75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris

75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris

The following excerpts are from an AP story released on August 26, 1944. It was the first eyewitness dispatch to come out of Paris at the time. It was passed by field censorship and transmitted by regular press channels.


by Don Whitehead

PARIS, AUG. 25, 1944 (AP) – Street fighting raged through the heart of Paris today as American and French columns drove into the city from the south amid a tumultuous welcome from hundreds of thousands of Parisians.

There was so much confusion and excitement over the entrance into the city that it is difficult to give a coherent account of the events that moved so swiftly, once the French armored column began rolling through the heavy morning fog that made vehicles looks like prehistoric monsters, appearing out of the swamps of creation.

But when the last enemy resistance crumbled at the gate to Paris, then this heart of France went mad-wildly, violently mad – with happiness.

All the emotions suppressed by four years of German domination surged through the people. The streets of the city, as we entered, were like a combined Mardi Gras, Fourth of July celebration, American Legion convention and New Year’s Eve in Times Square all packed into one.

French civilians with their hastily made American and French flags sing the "Star Spangled Banner" as they greet U.S. and Free French troops entering Paris, France, Aug. 25, 1944, after Allied liberation of the French capital from Nazi occupation in World War II. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)

Precious liquor, saved for the day of Paris’ freedom, is carried from a wine store and passed out to French troops, Maquis and jubilant civilians following the liberation of the French capital in Paris on August 25, 1944. (AP Photo/Weston Haynes)

A Parisian girl holds her hands high in the victory sign as American troops pass through Paris, August 25, 1944 on their way to the front after the French capital was liberated. (AP Photo/Richard Boyer)

Crowds of Parisians, mad with joy, stage a huge celebration marking its liberation from Nazi control, and honoring Gen. Charles De Gaulle with a mammoth parade, Aug. 27, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)

[…] at 9:57 a.m. my jeep rolled through the gates into Paris.

Never do I expect to see such scenes as I saw on the streets of Paris. There was only a narrow lane through which the armor could roll. Men and women cried with joy. They grabbed the arms and hands of soldiers and cheered until their voices were hoarse.

Men and women, old and young, and children stormed the jeep every time the column stopped and they were wild with emotion.

Crowds were banked from the center of the streets to the sidewalks in a colorful, cheering throng which stretched for miles. There seemed to be no end and apparently everyone in Paris except the Germans and collaborationists were standing there to cheer, shout, cry and leave themselves exhausted with happiness.

American soldiers who took part in the liberation of Paris halt their jeep to look at the Eiffel Tower on August 25, 1944, from which the Tricolor flies again. (AP Photo/John Downey)

A truck load of Parisians waving flags and carrying Vive De Gaulle banners drives through the streets of a madly rejoicing Paris, on August 28, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter Carroll)

French girls, joyous over the liberation of their beloved capital from the Germans, mob American soldiers as they entered the city with enthusiasm and gaiety in Paris on August 28, 1944. (AP Photo/Bert Brandt)

Gendarmes and F.F.I. seem to enjoy the task of holding back crowds of people as they throng the streets to see General Charles De Gaulle, Aug. 26, 1944. (AP Photo/Laurence Harris)

Thousands of Parisians jam the Place de l'Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the French capital, Aug. 26, 1944, to watch the big parade for Gen. Charles de Gaulle. Other civilians peer from windows and balconies. Allied flags are displayed throughout the square. Part of the City Hall is visible at extreme right. (AP Photo/Wartime Picture Pool/Peter J. Carroll)

Our column moved to a point one block from the Luxembourg. Then, from all sides burst machine-gun fire. From housetops and windows guns rattled. Machine guns of tanks opened up in reply. We leaped from the jeep and took cover behind a tank.

Jerry Beatson of Rockford, III., was beside me and leveled his carbine at the top of the building. The gun cracked in my ear.

“There’s one – up there,” he cried, and kept firing at the rooftop.

Bullets rattled on the streets and glanced off with ugly whines.

The crowds, which a few minutes before lined the streets, melted as if a blast from a furnace had hit a snowbank. Then the streets were terribly lonely and barren, except for armor with guns clattering.

My driver and I leaped into a jeep and raced back down the street, but another burst of machine-gun fire sent us diving for the curb. We felt bare and exposed there in the street.

Members of the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) shoot at German snipers from a window in Paris on August 26, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)

Crowds in a street run for shelter to get out of the line of German sniper fire in Paris on August 29, 1944. In foreground are two war photographers shooting this dramatic scene. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)

F.F.I resistance leaders crouched and ran from door to door, pointing to the rooftops and windows.

One Frenchman said there were many German snipers in civilian clothes.

Red Cross aid men dressed in white ran out of a doorway with a stretcher. A nurse in starched white followed them. They picked up a wounded man and laid him on a stretcher, while waving a Red Cross flag.

An F.F.I. member ran up to me and cried in English: “Give us arms and ammunition. We want guns and bullets. That’s all we ask. We’ll clean out these --.

“We haven’t enough ammunition and most of us have only pistols.”

Ahead of us, patriots crouched along the buildings and answered the enemy fire. Lying there, I felt lonely and lost in the city which all of us had dreamed of entering as a joyous occasion.

Parisians drop to the ground to duck sniper bullets, as firing starts at the Place de L’Hotel de Ville, in Paris, during liberation celebrations on August 26, 1944. City hall is in background, right. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)

Carrying a huge banner proclaiming the liberation of Paris, men of the Maqui march through the city’s streets in Paris on August 28, 1944. Their jubilitation was a bit hasty, however, for peace has not yet come to liberated Paris. Mopping up of snipers continues, with the job of restoring order in the French capital left to General De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

Through streets lined with madly cheering Parisians, General Charles de Gaulle made his parade from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de La Concorde on August 27, 1944. From every building flew the tricolor flag, the Union Jack, and the Stars and Stripes. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)

U.S. soldiers of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division march along the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe in the background, on Aug. 29, 1944, four days after the liberation of Paris, France. World War II began in September 1939 with Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland. He launched the Holocaust and history's most destructive war, leaving 17,000,000 soldiers and 60,000,000 civilians dead. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)

Peter J. Carroll's August 29, 1944 photo of the liberation of Paris was used as the basic design for the stamp, issued on September 28, 1945. The war planes were added to the design in tribute to the Air Force. (AP Corporate Archives)

High German officers, captured by French patriot forces in Paris, are marched through the streets of the French capital with their hands in the air, during the freeing of the city, Aug. 28, 1944. This is one of a series of the first originals from Paris. (AP Photo)

A German officer standing beside one of the columns of the Chamber of Deputies building, in Paris, France on August 30, 1944, holds white flag of truce as he negotiates surrender of German forces within the building with a French soldier carrying the Tricolor. Frenchman waits to hoist flag over the building, where one of the last armed clashes took place before the capital was cleared of the Germans. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)

General Charles De Gaulle salutes the Tricolor after placing his wreath on the Tomb of the French Unknown Soldier of the last war, at the Arc de Triomphe in the French capital in Paris on August 28, 1944. (AP Photo/Andrew Lopez)

Text from AP News story Allies Enter Paris, by Don Whitehead.

The AP Corporate Archives contributed to this blog.

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