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tv   Allied Liberation of Paris  CSPAN  January 5, 2021 9:00am-10:05am EST

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captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 captioning performed by vitac on august 25th, 1944, u.s. and french soldiers liberated paris after more than four years of german occupation. next, on american history tv, military historian harry laver chronicles the allied operation.
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>> good evening, everyone. i'm talia evans and part of the public affairs team. we're thrilled to have you here tonight and have harry laver as our speaker. we've been partnering with them since january 2008 and our programs get more and more popular every month. we're down here in our brand-new chairs just because we couldn't fit you all upstairs. [ applause ] it doesn't matter the topic. and tonight's discussion about the liberation of paris is no different. harry laver is professor of military history. he specializes in the american civil war and world war ii europe. he's a fulbright scholar. he spoke at west point and to the idf military college. so i'm not going to keep you guys any longer.
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let's welcome up harry laver. [ applause ] >> good evening. and thank you to talia and the entire staff here at the kansas city public library. is this not a great facility? [ applause ] it is one of the jewels of kansas city and we at the staff college are very appreciative of the relationship we have with the library and most of my colleagues, many of whom are here in the audience scattered among you will attest this is one of the great opportunities that we really cherish to come down here and speak at the library and thanks to you as well for coming out. what a nice crowd. having been here before for a number of my colleagues speaking and in the past i've spoken
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here, i see familiar faces which is great. we appreciate your support of coming out as you have for all those times that we've been down here to do talks. how many of you have been to paris? i've got nothing to tell you then. [ laughter ] >> how many of you have been to paris recently, say in the last 75 years? [ laughter ] >> it looks like just about everybody. well, if you haven't been, for the time that we've got together tonight, let's go to france. let's go back to france in the summer of 1944. more specifically, august 7th, 1944. and we're going to meet the man we see in the jeep here, a smile
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most of us recognize, general dwight eisenhower, supreme commander of all of the allied forces in western europe. eisenhower was in france on august the 7th to establish his advanced command post, his headquarters that he was going to move, the permanent headquarters that was in london at the time and he was going to move it over to the continent on september 1st. but he was there in normandy outside the town to establish an early headquarters as i said. now, the code name for eisenhower's temporary headquarters was shell burst. since "d" day which occurred two months before, allied forces had not moved as rapidly across france as planners had anticipated but a couple weeks before this time when eisenhower is there with the success of
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operation cobra, british and american and other allied forces broke out of the normandy beachhead and began to work their way across france. now as eisenhower and his staff studied the maps, the arrows and community markers that trace the progress of the units across france, their eyes were drawn almost involuntarily to paris, the french capital, the city of light. paris, the city that world war i veterans spoke of with something of a sly smile and a wink. [ laughter ] but that was a paris of another time. that was the paris of another generation. for at this point, paris was an occupied city and had been occupied for four years by the summer of 1944.
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well eisenhower and his senior commanders were not the first allied officers to think about the city of paris. even before d-day planners were thinking about what do we do when we get to paris? and the plan was that when we get to paris, we are not going to move directly into paris. instead, we're going to bypass the city and encircle it. they thought about things like difficult street fighting, high casualties both civilian and military. the distraction away from the real objective which was going to be the german army and moving directly into germany. and the possible destruction of many of paris's great architectural wonders as well as sustaining a city of 4 million people.
