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Free France's Lion: The Life of Philippe Leclerc, de Gaulle's Greatest General
     

Free France's Lion: The Life of Philippe Leclerc, de Gaulle's Greatest General

by William Moore
 

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But for his early death, many Frenchmen believe Leclerc would have been their greatest figure to emerge from World War II. De Gaulle himself admitted to his son-in-law that he gave up smoking when Leclerc died, in order to retain his health in case France needed him, because Leclerc was no longer there.

From the fall of France until 1943, Leclerc dovetailed his

Overview

But for his early death, many Frenchmen believe Leclerc would have been their greatest figure to emerge from World War II. De Gaulle himself admitted to his son-in-law that he gave up smoking when Leclerc died, in order to retain his health in case France needed him, because Leclerc was no longer there.

From the fall of France until 1943, Leclerc dovetailed his operations with the British effort in North Africa, establishing himself as a dynamic combat leader in the battles against Rommel. But once the conflict shifted to European soil he became even more prominent as the commander of the 2nd French Armored Division (the famous 2e DB). For the next two years he was under the operational control of either Patton's Third Army, as in the Normandy breakout, Hodges' First Army, at the Westwall, or Patch's Seventh Army in the south.

His career not only includes the liberation of Paris, for which he is most famous, but the retaking of Strasbourg and the reduction of the Colmar Pocket. Helping to spearhead the advance into Germany itself, Leclerc’s armor comprised a rock upon which American units could rely, and its waving the tricolor during the Allied counter-invasion went far toward retrieving French prestige in the war. By the German surrender in May 1945, Leclerc is one of very few Frenchmen of whom it can be said that he never stopped fighting to regain France's freedom, from the debacle of 1940 right through to the end.

After VE-Day Leclerc was dispatched to reassert French authority in Indo-China, an uphill task given the atrophy suffered by the French colonial government due to its isolation from its homeland and local Japanese superiority. While being partly successful in the south and Cambodia, Leclerc soon discovered that the Viet Minh were harder to dislodge in the North, and that Ho Chi Minh was more than a match for frequently changing postwar French governments. Recognizing that France had neither the means nor the will to recover control, Leclerc advised his government to "negotiate at all costs." This didn't happen, leading to Dien Bien Phu eight years later and thence to US involvement.

Surprisingly, Leclerc has never yet been the subject of a thorough biography in English. Nevertheless many Americans and Englishmen will inevitably have noticed the plethora of monuments to Leclerc in any moderately sized French town. With a fast-paced narrative covering combat at all levels of command and a foreword by Martin Windrow, author of The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam, Free France's Lion will make fascinating reading for any serious student of the full scope of World War II.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This first full-scale biography in English of the "liberator of Paris," Philippe de Hauteclocque (known by his more celebrated nom de guerre "Leclerc"), focuses primarily on the WWII general's military campaigns in France and North Africa. Joining General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, Leclerc distinguished himself early on by leading poorly equipped French forces to beat back Axis powers in Chad and Libya. These victories set the stage for his greatest moments, including the recapture of Paris and Strasbourg. Sent to French Indochina after the war to appraise the situation there, the ardent colonialist proved prescient when he realized that French officials were outmatched by Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader committed to independence for the southeast Asian nation: "There are too many people here who imagine that a bridge between France and Vietnam can be built on a mound of cadavers." His reputation was such that his death in a plane crash in Algeria prompted a national day of mourning for a man considered to be one of France's greatest wartime heroes. Though there are interesting tidbits about his interactions with other generals like Omar Bradley and Douglas MacArthur, those accounts are superficial at best. Even the meetings between Leclerc and de Gaulle are stripped of any penetrating insights into their wartime relationship. The descriptions of Leclerc's military strategies and tactics are engaging, but depictions of the flesh and blood figures who he encountered throughout his storied career are few and far between. Photos and maps.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Stone and Stone
...a solid biography of the man who was a hero in France during and after the war, second only to- or even exceeding-Charles de Gaulle in popularity and respect...does a good job, in particular, of allowing readers to feel sand in the nostrils when Leclerc is raiding with his tiny band of Gaullists in the desert, and also allowing readers to feel the swelling sense of pride, excitement, and drama when the veterans of Chad and the Fezzan race into the boulevards of Paris in 1944...Moore demonstrates conclusively that Leclerc served as a lion of Free France. Anyone who mocks the French for lack of fighting spirit would do well to read this book about a fine soldier and his men, and learn a little history.
Portland Book Review
“Mr. Moore has done an excellent job with this book. It is highly entertaining and helps bring to light apart of World War II that many readers know little about…French Africa.”
Birmingham "On War"
...an excellent and enjoyable work, well worth a read for anyone with an interest in broadening his or her knowledge of the Second World War or the life of a very interesting and engaging man.
War in History Book Reviews
...the first full-scale biography in English of General Leclerc, the 'Liberator of Paris', considered to be de Gaulle's greatest general…This biography is lively, intelligent, and never boring.
Stone & Stone Second World War Books
“…a solid biography of the man who was a hero in France during and after the war, second only to- or even exceeding-Charles de Gaulle in popularity and respect…does a good job, in particular, of allowing readers to feel sand in the nostrils when Leclerc is raiding with his tiny band of Gaullists in the desert, and also allowing readers to feel the swelling sense of pride, excitement, and drama when the veterans of Chad and the Fezzan race into the boulevards of Paris in 1944…Moore demonstrates conclusively that Leclerc served as a lion of Free France. Anyone who mocks the French for lack of fighting spirit would do well to read this book about a fine soldier and his men, and learn a little history.”
Book News
“Beginning with the fall of France in 1940, Leclerc’s diplomacy with more difficult leaders, risky missions in West Africa, raids on Italians in Libya and other daring battles, and stories of his charismatic leadership provide a stunning picture of the man known as France’s Lion.
Author of Hitler's Preemptive War and Finland's Henrik Lunde
This is a first-rate and highly readable book. As far as I know, it is the only complete English language biography of General Leclerc. That alone makes it a valuable contribution to our knowledge of World War II in Europe and the beginnings of the French war in Indochina.
Kepler's Military History
“… a must read for any serious student of World War II in Europe. … excellent index. It would be an excellent addition to any community, college or personal library.”
Birmingham on History Blog
an excellent and enjoyable work, well worth a read for anyone with an interest in broadening his or her knowledge of the Second World War or the life of a very interesting and engaging man.
War in History
“…written the first full-scale biography in English of General Leclerc, the ‘Liberator of Paris’, considered to be de Gaulle’s greatest general… This biography is lively, intelligent, and never boring”
The NYMAS Review- Summer Fall 2013
"..an excellent introduction to France in the Second World War and not just the life of Leclerc."
Michigan War Studies Review
...a highly readable, compelling, and well-researched work geared toward a general audience.... offers so much material otherwise unavailable in English that both specialists and general readers will profit from reading it.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612000688
Publisher:
Casemate Publishers
Publication date:
11/19/2011
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
1,224,478
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Of Anglo-Dutch descent, William Mortimer-Moore was born in 1958 and educated at Dean Close School and University College, Cardiff. He has always wanted to write and, after a detour involving advertising copywriting, property, building and a couple of unpublished novels, William decided to address his love of history and France by writing this biography of Leclerc. He lives in Cheltenham in the United Kingdom where he is presently writing a book about Paris during 1944.

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