Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque

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Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque
Born (1902-11-22)22 November 1902
Belloy-Saint-Léonard, France
Died 28 November 1947(1947-11-28) (aged 45)
Colomb-Béchar, French Algeria
Allegiance  French Third Republic
 Free French Forces
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1924-1947
Rank Général d'Armée
Commands held Colonne Leclerc
L force
2nd Armoured Division
French Far East Expeditionary Corps
Battles/wars World War II
War in Vietnam (1945–1946)
Awards Marshal of France (posthumous)
Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
Companion of the Liberation
Médaille militaire
Croix de Guerre 1939-1945
Croix de Guerre des TOE
Distinguished Service Order (UK)
Silver Star (USA)

Philippe François Marie, comte de Hauteclocque, then Leclerc de Hauteclocque, by a 1945 decree that incorporated his French Resistance alias Jacques-Philippe Leclerc to his name, (French pronunciation: ​[filip ləklɛʁ də otklɔk]; 22 November 1902 – 28 November 1947), was a French general during World War II. He became Marshal of France posthumously, in 1952 and is known in France simply as le maréchal Leclerc or just Leclerc.

Ancestry and family[edit]

Coat of arms of the counts of Hauteclocque

Philippe François Marie de Hauteclocque was born on 22 November 1902 at Belloy-Saint-Léonard in the department of Somme. He was the fifth of six children of Adrien de Hauteclocque, comte de Hauteclocque (1864–1945) and Marie-Thérèse van der Cruisse de Waziers (1870–1956). Philippe was named in honour of an ancestor killed by Croats in 1635.[1]

He came from an old line of country nobility; his direct ancestors had served in the Fifth Crusade against Egypt, and again in the Eighth Crusade of Saint Louis against Tunisia in 1270. They had also fought at the Battle of Saint-Omer in 1340 and the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. The family managed to survive the French Revolution. Three members of the family served in Napoleon's Grande Armée and a fourth, who suffered from weak health, in the supply train. The youngest of these had a son, who became a noted egyptologist; he, in turn, had three sons. The first and third became officers in the French Army; serving during the colonial campaigns before both were killed during World War I. The second son was the general’s father; he also served in World War I, but survived the conflict and inherited the family estate in Belloy-Saint-Léonard.[1]


Philippe attended the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, graduating in 1924, and entered the French Army; he attained the rank of captain in 1937.

General Leclerc talks to his men from the 501° RCC (501st Tank Regiment).

World War II[edit]

During World War II, he joined the Free French forces immediately after the fall of France in June 1940, and rapidly made his way to London only a week after the French surrender.[2] He rejected service in the Vichy France army and escaped from German hands twice during his escape from France.[2] He adopted the Resistance pseudonym "Jacques-Philippe Leclerc" in order to protect his wife and six children from German reprisals.[2] Charles de Gaulle upon meeting him promoted him from Captain to Major (commandant) and ordered him to French Equatorial Africa as governor of French Cameroon from 29 August 1940 to 12 November 1940. In 1940, the leaders of most of French Equatorial Africa and the French Congo had declared themselves for Free France, providing Leclerc with a starting point.[3] Leclerc then captured Gabon (whose local leader backed Vichy France), and then commanded the column which attacked Axis forces from his base at Fort Lamy (now N'Jamena) in Chad,[4] and, having marched his troops across West Africa, distinguished himself in Tunisia. In February 1941, Leclerc invaded Italian-controlled Libya, capturing the Italian fort at the oasis at Kufra for Free France.[2] In 1942, Leclerc's Free French forces and soldiers from the British Long Range Desert Group captured parts of the Libyan province of Fezzan. At the end of 1942, Leclerc moved his forces join United States and British forces in Tunisia.

After landing in Normandy on 1 August 1944, his 2nd Armored Division participated in the battle of the Falaise Pocket (12 to 21 August), and went on to liberate Paris. Allied troops were avoiding Paris, moving around it clockwise towards Germany. This was to minimise the danger of the destruction of the historic city if the Germans sought to defend it. Leclerc and de Gaulle had to persuade Eisenhower to send troops help the Parisians, who had risen against the Germans. Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division had been part of Patton's Third Army, and when they entered Paris, many had not been informed of the change of command and told the Parisians that they were part of the Third Army. Historian Jean-Paul Cointet places the uprising and the liberation by Leclerc in the context of the political struggle for leadership in post-liberation France, both being aimed at cementing de Gaulle's claim.[5]

In an incident that took place 8 May 1945, at Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria Leclerc was involved in the capture and execution of French troops fighting with the Waffen-SS. After entering Germany, Leclerc was presented with a defiant group of 11-12 captured SS Charlemagne Division men. The Free French General immediately asked them why they wore a German uniform, to which one of them replied by asking the General why he wore an American one (the Free French wore modified US army uniforms). The group of French Waffen-SS men was later executed without any form of military tribunal procedure.[6][7] However, it is uncertain who gave the order for their deaths.[8]

East Asia[edit]

Tokyo Bay, Japan. Surrender of Japanese aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). Leclerc representing France signs the instrument of surrender. Other French representatives stand behind him while General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, stands at the microphone.

At the end of World War II in Europe, he received command of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps (Corps expéditionnaire français en Extrême-Orient, CEFEO), and represented France during the surrender of the Japanese Empire on 2 September 1945; previously, in May 1945, he had been appointed a member of the Légion d'honneur, and the same year legally changed his name to Jacques-Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, incorporating his French Resistance pseudonym.

