, Margaret L. Women in the Resistance (Praeger, 1986).
  • Schwartz, Paula. "The politics of food and gender in occupied Paris." Modern & Contemporary France 7.1 (1999): 35-45. online
  • Vigili, Fabrice. Shorn Women: Gender and Punishment in Liberation France (Berg, 2002).
  • Weitz, Margaret Collins. Sisters in the Resistance: how women fought to free France, 1940-1945 (Wiley, 1995).
  • Weitz, Margaret Collins. "As I was then: Women in the French Resistance." Contemporary French Civilization 10.1 (1986): 1-19.

Historiography, memory and commemorationEdit

  • Berkvam, Michael L. Writing the Story of France in World War II: Literature and Memory, 1942-1958 (University Press of the South, 2000).
  • Fishman, Sarah. France at War: Vichy and the Historians (Berg Publishers, 2000).
  • Footitt, Hilary. War and Liberation in France: Living with the Liberators (Springer, 2004).
  • Golsan, Richard. Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France (U of Nebraska Press, 2000).
  • Herman, Gerald, and Claude Bouygues. "The liberation of France, as reflected in philately." Contemporary French Civilization (1988) 12#1 pp 108-128.
  • Kedward, H.R. and Nancy Wood, eds. The Liberation of France: Image and Event (Berg Publishers, 1995).
  • Kedward, H. R. "Resisting French Resistance." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 9 (1999): 271-282. online
  • Knapp, Andrew. "The destruction and liberation of Le Havre in modern memory." War in History 14.4 (2007): 476-498.
  • Peschanski, Denis. "Legitimacy/Legitimation/Delegitimation: France in the Dark Years, a Textbook Case." Contemporary European History (2004): 409-423 online.
  • Rousso, Henry. The Vichy Syndrome :History and Memory in France since 1944 (Harvard UP, 1991).
  • Wood, Nancy. "Memorial Militancy in France: 'Working-Through' or the Politics of Anachronism?" Patterns of Prejudice. (1995), Vol. 29 Issue 2/3, pp 89-103.

Primary sourcesEdit

  • De Gaulle, Charles. War Memoirs: Call to Honour, 1940–1942 (L'Appel). Tr. by Jonathan Griffin. Collins, London, 1955 (2 volumes). Viking Press, New York, 1955.
    • De Gaulle, Charles. War Memoirs: Unity, 1942–1944 (L'Unité). Tr. by Richard Howard (narrative) and Joyce Murchie and Hamish Erskine (documents). Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1959 (2 volumes). Simon & Schuster, New York, 1959 (2 volumes).
    • De Gaulle, Charles. War Memoirs: Salvation, 1944–1946 (Le Salut). Tr. by Richard Howard (narrative) and Joyce Murchie and Hamish Erskine (documents). Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1960 (2 volumes). Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960 (2 volumes).
      • Cairns, John C. "General de Gaulle and the Salvation of France, 1944-46," Journal of Modern History (1960) 32#3 pp. 251–259 in JSTOR review of War Memoirs
  • Giangreco, D. M., Kathryn Moore, and Norman Polmar, eds. Eyewitness D-Day: Firsthand Accounts from the Landing at Normandy to the Liberation of Paris (2005) 260pp.
  • de Tassigny, Jean de Lattre. The History of the French 1st Army (Translated by Malcolm Barnes) (G. Allen and Unwin, 1952).

External linksEdit