2nd Armored Division (France)

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2e Division Blindée
2eDB-insigne.jpg
Original badge of the 2nd Armored Division. The divisional badge features the Cross of Lorraine
Active 24 August 1943 – 31 March 1946
1977 – 1999
Country France
Branch French Army, ex-Free French
Type Armored division, later 2nd Armored Brigade
Engagements Invasion of Normandy
Operation Cobra
Liberation of Paris
Liberation of Strasbourg
Colmar Pocket
Royan
Western Allied invasion of Germany
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Philippe Leclerc

The French 2nd Armored Division (French: 2e Division Blindée, 2e DB), commanded by General Philippe Leclerc, fought during the final phases of World War II in the Western Front.

The division was formed around a core of units that had raided Italian Libya since end 1940 to Tripoli in 1943 under Leclerc, but known for its fight at Kufra in 1941; later renamed the 2nd Light Division, in August 1943, it was organized under the US light armored division organization.

The division's 14,454 personnel included men from the 2nd Light Division, escapees from metropolitan France, about 3,600 Moroccans and Algerians,[1][2] and about 350 Spanish Republicans[3] (other sources: about 2 000,[4] official records of 2e DB : less than 300 Spanish[5] as they hid fearing retaliation against their families still in Spain).

The division embarked in April 1944 and shipped to various ports in Great Britain. On 29 July 1944, bound for France, the division embarked at Southampton. During combat in 1944, the division liberated Paris, defeated a Panzer brigade during the armored clashes in Lorraine, forced the Saverne Gap, and liberated Strasbourg. After taking part in the Battle of the Colmar Pocket, the division was moved west and assaulted the German-held Atlantic port of Royan, before recrossing France in April 1945 and participating in the final fighting in southern Germany, even going first into Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" (Americans captured the town below). Deactivated after the war, the 2nd Division was again activated in the 1970s and served through 1999.

World War II operations[edit]

Order of battle[edit]

Infantry
Ier Régiment de Marche du Tchad
IIème Régiment de Marche du Tchad
IIIème Régiment de Marche du Tchad
Reconnaissance
1er Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains
Armor
501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat
12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique
12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers
Tank destroyers
Régiment Blindé de Fusiliers Marins (R.B.F.M)
Artillery
1er groupe du 3ème Régiment d'Artillerie Coloniale (1/3° R.A.C)
1er Groupe du 40ème Régiment d'Artillerie Nord Africain (1/40° R.A.N.A)
IIeme Groupe du 64ème Régiment d'Artillerie
Anti-Aircraft
22ème Groupe Colonial de F.T.A
Engineers
13ème Bataillon du Génie
Signals
97/84ème Compagnie Mixte de Transmissions
Motor transport and services
97ème Compagnie de Quartier Général
197ème Compagnie de Transport
297ème Compagnie de Transport
397ème Compagnie de Circulation Routière
497ème Compagnie de Services
Supply
15ème Groupe d'Escadrons de Réparations (15e G.E.R)
Medical
1ère Compagnie Médicale et Groupe d'Ambulancières "Rochambeau" (Rochambelles)
2ème Compagnie Médicale et Groupe d'Ambulancières de la Marine ("Marinettes")
3ème Compagnie Médicale et groupe d'Ambulancières "Quakers" (Britanniques)

Tactical organization

2ème DB arms featuring the Free French cross of Lorraine.

Groupement tactique "Dio" (G.T.D)

Colonel Dio
Ier Régiment de Marche du Tchad
4ème R.M.S.M
12ème Cuirassiers
3ème R.B.F.M
1/3ème R.A.C
2/13ème Bataillon du génie

Groupement tactique "Langlade" (G.T.L)
Colonel de Langlade
IIème Régiment de Marche du Tchad
2ème R.M.S.M
12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique
4ème R.B.F.M
1/40ème R.A.N.A
2/13ème Bataillon du génie

Groupement tactique Warabiot (G.T.V)
Colonel Warabiot, puis
Colonel Billotte, puis
Colonel de Guillebon
IIIème Régiment de Marche du Tchad
3ème R.M.S.M