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estimates were it would be 4,000 tons a day of supplies for food and fuel for the civilian population of paris. 4,000 tons that would have to be diverted from eisenhower's military forces. and so with those factors in mind, the preliminary planners decided we're going to bypass paris. well, of course the americans and british weren't the only ones thinking about paris. the germans had also been considering what to do about paris, especially since they occupied the city in the spring of 1940. and adolf hitler had made it clear after june the 6th when allied forces landed in normandy that paris was going to be held and it was not going to be surrendered to the germans. well, on august the 7th. the same day that eisenhower was setting up his headquarters
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shell burst, this man was named as the commanding general of paris. great good luck or horrible luck, depending on how you might look at it. he had experience in the war including overseeing occupied cities. he was known as a tough guy in the german army and he was hitler's hand-picked choice to oversee paris and ensure that it remained out of allied hands. from that day on august the 7th, he began organizing the 20,000 command to ensure that hitler's decree was going to be carried out. and of course the french had been thinking about paris. always thinking about paris. paris to the french was more
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than just the political capital. it was more than the economic capital. it was more than the cultural center of france. paris was the spiritual center of france. it's where the french soul resided. even when the city was under the heel of an occupying military force. and this man general de gaulle had emerged almost by default aú the leader of those french who were unwilling to bend to the nazi regime. after leading one of the few counterattacks against german-invading forces in the spring of 1940, de gaulle escaped to london and there in a broadcast over bbc radio that became known as the appeal of june 18th, de gaulle issued a challenge to frenchmen everywhere to continue their resistance against the nazi invaders who had now become
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occupiers, to continue their resistance against frenchmen in france who had surrendered their independence and dignity to cooperate with the german forces. he called on frenchmen to rally to him as he assumed the mantle of free france. now, truth is, de gaulle had not been elected by anyone. he was essentially self-appointed as the leader of france at the time. but in the four years from june of 1940 when the germans invaded now to the summer of 1944, most had come to recognize de gaulle as the leader of free france. one significant exception was the american president, franklin roosevelt, who did not like de gaulle. roosevelt wasn't alone in that. but roosevelt continued to remind people that de gaulle was
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not elected and the united states could not recognize de gaulle as president without a democratic process. and we can identify with that to a degree. but despite roosevelt's reluctance to recognize de gaulle by the spring and summer of 1944, as i said, most had accepted de gaulle as their leader including the various resistance factions in france and there were many. there were many. but they had decided to set aside their political difference for the moment to present a united front against the german occupiers and they became known as the french forces of the interior or the ffi. and they acknowledged de gaulle, for the moment, as their recognized leader. and de gaulle wanted paris as he
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made clear in that appeal of june the 18th. well, in france, and more specifically in paris, over that summer of 1944 tensions began to rise in the city, especially after d-day when the allies landed in normandy. on june the 14th, bastille day, the french equivalent to our fourth of july. in paris demonstrations broke out and parisians started to display the tri-color, the french flag. prohibited by the germans since they occupied the city. this was disquieting for the germans knowing that the allies had landed some weeks earlier. by the second week of august, rail workers went out on strike and parisians began to notice that civilian workers from
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germany along with the uniformed women of the german army, known as the gray mice, were starting to take trains heading east out of paris. equally noticeable was in courtyards across the city there were german government official documents burning, sending ash like confetti over various regions of the city. unmistakable signs to the parisians. then on august 14th, the paris police went out on strike as well. 15,000 paris policemen, all of them armed, did not show up to work that day. this certainly had to be disquieting for the occupying german forces because those 15,000 policemen just disappeared into the civilian
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population again with their arms and certainly there had to be some germans who were looking over their shoulders at every moment. clearly change was coming brought by the winds of war coming out of the west. not long after the rail workers and the police went out on strike, postal workers joined in and then workers in the paris subway system, the metro, went out on strike. and the strikes collectively paralyzed the city. and that small trickle of german officials leaving the city was nobody could miss, was turning into a significant exodus, all, again, troubling signs for the german occupiers. and then on saturday, june the 19th, open rebellion, insurrection, conducted by the
