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Marie-Pierre Kœnig
General Kœnig (holding baton) poses with Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder in Paris, 1944
Born 10 October 1898 (1898-10-10)
Died 2 September 1970 (1970-09-03) (aged 71)
Place of birth Caen, Calvados, France
Place of death Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Allegiance  Free France
Years of service 1917–1951
Rank General (1941), Posthumously raised to Marshal of France by Commander-In-Chief (President) François Mitterrand (1984)
Commands held First Free French Brigade, French Forces of the Interior
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Marshal of France
Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
Companion of the Liberation
Croix de Guerre 1914–1918
Croix de Guerre 1939–1945
Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures
Médaille de la Résistance
Médaille coloniale
Croix du combattant
Distinguished Service Order (UK)
Companion of the Order of the Bath (UK)
Grand Cross of the Order of George I (Greece)

Marie-Pierre Kœnig (French pronunciation: ​[maʁi pjɛʁ køniɡ]; 10 October 1898 – 2 September 1970) was a French army officer and politician. He commanded a Free French Brigade at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in North Africa in 1942.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Marie-Pierre Kœnig was born on 10 October 1898, in Caen, Calvados.

Military career[edit | edit source]

He fought in the French Army during World War I and served with distinction. After the war, he served with French forces in Morocco and Cameroon.

World War 2[edit | edit source]

When World War II broke out, Kœnig returned to France. In 1940, he was assigned as a captain with the French troops in Norway, for which he was later awarded the Krigskorset med Sverd or Norwegian War Cross with Sword, in 1942. After the fall of France, he escaped to England from Brittany.

In London, Kœnig joined General Charles de Gaulle and was promoted to colonel. He became chief of staff in the first divisions of the Free French Forces. In 1941, he served in the campaigns in Syria and Lebanon. He was later promoted to general and took command of the First French Brigade in Egypt. His unit of 3700 men held ground against five Axis divisions for 16 days at the Battle of Bir Hakeim until they were ordered to evacuate on 11 June 1942. General de Gaulle said to Kœnig: "Hear and tell your troops: the whole of France is watching you, you are our pride."[1]

Later, Kœnig served as the Free French delegate to the Allied headquarters under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1944, he was given command of the Free French who participated in the Invasion of Normandy. Kœnig also served as a military advisor to de Gaulle. In June 1944, he was given command of the French Forces of the Interior to unify various French Resistance groups under de Gaulle's control. Under his command, the FFI stopped range battle in the Maquis, preferring sabotage waged in support of the invasion army. Important in D-Day, the role of the FFI became decisive in the battle for Normandy and in the landing in Provence of the US Seventh Army and French Army B. On 21 August 1944, de Gaulle appointed Kœnig military governor of Paris to restore law and order. In 1945, he was sent to arrest Philippe Pétain, who had taken refuge in Germany, but who gave himself up at the frontier with Switzerland.[2]

Cold War[edit | edit source]

After the war, Kœnig was commander of the French army in the French occupation zone of Germany from 1945 to 1949. In 1949, he became inspector general in North Africa and in 1950 vice-president of the Supreme War Council. In 1951, after his retirement, he was elected as Gaullist representative to the French National Assembly and briefly served as a minister of defence under Pierre Mendès-France (1954) and Edgar Faure (1955).[3]

He gave his support to the new State of Israel as president of the Franco-Israeli Committee (Comité franco-israélien).[3]

Marie-Pierre Kœnig died on 2 September 1970, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and was buried at Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. In 1984, he was posthumously declared Marshal of France. He was awarded a large number of military honours and decorations during his career, including the British Distinguished Service Order, and appointment as Companion of the Order of the Bath.[3]

In addition to memorials in France, there are streets named after him in Jerusalem and in Netanya, Israel.

Honours and awards[edit | edit source]

(From the equivalent French Wikipedia article)

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. «Sachez et dites à vos troupes que toute la France vous regarde et que vous êtes son orgueil.»[citation needed]
  2. Time Magazine, 1945
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Pierre Koenig, Order of the Liberation website. (French) Accessed 3 January 2012.

External links[edit | edit source]

Political offices
Preceded by
René Pleven
Minister of National Defense
19 June – 14 August 1954
Succeeded by
Emmanuel Temple
Preceded by
Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury
Minister of National Defense
23 February – 6 October 1955
Succeeded by
Pierre Bilotte

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