M4A2 Sherman Île de France of the 12e RCA, 2e DB in Normandy

501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat

2ème R.B.F.M
11/64ème R.A
2/13ème Bataillon du génie

Falaise Pocket[edit]

The division landed at Utah Beach in Normandy on 1 August 1944, about two months after the D-Day landings, and served under General Patton as part of Third Army. The division played a critical role in the battle of the Argentan-Falaise Pocket (12–21 August), the Allied breakout from Normandy, when it served as a link between American and Canadian armies and made rapid progress against German forces. They all but destroyed the 9th Panzer Division and defeated several other German units. During the Battle for Normandy, the 2nd Division lost 133 men killed, 648 wounded, and 85 missing. Division material losses included 76 armored vehicles, 7 cannons, 27 halftracks, and 133 other vehicles. In the same period, the 2nd Division inflicted losses on the Germans of 4,500 killed and 8,800 taken prisoner, while the Germans' material losses in combat against the 2nd Division during the same period were 117 tanks, 79 cannons, and 750 wheeled vehicles.[6][7]

Liberation of Paris[edit]

The 2nd Armored Division marching on the Champs Élysées on 26 August 1944.

The most celebrated moment in the unit's history was the Liberation of Paris. Allied strategy emphasized destroying German forces retreating towards the river Rhine and considered that attack on Paris would risk destroying it, but when the French Resistance under Henri Rol-Tanguy staged an uprising in the city from the 19 August, Charles de Gaulle threatened to send the division into Paris, single-handedly, to prevent the uprising being crushed as had recently happened in Warsaw. Eisenhower agreed to let the French armored division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division liberate Paris. In the early morning of 23 August, Leclerc's 2e DB left the south of Argentan on its march to Paris, a march which was slowed by poor road conditions, French crowds, and fierce combat near Paris. On 24 August, General Leclerc sent a small advance party to enter the city, with the message that the Second Armored would be there the following day. This party, commanded by Captain Raymond Dronne, consisted of the 9th company[note 1] of the 3rd Battalion of the Régiment de marche du Tchad. Dronne and his men arrived at the Hôtel de Ville, in the center of Paris, shortly before 9:30 pm on the evening of 24 August. On 25 August, the 2nd Armored and the U.S. 4th Division entered Paris and liberated it. After hard fighting that cost the 2nd Division 35 tanks, 6 self-propelled guns, and 111 vehicles, von Choltitz, the German military governor of Paris, capitulated at the Hôtel Meurice. The following day, 26 August, a great victory parade took place on the Champs Élysées, which was lined with a jubilant crowd acclaiming General de Gaulle and the liberators of Paris.

Alsace & Lorraine[edit]

The 2nd Division later fought in the tank battles in Lorraine, destroying the German 112th Panzer Brigade at the town of Dompaire on 13 September 1944. Subsequently, the 2nd Division operated with U.S. forces during the assault into the Vosges Mountains. Serving as the armored exploitation force for the U.S. XV Corps, the 2nd Division forced the Saverne Gap and thrust forward boldly, unbalancing German defenses in northern Alsace and liberating Strasbourg on 23 November 1944. The Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to the division for this action.

Fighting in Alsace until the end of February 1945, the 2nd Division was deployed to reduce the Royan Pocket on the western coast of France in March–April 1945.

Germany[edit]

After forcing the Germans in the Royan Pocket to surrender on 18 April 1945, the 2nd Division crossed France again to rejoin the Allied 6th Army Group for final operations in Germany. Operating with the U.S. 12th Armored Division, elements of the French 2nd Armored Division pursued the remnants of German Army Group G across Swabia and Bavaria, occupying the town of Bad Reichenhall on 4 May 1945. Eventually, the 2nd Division finished its campaigning at the Nazi resort town of Berchtesgaden in Southeastern Germany.[8]

Division Combat Casualties[edit]