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resistance forces broke out in paris. now, the resistance was not united in this decision to begin an insurrection. those who were followers of charles de gaulle, advocating waiting, we have to be patient, the allied armies are still miles and miles away from paris and we're going to need their help and their support. and at that point, word was trickling in from the eastern front, specifically in warsaw, where the resistance in warsaw had begun an uprising against the german occupiers and word was that the germans were inflicting brutal casualties on the resistance workers in the hundreds if not thousands. and there was concern among the followers of de gaulle that would happen to us. but the communist elements in the resistance were adamant that now was the time to strike. and they recognized if they didn't join in when liberation
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came, they may well have given up any claim to power because they didn't join in resistance. and so the battle for paris was on and scattered fire fights erupted across the city like summer thunderstorms. the resistance forces especially targeted german convoy traveling across the city, and installations where they believed they could gain additional weapons. and then early that morning, a striking policeman clambered up on top of a car in front of the prefecture of police, stone's throw from notre dame. and when he got on top of the car, he proclaimed that he was seizing the police headquarters in the name of charles de gaulle and the provisional republic of
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france. now, there were a couple other hundred striking policemen with him and they moved into the police headquarters. no resistance from the germans. germans didn't anticipate this and didn't have forces available. well that evening in an attempt to bring peace to a city that was erupting in violence, this man, who was the swedish council general in paris, worked to broker a truce between the two sides. and the agreement they reached was that the germans would recognize the resistance fighters as regular soldiers and afford them all the rights. the germans agreed not to attempt to retake any buildings that the resistance had seized. on the part of the resistance,
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they agreed not to attack any german convoys that were clearly leaving the city and they agreed not to try to seize any german strong points. well the following morning, sunday, august 20th, outside the hotel da ville, the center for the municipal government of pairs, resistance forces moved in and occupied the who del delde ville. bit by bit, choltitz and his men were starting to lose control of paris. but choltitz had significant military power there. so the question was, what would the germans do and that might
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well determine the fate of paris. well that same morning when the resistance seized the hotel de vile, charles de gaulle returned to france from his provisional government headquarters in algiers. and when he returned to france, he met with general eisenhower at shell burst there outside the town. now, the two men had met any number of times previously in the war. in late december of 1943, just a few months before this point, they had met as eisenhower was beginning to transit from the mediterranean back to england to prepare for operation overlord d-day. and at that point in their discussions, eisenhower had agreed that when the time for the liberation of paris came, french forces would be the first
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ones in. well now that time had come, at lease in de gaulle's estimation. eisenhower wasn't so sure. he was still sticking to the pre-d-day plan of bypassing paris. these two men are a comparison in study of contrast. they were born only about a month apart in 1890. they both came from large families, they both were avid readers of the military history. they both attended their country's respective military academies. eisenhower attending west point. de gaulle attending an academy just outside of paris. in world war i, their careers diverged to some degree. de gaulle served as an infantry company commander. de gaulle was wounded three times and left for dead on the
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battlefields at verdun where he was taken prisoner. as most of you know, i think, eisenhower was ordered to stay stateside during world war i and train up troops who then got the good fortune to travel across the atlantic into the trenches of the western front. at this point both of them knew they were approaching this war from very different perspectives. eisenhower from the united states, which virtually all recognized was a world power eisenhower knew american history and knew that in the relatively short history of the united states, that the country had suffered really in only a minor way from foreign invaders. whereas de gaulle looked at france and saw them on the verge of disappearing from the world stage as an independent nation.
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and he looked at france's history over centuries far longer than the united states and recognized that france had been invaded from the romans and the english, the germans under the kaiser and the germans under hitler. and de gaulle saw himself really at this point as perhaps survive as a nation. he described himself as a man of destiny. eisenhower saw himself as a soldier with a job to do and described himself as a man of the kansas plains. so now that man of destiny was pressing that man from the plains of kansas to move on
