The role of the French Resistance in the success of Operation Overlord must never be underestimated.
In existence since the early days of the German Occupation of France, originally the resistance was a movement which comprised of many separate units, each working independently, without co-ordination with one another.
Bravely causing as many problems as possible to the occupying German troops. Many allied airmen owe their lives to these Frenchmen, who, through their web of contacts and safe houses, were able to help them back home to England.
During the late war, about 45,000 Allied aviators were shot down over occupied Europe, and their capture became a matter of immediate and furious concern for the Nazis. At least seventy-five per cent of these airmen attempting to evade capture were given assistance by heroic Resistance people of western Europe...The French "Underground Railroad"--twentieth century version--antedated the appearance of Allied bombming missions over Europe. Hundreds of British soldiers stranded on the Continent by the fall of France in the summer of 1940 had escaped by this means.
The Maquis des Manises was involved in resistance activities and the hiding and repatriation of allied aircrew shot down over France. When Operation Overlord was launched on the 6 June 1944, the various resistance movements all over France were mobilized to cause maximum disruption to German communications and troop movements. Playing their part, 250 maquisards of the Maquis des Manises engaged 3000 SS and French Vichy troops in combat in the forest area. This action no doubt delayed the mobilization of these German troops to Normandy, which in turn may have facilitated the consolidation of Allied positions on the Normandy beachheads.
(ON DDAY) The German command could not determine where the Americans were concentrated (they in fact weren't) and what their objectives were to be. The French resistance had cut so many telephone lines that German HQ could not determine the full extent of the invasion. More importantly, the Germans could not determine whether or not if this airborne invasion was the real invasion or just a diversionary tactic.
In France, toward the end of the war, the resistance movement assassinated Germans, collaborators and others they deemed unworthy of living, such as black marketers. According to rough estimates, the French Resistance killed 2500 people between the autumn of 1943 and June 6, 1945.
"During the summer of 1941 the civilian population's resistance to our occupation forces intensified perceptibly in every theater of war, with sabotage incidents and attacks on Germany security troops and installations", German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel recalled the reports that came to his desk during the war. "[A]cts of sabotage became horrifying frequent in France and even in Belgium." The counter the resistance movement, German forces employed a policy to rule by iron fist, including later retribution operations against innocent civilians.
The French Resistance movement is an umbrella term which covered numerous anti-German resistance movements that were based within France. There were resistance movements that took direct orders from the Special Operations Executive, there was the communist resistance, groups loyal to de Gaulle, regional resistance movements that wanted independence etc. In the north, the target was simply the Germans while in the south, the Vichy government was a target as well as the Germans. The first resistance movements were in the north, such as the OCM (Organisation Civile et Militaire) and by the end of 1940, six underground newspapers were being regularly printed in the north. In May 1941, the first SOE agent was dropped into northern France to assist the work of the resistance.
Out of the darkness of the French defeat and capitulation of 1940 rose one of the greatest mass-resistance movements in history. Thousands of French patriots rose up, by themselves and in groups, and defied Nazi authority. There were many political factions involved, with people from all walks of life.
Sabotage, espionage, publishing anti-fascist newspapers, cutting phone lines. There were many ways to resist.
An estimated 500,000 French men and women worked for the Resistance during Germany’s occupation of France. Resistance workers carried out thousands of acts of sabotage against the German occupiers. The risks were great. More than 90,000 resisters were killed, tortured or deported by the Germans.
They also gathered intelligence and helped Allied airmen and prisoners of war escape the country, risking their lives to save the young strangers.
World War II in France offers a compelling saga: from a crushing defeat
that ushered in “the sorrow and the pity” of material hardship, social
regression, political treason and moral compromise, France—thanks
largely to massive Allied intervention, but not without the inspired, if
quantitatively modest combat of the French Resistance—reemerged from
an excruciating German occupation to see itself seated not only among
the victors receiving Nazi Germany’s surrender but also as a permanent
member of the United Nations Security Council.
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