French forces during WW2 (1941-1945)
- Published: 26 January 2011 26 January 2011
- Last Updated: 07 April 2012 07 April 2012
Part I - French forces on the Axis side
A. the REQUISITIONED troops (forced men)
1. The "malgré nous", French men from Alsace and Lorraine, integrated in the Heer and the Waffen SS as Volksdeutsche (140000 men).
2. In the Todt organisation (150000 men).
3. 25000 requisitioned civilians working on the docks and for maintenance of the Kriegsmarine installations.
4. Many thousands workers in factories in Germany : POW and members of the STO (service du travail obligatoire = obligatory work service).
B. VOLUNTEERS for political reason (mainly to fight against bolshevism) in different organizations : (a total of about 45000 volunteer men in military uniform).
1. The LVF (= légion des volontaires français) = Französiches IR 638 (1941-1943).
6249 men engaged in this unit
It fought very well during the battle for Moscow (very high losses), then reconstituted and mainly issued to anti-partisans warfare.
2. La Phalange Africaine (1942- 1943).
= company Frankonia, 2nd Battalion, 754. PzG Rgt, 334. PzG Division, 5. Panzerarmee (von Arnim).
A company of 212 French European men.
Engaged the 14, 16, 17, 23 and 25th April 1943 in the Medjez-El-Bab area against British forces (78th infantry division). Only 64 survivors (issued to LVF after that), 1 officer, 3 NCO and 1 soldier became the eiserne Kreuz.
The commanding officer has been beheaded by a New Zealand soldier.
3. NSKK Motorgruppe Luftwaffe (= Nationalsocialistische Kraftfahrkorps).
A Luftwaffe logictics unit (drivers, engineers).
2500 French men integrated since 21st July 1942 to form the 4th NSKK regiment.
NSKK Rgt 4 is first affected to the eastern front (Luftgau Rostov/Don) and then in the Balkans.
In 1943 it becomes NSKK Transport Brigade der Luftwaffe and is affected to France (logistics on the V1 launching sites) and then in Italia.
Often integrated in Kampfgruppe against partisans.
Served also in Danmark, Hungary and finally Austria.
4. Legion Speer.
about 500 French men, drivers for the Arbeitsamt.
5. 21. PzD.
The 2nd Werkstattkompanie (logistics, reparation) is composed of 230 French men.
6. Kriegsmarine (1943-1945).
3000 NCOs and men
served on ships and in coastal batteries as normal "Matrose" and "Gefreiter".
7. Kriegsmarinewerftpolizei "La Pallice" in La Rochelle and Kriegsmarinewehrmänner.
about 200 French men protecting the naval installations in La Rochelle.
Possible same kind of units in Saint Nazaire and Bordeaux.
8. Waffen SS (officially 1943-1945 but before for individual engagements and Volksdeutsche volunteers (Alsace, Lorraine citizens), difficult to identify because they are not registered as French in the German archives.
About 15000 to 20000 French men (difficult to know because of the "Volksdeutsche")
In "non French" divisions:
- in the Wiking division
- in the LAH
- at least 50 men in the Wallonie Division
- in the Das Reich division
- few men in the Götz von Berlichingen Division
- few men in the 29. Waffen Grenadier Division der SS (Italians SS)
In "French" units :
- Bezen Perrot = Bretonische Waffenverband der SS (80 men, formed in 1943), engaged in Bretagne against resistants (they wanted an independent region and fought against all French symbols), a symbolical unit.
