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

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 ...

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

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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 being isolated 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 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 foreward 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.

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612000688
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/19/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword Martin Windrow vii

Maps xi

Preface - Death in The Desert 1

Chapter 1 A True Son of France 15

Chapter 2 La Chute-The Fall of France 51

Chapter 3 De Gaulle's Man in Africa 72

Chapter 4 Annoying The Italians 95

Chapter 5 Consolidating, Raiding, And Planning 125

Chapter 6 A Very English Frenchman 158

Chapter 7 "A Gigantic Effort is Required Of Us" 193

Chapter 8 The 2e Db In England 227

Chapter 9 First Blood - Alencon 252

Chapter 10 "Mouvement Immediate Sur Paris" 285

Chapter 11 Dompaire and Baccarat 323

Chapter 12 The Last Winter of The War 346

Chapter 13 A Good End to A Good War 381

Chapter 14 Indochine 405

Chapter 15 Back to French North Africa 450

Acknowledgments 461

Notes 463

Bibliography 492

Index 497

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