Weygand, Maxime, born 21-01-1867, Brussels, Belgium of unknown parents. He was long suspected of being the illegitimate son of either Empress Carlota of Mexico (by General Alfred Van der Smissen); or of her brother Leopold II , King of the Belgians, and Leopold’s Polish mistress. Van der Smissen always seemed a likely candidate for Weygand’s father because of the striking resemblance between the two men. Weygand educated in France, he went in 1886 to Saint-Cyr, the French training school for officers, and graduated with high honours in 1888. He studied and then taught at the cavalry school at Saumur and, by 1914, had attracted the attention of Marshal Ferdinand Foch who made him his chief of staff. Syria. Foch died on 20-03-1929, age 77 in Paris. After reaching agreement for the armistice that ended World War I. This is Ferdinand Foch’s own railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne. Foch’s chief of staff Maxime Weygand is second from left. Third from the left is the senior British representative, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss. Foch is second from the right. On the right is Admiral George Hope.
Like de Gaulle, Weygand was an advocate of developing armored warfare capabilities within the French Army. Weygand became the army’s chief of staff on 03-01-1930, with his rival Gamelin as his own staff chief. Gamelin was slated to succeed Weygand as chief later on, with Weygand assuming the office of president of the Supreme War Council. Therefore, the little General was designated as the future wartime generalissimo of all French armies in the field for the expected war that was to come against a rearmed Germany.
Weygand was opposed to the French disarmament mania then current, and he favored tanks and a two-year draft. Elected to the French Academy in 1931, he was revered as a wonderful organizer. He also became obsessed with airplanes and arms limitations, yet worked well with War Minister Andre Maginot
and, indeed, supervised the building of the famed line of defensive fortifications named after Maginot.
In 1932 came military budget cuts under Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, who wanted Weygand out. During 1930-1935, there were 10 French war ministers under 16 separate governments in Paris and, gradually, the less dogmatic Gamelin came to the fore at Weygand’s political expense. On 02-01-1935, he edged out Weygand, both as generalissimo in time of war and on the Supreme Council, as well as in the offices of chief of staff and inspector general. Weygand retired from the army that same year.
On 20-05-1940, he was recalled to assume command of the armies when France was already being overrun by German forces. After suffering six broken bones in an air crash, Weygand left France on 09-10-1940. In 40 days, he flew all over North Africa visiting his new command sites. On 09-08-1941, Weygand was also named Governor General of Algeria. His efficiency led Hitler to call for his relief. He advised capitulation. In December 1941 he was put on a pension and retired to his country place at Grasse, near Cannes. After the Allied invasion of North Africa (1942) he sought to fly to Algiers but was caught by the Germans and imprisoned in an Austrian castle, Schloss Itter,
The Tyrolean prison included the politician Edouard Daladier and Léon Jouhaux, the secretary-general of the Confédération Générale du Travail – one of the largest trade unions in France, two generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin. But among the prisoners were also women like Marie-Agnès Cailliau, the sister of General Charles de Gaulle and Marie Renée Josephine Weygand, the wife of the General. SS captain Sebastian Wimmer was in charge of the Schloss and its prisoners, who had by now built a dreaded reputation as a notoriously cruel man. Under him was the Special Command Itter, which consisted of 15 members of the SS-TV unit of Dachau. But as it became clear that the Nazis were going to lose the war, Wimmer decided to flee in haste. His position was taken over by SS captain Kurt Siegfried Schrader.
Then for the first and only time, American forces, Company B, 23st Tank Battalion, under coimmand of captain John “Jack” Lee and the Germans Wehrmacht under command of Major Josef “Sepp”Gangl fought together against the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen” under command of SS-Oberführer Georg Bochmann and Sepp Gangl, age 34, lost his life in the process. Jack Lee survived the war and died 20-06-2010, age 82.
Weygand was released by these troops on 05-05-1945, flown to Paris, and again arrested at General Charles de Gaulle’s command. He was “rehabilitated” three years later, and Charles de Gaulle, in his memoirs, would later write, “when on 20-05-1940, Weygand had taken over the supreme command, it was too late, without any doubt, to win the battle of France.”
Death and burial ground of Weygand, Maxime.
After returning to France, he was held as a collaborator at the Val-de Grace but was released in May 1946 and cleared in 1948. General Weygand, fresh from Nazi captivity in 1945, chats with General Anthony McAuliffe, the hero of the defense of the Belgian town of Bastogne by troops of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
He died on 28-01-1965 in Paris at the age of 98, after breaking a thigh bone in a fall. He had married Marie-Renée the daughter of Brigadier General Viscount de Forsanz, of Brittany. They had a younger son Jacques.
Maxime Weygand is buried on the Cimetiere St-Charles, Morlaix, Departement du Finistère, Bretagne, France. Over 15,000 people attended his funeral, but Weygand was denied burial in the Hotel des Invalides near Napoleon I and Marshal Foch, another nasty swipe by then-president of France, Charles de Gaulle. In death as in life, therefore, Maxime Weygand, holder of the highest military orders of France, Belgium, England, the United States, and Morocco, stood at center stage in French martial politics.