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paris. it's too early, eisenhower responded. de gaulle, with a retort said, why is it too early? if allied forces have crossed the same river north of paris and allied forces had crossed the river south of paris, why can they not cross the river at paris? and he told eisenhower that at this point paris was fundamental, it was essentially to the governing of france at that point and in the very near future. eisenhower responded that he would do what he could, but at this point he could make no promises of when he would cut loose part of the allied armies to move into paris. the following day de gaulle sent word to eisenhower by de gaulle
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senior military commander, and what he said was that the city was on the verge of anarchy, there was no police presence, transportation had completely stopped. food shortages set the city on the verge of famine. and de gaulle argued that if the allies don't move now, they were risking a humanitarian disaster and perhaps the destruction of paris itself. as it happened a number of times early in the war, de gaulle and eisenhower, two extraordinarily determined personalities, were putting that relationship to the test. but events in paris would drive eisenhower's decision-making as much if not more so than de gaulle's urgings. when the next day, on monday, august 21st, that tentative
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truce that the swede nordling had organized completely fell apart. the communist refused to recognize the truce. the more fanatical elements of the german forces, primarily the ss, agreed and refused to acknowledge that truce and so the battles were on once again. parisians across the city began to construct barricades of whatever they could find from felled trees to paving stones tearing up paris's cobble streets. a german sergeant wrote his wife that day, i have the feeling things are going to get bad here. very fast. well the effectiveness of these barricades -- not manned by soldiers and no rhyme or reason to the hundreds that appeared
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across the city, it's debatable about what effectiveness they may have had in slowing german movement across the city. but what those barricades did demonstrate was that the parisians were not merely an audience, not bystanders to a drama that was unfolding in their streets or parks. they were participants in the liberation of their city. they were contributing to the liberation of their own lives. as the parisians were constructing their barricades across the city, in his office, in the hotel just across the street from the gardens, general choltitz continued to receive directives from berlin. two ss officers appeared in his office telling him they had
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orders from their commander to take the famous medieval bay tapestry that was being stored in the louvre museum back to berlin. choltitz told them, well, the resistance has occupied the louvre museum. you're welcome to go and get it. [ laughter ] not surprisingly, the tapestry did not leave the louvre museum. more seriously though was an order from hitler reiterating his last manned defense directive for paris and at that point choltitz put in a call to his commanding officer's headquarters and over the telephone choltitz outlined what he was going to do should the allies make it to paris. the destruction of the arch de
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triumph, the opera house, where napoleon is buried, notre dame cathedral, the seine river bridges and of course choltitz said, we'll fell the eiffel tower and its twisted steel will prevent the allies from moving through the city. but in truth, he had no intention of doing any such thing. knowing that the phone lines were probably tapped by the gestapo, he was being very careful in what he said. for choltitz recognized and acknowledged that paris was one of the most beautiful cities in europe, if not the world. and he had no intention to be known in history who destroyed all of those architectural wonders i've just described. his resolution on the telephone, though, was designed to protect as best as he could his family
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that was still in germany. and choltitz really feared that soon enough he would either have to carry out hitler's directive or he would be replaced by an officer who most certainly would carry out hitler's directive. he commented to his staff, ever since the enemies have refused to listen to our leader, the war has gone badly. [ laughter ] it was going quite badly for general choltitz. and soon enough, choltitz received the order that he had been anticipating and fearing directly from hitler, the strongest measures must be taken against the first signs of insurrection, including public execution of ring leaders. demolition of the seine bridges must be prepared. paris must not fall into enemy hands expect as a field of ruins.
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time was running out for general choltitz and by extension time was running out for paris as well. well, closely following the deterioration of conditions in paris as best as they could with the limited information they had were the senior allied military commanders. to eisenhower's right here is general omar bradley. 12th army group commander, senior american ground forces commander in europe. ike's direct subordinate. to his left is general konig. general de gaulle's immediate military overall commander. and these men on that morning of august 22nd as the truce was completely falling apart in paris had a discussion and they made the determination that the conditions in paris were such that they could not bypass the city. and eisenhower sent word to the combined chiefs of staff, the senior american and british commanders back in london, his
