Alphonse Juin

Alphonse Juin

Alphonse Juin, the son of a gendarme, was born in Algeria on 16th December 1888. While at St. Cyr he started a long friendship with Charles De Gaulle. A good student, Juin graduated first in his class at St. Cyr in 1912 and joined the 1st Regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs. He was sent to Morocco where he served under General Hubert Lyautey.

On the outbreak of the First World War Juin was sent to the Western Front and fought at the battle of the Marne in September 1914. He was later awarded the Legion d'Honneur for "courage and power of decision". The following year he suffered a serious arm wound at Champaign that kept him in hospital for eight months.

In December 1915 he was promoted to captain and took command of a company of tirailleurs. Despite taking part in several dangerous missions he survived and in February 1918 was nominated for staff courses.

Juin graduated from war college in 1921 and served in Tunisia and Morocco. He served under General Hubert Lyautey until he was replaced by General Henri-Philippe Petain. He now returned to France where he became a member of the Higher War Council in Paris.

In 1937 Juin was appointed as chief of staff to General Charles Nogues in Morocco. Promoted to brigadier general, he took command of the 15th Motorized Infantry Division soon after the outbreak of the Second World War.

When the German Army began its Western Offensive Juin and his troops moved into Belgium. After advancing 30 miles Juin engaged General Walther von Reichenau and the 6th Army. Forced to retreat he was pushed back to Valenciennes and then Lille. After running out of ammunition Juin was forced to surrender on 30th May 1940.

Juin was held at Koenigstein Castle until pressure from General Henri-Philippe Petain and General Maxime Weygand resulted in Adolf Hitler ordering his release. Juin was now appointed by Petain as commander of all French troops in Morocco. When the Germans forced Petain and his Vichy government to recall Weygand on 18th November 1941, Juin replaced him as commander of all land forces in North Africa.

In December 1941, Juin refused permission for the German Army to use ports, railroads and roads in Tunisia. However, he was overruled by Jean-Francois Darlan.

Juin was known for his anti-German feelings and when the Allies invaded North Africa on 8th November 1942 he used his influence to persuade Darlan to order a cease fire. Soon afterwards Juin was promoted to general and took over command of French forces fighting Germany in Tunisia and helped liberate Tunis on 13th May 1943.

In November 1943, Juin took command of Free French forces in Italy. The following month he relieved the 34th US Infantry Division at Monte Cassino, a hilltop site of a sixth-century Benedictine monastery. Defended by 15 German divisions the line was fortified with gun pits, concrete bunkers, turreted machine-gun emplacements, barbed-wire and minefields. In December 1943, the Allied suffered heavy loses while trying to capture the monastery.

On 18th May, 1944, Allied troops led Juin and General Wladyslaw Anders (Polish Corps) captured Monte Cassino. This opened a corridor for Allied troops and they reached Anzio on 24th May.

Juin and his French Corps then took part in the drive on Rome. After advancing through rugged hills, considered impassable to troops, Juin captured Sienna on 3rd July 1944. Juin favoured taking the troops through Ljubljana Gap into Austria. However, this would have violated the agreement made with Joseph Stalin at Teheran and Juin was forced to return to France where he took the top military position under General Charles De Gaulle.

After the war Juin served in Morocco (1947-51) and as commander-in-chief of NATO land forces in Europe (1952-56). He retired in October 1956 but controversially opposed the decision to grant Algerian independence in 1961. This resulted in him being removed from the Supreme Defence Council. Alphonse Juin died in Paris on 27th January 1967.