The Triumphant Liberation of The City of Light
When the leader of the French Resistance, General Charles de Gaulle, gave General Dwight D Eisenhower, head of the allied forces, the green light to enter Paris unopposed, that was it for the occupation.
It was August 25, 1944, when the few German strongholds left in the city collapsed. German snipers stuck in positions mostly died at the hands of enraged French soldiers and citizens, despite their surrender.
A few German soldiers marched out as prisoners. The rest, the war would swallow into a black hole.
The liberation of Paris wasn’t the end of World War Two, but it was a deft blow to the morale of the S.S., and the death knell of their evil campaign. The end was nigh for Hitler.
Losing the City
When the Nazi goose-stepped into Paris on June 14, 1940, it was one month after they first crossed into France. The Parisians and the French government saw this coming. It only took the French leadership eight days to sign an armistice with the Nazis.
Not all the French laid down for the Germans. General Charles de Gaulle and the French Resistance disappeared into occupied France to fight from within.
The Germans set up an intermediary government of puppets, some loyal to the Germans, some secretly loyal to the French. Other loyalists fled to England, organizing in London with the Allies.
The French 2nd Armored Division, created by the allied forces in 1943, had the express mission of leading the liberation when the time was right.
Getting it Back
The Allies break in France came via the attack on the beaches of Normandy, the largest attack of its kind until that point in known history. That was in the summer of 1944, June and July.
By August, the Allies moved the 2nd Armored into France via Normandy along with the 3rd U.S. Army, aimed at the city of Paris.
General George Patton led the command, but General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc led the 2nd Armored. Leclerc’s real name was Philippe-Marie Vicomte De Hauteclocque, but he adopted the fake name to protect his family still living in German occupied France.
By the 18th of August, they were to the outskirts of Paris. The goal was to take the city as peaceably as possible, to minimize damage from the Nazis or the incoming resistance.
Initially, Eisenhower wanted to hold off on Paris, surround it, but not close in. He wanted to focus the war effort on other fronts. The hiccup in his plan is that there were competing parties aimed at reclaiming France, all French, but not on the same page.
The Communist Party of France might have taken the opportunity to liberate the city, thus making it hard for the democratic party to re-establish France as it was in 1940.
This fact made clear to Eisenhower by Charles de Gaulle, reorganized Ike’s priorities. He agreed the resistance should close in on the city if they could win. It was de Gaulle who told him Paris was open for the Allies.
Had Eisenhower not ordered it, de Gaulle would have overstepped his authority anyway. The attack began on the 24th, but by the 25th it was over.
The Allies had liberated Paris.
There were 20,000 or so German troops who fled or perished in those 24 hours.
The best anecdote to the liberation is this: On his way out of the city, German General Dietrich von Choltitz was to blow up the bridges of Paris. Although he laid the explosives, he disobeyed orders to destroy the city. Choltitz didn’t want history to record him as the one who destroyed the City of Light.
A wise man, that Choltitz. He had dumb allegiances, but not a complete moron… save his ignorant hatred and all that.