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superior officers informing them of this decision. and to eisenhower's credit, he couched this message to the chiefs of staff in a way that precluded debate, that precluded counter orders coming down and saying, no, you're not going into paris. what eisenhower said was, in essence, if we bypass paris, the germans have sufficient combat power to continually threaten our flanks and our rear. if the germans evacuate paris without a fight, it's ours anyway. and so what eisenhower did was to make the decision to move into paris a militarily-based decision, rather than one based on political considerations. well eisenhower had already given approval for the man in the center of this photograph, the commander of the second
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french armored division to be the first forces into paris. in the evening after eisenhower and the other senior commanders met on august 22nd, orders went out for the movement into paris. leclerc division was going to be joined by the united states 4th infantry division. one was going to approach the city from the southwest made up of leclerc's second armored division and the other approaching paris from the south with the spearhead of french forces. the following day when general choltitz was receiving his field of ruin orders from berlin, the french second armored division was about 120 miles outside of
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paris and they set out that morning for paris. 16,000 men, 200 sherman tanks, hundreds of other vehicles all moving in column. a journalist that was traveling with leclerc's force wrote, in the heart of every frenchman here there is a name, a goal, paris, paris, paris. by the evening of that day, the two columns were on the very outskirts of paris. they met minimal resistance and there was hope that the germans were going to evacuate the city, save additional allied casualties and spare paris who had suffered so much destruction for four years all of that heartache. the following morning on august
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the 24th, very light summer rain was falling as the two columns began to move forward again. the plan was they would meet at one of the great public squares in paris. that great square that anchors the area. but stiff german resistance slowed their progress as the two columns moved into the city. column had broken into paris itself. general bradley overseeing all of this was getting impatient. one of his subordinates said, the french still aren't in paris, they're dancing towards paris. bradley was furious. he fires off a telegram to eisenhower telling this and then he sends a message to the fourth infantry division commander, slam on into paris and bypass
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the french. well, of course general leclerc and his men had not been dancing with the germans. they had encountered stiff resistance and had suffered significant casualties that day. but that evening leclerc was still determined to get french p forces into paris and he found one of his best young officers and told him, take a small force and get into the city. and he asked, you want me to bypass any german strong points -- yes, get into the city any way you possibly can. at about 8:30, he set off with a small force and with the help of the french resistance, wound their way up the avenue across the seine river to the hotel de ville where the resistance was headquartered. they got there about 9:30. he then sent a couple of people over to the prefecture that the
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police has seized some days earlier to let them know that american and french forces would be in the city in strength the following day. and not surprisingly, word spread from the prefecture to police hardly a block away to notre dame cathedral. and it's 14-ton bell that had been silent for four years, began to toll, setting off a cascade of church bells across the city, including the even larger 19-ton bell on the northern side of the city. in his office, in the hotel maurice, general choltitz was hosting something of a farewell dinner for his staff officers. and when the bells began to ring, a young second lieutenant wondered out loud, what's the meaning? and choltitz knew.
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he said the allies are here. he rang up his headquarters, held the phone up so they could hear and he said, the french and the americans are moving into the city. when morning came on august 25th, the friday, the next day, the clouds and rain showers of the previous day had dissipated. and many of the germans in the city recognized that the game was essentially up and began withdrawing to the eastern side, almost like a receding tide. by mid-morning, french and american columns were moving through the streets of paris almost like rivers of iron and steel. some vehicles with white american stars on them, others with a silhouette of france with the cross of lorraine superimposed over the map.
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but all the germans had not left and so fighting continued between german tanks and german infantry in the resistance forces in urban combat around the arch de triumph, around the louvre museum. at 12:30, the french flag, the tri-color appeared above the eiffel tower. we can only imagine what went through parisians minds when they saw that. and shortly after, the french flag appeared at the arch de triumph as well. french soldiers made their way to the hotel maurice fought their way inside, broke into the door to choltitz's office and the first french soldier in challenged choltitz.
