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Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque

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Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque

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 Template:Country data 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.

Ancestry and family

Main article: House 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.

World War II

During World War II, he joined the Free French forces after the fall of France in June 1940, and made his way to London. He adopted the Resistance pseudonym "Jacques-Philippe Leclerc". 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. 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.[2]

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.[3][4] However, it is uncertain who gave the order for their deaths.[5]

East Asia

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

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 negotiations 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, French Algeria, and was awarded the honour of Marshal of France posthumously in 1952.[6]

Posthumous honours

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.[7][8]

Two streets in Paris are named for Leclerc: Avenue du Général Leclerc in the 14th arrondissement[9] and Rue du Maréchal Leclerc in the 12th arrondissement, between the Bois de Vincennes and the Marne River.[10]


  • Second Lieutenant (9 September 1924)
  • Lieutenant (26 October 1926)
  • Captain (25 December 1934)
  • Commandant (31 July 1940)
  • Colonel (25 November 1940; confirmed in grade by De Gaulle, skipping the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel)
  • Brigadier General (14 April 1942, substantive)
  • Divisional General (25 May 1943)
  • Corps General (25 May 1945)
  • Army General (14 July 1946)
  • Marshal of France (23 August 1952; posthumous)


See also

Biography portal



  • ;

External links

  • (French) Mémorial Leclerc - Leclerc Memorial and Museum of the Liberation of Paris
  • Raids in the Fezzan (includes description of Leclerc's expedition)
  • (French) Ordre de la Libération

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