France / Biography

Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque


In the desperate days of June 1940 captain Philippe de Hauteclocque made his way to London and adopted the war-name of "Leclerc". As a great tactician and outstanding leader, he enjoyed a blistering career. His name and that of his 2nd Armored Division are associated with the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

Philippe de Hauteclocque was one of the officers who refused to accept the defeat of 1940 and continued to fight in the ranks of Free France. He took on the pseudonym Leclerc as his nom de guerre. His star rapidly ascended: still a captain in July 1940, he was promoted to general in 1941. His first mission was to rally the Free French Forces in French Equatorial Africa. From bases in Chad, Leclerc directed expeditions against the Italian forces in Libya. There he swore with his men not to lay down their arms before seeing the French flag fly over Strasbourg cathedral. After the Allied success in North Africa, Leclerc succeeded to unite a variety of forces from Free France and the former Vichy Army in the new 2nd French Armored Division. The division landed in France on 1 August 1944 and was tasked with liberating Paris. The 2nd division then continued to fight in Alsace and liberated Strasbourg in November 1944. At the end of the war, the 2nd division arrived in Berchtesgaden, Hitler's alpine residence. Leclerc died in a plane accident in Algeria in 1947. He was posthumously promoted Marshal of France. His energy and charisma made him a major national figure.