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[ speaking german ] choltitz' response was yes, and probably better than you. [ laughter ] but at that point choltitz surrendered. and shortly after, he signed the documents surrendering all the remaining german forces there in paris. not far away a small column of trucks pulled up in front of the hotel ritz and an american reporter working for "collier's" magazine, man on the right, ernest hemingway, got out and with a group of -- i'm going to be generous here and say a group of french irregular soldiers -- made their way into the bar
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where hemingway, by legend, at least, ordered 73 dry martinis for himself and his newfound friends. the celebrations were beginning in paris. well, charles de gaulle arrived in paris late that friday afternoon and the first thing he went -- the first place he went to was the train station. this is a photograph of him and de gaulle is the one with the cigarette. and he went there intentionally because that's where general leclerc that we see here to de gaulle's left had the army headquarters. and de gaulle went there to emphasize the role the french army had played in liberating the city. and to downplay the role of the resistance that was made up to such a significant degree of communist, that de gaulle knew he was going to have a political battle with. there was also a young second
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lieutenant from the 2nd armored division, a filippe de gaulle and he was able to share this moment with his moment. de gaulle travelled to the ministry of war where he had had an office in 1940 before he made his escape to london. and there he symbolically as well as in a very practical sense set the wheels in motion for the governing of france, once again, from its capital in paris. he then made his way to the prefecture of police as an acknowledgement of the role the striking policemen had played in liberating the city. only then did he go to the hotel de ville where the resistance was headquartered. but when he got to the hotel de ville, he gave an impromptu
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address to the crowds outside. and this is one of his more important and effective speeches that he gave in his career. and what i hope to do, if our technology works, is show you a short video clip, less than a minute, of de gaulle's address there outside of the hotel de ville on the day that paris was liberated. and he's speaking in french, of course, there aren't subtitles. i'll give you a translation once it's over. as you watch it, if you don't understand french, just pay attention to his body language and the emotion that we see from de gaulle at this point when he has finally returned to his beloved paris. [ speaking foreign language ]
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[ speaking foreign language ] [ applause ] >> paris. paris outraged. paris broken. paris martyred, but paris liberated. liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the french armies, with the support and the help of all france, of the france that fights, of the only france of
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the real france of the eternal france. really what de gaulle was doing, i think, is proclaiming the return of a free and independent france, taking its place once again in the world community as well as getting back to the french population, the pride and dignity of being france. and discounting that french government that collaborated and cooperated with the germans, de gaulle and this government was the real france, the eternal france. that same evening, de gaulle began organizing a parade for the following day, a parade that was to celebrate the liberation of paris, but also a parade to let everyone know, both friend
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and foe alike, that de gaulle was the leader of france. there could be no question. and so that next morning it was a saturday. again, it was a warm sunny day. and word spread across the city that at 3:00 there was going to be a grand parade. and precisely on time, general de gaulle arrived at the arch de triumph where he first placed flowers on the tomb of the unknown french soldier. he relate france's he eternal flame that the germans extinguished four years earlier. he then set out leading a parade
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of his military commanders, general leclerc, along with civilian leaders and leaders of the resistance. and the estimates of the crowd vary. de gaulle said there were 2 million. maybe. but i think we can see in this photograph there are certainly tens of thousands of parisians who showed up for this parade. and as they made their way down the champs-elysees, as de gaulle and the rest of his followers approached that city square, gunfire rang out sending people there ducking in confusion for cover. there was chaos as no one knew where the gunfire was coming
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from and who was doing the shooting. de gaulle was absolutely unshaken. never flinching, he continued to move forward across that square to the car that by design was to take him to notre dame when he got to notre dame, he was met outside by city officials, others of his military officers and church leaders. and as they began to make their way into notre dame through the main front door, gunfire erupted outside in the square of the cathedral as well as inside the cathedral. and once again, de gaulle didn't standing erect, he strode down
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the center aisle to the alter as others were seeking cover among the pews. where the gunfire came from, whether it was celebratory, were there still a few germans, resistance formers that were battling, nobody knows for certain. what we do know is that when de gaulle emerged from notre dame that afternoon, he had become the embodiment of france. his determination over four years standing up to all powers including winston churchill and franklin roosevelt and his personal bravery that day established him as the undisputed now leader of france. in the days that followed, de gaulle sent a letter to general eisenhower thanking him for the support, the resources and the manpower that eisenhower committed to the liberation of paris and de gaulle also asked
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eisenhower to give him some additional forces to help stabilize the city. eisenhower agreed to leave the 2nd french armored division there in paris for a while. but he declined to commit any other military forces to paris. as eisenhower pointed out, the germans are still on the eastern outskirts of paris. the war continues and it will continue for months yet to come. but eisenhower did agree to have the united states 28th infantry division on their way to the front march through paris in a parade. and so a few days later, the 28th division did just that from the arc de triumph through the champs-elysees.