- 8. Französiche SS-Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade (90% losses in Galicia and in the Carpates, 108 eiserne Kreuze)
- 33. Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS "Charlemagne" (Pomerania, 80% losses, and Berlin battle)
Not a single unit but a series of succeeding French volunteer units that fought in the German Army and later the Waffen-SS. The first unit was the LVF, or "Legion des Volontaires Français," followed by "La Legion Tricolore", which existed for just 6 months in 1942. By late 1943, the remaining French volunteers were inducted into the Waffen-SS Französische SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Regiment, later upgraded to the 8. Französiche SS-Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade. Though upgraded to divisional status in February 1945, this unit of French volunteers was rather understrength. They fought against the soviets from October 1944 to May 1945. 80% of the division had been destroyed in Pomerania, sacrificed in Körlin to allow other German units to retreat and they already had proven their Panzerknackers ability. The division had no single tank or armored car ... very few artillery (few medium mortars, two 150 mm howitzers and six 75 mm howitzers only), a handful of Pak38 and Pak40 and several 37 mm Flak guns. After Pomerania the unit is rebuilding in Neusterlitz and reaches about 1000 men. Due to the lack of trucks only about 400 men reached Berlin, and that just while Russians were closing the encirclement around them. The "Sturmbataillon" sent to Berlin was equipped at 80% with StG 44, often two MG42 per squad, many Panzerfäuste, Panzerschrecks and handgrenades. They were organized in 5 "companies" :
- Kampfschule (Weber)
- Company Michel
- Company Rostand
- Company Olliver
- Company Labourdette
They were among the very last defenders of Berlin with remnants of the Nordland division. These volunteers destroyed officially 62 Russian tanks with Panzerfäuste in 1 week. At least 20 eiserne Kreuze and 4 Ritterkreuze had been earned in Berlin.
Hauptstuf Fenet (RK)
Uscha Vaulot (destroyed 8 tanks) (RK)
Oscha Appolot (destroyed 6 tanks) (RK)
Ostuf Weber (destroyed 13 tanks) (RK)
Uscha Brunet (destroyed 4 tanks) (EK)
From the 400 men only 30 survived the battle. Several were executed by the Russians and later four by the French forces of general Leclerc.
9. The Todt organization.
about 2000 volunteers in the armed Schutzkommandos for the protection of the building sites. They also have been engaged in combat in Lettonia and Yugoslavia, probably against partisans.
10. The Technische Nothilfe (Teno).
11. One Pionnier Bataillon (provisory).
No unit designation, probably organized to repair the bridges across the Seine after allied bombings in 1944.
12. Hitlerjugend supervision in summer camps.
KLV = Kinderlandverschickung in the camps of Langenargen, Bad Reichenhall and on the Konstanz lake.
? men and women
13. Flak units (1943-1944).
Vichy forces but under the German command to help because of the lack of Flak protection and the increasing air attacks.
- 4850 men in listening posts and projectors units
- 2049 men in rail road and fixed Flak.
- 2 AA artillery groups (401 and 402) each with 6 batteries with 12 French 25mm AA gun each. The groups kept their French denominations. Battery 1/401 was in Argentan (Orne) and battery 2/401 was in Mézidon (Calvados).
14. Volontari Di Francia (1943 - 1944).
- In 1943 after the armistice signed between the allies and Badoglio, 150 French men with Italian origins (mainly from Paris) joined the RSI of Mussoloni
In March 1944 : the Longobardo Bataillon is formed with these 150 men. They receive the same formation and training as the San Marco units.
Integrated in the Decima Flottiglia MAS in July 1944.
Forms the 3rd company of the Fulmine bataillon (mainly anti-partisan warfare on the Yugoslavian border where many Tito's partisans are infiltrating).
19th January 1945 they fight against 2000 Tito's Partisans : 1 week battle, 86 KIA and 56 WIA ... but the infiltration is blocked thanks to reinforcements (several POW are decapitated by the partisans).
- Also 160 French men from the Nice area in the republican national guard (Blackshirts) = Guardia Nazionale Reppubblicana.
- 3 French men : Louis Marie Maurice Zeller, François Munoz and Alfred Gross used by the Abwehr since 1943. Under the command of Maurice Zeller a Frontaufklärungstrupp is organized against the French maquis/SAS in Saint Marcel (See Part II about the French SAS units).
They captured 1 officer + 2 NCO of the 2nd RCP. Then thanks to these uniforms they gathered information among the population and killed 7 other SAS (among them the commanding officer, Pierre Marienne) and 8 resistants. All 3 men have been executed on July 17, 1946.
- many special units depending from the Abwehr and later from the RSHA (Reichsicherheitshauptamt).
Albert Beugras aka "agent 30018" organized a spy network called "Atlas" in North Africa. Several of its members infiltrated the FFL forces that landed in Italia and Southern France.
Beugras directed also 6 sabotage schools during 1944 and 32 infiltration operations from Germany to France in late 1944. These infiltrations were conducted using allied captured planes (dakota, B17, B24). Classical airborne operations or using the PAG (Personen Abwerf Gerät), an airborne container with 3 men have been performed.