Post War career[edit]

As new CEFEO commander, Leclerc set forth in October 1945 in French Indochina, first cracking a Vietminh blockade around Saigon, then driving through the Mekong delta and up into the highlands. Leclerc soon perceived the necessity for a political solution to the Indochina conflict, but also heeded the advice he obtained from United States General Douglas MacArthur of bringing in as many soldiers as possible.[9] The French forces soon found that they, "like the Americans later, could conquer Vietnamese territory but could not hold it".[9] In 1945, Leclerc was able to defeat the Vietminh in southern Vietnam, but he recognized the need for a negotiated settlement.[10]

Jean Sainteny flew to Saigon to consult Leclerc. Leclerc, then acting as high commissioner in D'argenlieu's absence, approved Sainteny's proposal to negotiate with Vietnam. At that time, Ho Chi Minh felt that negotiations with the French constituted his only option because the Soviet Union had not yet endorsed the Vietminh or the VNQDD, the French Communist party choose to support French rule in Vietnam, and Ho feared Chinese domination much more than French rule, which he perceived to be declining.[11] Leclerc approved Sainteny's proposal to negotiate with Ho because he preferred a diplomatic solution to a larger conflict; however, Leclerc still dispatched a flotilla with shiploads of French soldiers to northern Vietnam ready to attack if the talks failed.[12] On March 6, 1946, a tentative agreement was reached at the last minute (with Leclerc's fleet already in the Gulf of Tonkin) between Sainteny (with Leclerc's support) and Ho that France would recognize Vietnam as a free state within the French Union (a new name for the French empire broadly similar to the British Commonwealth) and Ho would allow France to base 25,000 soldiers in Vietnam for 5 years.[12] However, this Ho-Sainteny agreement was never confirmed because it disappointed some people on both sides. Ho's immense prestige largely silenced Vietnamese disappointment, but the agreement split the French seriously.[13] French Saigon businessmen, planters, and officials were "indignant at the prospect of losing their colonial privileges." [14] Also, Admiral d'Argenlieu returned to Vietnam and bluntly denounced Leclerc: "I am amazed - yes, that is the word, amazed - that France's fine expeditionary corps in Indochina is commanded by officers who would rather negotiate than fight".[12] D'argenlieu then claimed that a higher level meeting in Paris would be required and then unilaterally declared a French-owned Autonomous Republic of Cochinchina (without asking either Paris or the Vietnamese), an unacceptable situation to Ho.[12] Thus, the negotiations did not work.

In 1946, Leclerc was replaced as commander of the French forces by Jean-Étienne Valluy.[15] When General Leclerc returned to Paris from Vietnam, he then warned that "anti-communism will be a useless tool unless the problem of nationalism is resolved."[16] But his wisdom was ignored.[17]

Jacques-Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque died in 1947 in an airplane accident near Colomb-Béchar, French Algeria, and was awarded the honour of Marshal of France posthumously in 1952.[18]

Posthumous honours[edit]

The Leclerc main battle tank built by GIAT Industries (Groupement Industriel des Armements Terrestres) of France is named after him.

There is a monument to Leclerc at coordinates 48°49′16″N 2°19′30″E / 48.82105°N 2.32494°E / 48.82105; 2.32494, in the Petit-Montrouge quarter of the 14th arrondissement in Paris, between Avenue de la Porte d'Orléans and Rue de la Légion Étrangère. The monument is near the Square du Serment-de-Koufra. The "serment de Koufra" is a pledge that Leclerc made on 2 March 1941, the day after taking the Italian fort at Kufra, Libya: he swore that his weapons would not be laid down until the French flag flew over the cathedral of Strasbourg.

Jurez de ne déposer les armes que lorsque nos couleurs, nos belles couleurs, flotteront sur la cathédrale de Strasbourg.[19][20]

Two streets in Paris are named for Leclerc: Avenue du Général Leclerc in the 14th arrondissement[21] and Rue du Maréchal Leclerc in the 12th arrondissement, between the Bois de Vincennes and the Marne River.[22]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Clayton 1992, p. 34.
  2. ^ a b c d Keegan, John. Six Armies in Normandy. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. p300
  3. ^ Keegan, John. Six Armies in Normandy. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. p299-300
  4. ^ Keegan, John. Six Armies in Normandy. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. p300-1
  5. ^ Cointet, Jean-Paul, Paris 40-44, Perrin 2001, ISBN 2-262-01516-3, Sixième Partie, chapitre 3.
  6. ^ Trigg, Jonathan (2009). Hitler's Gauls: The History of the 33rd Waffen Division Charlemagne. History Publishing Group. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-7524-5476-4. 
  7. ^ Third Reich in Ruins: Memorial Sites.
  8. ^ Robert Forbes, For Europe: The French Volunteers of the Waffen-SS, pp. 480 ff.
  9. ^ a b Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983. p150
  10. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983. p695
  11. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983.p152-3
  12. ^ a b c d Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983.p153
  13. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983. p154
  14. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983.p154
  15. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983.p155,696
  16. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983. p159
  17. ^ Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press; 1983.p159
  18. ^ Hull, Michael D., "Leclerc and Liberation", WWII History, July 2011, pp. 22–27.
  19. ^ "Square du Serment-de-Koufra". Mairie de Paris. Retrieved 2009-01-13. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Avenue de la Porte d'Orléans". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris. Archived from the original on 2006-11-24. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  21. ^ "Avenue du Général Leclerc". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris. Archived from the original on 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  22. ^ "Rue du Maréchal Leclerc". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris. Archived from the original on 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 


  • Clayton, Anthony (1992). Three Marshals of France. Brassey's. ISBN 0-08-040707-2. ;

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