Pierre Armand Gaston Billotte (8 March 1906 – 29 June 1992) was a French Army officer and politician. He was the son of General Gaston Billotte, who commanded parts of the French Army at the start of World War II. Pierre Billotte was himself notable for his combat actions during the Battle of France.
16 May 1940
Billotte is known for his extraordinary actions on 16 May 1940 during the battle at the French village of Stonne. Billotte served in the 1st Compagnie of the 41st Tank Battalion, equipped with the Char B1 heavy tank. Then-Captain Billotte, commanding a Char B1 Bis tank nicknamed "Eure", was instrumental in retaking the village of Stonne, defended by elements of the German 8th Panzer Regiment. The village had already been the scene of fierce fighting before Billotte's action, having changed hands numerous times and lying on a strategic location on the road to Sedan. On 16 May, while under heavy fire from German tanks, Billotte and his B1 Bis managed to break through the German defences and to destroy two German PzKpfw IV tanks, eleven PzKpfw III tanks and two enemy guns. Billotte's Char B1-Bis tank received 140 hits from enemy tanks and guns, but none were able to penetrate the tank's heavy armour.
Following the death of his father and the German victory in the Battle of France, Billotte was imprisoned by the German military. He escaped the next year, and was appointed by the Free French government-in-exile as head of the French Military Mission to Moscow. From 1942 to 1943, he served as chief of staff to Charles de Gaulle. After the Allied invasion of France, he was attached to the 2nd Armored Division. Later in 1944, he was put in command of the 10th Division, and after the liberation of France he became Assistant Chief of Staff of the French Army. From 1946 to 1950, he headed the French Military Mission to the UN. Following his retirement from active service, he served as Minister of National Defence (1955–1956) under Edgar Faure and as Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories (1966–1968) under Georges Pompidou.
Awards and honors