The captured allied planes were flown by KG200 and the "Olga" squadron.
95 men have been infiltrated but 86 were captured and 16 of them executed probably because a Free French spy was infiltrated in there !
16. Brandenburg Division.
In 1943, 180 French men formed the 8th company of the 3rd Regiment. Often Engaged in Southern France, imitating resistants (with captured radios) they captured many equipments/weapons deliveries and proceeded to many arrests.
This company has also been engaged against the resistance in the Vercors battle. They organized the glider attack usually said as being a Waffen-SS attack but the French witnesses have probably taken the "Brandenburg" arm patch for a SS marking.
17. German police units (about 10000 men in uniform + about 30000 civilian auxiliaries, not counted).
- Sicherheitspolizei = Sipo (? men).
- Sicherheitsdienst = Sipo-SD (? men).
- Selbstschutzpolizei = SSP : selfprotection police created during spring 1943 by Standartenführer SS Hermann Bickler (a French man from Alsace) in order to infiltrate the resistant organizations and to protect the collaborationist movements. About 5000 men.
- The "Jen d'Eclache" group : 30 armed men formed in 1943 and operationnal in the Dauphiné area and in Grenoble.
- The "mouvement anti-terroriste national" (in Lyon) : 150 men, formed in 1943 and attached to the Sipo-SD administration.
- In the city of Bordeaux, Friedrich Wilhelm Dohse managed to federate all the anti-communist movements against the resistance.
- the "Hauskapelle" (about 300 men formed by the French Brandenburg 8th Coy, created in 1944)
- Le Corps Franc Français (CFF) created in 1943, about 40 men
- La Phalange raciste, already existing end 1940.
+ not counted : the French Milicia from Darnand (Vichy government) but often used by the germans for military operations against the French resistants.
18. French North Africans.
They served in:
- Todt organization
- Brigade Nord Africaine (180 Muslims Algerians that were used as guards in the Peugeot factories of Socheaux). Originally founded by Mohamed Al Maadi, a very religious man hating jews, who met the great Mufti of Jerusalem in Berlin. They executed at least 50 French workers and are responsible for many rapes and plunderings. Almost destroyed during combats against partisans.
- Deutsche-Arabische Legion (January 1943) that became Deutsche Arabische Lehrverband and later 845. Bataillon der Wehrmacht (commander = Oberleutnant Meyer-Ricks). They served in Caucasus and against Tito's partisans.
- Sonderverband 287 (in Greece and Ukrainia) and 288 (In Tunisia), depending from the Abwehr and later integrated in the Wehrmacht as Panzergrenadier Regiment (mot.) "Afrika" (commander = Oberst Menton), in the 90. Leicht Division.
Part II - French forces on the Allied side
1. FFI (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur - French Forces of the Interior) - about 200000 men.
Several major engagements can be reported for the French resistance:
In February 1944, on this plateau, 450 maquis members under the command of officers from the 27th "chasseurs alpins" battalion, were besieged by 2000 French militiamen and police. Although they suffered from starvation and frigid conditions, they collected three parachute drops consisting of about three hundred containers packed with small arms (Sten submachine guns, Enfield rifles, Bren light machine guns, Mills grenades) and explosives. The Maquis' major handicap for military action was its lack of heavy weapons : the plateau of Glières battalion had only several old machine guns and two 81 mm light mortars.
After a bloody skirmish with the Vichy forces, the attackers failed to seize the plateau. The Vichy government agreed that the Germans would step in if the Vichy forces had not quickly reduced the open rebellion at Glières. On the 12th of March 1944, after the largest Allied parachute drop, the Germans started to bomb the area with ground attack aircraft. The French Militia staged several attacks, but they ended in failure. On the 23th of March, three battalions from the 157th Reserve Division of the Wehrmacht and two German police battalions, composed of about 5000 men with HMG, 80 mm mortars, 75 mm mountain guns, 150 mm howitzers and armored cars, concentrated for the assault.
