Operation Maquis Blanc

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This was a French undertaking, after the defeat of the German forces in France, by ex-members of the Vichy French Milice Français to bring about a real ‘national revolution’ in opposition to an Allied ‘occupation’ of France or the establishment of a communist regime (1944).

In the autumn of 1944, the leaders of the Milice Français who had taken refuge in southern Germany, most notably in the Baden-Württemberg town of Sigmaringen near the headwaters of the Danube river, conceived a plan, with German support, to launch a clandestine campaign in France, starting with the establishment of an underground militia. The plan’s leadership looked for recruits in forced labour camps and among French prisoners with the intention of using this addition to their strength for parachute delivery into France of political agitators, better able to infiltrate than German agents, who would at the appropriate moment foment panic and prepare the ground for the creation of a larger-scale anti-Allied and anti-communist resistance movement.

The plan had the backing of Germany’s Abwehr intelligence apparatus, and this allowed the training of agents in German sabotage schools.

It seems likely that a few as two or at most five three-man teams were actually delivered by parachute into France, and documentation shows that two airdrops were made in the département of Corrèze, and the existence of a suggested ‘Maquis Blanc’ operation in the département of Loire remains to be proved.

During the night of 15 December 1944, in Corrèze, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber, which had been repaired after crash-landing and being seized by the Germans, flew low over the plateau of the Etangs de Clergoux to the area of Gimel and dropped 11 men into fields near Pouymans-Haut, Caux and Le Mons. During the following morning, the sight of unknown men walking along roads caught the attention of the local population, and a search soon found abandoned parachutes, weapons, clothing and a radio transmitter. It was quickly decided that the unknown men were German agents or militiamen planning to foment a coup, and the men were soon seized by the local resistance as the police warned the local population. At Corrèze railway station one of the militiaman committed suicide with a cyanide capsule, and another was arrested in the town of Clergoux. These and a number of arrested men were found to by carrying large amounts of money, and interrogation swiftly revealed that the men were all French and that their leader was a man named Louis Pasthier from the Haute-Vienne region.

On the night of 7 January 1945 there was an alert in the area near Lagraulière, which had been used for weapon drops in 1943, but on this occasion it was another captured US aeroplane, a Douglas C-47 Dakota, which dropped three men. With the alarm raised, the French army and the resistance despatched teams from Tulle and Brive to aid the local police and population in searching the entire area. The first agent to be found, in Lagraulière, was George Rouchouze, who had a large sum of money; the second agent was later arrested in the Haute-Vienne region, and the third was captured later.

Whatever its size and scope, it is clear that ‘Maquis Blanc’ was a total failure, and may well have been penetrated by Allied intelligence agencies who were therefore well placed to ensure that any agents delivered by the Germans were met by appropriate ‘welcoming committees’. These made no immediate arrests to avoid tipping off the Milice Français and Germans that their operation had been compromised.