The enemy intends to take Paris and to annihilate all the forces of Army Group B which are between the Lower Seine, the sea and the area round Argentan. We must reckon with strong pressure on Paris and the West Bank of the Lower Seine northwards … It is the most important Task of C-in-C West to hold a bridgehead W. of Paris, and S. of Paris to prevent a thrust by the enemy through between the Seine and the Loire in the direction of Dijon.
Führer order, OKW Ops. Staff/Ops No. 772956/44, 20 August 1944
Paris: Heavy fighting was reported in the University Quarter and at the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est on the 22nd.
Seekriegsleitung War Diary, 23 August 1944
… the Führer has ordered:
The defence of the Paris bridgehead is of decisive military and political significance …
Inside the town the sharpest measures must be taken against the first sign of insurrection. For example, blowing up of blocks of houses, public execution of ringleaders, evacuation of the quarter of the city affected, as such measures afford the best means of preventing the trouble from spreading … Never, or at any rate only as a heap of rubble, must Paris fall into the hands of the enemy.
Army Group B, 09.00 hrs. 23 August 1944
Defence ring Paris, no changes. In Paris yesterday there was fighting in the University Quarter, Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est. Terrorists in the Louvre, dug in with machine guns. The Grand Palais is on fire. Transport rendered difficult.
Gruppe West, evening 23 August 1944
At 14.05 hrs. (GMT+2) on 23 August Ob. West (Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model) called Army Group B with the news that the Führer had ordered a Luftwaffe attack on Paris “to annihiliate those parts of the city which are in a state of insurrection” but this was not acted on, only to be reiterated two days later (see below). All that Luftflotte 3 announed on the afternoon of the 24th was that a single aircraft from Transportfliegerführer 1 (quite possibly an He 111 of KG 53) would drop leaflets on Paris overnight while the bomber force. Army Group B and 5. Panzer Armee were told that the bombers’ assignments were an attack on troop assemblies in the Seine loop NW of Mantes (where the Americans had crossed the Seine at 19.30 hrs. (by II. and III./KG 51) and one on Évreux at 21.15 hrs. by the medium bombers. The latter city had been liberated by the Allies a day earlier (and bombed by them eight days before that). In the event, bad weather meant that no attacks took place.
In Paris the terrorist movement has captured the entire city. Up until now, resistance flaring up locally has been bloodily repulsed.
Seekriegsleitung War Diary, 24 August 1944
It was on the evening of the 24th that the first Free French troops entered Paris, securing the surrender of the German commander, Gen. von Choltitz, after fighting the following day. On the 25th Choltitz’s superior, Model, was apparently unaware of the situation, planning a relieving attack to allow friendly forces to escape the city and join a defence line being established to the east. Model’s midday situation report for 25 August noted that: “enemy attacking our strongpoints in Paris with artillery and infantry. Fighting taking place everywhere. Three calls for surrender rejected.” Two hours later he relayed orders from the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces:
With regard to the defence of Paris, OKW has ordered (my emphasis):
The Führer is sticking to his order of 23.8 for defence to the utmost. A defence using the heights behind Paris is impossible. Inside the city the first consideration is to at least hold open a secure East–West link and the greatest possible number of bridges. All the weapons suitable for street fighting current at the disposal of the Military Commandant, especially tanks and armoured vehicles are to be left for this task, even when they have been borrowed from other units. In due course the insurgency is to be constricted by drafting in security units and the deployment of special weapons (assault mortars and assault tanks) so that the parts of the city in revolt can be annihilated by committing the Luftwaffe (dropping HE and incendiary bombs).
Meanwhile, others were assessing developments inside the French capital:
The enemy pushed into central Paris as far as the Palais du Luxembourg with two armoured columns. Fierce fighitng in progress throughout the city with enemy troops and terrorists. Many fires reported.
Seekriegsleitung War Diary, 25 August 1944
They’re here! Capitaine Brionne of the Leclerc Division, in his tank “Romilly”, is the first Frenchman to reach the Hôtel de Ville.
Libération, 25 August 1944
At midday on Saturday the 26th, Ob. West reported that the situation in Paris was unclear since there had been no radio contact so far although the Panzer Lehr Division was attacking south west from Le Bourget to link up with the forces in the city. By the time of the evening report there was still no clarification beyond “surrounded strongpoints and pockets of resistance in combat with superior enemy.” Equally unclear is the basis for Model’s declaration on Saturday the 26th:
The enemy is spreading a false order from General von Choltitz [that] resistance in Paris is to be stopped. The order is false. All strong points will be held to the last.
continued on next page …
PART ONE OF FIVE
A much-expanded account of the raid mentioned in "Kampfflieger Volume 4".
© Nick Beale 2019–23