Reason told the maquisards to withdraw while they still had time. Reason but not honor. With a verbal duel for several weeks between two talented radio announcers - one for the BBC and the other for Radio Paris (occupied)- word had seeped out of France, Britain and America that a great and glorious uprising had taken place in southeast France. Clearly, Glières had become an important element in the psychological warfare. To honor the French Resistance, Capt. Anjot, an experienced, thoughtful and impassive officer, would fight in the face of defeat, but his aim was to save most of his men's lives.
Finally, on the 26th of March 1944, after another air raid and shelling, the Germans took the offensive. They split their attacking parties into three KG and designated to each one specific target. Reconnaissance was carried out by ski patrols dressed in white camouflage. One of the patrols with a Gebirgsjäger platoon made an attack on the main exit to the plateau and captured an advanced post in the rear. Sustaining the attack from about 50 German soldiers, 18 maquisards fought and resisted into the night, but were outnumbered and overwhelmed. At 10 o'clock, Capt. Anjot thought honor had been satisfied and ordered the Glières battalion to retreat. In the days that followed, Capt. Anjot and almost all his officers as well as 200 maquisards had been killed in battle or, if taken prisoner, had been tortured, shot or deported. For the Germans, the maquisards were not regulars but terrorists.
In June 1944, 4000 maquis members concentrated on this plateau in the foolish aim to held it like a fortified area. First a German Gebirgsdivision couldn't defeat them but then, end of July another assault with about 15000 men, artillery support and the landing of gliders with Brandenburgers defeated the defenders who had no supply and no support.
The French resistants had lost the desperate battle but mobilized important German forces. More than 600 French were killed and a little more than 100 Germans too. In reprisal, several villages (573 houses) have been burned, 200 civilians killed and 40 deported.
LE MONT MOUCHET
On these mountains, 6000 maquisards delayed 2 German divisions supported by the Luftwaffe in June 1944. They were defeated (killed, captured or escaped) but the Germans lost about 1000 men and 10 Panzers. Once again the closest villages (Clavières , Auvers , Pinols , Dièges and Paulhac) have been destructed after the battle as a revenge.
In the night of 5 june 1944, 4 sticks of 4th SAS were dropped on north and south Brittany to prepare SAS bases ("Samwest", "Dingson", "Grog"), to take contact with local Resistance and established DZ and LZ for the Battalion. The mission of French SAS was to destroy all communication ways, to get ambushes and sabotages to prevent all enemies movements toward Normandy. These men were the first allied soldiers to come and fight in France for D-Day. This fact was a decision of General Montgomery. Immediately after his landing, a stick (Lt Marienne the commanding officer) was obliged to fight with a troop of Nazis (Ukrainians from Vlassov's army), and Corporal Bouétard was wounded and killed by a German NCO. It was the first allied soldier KIA in D-Day operation. One night after the D-Day, 18 French SAS teams known as "Cooney parties" were dropped on all parts of Brittany to accomplish sabotages on railways, roads etc.. in the way to cut all possibilities for enemy to go to Normandy beachhead. At this time in Brittany about 150000 enemies (Infantry, Paratroopers, Engineers, Artillery etc...) are ready to go on Normandy landing areas... Night after night, sticks of French SAS -4th Battalion- and containers were dropped in the area of St-Marcel (Morbihan)-"Baleine DZ" to accomplish ambushes and sabotages and all actions were successful. They assembled about 10000 French resistants to fight with them. The French SAS were never more than 450 men in that area. The 18th june in the villages of Saint-Marcel and Serent an epic fight was realized by 200 SAS, 4 armed jeeps and 2500 men of the French resistance (FFI) against more than 5000 Germans with 81mm mortars. Along the day, French resisted to the attacks helped in the afternoon by CAS provided by P47s from the USAF but at night they had to leave the battle area and get back in the maquis. During all July the SAS could realized many important missions in the way to stop and destroy the German forces. Several SAS jeeps raids took many prisoners.
In Alsace about 25% of the allied Forces are composed of French troops. And the now organized FFI (French Forces of the Interior) have been used as suppletive troops of the 1st French Army of General De Lattre. During Operation "Nordwind" an FFI battalion was almost destroyed but blocked the road of Strasbourg.
