Alsace, 1945

In autumn 1944 and winter 1945, Pierre followed the French 1st Army, which liberated among other places Alsace and the area surrounding Belfort, in the East of France near the German border. He documented especially the "Colmar pocket" battle, one of the bloodiest weeks of the Liberation, where he was wounded.

Photos are shared here with his own captions and additional research. Based on the order of his catalogue, Pierre visited the following towns and villages in this order:

  1. Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
  2. Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines pass (col de Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines)
  3. Ribeauvillé
  4. Strasbourg
  5. Saverne
  6. Urbeis
  7. Belfort
  8. Ranspach
  9. Mollau
  10. Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines pass (col de Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines)
  11. Mittelwihr
  12. Riquewihr
  13. Kientzheim
  14. Kaysersberg-Vignoble
  15. Illhaeusern
  16. Ried mill (Moulin du Ried)

Not the most sensical geographical order but so is war. Photos end at the famed and devastating Ried Mill battle, where Pierre was wounded. He received a Croix de Guerre with silver star commendation for his bravery in documenting the war.

"General de Lattre de Tassigny, commanding the First French Army, cites to the order of the division Mr Roughol Pierre - War correspondent. Photoreporter and journalist, renowed for his spirit and dynamism. Soon after his return from a concentration camp in Germany, took part in the Paris insurrection in August 1944, then immediately joined the French First Army, which he never ceased to accompany into battle. Always a volunteer to go into the most exposed areas, caught on multiple occasions under heavy gun and artillery fire, wounded while at the head of the 13th Demi-brigade of the Foreign Legion during the attack on the Ried Mill, on the second day of the battle of Colmar (note: probably 23 or 24 January 1945), and refused to be evacuated to attempt to finish his photo reportage. Immediately upon his release from hospital, resumed his position among the combattants until German capitulation. The present citation grants the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star." Signed G de Lattre 31 may 1945.


B1. Saint Dié



B8. Ribeauvillé
C1. French proclamation in the streets of Ribeauvillé. Note: The top German sign says "Loots will be shot on sight. The later French proclamation is signed by General de Lattre de Tassigny, heading the French First Army. It announces the people's liberation and acknowledges the sons of Alsace forced to fight in a German uniform. Proclamation française dans les rues de Ribeauvillé. 
C2. No caption


D11. Shopkeepers rush to restore French signing. (Note: possibly in Saverne, which is the label on the next frame, a missing negative.) Les commerçants s’empressent de rétablir les inscriptions françaises. (Note: Peut-être à Saverne, la légende de la prise de vue suivante, dont le négatif a disparu.)


E11. A German monument to the WWI dead, which must have been built during the occupation. It reads: "1914-1918 Unsern Helden. Ihr habt Sie dem Deutschen Volk erzogen. Sie haben euch nicht betrogen." 1914-1918 Our heroes. You have raised them, the German people. They have not betrayed you. Un monument aux morts allemands de la Première guerre, sans doute construit pendant l'occupation. "Vous avez élevé le peuple allemand. Il ne vous a pas trahi."
F2. French soldiers have just arrived. Residents hoist the flag. Les soldats français viennent d’arriver. Les habitants pavoisent


I9. General Devers with a tirailleur and the mascot


J3. What's left of a Hitler bust before a French command post. Ce qui reste d’un buste d’Hitler devant un P.C. français.
J4. A little souvenir. Petit souvenir 
J5. The mayor of Ranspach examines a German soldier's papers before he is buried. Le maire de Ranspach examine les papiers d’un soldat allemand avant qu’on l’enterre. 
J7. The Ranspach butcher welcomes the first French soldiers. Le boucher de Ranspach reçoit les premiers soldats français.
J8. Goumiers keep watch in a freshly liberated village. Les goumiers montent la garde dans le village fraîchement libéré 




L8. Fighting in the ruins of Mittelwihr. Combat dans les ruines de Mittelwihr. 


M5. Germans bomb Riquewihr. Les allemands bombardent Riquewihr.
M7. A section of the Legion. Une section de la Légion 
M11. Patrol. Patrouille.


N5. Tanks advance and check intersections... Les chars avancent et surveillent les carrefours... 
N6.... protected by infantery who drag a telephone wire. ...protégés par l’infanterie qui amène le téléphone. 


Ilhaeusern & moulin de Ried

R2. Ilhaeusern. German prisoners carry the wounded back into the ruined village. Ilhaeusern. Prisonniers allemands ramenant des blessés dans le village en ruine.
R4. A wounded Russian legionnaire lights a cigarette. Un soldat russe de la Légion, blessé, allume une cigarette.
T8. Infantery leaps forward. Bond de l’infanterie.
T12. The wounded in hospital. (Note: Pierre's last frame on this particular trip, probably taken from his own stretcher as he too was wounded in the battle.) A l’hôpital les blessés. (Note: La dernière prise de vue sur ce reportage, sans doute prise de son propre brancard, car Pierre fut lui aussi blessé au moulin du Ried.)