Henri Honoré Giraud (18 January 1879 – 11 March 1949) was a
French general who was captured in both World Wars, but escaped both
After his second escape in 1942, some of the Vichy ministers tried to
send him back to Germany and probable execution. However, Eisenhower
secretly asked him to take command of French troops in North Africa
Operation Torch and direct them to join the Allies. Only after
François Darlan's assassination was he able to attain this post, and
he took part in the
Casablanca Conference with De Gaulle, Churchill
and Roosevelt. He retired in 1944 after continual disagreements with
1 Early life
2 Military career
2.1 World War I
2.2 Interwar Period
2.3 World War II: command, capture and escape
2.4 Cooperation with the Allies
2.5 Army of Africa leader
3 Postwar life
4 See also
Henri Giraud was born in Paris, of Alsatian descent.
He graduated from the
Saint-Cyr Military Academy
Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1900 and joined
the French Army, commanding
Zouave troops in
North Africa until he was
transferred back to
France in 1914 when
World War I
World War I broke out.
World War I
Giraud was seriously wounded while, as a captain, he led a Zouave
bayonet charge during the Battle of St. Quentin on 30 August 1914, and
was left for dead on the field. He was captured by the Germans and
placed in a prison camp in Belgium. He managed to escape two months
later by pretending to be a roustabout with a traveling circus. He
Edith Cavell for help, and eventually he was able to return
France via the Netherlands.
Afterwards, Giraud served with French troops in
General Franchet d'Esperey. In 1933, he was transferred to
Rif (kabyle) rebels. He was awarded the Légion
d'Honneur after the capture of Abd-el-Krim and later became the
military commander of Metz. He also taught military strategy at the
École de Guerre, where one of his students was Captain Charles de
World War II: command, capture and escape
Captured French General Giraud, during his daily walk. Germany, c.
World War II
World War II began, Giraud was a member of the Superior War
Council, and disagreed with
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle about the tactics of
using armoured troops. He became the commander of the 7th Army when it
was sent to the
Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and was able to delay
German troops at Breda on 13 May. Subsequently, the depleted 7th Army
was merged with the 9th. While trying to block a German attack through
the Ardennes, he was at the front with a reconnaissance patrol when he
was captured by German troops at
Wassigny on 19 May. A court-martial
tried Giraud for ordering the execution of two German saboteurs
wearing civilian clothes but he was acquitted and taken to Königstein
Castle near Dresden, which was used as a high-security
Giraud planned his escape carefully over two years. He learned German
and memorised a map of the area. He made a 150 feet (46 m) rope
out of twine, torn bedsheets, and copper wire, which friends had
smuggled into the prison for him. Using a simple code embedded in his
letters home, he informed his family of his plans to escape. On 17
April 1942, he lowered himself down the cliff of the mountain
fortress. He had shaved off his moustache and wearing a Tyrolean hat,
Schandau to meet his
Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive (SOE)
contact who provided him with a change of clothes, cash and identity
papers. Through various ruses, he reached the Swiss border by train.
To avoid border guards who were on the alert for him, he walked
through the mountains until he was stopped by two Swiss soldiers, who
took him to Basel. Giraud eventually slipped into Vichy France,
where he made his identity known. He tried to convince Marshal Pétain
that Germany would lose, and that
France must resist the German
occupation. His views were rejected but the Vichy government refused
to return Giraud to the Germans.
Cooperation with the Allies
Algiers, French Algeria. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander in
chief of the Allied Armies in North Africa, and General Henri Honoré
Giraud, commanding the French Forces, saluting the flags of both
nations at Allied headquarters.
Giraud's escape was soon known all over France.
Pierre Laval tried to
persuade him to return to Germany. Yet while remaining loyal to
Pétain and the Vichy government, Giraud refused to cooperate with the
Germans. In retaliation,
Heinrich Himmler ordered the
Gestapo to try
to assassinate him and to arrest any members of Giraud's family that
could be found, who would be held hostage in order to discourage
Giraud from cooperating with the Allies. Seventeen members of Giraud's
extended family were arrested.
He was secretly contacted by the Allies, who gave him the code name
Kingpin. Giraud was already planning for the day when American troops
landed in France. He agreed to support an Allied landing in French
North Africa, provided that only American troops were used (like many
other French officers he was bitterly resentful of the British,
particularly after their attack on Mers-el-Kébir), and that he or
another French officer was the commander of such an operation. He
considered this latter condition essential to maintaining French
sovereignty and authority over the
Arab and Berber natives of North
Giraud designated General
Charles Mast as his representative in
Algeria. At a secret meeting on 23 October with U.S. General Mark W.
Clark and diplomat Robert Murphy, the invasion was agreed on, but the
Americans promised only that Giraud would be in command "as soon as
possible". Giraud, still in France, responded with a demand for a
written commitment that he would be commander within 48 hours of the
landing, and for landings in
France as well as North Africa. Giraud
also insisted that he could not leave
France before 20 November.
However, Giraud was persuaded that he had to go. He requested to be
fetched by aeroplane, but General
Dwight Eisenhower advised that he
should be brought to
Gibraltar by the British submarine HMS Seraph,
masquerading as "USS Seraph" under the nominal command of American
Captain Jerauld Wright, as no US submarines were operating in the
vicinity. On 5 November, he and his two sons were picked up near
Toulon by HMS Seraph and taken to meet Eisenhower in Gibraltar. He
arrived on 7 November, only a few hours before the landings.
Eisenhower asked him to assume command of French troops in North
Operation Torch and order them to join the Allies. But
Giraud had expected to command the whole operation, and adamantly
refused to participate on any other basis. He said "his honor would be
tarnished" and that he would only be a spectator in the affair.