All these battle (except made of St Marcel and Strasbourg) were led in mountain areas, more easy to defend. These defeats would be transformed into a moral victory and give a boost to the French Resistance. Before and following the allied landings in June 1944, the French Resistance, developed into a strategic weapon, informed the Allies on the German defense, directed sabotage against war industries, supply depots, railroads, telecommunications, and delayed enemy road movements through guerrilla action.
However the German forces launched against the French resistant were second line troops (Osttruppen etc.) except some Waffen SS and Gebirgsjäger in the Glières. The actions of the FFI in the Normandy pockets has to be relativised because they had no heavy weapons, their task was mainly to occupy the liberated areas and retain german forces, the harbors of Lorient and St Nazaire for example surrendered only in 1945.
After the landings, the underground army of FFI (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur - French Forces of the Interior) created on 1st February 1944 and made up with the different resistance organizations, numbered about 200000 men. In June 1944, the French Resistance, developed into a strategic weapon, informed the Allies on the German defense, directed sabotage against war industries, supply depots, railroads, telecommunications, and delayed enemy road movements through guerrilla action and several times fought directly but with no heavy support. In august 1944, 80000 of them had the task to reduce some pockets in Normandy and they captured 20000 Germans. The French Forces of the Interior had "impressed Allied leaders as having made a substantial contribution to the defeat of the enemy" as recognized by De Gaulle, Churchill and Ike. The FFI participated to actively to the liberation of Paris and then integrated the forces to liberate France.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote: "Throughout France the Resistance had been of inestimable value in the campaign. Without their great assistance the liberation of France would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves."
2. FFL (Forces Françaises Libres - Free French Forces) - about 500000 men (560000 men on 1st September 1944 and 1 million men end 1944)
The FFL denomination for "Forces Françaises Libres" is in fact only used for the French volunteers until the 31st july 1943. After that, the term "Armée Française" (French Army) is officially used. In fact, since the 14th july 1942, the general De Gaulle employed the denomination "France Combattante" (Fighting France) for all the French troops participating to the liberation effort, including the resistance which gave rise to the FFI.
- in the army
- in the navy (10000 men in the Royal navy and on FFL vessels)
- in French air force but also in allied air forces (about 3500 men in the RAF and in the soviet air force) In the RAF there were about 150 French aces (= at least 5 confirmed kills) : Pierre Clostermann (33 kills), Marcel Albert (23 kills), Jean Demozay (21 kills) etc. In the Soviet Air Force there was the GC.3 "Normandie Niémen" Squadron (273 confirmed kills).
The French air force in 1943-1945 was composed of :
In UK :
- 4 fighter groups (Alsace -Sqn 341-, Ile-de-France -Sqn 340-, Cigognes -Sqn 329- and Berry -Sqn 345-)
- 3 bomber groups (Lorraine, Tunisie and Guyenne)
- 2 transport groups (Artois and Picardie)
In USSR :
- 1 fighter group (Normandie-Niemen -GC.3-)
Under US command in North Africa, Sicily, Corsica, France etc.
- 9 fighter groups (Nice -Sqn 326-, Corse -Sqn 327-, Provence -Sqn 328-, Roussillon, Champagne, Navarre, Lafayette, Dauphiné and Ardennes)
- 6 bomber groups (Bretagne, Maroc, Gascogne, Bourgogne, Sénégal and Franche-Comté)
- 1 reconnaissance group (Belfort)
- 1 transport group (Anjou)
French forces already fought on the allied side in 1940, and the battle of France is generally known only through the prism of caricatures, myths and generalization ... also often ignored the Free French involvements in 1941-1943.
On 18th June, 1940, General Charles De Gaulle broadcasted an appeal on BBC radio for French men and women to join him and the British in the fight against Nazi Germany. But, by the end of July 1940 only 7000 people had volunteered to join the Free French forces. The attacks by the RAF on the French Navy at Mers-El-Kebir and Dakar caused bitterness in France and did not encourage former members of the French Army to escape to Britain.
