Sunday, February 06, 2011

The 'Liberation' of Paris (22 August 1944)

(Top): The Eiffel Tower from a street corner in Paris
(Bottom): A view over Paris from the Eiffel Tower

On Tuesday 22 August 1944 Paris - which had been occupied by the German forces since June 1940 - was 'liberated'. Or, at least, much of the world believed Paris had been liberated after hearing it announced on the radio news and reading it in the newspapers. However, particularly in wartime it is not always wise not to believe everything one hears in the news!

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

On 22 August 1944 Charles Collingwood, one of the war correspondents from the American CBS was at Twelfth Army Group Headquarters in France. While there, he happened to speak with the American General Omar Bradley who told him the FFI (French Resistance Forces) had risen in Paris and it looked as though the 2nd French Armoured Division would liberate the city. General Bradley did not, however, specify when the 2nd Armoured might do the liberating.

Nevertheless, not wishing to be 'caught out' by missing a despatch deadline about the Allies liberating Paris Charles Collingwood used his new but experimental CBS tape recorder to record the liberation, which he would send over on the next flight. The news report would then be ready and waiting in London and all ready to be broadcast to Europe and the world:

"The 2nd French Armoured Division entered Paris today after the Parisians rose as one man to beat down the terrified German troops who had garrisoned the city ....."

The recording was then enclosed and sent off to the SHAEF censors and duly despatched to London.

However, when the tape recording arrived in London nobody had actually checked to confirm the 'liberation' had actually taken place or not. The CBS office in London believed the statement had been cleared by the censors and was actually true! Consequently, the news was released to the BBC and they made the following 'important announcement':

"Paris has been liberated. I repeat, Paris has been liberated."

As news like this usually does, it spread around the world in no time at all. It made the late editions of the New York newspapers, in Washington President Roosevelt said the news was ".... an ebullient passage of total victory." King George VI sent a personal message of congratulations to the Head of the Free French General De Gaulle. The British Cabinet minister (and future Prime Minister) Anthony Eden proposed a toast to his French counterpart in London, M René Massigli.

Except, the news about the 'liberation' was not actually true! Yet, with events moving towards that outcome SHAEF, who knew truth and that the FFI was still fighting the Germans for control confirmed the bulletin was correct. Hence because of the BBC announcement almost everyone around the world, apart from those living in Paris and the German High Command, believed that Paris was free.

Still, fortune often favours the brave. General De Gaulle ordered General Philippe Leclerc to enter Paris at the soonest possible moment and prevent a likely massacre of the 'résistants'. The true 'day of deliverance' of the French capital took place on Friday 25 August after heavy street fighting and further loss of life. Paris awoke to its first day of freedom for over four years on Saturday 26 August. This would also be the day that General Charles De Gaulle would make his triumphal arrival in the French capital.

What are the lessons of this tale? Well, it is not generally a good idea to write history before it actually happens! Similarly, it is not always wise to believe what one might have heard over the radio or read in the newspapers!

Sunday, 06 February, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born on August 22, 1944, so I choose to believe that it was indeed the day of liberation for the great city of Paris. I have been to Paris a number of times and when there have always felt myself liberated and free from care.

John J. Allen

Wednesday, 26 December, 2012  

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