However, by the next morning, Giraud relented. He refused to leave
immediately for Algiers, but rather stayed in
Gibraltar until 9
November. When asked why he did not go to
Algiers he replied: "You may
have seen something of the large De Gaullist demonstration that was
held here last Sunday. Some of the demonstrators sang the
Marseillaise. I entirely approve of that! Others sang the Chant du
Départ [a military ballad]. Quite satisfactory! Others again shouted
'Vive de Gaulle!' No objection. But some of them cried 'Death to
Giraud!' I don't approve of that at all."
Pro-Allied elements in
Algeria had agreed to support the Allied
landings, and in fact seized
Algiers on the night of 7–8 November;
the city was then occupied by Allied troops. However, resistance
Oran and Casablanca. Giraud flew to
Algiers on 9
November, but his attempt to assume command of French forces was
rebuffed; his broadcast directing French troops to cease resistance
and join the Allies was ignored. Instead, it appeared that Admiral
Darlan, who happened to be in Algiers, had real authority, and Giraud
quickly realized this. Despite the fact that Darlan was the de facto
head of the Vichy government, the Allies recognized him as head of
French forces in Africa, and on 10 November, after agreeing to a deal,
Darlan ordered the French forces to cease fire and join the Allies.
On 11 November, German forces occupied southern France. Negotiations
continued in Algiers, and by 13 November, Darlan was recognized as
high commissioner of French North and West Africa, while Giraud was
appointed commander of all French forces under Darlan.
All this took place without reference to the Free French organization
of De Gaulle, which had claimed to be the legitimate government of
France in exile.
Then on 24 December, Darlan was assassinated in mysterious
circumstances. On the afternoon of 24 December 1942, the admiral drove
to his offices at the Palais d'Été and was shot down at the door to
his bureau by a young man of 20, Bonnier de la Chapelle, a monarchist.
The young man was tried by court martial under Giraud's orders and
executed on the 26th. With the strong backing of the Allies,
especially Eisenhower, Giraud was elected to succeed Darlan.
Army of Africa leader
Giraud and de Gaulle during the
After Admiral Darlan's assassination, Giraud became his de facto
successor with Allied support. This occurred through a series of
consultations between Giraud and de Gaulle. De Gaulle wanted to pursue
a political position in
France and agreed to have Giraud as
commander-in-chief, as the more militarily qualified of the two.
Giraud took part in the
Casablanca conference, with Roosevelt,
Churchill and de Gaulle, in January 1943. Later, after very difficult
negotiations, Giraud agreed to suppress the racist laws, and to
liberate Vichy prisoners from the South Algerian concentration camps.
Henri Giraud and
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle then became co-presidents of the
Comité français de la Libération Nationale and Free French Forces.
Giraud wanted to lift all racial laws immediately; however, only the
Cremieux decree was immediately restored by General de Gaulle. De
Gaulle consolidated his political position at Giraud's expense because
he was more up to date with the political situation.
Following the Resistance uprising in Corsica on 11 September 1943,
Giraud sent an expedition, including two French destroyers, to help
the resistance movement without informing the Committee. This drew
more criticism from de Gaulle, and he lost the co-presidency in
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 10 March 1944
he received a telegram from
Winston Churchill offering Churchill's
sympathy for the death of Giraud's daughter who had been captured in
Tunisia, and carried off into Germany with her four children. On
28 August 1944, he survived an assassination attempt in Algeria.
On 2 June 1946, he was elected to the French Constituent Assembly as a
representative of the
Republican Party of Liberty
Republican Party of Liberty and helped to create
the constitution of the Fourth Republic. He remained a member of the
War Council and was decorated for his escape. He published two books,
Mes Evasions (My Escapes, 1946) and Un seul but, la victoire: Alger
1942-1944 (A Single Goal, Victory:
Algiers 1942–1944, 1949) about
Henri Giraud died in Dijon, France, on 11 March 1949.
Operation Kingpin (World War II)
^ (in French) Sa fiche sur le site de l'Assemblée nationale
^ a b c Frederick C. Painton, "Giraud's Brilliant Escape from a Nazi
Prison," Reader's Digest, Sept 1943, p. 39.
^ "Henri Giraud".
^ Bernin, Michel (1942-09-21). "Königstein Prison". Life.
p. 124. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
^ Price, G. Ward. Giraud and the African Scene
^ Stephen Harding, The Last Battle: When US and German soldiers joined
forces in the waning hours of
World War II
World War II in Europe, Da Capo Press,
2013; p. 53.
^ Murphy, Robert. Diplomat Among Warriors, pp. 115–122. New York:
^ Churchill, Winston. "The Second World War" Vol 3, "The Hinge of
Fate" pp 544. 1951
^ a b c Eisenhower, Dwight. Crusade In Europe, pp. 99–105,
107–110. New York: Doubleday, 1948.
^ Price, G. Ward. Giraud and the African Scene, p. 260. MacMillan. New
York, NY, 1944.
^ Churchill, Winston "The Second World War" Vol 3, "The Hinge of Fate"
pp 577. 1951.
^ Macmillan, Harold (1967). The Blast of War. Macmillan & Co Ltd.
^ Churchill, Winston (1952). The second World War. 5. Cassel & Co
Ltd. pp. Appendix C.
Ranfurly, Hermione, Countess of
Ranfurly, Hermione, Countess of (1995) To War With Whitaker: The
Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly, 1939–1945 Manderin
Paperbacks, 1994, ISBN 0-7493-1954-2, ISBN 978-0-7493-1954-0
Ward Price, G. (1944) Giraud and the African Scene, New York, NY:
MacMillan, 1944, p. 260.
ISNI: 0000 0001 0856 364X
BNF: cb341954368 (data)