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and eisenhower did this, one, to show support for de gaulle, and secondly to remind parisians that the united states played a pretty significant role in the liberation of their city as well.parisians that the united states played a significant role in the liberation of their city as well. well, eisenhower, it was quite an impressive sight. there is video of this. you can find it quite easily. when eisenhower and general bradley visited paris, the day after de gaulle's parade, the first thing they did was to call on de gaulle in his offices at the war ministry, and this was another gesture by eisenhower to show support for de gaulle, to acknowledge him as the dejit mat leader, the provisional president of the republic of france. and eisenhower wrote later in his motivations for this, he said i wanted to show the people my support for de gaulle.
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and that i believe de gaulle was the boss of france. and he said that's the effect i wanted and that's the effect that i got. eisenhower also told de gaulle on that visit that he was going to establish -- eisenhower was going to establish his military headquarters on the outskirts of paris, not in the middle of the city, another gesture in support of de gaulle. because if eisenhower had established supreme command there in the city, it likely would have overshadowed and distracted away from de gaulle's efforts to reestablish a functioning french government. so another gesture by eisenhower that de gaulle really appreciated, and the relationship that these two men built over the course of the war. and it wasn't all roses. did pay off even later after the war because both of these men would become the elected leaders of their respected countries and have to work together through some very difficult times in the cold war that was not very far
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away. and so paris had been liberated. ernie pile, the famed journalist, who wrote about the war from the gi's perspective, and painted for his readers a word picture of the filth and the degradation and the horrors of war. equally well captured the essence and the emotion of a liberated paris. he wrote, it was the loveliest, brightest story of our time. well, who deserves the credit? for liberating paris? is it the senior military commanders, eisenhower, bradley, general le clerk, de gaulle who
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orchestrated the military advance into the city. or is it the french and american soldiers who drove the last vestiges of german military power out? how about the resistance? who began the insurrection that really set the table for the allied advance into the city? and, in fact, accelerated the allied advance into the city? and maybe a dark horse candidate, general von coltitz who refused to follow the order, whatever his motivations might have been. well, for all of you who have been to paris and experienced paris, maybe it doesn't really matter who gets the credit for paris, because if you've been to paris, what's perhaps most
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important is paris is still paris. thank you all for coming tonight. thank you, thank you. and i believe we've got time for some questions. now, the guidance i received from both the public library here and cspan is if you have a question, you need to come up to the mic so everybody can hear it and so cspan can record it and one disclaimer. i'm sort of a world war ii historian, not a french historian. but many of my colleagues out there are french historians so we can turn to them if you stump me. sir, you have a question. >> yes. i apologize in advance because everything i know about this, i learned from the movie "patton".
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>> all true, all true. all true. >> well, you didn't mention his name so did he truly factually play any role in the advance on paris. >> in the liberation of paris, technically, i'm going to have to say perhaps not. in that the forces that moved into paris were, of course, under bradley's command. and under the fifth core commander general leonard gereaux. so patton wasn't really directly involved but hey, it's all a team effort, right, so we'll say yeah, sure, patton helped out by keeping the germans occupied elsewhere. >> my mother was in the west. and she was stationed in paris, obviously, after these events occurred. and i know she was there at the beginning of december because
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she was given leave to go to brussels to visit her english foreign aunt and cousin who had been there during the occupation. but the bulge interfered and her trip got delayed. do you know when such noncombatant, as when say a bunch of whack telephone operators would be in paris, not obviously a few days after this. >> especially for u.s., i don't know for certain. i couldn't say when, with american forces eventually moving in, and especially -- let me backtrack a little bit. eisenhower's headquarters, which i said he established on the outskirts of paris, was actually at versailles. as that started to grow and become the central brain for the rest of the allied fighting the war where eisenhower kept his he headquarters there would be those support personnel who would show up. i expect not too long after he
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established his headquarters, but the exact timing, i couldn't say. >> i think it was late september. >> late september, talking at that point a few weeks after the liberation of paris. that wouldn't surprise me. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> sir? >> yes, sir. general von, i believe it's coltus, is that right, after he was taken prisoner, my understanding was he was sent to mississippi, and he spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp. could you talk a little bit about what happened to him after he surrendered paris, or he landed and what he did, you know, how he come out, where he went? >> pretty much what you said is what i know. he ends up at a prisoner of war camp in mississippi. i assume he's released in late 1945. i don't believe he was involved in any war crimes trials, that sort of thing, probably what he did in paris helped him out, to that degree, but what happens to him at that point? he disappears from my historical
