Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Koenig, Marie Pierre Joseph François (1898–1970)

French army general who commanded the Free French Forces of the Interior (FFI). Born in Caen, Normandy, France, on 10 October 1898, Pierre Koenig volunteered for service in the army during World War I after obtaining his baccalaureate in 1917. He ended the war as a temporary second lieutenant with the Médaille Militaire.

After World War I, Koenig served with the French army of occupation in Germany. Promoted to lieutenant in 1920, he participated in the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 and then served with occupation forces in the Rhineland between 1923 and 1929. From 1931, Koenig served with the French Foreign Legion in Morocco. Promoted to captain in 1932, he participated in pacification campaigns.

With the start of World War II, Koenig departed Morocco in February 1940 and, as a major in the legion's demibrigade, fought in the Norway Campaign at Narvik. In June 1940, Koenig joined the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle and commanded a battalion, fighting Vichy French forces in Africa and the Middle East in 1940 and 1941. Koenig's advance was rapid. He made colonel in June 1941 and became chief of staff of the 1st Free French Division in the Sudan, taking part in the Syria and Lebanon Campaign. Promoted to temporary major general that August, he commanded the 1st Free French Brigade in Egypt.

Koenig won renown for leading this unit in the Battle of Bir Hacheim, a critical point in the British Eighth Army's defensive line against the Afrika Korps (Africa Corps). Koenig's men held Bir Hacheim from 27 May 1942, refusing to withdraw until ordered to do so on the night of 10–11 June. Their epic stand restored French military honor following the debacle of May–June 1940 and established the Free French as an effective fighting force.

Koenig then went to Algiers, where he was promoted to lieutenant general in May 1943. That July, he became deputy chief of staff of the French army. In April 1944, he was named commander of Free French Forces in Britain. On 25 June, he was promoted to full general, and as a member of General Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff, he took command of Free French Forces of the Interior following the Normandy Invasion. The FFI made a substantial contribution to Allied success by disrupting German lines of communication and tying down German military assets in Brittany and elsewhere.

In August 1944, Koenig became military governor of Paris. Between 1945 and 1949, he commanded the French zone of occupation in Germany, and he was promoted to General of the Army in 1946. He retired from the army in 1951 and was elected as a Gaullist deputy to the National Assembly. He served as minister of defense in 1954 and 1955 but resigned in opposition to the government's policy toward Morocco. Retiring from politics in 1958, Koenig died in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris, on 2 September 1970. He was posthumously promoted to marshal in 1984.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
de Gaulle, Charles. The Complete War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle. 3 vols. Trans. Jonathan Griffin and Richard Howard. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.; Horne, Alistair. The French Army and Politics, 1870–1970. London: Macmillan, 1984.
 

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