Jean Compagnon (26 October 1916 – 4 November 2010) was a French Army officer and later General. He served in both World War II and the First Indochina War as one of the officers serving with Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque. Under Leclerc, Compagnon helped liberate Paris from German forces commanded by Dietrich von Choltitz.
Compagnon was born in the French town of St. Germain-en-Laye. When he was born, Compagnon's father, Marcel, was serving in the Battle of the Somme. Compagnon went to school in Vesoul, and entered the Saint Cyr military academy aged 18, in 1934–1936, where he was in the class of Alexander I of Yugoslavia. He graduated in 1936 as a sous-lieutenant, joined the 4e régiment de hussards and remaining with that unit until it was disbanded on 1 September 1940.
World War II
As the war began, Compagnon was serving with the 4e régiment de hussards, serving from horseback during the Battle of France. He fought in the Lorraine front, but was wounded in Picardy, leading a motorcycle cavalry unit. After the surrender, and disbandment of 4RH, Compagnon escaped to North Africa where he served with the 2nd Dragoon Regiment, until transferred to the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment until 1943, when he was promoted to Captain on 25 June. In 1944, he made his way to London to serve with Charles De Gaulle and the 2nd Armored Division.
2e DB and Compagnon did not see action on D-Day, but left Southampton on July 29, 1944, and the division played an important role in the Allied breakout from Normandy, notably at the Falaise Pocket, when it destroyed the 9th Panzer Division. The division then was part of the liberation of Paris. In the push to the Rhine, Compagnon led the first French tank unit into Strasbourg where it fell on 23 November. In January 1945, Compagnon was wounded, but recuperated by the time the division reached the Berghof above Berchtesgaden on 4 May, along with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.
Post War service
He was wounded in 1946 during the First Indochina War. During Algerian War, Compagnon commanded the 1st Parachute Hussars from 1958 to 1960, served as military attache in Washington, D.C., Chief of staff of French forces in Germany and was the military governor of Rennes. He retired in 1976 as a four-star general.
Post Army life
He started a new career as a historian and an author, publishing a biography of LeClerc in 1989, wrote accounts of the Normandy landings, and his memoir. He became a correspondent for Ouest-France, a university lecturer. He was awarded the Grand-croix de la Legion d'honnoeur.
He was twice married, to Jacqueline Terlinden who died in 1963, with six children and secondly to Sylvie who survived him with one daughter.