Many combats in North Africa from 1941 to 1943. Leclerc's column (ancestor of the 2e DB) took the Koufra oasis in Lybia to the Italians in 1941 and all the Fezzan area (SW Lybia) between March 1942 and January 1943. Leclerc’s force quickly crushed the Italian defense in southern Libya and marched 1500 miles north reaching Tripoli on January 23, 1943 just as the British arrived from Egypt. Leclerc placed himself under the command of Field Marshal Montgomery and his corps played a major role in the advance of the 8th Army on Tunisia. He was promoted to General de Division on May 5, 1943 and ordered to Morocco to form the 2e DB (2nd Armored Division). Free French soldiers participated in allied campaigns in Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia. General Koenig and its 1st DFL did particularly well against Afrika Korps in Bir Hakeim in June 1942. Free French forces also fought Italian troops in Eritrea and Ethiopia and faced French troops loyal to Vichy France in Syria and Lebanon.
I am absolutely sure that without the French forces the strategic outcome would have been the same, but I still think they played an important role in specific areas and I feel they are often ignored unlike other allied troops. Speaking only for example about the assault on the "European fortress" : while the French SAS, French commandos-marines and 2e DB arrived in Normandy I can hardly imagine the southern landing without French forces. They played also an important role in Italy with the other allies.
About 120000 French soldiers fought in Italy in 1943/1944 in the French CEFI (Corps Expéditionnaire Français en Italie) under the command of general Juin. The CEFI allowed to take Monte Cassino by piercing more south in the Monte Majo, a much more mountainous area but general Juin's Goumiers and their mule packs did it and broke the front where the Germans didn't expected them. They also opened the doors of Rome to the allied forces on 4th June 1944 after a series of battles : Garigliano, Pico ... In Italy they lost 7000 KIA, 30000 WIA and 42000 MIA.
In mid 1944, the Free French forces numbered about 500000 men. The French CEFI is used as basis to build the French 1st army under the command of general De Lattre De Tassigny. This army landed in Provence during Anvil/Dragoon. The French 1st Army liberated both of the large French Mediterranean harbors Toulon and Marseille. The French 1st Army participated in pushing the Germans out of France (liberation of Toulon, Marseille, Lyon, Villefranche and Autun etc.) and back to the Rhine and the Danube. This operation is generally not well known, probably because only 3 US divisions were involved in comparison to the 7-8 French divisions. The cities of Toulon and Marseille as it is the case for the Elba and Corsica islands were liberated by only French troops.
Toulon and Marseille fell to the allies on 28 August. They were soon handling more supplies than all the Normandy ports combined, and proved a logistical life-saver for the continued allied advance across France. Patch's 7th army linked up with Patton's 3rd army near Dijon on 11 September. The French 1st and US 7th armies were organized into the 6th army group under US general Devers (15 September), and served on the southern flank of the allied armies, advancing through Alsace-Lorraine into Germany and Austria by VE-day.
On the allied side during Anvil/Dragoon :
The Naval Western Task Force (Admiral Hewitt, USN) with 2120 ships including 359 combats and escort ships, 600 large transport ships and smaller vessels.
There were indeed only 34 French combats and escort ships including :
1x battleship : "Lorraine"
5x cruisers : "Duguay-Trouin", "Emile Bertin", "Fantasque", "Terrible" and "Malin"
5x torpedo boats
The MAAF (Mediterranean Allied Air Force) (General Ira Eaker, USAF) was composed of 19000 aircrafts.
The French air force participated only with :
6x fighter-bomber groups on P-47
4x bomber groups on B-26
1x reconnaissance group on P-38
The ground forces were composed of 3 US divisions (36th, 45th and 3rd infantry divisions + several small rangers and airborne units) and 7 divisions of the French 1st Army + not endivisionned units (Bataillon d'Afrique (commandos), Bataillon de Choc (commandos) etc.)
The 1st French Army was organized in 2 corps :
- 1st corps under the command of general Béthouart
- 2nd corps under the command of general De Goislard de Monsabert and they are composed of :
- 1e Division Française Libre (motorized infantry division)
- 2e division d'infanterie marocaine (infantry division)
- 3e division d'infanterie algérienne (infantry division)
- 4e division marocaine de montagne (mountain infantry division)
- 9e division d'infanterie coloniale (infantry division)
- 1e division blindée (armored division)
- 5e division blindée (armored division)
+ not endivisionned elements :
- Bataillon d'Afrique (commandos)
- Bataillon de Choc (commandos)
- Bataillon de France (commandos)
- Four GTM (groupements de tabors marocains) (infantry)
- 9e Régiment de Zouaves (infantry)
- 1e Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens (infantry)
- Two Chasseurs d'Afrique regiments (RCA) (armored regiments)
- Three Spahis regiments (recon armored regiments with armored cars and Stuarts)
- One Régiment Colonial de Chasseurs de Chars (armored regiment with tank destroyers)
- 2e Régiment de Dragons (armored regiment)
- 64e, 65e and 66e RAA (Régiment d'Artillerie d'Afrique = African artillery regiment)
- Régiment d'artillerie coloniale d'Afrique occidentale française
- Régiment d'artillerie coloniale du Levant
- Four engineer regiments and one bridging battalion
----> During late war several other divisions joined this Army :
- 27e division alpine (mountain infantry division) who played a role in the Alps in 1944 (formed on the basis of the former 1e division alpine).
