Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque came from an old line of Picard nobility. He chose a career in the army and entered the French Military Academy at Saint-Cyr. He was an instructor and a staff officer during a three-year posting in Morocco (1926-1930).
He fought courageously in 1940, was wounded and captured but then escaped. He adopted the name Leclerc as a nom de guerre to protect his family, before joining General De Gaulle in London. He played a key role in rallying Cameroon to the Free French cause (26 August), then Gabon (12 November), also in capturing Fezzan from the Italians (1941-1942), and in the creation of the 2nd Armoured Division (2ème Division blindée) in Morocco (1943-1944).
With his division, he was responsible for the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, and then the liberation of Strasbourg on 23 November. His campaign came to an end at Berchtesgaden on 5 May 1945. Leclerc was appointed head of the French expeditionary force in the Far East and, acting for France, signed the Japanese surrender agreement on 2 September 1945. Appointed Inspector of Land Forces in North Africa, he died in an air crash on 28 November 1947.
In 1952, Leclerc was posthumously created a Marshal of France.