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radar screen. great question, though, about what's he doing in retirement? lives in paris, maybe. >> yeah, maybe mayor. >> sir? >> i would like for you to comment on negros that were in world war ii, like josephine baker. >> could you repeat that? >> negros that were in world war ii for france, like josephine baker and there was a pilot from world war i that was in world war ii, too, but i can't think of his name. >> yeah, i can only say briefly. paris prior to the war was a much more liberated city as far as race goes, i'll say. than much of the united states, and josephine baker is an example of someone who did not have the challenges she would have had in the united states. and as far as african-american soldiers in world war ii, the army was still segregate at the
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time, serving in various units. most of you are familiar with a tuskegee airman, flying fighter support for american bombers. a number of african-american veterans from world war i served in world war ii as well. but, again, still facing the segregation that they had experienced in the u.s. army in world war i. that's about the best i can do on that question. anything else? anything else? sir? >> how tall was de gaulle? >> how tall was de gaulle? his -- the nickname that the americans gave him was dumeter, two meters. he was about 6'6". wasn't standing on a platform or anything, he was just simply
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that much taller than most of the other people. so he was quite a tall individual. yes, sir. >> what was wiz hitler's response when he learned that taken place? >> furious, furious. he anticipated that coltitz was going to carry out those orders. which i suspect for coltitz, being taken prisoner, going back to germany, being taken prisoner was the best choice. he was furious but there was nothing he could do at that point. the war was going badly as coltitz pointed out and was going much worse for him to from that point forward. yes, ma'am. >> i wanted to make a comment, we were in france -- i mean, paris, the whole country for a 16-day trip four years ago. and you cannot believe how many times we were stopped and said thank you for what you did for us during world war ii. i mean, a lot of times.
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especially like in the small villages. it was amazing. i was amazed. >> which i would concur with that. we here in the united states oftentimes don't have the best impression of france and the french. and i've been to france quite a bit. i've been to normandy, i think, a dozen times now, i take tour groups over there. this year i got to take some of our students from the staff college over there. and in paris, i've met some rude people. i've met some rude people in kansas city too. but for the most part, even in paris, when i would take undergraduate civilian students any number of times my students would tell me somebody stopped and asked if they can help them find what they were looking for and especially out in the countryside, my experience has been the same, in normandy, when you go to normandy, there are american and british french
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flags everywhere, on about every trip, someone has done the same thing to myself or a member of my group, thanking the united states for our contributions to the war. i agree. i confirm your experiences very much. yes, ma'am. >> i was just wondering, did hitler ever actually go to paris? >> did hitler ever go to paris? he did. soon after paris was occupied in the spring, late spring, early summer of 1940 he went to paris and i will bet you everybody in this room did what hitler did when he went to paris. you got your picture made with the eiffel tower in the background, exactly what hitler did when he went to paris. it's the photograph where most people go on the opposite side of the river, you can do this pretty quickly. side by side of your picture there next to hitler's. he did the tourist thing.
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and that was as far as i know the only time he went to paris. he did travel the paris, the conquering hero, and then he went back to germany. good question, good question. all right, if anybody has other questions, i'll stick around for a little bit. thank you again for your continued support and for coming out tonight. have a good rest of the week. we can nights this week, we feature american history tv programs to preview what's available every weekend on c-span3. toon tonight, a look at first ladies, susan ford bails, reflects on the family's time in the white house, with former abc news white house correspondent ann compton. they focus on first lady betty ford and her impact on american society in this forum hosted by
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the white house historical association. watch tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern, and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. you're watching american history tv, every weekend, on c-span3, explore our nation's past, american history tv, on c-span3. created by america's cable television companies, and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. each week, american artifacts visits museums, archives and historic places, in 2014, five former u.s. secretaries of state and secretary john kerry took part in a ground breaking ceremony for the u.s. diplomacy center, a planned museum located at the u.s. state department. up next we visit the center's artifact storage area to learn


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