- 3e division blindée (armored division) (created sooner but disbanded in September 1944 and recreated in 1945)
- 1e division d'infanterie
- 10e division d'infanterie
- 14e division d'infanterie
- 19e division d'infanterie
- 23e division d'infanterie
- 25e division d'infanterie
- 36e division d'infanterie
- 1e DCEO (Division Coloniale d'Extrême Orient)
- 2e DCEO (Division Coloniale d'Extrême Orient)
All the late infantry divisions for the most part comprised former FFI ("French Forces of the Interior") groups. These division served mostly in security, garrison and occupation roles. Except the alpine division which included many former "chasseurs alpins" and fought in the Alps in 1944/1945, the battle efficiency of new infantry divisions was rather low, the freshly enlisted men were not trained to the modern combined arms warfare and had to learn.
The French armored divisions were organized for combat like the US AD, in "combat commands" called GT (groupements tactiques) in French. The 2e DB was assigned to Patton’s American 3rd Army and landed in Normandy on July 23, 1944. The unit saw its first action in the effort to close the Falaise pocket and liberated Argentan on August 12th. The Free French 2e DB led the drive towards Alençon and Paris. The losses during the battle of Paris (with one US division) where followings :
Allied troops :
130 KIA, 319 WIA, 21 MIA
48 tanks, 4 guns
German troops :
3200 KIA, 12600 POW
74 tanks, 64 guns, 350 various vehicles
The 2e DB made junction with the 1st French Army on 12th September 1944. French SAS were involved for D-Day already on the 5 June and played an important role. The 177 French commandos-marines participated also long before the Normandy landing like the French SAS (see notes). During D-day these French commandos (troops n°1 and n°8 of the 4th Commando) landed at Sword Beach in front of Ouistreham and the strongpoint "Riva Bella". The French Commandos-Marines were used later in other operations, especially in the Netherlands. At Walcheren for example, the first assault was led by the troops of the 4 Cdo with the French commandos-marines. They landed in Vlissingen (uncle beach). 5 hours later the Royal Marines 41, 47, 48, a Dutch troop and a Norwegian troop landed at Westkapelle. After that came the battles in North East of France, especially in Alsace. Liberation of the Belfort area, and then in Alsace : Colmar pocket, liberation of Strasbourg and all the battles during operation Nordwind ... and then southern Germany and Austria. In the Vosges/Alsace battles (where about 25% of the allied forces were French) during 1944, French ground forces were the first reaching the Rhine (not crossing it) on 19th November 1944 and then they entered south Germany and Austria : Kehl, Karlsruhe, Neckar, Pforzheim, Tübingen, Stuttgart, Rottweil, Uberlingen, Sigmaringen, Bregenz, Bludenz ... They were also the first reaching and taking Berchtesgaden and the "Adler's nest" with the US 3rd ID. A battalion from the US 3rd ID was followed by the French 2nd Armored Division. The French were the first Allied troops into the Eagle's Nest at the top of Kehlstein mountain, followed by C/506th, and members of the 321st GFA battalion. There was no need for the late-arriving 101st airborne Easy company like in some movies. On 8th May 1945 the general de Lattre de Tassigny represented France during the capitulation of Germany.
During WW2 France lost about 253,000 KIA (92,000 alone during the 45 days of the 1940 campaign) and 390,000 civilians killed and of course numerous mutilated people. Among these civilians there were 67,000 deaths due to allied bombings. The USA for example suffered about 300,000 losses for a much bigger country.