Henri Giraud

From Academic Kids

Henri Giraud (January 18 1879March 13 1949) was a French general who fought in the First World War and escaped from German captivity during the Second World War.

Henri Giraud was born in Paris, France, of Alsatian descent. He graduated from the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1900 and joined the French Army, serving in North Africa until he was transferred back to France 1914 when the First World War broke out, when he commanded Zouave troops. He was captured in the Battle of Guise in August 1914 when he was seriously wounded but escaped two months later and returned to France via the Netherlands.

Afterwards Giraud served with French troops in Constantinople under General Francet d'Esperey. In 1933 he was transferred to Morocco to fight against Rifkabul rebels. He was awarded the Légion d'Honneur after the capture of Abd-el-Krim and later became the military commander of Metz.

When the Second World War began, Giraud was a member of the Superior War Council and disagreed with Charles de Gaulle about the tactics of using armoured troops. He became the commander of the 7th army group when it was sent to the Netherlands in May 10, 1940 and was able to delay German troops at Breda on May 13. Subsequently, the depleted 7th army was merged with the 9th. When he was trying to block a German attack through the Ardennes, German troops captured him at Wassigny on May 19. He was taken to Königstein Castle near Dresden which was used as a high-security POW prison.

Giraud planned his escape carefully over two years. He learned German and memorized a map of the surrounding area. On April 17, 1942 he lowered himself down the cliff of the mountain fortress. He had shaved off his moustache and wore a Tyrolean hat, travelling to Schandau to meet his SOE contact. Through various ruses he reached the Swiss border and eventually slipped into Vichy France.

Giraud's escape was soon known all over France. Heinrich Himmler ordered the Gestapo to assassinate him, and Pierre Laval tried to persuade him to return to Germany. Giraud supported Pétain but refused to cooperate with the Germans. Consequently he accepted an Allied landing in North Africa, but asked to be the Commander of such an operation. Eventually Giraud travelled to Algeria, and on November 7, 1942, the British submarine Seraph took him to meet Dwight Eisenhower in Gibraltar. Eisenhower asked Giraud to command French troops in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia after the Operation Torch, but Giraud was very disappointed not to command the whole operation, and refused to go at once to Algiers where French resistants were waiting for him, staying in Gibraltar until the 9th of November. He was given the code name King-Pin.

The French resistance acted without him: the day after, the 8th of November 1942, at 1h PM, pursuant to secretly made agreements in Cherchell on October 23, 1942 between the Algiers resistance and General Mark W. Clark of the combined Allied command, 400 badly armed French civil patriots neutralized — alone, by their Putsch of November 8, 1942 — the coastal artillery of Sidi Ferruch and the Vichyist XIXème army Corps of Algiers, in about fifteen hours. To get that result their groups, under the command of José Aboulker, Henri d'Astier de La Vigerie, and colonel Jousse, occupated during the night the majority of the Algiers strategic points (General Government, Prefecture, Staff headquarters, telephone central, barracks, etc.) and arrested most of the Vichyist military and civil rulers. One of those groups, composed with some youngsters of the Ben-Aknoun College, under the command of the non-commissioned officer (aspirant) Pauphilet, had succeeded in arresting General Juin, Chief commandant in North Africa, as well as the collaborationist Admiral Darlan.

Afterwards, Algiers having been occupied the first day by Allied forces, thanks to the French resistance, General Clark compelled the collaborationist admiral François Darlan and General Juin, after 3 days of talks and threats, to order the cease-fire to French forces to end the hostilities, on November 10, in Oran and November 11 in Morocco, providing he remained head of a French administration. For this Darlan was dismissed from the Vichy government and Vichy Southern France was 'invaded' by the German army in Case Anton. On November 27 the remaining French naval vessels, having refused to join the Free French forces in North Africa were scuttled, without any resistance, at Toulon, which also deprived the Germans of those ships.

Most French troops in Africa followed Darlan's lead but certain elements joined the German forces in Tunisia.

In return Gen. Eisenhower, Giraud being absent, agreed with Darlan's self-nomination as the High Commissioner of France for North and West Africa on November 14, a move that enraged Charles De Gaulle. Free French Forces refused to recognize his status as a military governor of French North and West Africa. But de Gaulle was not alone. As Darlan maintained the worse Hitlerian exclusion laws and the deported people in Vichyist concentration camps of Southern Algeria, British and American war correspondents warned their countries' national opinions about the real situation in North Africa. Giraud arrived on 9th of November evening in Algiers, and the 10th, he accepted to submit himself to Darlan as the French African army commander.

That situation, qualified by Roosevelt as "military expediencies", could not be agreed by French resistants. Consequently, during the afternoon of December 24, 1942, a 22-year-old French patriot, Ferdinand Bonnier de la Chapelle, entered Darlan's headquarters in Algiers and shot him twice. Although de la Chapelle had been a member of the resistance group led by Henri d'Astier, it is believed he was acting as an individual.

After Admiral Darlan's asassination, Giraud became his de facto successor with Allied support. He upset the Americans when he ordered that many French resistant leaders who had helped Eisenhower's troops be arrested, without any protest of Roosevelt's representative, Robert Murphy. Giraud took part in the Casablanca conference, with Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle, in January 1943. Later, after very difficult negotiations, Giraud accepted to suppress Petain Hitlerian laws, and to liberate Vichy prisoners of the awful South Algerian concentration camps. Then, Henri Giraud and Charles de Gaulle became co-presidents of the Comité français de la Libération Nationale and Free French Forces. However, De Gaulle consolidated his political position at Giraud's expense because he was more up to date with the political situation. Giraud also lost influence when he refused to reveal his plans for the invasion of Corsica until the last minute.

On September 13, Giraud led the landings of Corsica arming Corsica's communist-oriented Front National resistance group. This drew more criticism from de Gaulle, and he lost the co-presidency in November 1943.

When the Allies found out that Giraud was maintaining his own intelligence network, the French committee forced him from his post as a commander-in-chief of the French forces. He refused to accept a post of Inspector General of the Army and chose to retire. On August 28, 1944 he survived an assassination attempt in Algeria.

On June 2, 1946 he was elected to the French Constituent Assembly as a representative of the Republican Party of Liberty and helped to create the constitution of the Fourth Republic. He remained a member of the War Council and received a medal for his escape. He published two books, Mes Evasions (My Escapes, 1946) and Un seul but la victoire, 1942-1944 (1949) about his experiences.

Henri Giraud died in Dijon, France, on March 13, 1949.de:Henri Giraud fr:Henri Giraud (général) he:אנרי ז'ירו sl:Henri Giraud


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