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Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque
22 November 1902(1902-11-22) – 28 November 1947 (aged 45)
Place of birth Belloy-Saint-Léonard, France
Place of death Colomb-Béchar, Algeria
Allegiance France
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
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, (22 November 1902 – 28 November 1947), was a French general during World War II; he became Marshal of France posthumously, in 1952.

He is known in France simply as le maréchal Leclerc.


Ancestry and family

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]

Leclerc 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 Leclerc’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.

During World War II, he joined the Free French forces after the fall of France in June 1940, and made his way to London. 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. He commanded the column which attacked the Axis forces from Chad, and, having marched his troops across West Africa, distinguished himself 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. Some argue that General George S. Patton freed the bulk of northern France, and was ordered to halt at the outskirts of Paris by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, to give Leclerc the appearance of freeing the city. Others note that the Allied troops were avoiding Paris, moving around it clockwise towards Germany, and that Leclerc and de Gaulle had to persuade Eisenhower to let some troops help the Parisians who had risen against the Germans. (See Cointet, Jean-Paul, Paris 40-44, Perrin 2001, ISBN 2-262-01516-3, Sixième Partie, chapitre 3. The author notes that the Allies originally planned to bypass Paris, and 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.)

Together with Maurice Kriegel-Valrimont and Henri Rol-Tanguy Leclerc accepted Dietrich von Choltitz's surrender at the Gare Montparnasse. His troops subsequently liberated Strasbourg and finished their war course in Berchtesgaden, Hitler's headquarters in the Bavarian Alps.

Tokyo Bay, Japan -- Surrender of Japanese aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). General Philippe 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 Hautecloque, incorporating his French Resistance pseudonym.

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.

Jean Sainteny flew to Saigon to consult Leclerc, then acting as high commissioner, who approved Sainteny's proposal to negotiate with Vietnam. Admiral d'Argenlieu 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".

The negotiation did not work. General Leclerc, returned to Paris from Vietnam, now warned that "anti-communism will be a useless tool unless the problem of nationalism is resolved." But his wisdom was ignored. The French Communists, after breaking with Paul Ramadier, triggered a series of strikes and other disorders that plunged France into civil strife. Leclerc was later replaced by Jean-Étienne Valluy.

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

Posthumous honours

Arms of the 2ème D.B., the Second Armoured Division commanded by Leclerc. The Division's emblem features the Cross of Lorraine.
Obelisk honoring General Leclerc on Place Broglie in Strasbourg.

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.


Two streets in Paris are named for Leclerc: Avenue du Général Leclerc in the 14th arrondissement[4] and Rue du Maréchal Leclerc in the 12th arrondissement, between the Bois de Vincennes and the Marne River.[5]



  1. ^ a b Clayton 1992, p. 34.
  2. ^ "Square du Serment-de-Koufra". Mairie de Paris. Retrieved 2009-01-13.  
  3. ^ "Avenue de la Porte d'Orléans". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris.. Retrieved 2006-07-02.  
  4. ^ "Avenue du Général Leclerc". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris. Retrieved 2006-07-02.  
  5. ^ "Rue du Maréchal Leclerc". Extrait de la nomenclature officielle des voies de Paris. Retrieved 2006-07-02.  


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

See also

External links



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