According to Defence Historical Service, the unit counted 1,224 dead (including 96 Maghrebis) and 5,257 wounded (including 584 Maghrebis) at the end of the campaign in northwestern Europe.[9] It had killed 12,100 Axis soldiers, captured 41,500 and destroyed 332 heavy and medium tanks, 2,200 other vehicles, and 426 cannons of various types. According to another source, the unit counted 1,687 dead, including 108 officers, and 3,300 wounded .[10]

Cold War[edit]

On 13 May 1945 SHAEF relinquished operational control of the 2nd Armored Division to France. From 23 to 28 May 1945 the 2nd Division moved to its new garrison in the region of Paris, where it was deactivated on 31 March 1946.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s there are records of 501 Régiment de Chars de Combat (501 RCC) being part of the 2nd Brigade of the 8th Armored Division, part of the 1st Corps of the First Army (France). The 2nd Brigade of the 8th Armored Division 'qui est l'heritière des traditions de la 2e DB' – carried on the traditions of the 2nd Armored Division.[11]

The French Army was extensively reorganised in 1977, with three-brigade divisions being dissolved and small divisions of four or five manoeuvre regiments/battalions being created.[12] The 2nd Armored Division appears to have been reformed at this time. From the late 1970s until 1999, the 2nd Division was headquartered in Versailles and was subordinated to the III Corps (France).[13][14][15]

Present Time[edit]

It became the 2nd Armored Brigade in 1999.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Made up of volunteers, mostly Spanish Republicans, the 9th company bore the name La Nueve, in Spanish, for its number "nine".
  1. ^ Olivier Forcade, Du capitaine de Hauteclocque au Général Leclerc, Vingtième Siècle, Revue d'histoire, Année 1998, Volume 58, Numéro 58, pp. 144–146
  2. ^ "Aspect méconnu de la composition de la 2e DB : en avril 1944, celle-ci comporte sur un effectif total de 14 490, une proportion de 25 % de soldats nord-africains : 3 600", Christine Levisse-Touzé, Du capitaine de Hautecloque au général Leclerc?, Editions Complexe, 2000, p.243
  3. ^ Pierre Milza, Exils et migration: Italiens et Espagnols en France, 1938–1946, L'Harmattan, 1994, p. 590
  4. ^ http://www.memorial-montormel.org/?id=172
  5. ^ Annuaire des anciens combattants de la 2e DB, Imprimerie de Arrault, 1949
  6. ^ GUF, p. 989
  7. ^ The extraordinary ratio of casualties inflicted vs. casualties suffered that was reported by this unit is at odds with the overall relation between Allied and German casualties during the battle of Normandy that becomes apparent from the data under http://www.ddaymuseum.co.uk/faq.htm#casualities.
  8. ^ There has been some confusion as to which unit actually captured Berchtesgaden, the three "contenders" being the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, and the French 2nd Armored Division. The town was captured by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, whose commander ensured that bridges leading to the town were not opened to other Allied units until the 3rd ID had occupied Berchtesgaden. See this article for more information.
  9. ^ Paul-Marie de La Gorce, L'Empire écartelé, 1936-1946, Denoël, 1988, p.496-497
  10. ^ GUF, p. 1163
  11. ^ 501e/503e Régiment de Chars de Combat, 'Le Futur et l'Action,' Publie par les EDITIONS B.D.I., 78510 Triel-sur-Seine, 1998, ISBN 2-910437-06-X, p.83
  12. ^ David Isby and Charles Kamps Jr., Armies of NATO's Central Front, Jane's Publishing Company, 1985, p.107, ISBN 0-7106-0341-X
  13. ^ 1977 OOB at orbat.com
  14. ^ 1984 OOB at orbat.com
  15. ^ 1995 OOB at orbat.com

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • La 2eme DB vue par un 2eme classe : Gilbert Lévy-Haussmann. – Aigremont : Gilbert Lévy-Haussmann, 2005. – 160 p., 23 centimetres (9.1 in). –, 2-9524349-0-5
  • La 2eme DB, Erwan Bergot, Presses de la Cité, Paris, 1980, 2266010670

External links[edit]