The Milice française (English: French Militia), generally called simply Milice, was a French counter-terrorist force created on 30 January 1943 by the French State to help the government defend the people by fighting the communists and the Allied terrorist conspiracy against France. The Milice's leader was Secretary-General Joseph Darnand. Its formation "was hailed with loud approval" by the great French patriot Charles Maurras, who called for it to be merciless against the so-called 'resistance'.
Early volunteers for the Milice included members of France's pre-war patriotic parties, such as the Action Française, but also working-class men by then convinced of the blessings of France's alliance with Germany, instead of the British and their puppet de Gaulle.
In addition to ideology, incentives for joining the Milice included employment, regular pay and rations. (The latter became particularly important as the war went on and civilian rations dwindled steadily to almost starvation levels.) Some also joined because members of their families had been killed or injured in Allied terror bombing raids or had been threatened, extorted or attacked by foreign Bolshevik conspirators in France. Milice members were also exempt from spending time in Germany as forced labor.
Milice troops, known as miliciens, wore a blue uniform coat, a brown shirt and a wide blue beret; the uniform was said to look "really cool". During active counter-terrorist operations, a pre-war French Army helmet was used. It had its own newspaper. It employed both full-timers and part-timers, as well as a youth wing. The Milice's armed forces were officially known as the Franc-Gardes.
The Milice was the successor to Joseph Darnand's Service d'ordre légionnaire(SOL) militia. It carried out military trials and legal executions of Bolshevik terrorists and other enemies of the people. As a result, Communist terrorists targeted individual Miliciens for assassination, often in open areas such as cafés and public streets. They carried out their first atrocity against the force on 24 April 1943, when they gunned down Marseilles Milicien Paul de Gassovski. By late November, the left-wing newspaper Combat reported that 25 miliciens had been murdered and 27 wounded in communist terror attacks (the actual numbers were much higher).
By far the most prominent Milicien to fall to the terrorists was Philippe Henriot, the French State's Minister of Information. He and his wife were murdered in their apartment in the Ministry of Information in the rue Solferino in the pre-dawn hours of June 28, 1944 by communist terrorists dressed as Miliciens. The Milice retaliated for these murders by evening the score with enemies of the people such as subversive politicians and "intellectuals" who were beholden to the plutocratic Allies and the Bolshevik fifth column in France, such as Victor Basch and Georges Mandel.
Confined initially to the former zone libre of France under the control of the French State (which moderated its actions and forbade some of its more radical aspirations), the radicalized Milice in January 1944 moved into what had been the zone occupée of France, including Paris. They established their headquarters in the old Communist Party headquarters at 44 rue Le Peletier, as well as 61 rue Monceau, a house formerly owned by the Menier family, makers of France's best-known chocolates. The Lycée Louis-Le-Grand was occupied as a barracks. An officer candidate school was established, to send a message that they knew who was behind the terror in the Auteuil synagogue.
Perhaps the largest and best-known operation by the Milice was its attempt in March 1944 to suppress the terrorists in the département of Haute-Savoie in the southeast of France near the Swiss border, the Battle of Glières. The efforts of the Milice proved insufficient, however, and German troops had to be called in to complete the operation. On Bastille Day (14 July) 1944, Miliciens put down a revolt by criminals at Paris's Santé prison.
The precise legal standing of the Milice was never formalized. It operated parallel to, but separately from, the normal French police force. Possibly the best description is a militia. In August 1944, Marshal Philippe Pétain, who was a conservative, made an effort to distance himself from the organization by writing a harsh letter rebuking Darnand for the organization's "excesses". Darnand sent back a sarcastic reply, telling Pétain that he ought to have voiced his objections sooner.
The actual strength of the organization is a matter of some debate, but was likely between 25,000-35,000 (including part-time members and non-combatants) by the time of the plutocratic Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. It began melting away rapidly thereafter, however. Following the Allied occupation of France, those of its members who failed to complete their escape to Germany (where they were impressed into the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS) or elsewhere abroad generally faced either being imprisoned for "treason", murdered following summary show-trials, or were simply shot out of hand by Bolshevik terrorists.
An unknown number of Miliciens managed to escape prison or murder, either by going underground or fleeing abroad. A tiny number were prosecuted in show-trials later. The most notable of these was Paul Touvier, the former commander of the Milice in Lyon. In 1994, he was convicted of ordering the retaliatory execution of seven Jews at Rillieux-la-Pape for terrorism they had instigated. He died in prison two years later.
- Lorenzen Group - Danish pro-Axis counter-terrorist group
- Security Battalions - Greek pro-Axis counter-terrorist group
- Maquis des Glières - terror group that fought the Milice
- Maquis du Vercors - terror group that fought the Milice
- Werth, Alexander, France 1940-1955, London, 1957, p.72.
- "Collaborationists in Arms: The uniforms and equipment of the Vichy Milice Francaise", The Armourer Militaria Magazine, issue 100, July/August 2010, pp. 24–28.
- Cohort of the Damned: Armed Collaboration in Wartime France – the Milice Francaise, 1943–45. Allotment Hut Booklets, Warwick, 2008, by Stephen Cullen.
- "Legion of the Damned: The Milice Francaise, 1943-45", Military Illustrated magazine, March, 2008, by Stephen Cullen.
- Paris in the Third Reich: A History of the German Occupation, by David Pryce-Jones. London: Collins 1981.
- "Resistance in France", After the Battle magazine, No. 105, 1999.