André Jarrot, 90, Co-Leader of French Resistance Group
By Eric Page, , April 26, 2000
André Jarrot, a hero of the French Resistance against the occupying Germans in World War II who became a cabinet minister in the 1970's, died on Friday at his home in the Burgundy region of France. He was 90.
His death was announced by the office of President Jacques Chirac, who declared that Mr. Jarrot was a "legend in the Free French movement for his courage." He was repeatedly flown from Britain across the Channel and parachuted into occupied France on sabotage missions.
Gen. Charles de Gaulle awarded him the Cross of the Liberation and recalled that his brave deeds had "seriously harmed German industries on French soil."
A mechanic and electrician by trade, Mr. Jarrot was a co-leader of a group of saboteurs who had been trained in Britain, the Basset-Jarrot team, that carried out a mission called Armada I. The team parachuted into east-central France in August 1943, with the target of Le Creusot, an important industrial center. The products included armaments and railroad engines.
In an attempt to keep the German war effort from exploiting the center, 75 Allied warplanes bombed it in 1942. But they failed to inflict grave damage.
The Basset-Jarrot team fared better. It made its way to an electrical power center at Chalôn-sur-Saone, which was furnishing much power to Germany and 20 percent of its output to Le Creusot. One historian of the period, Jean-Louis Crêmieux-Brilhac, wrote that the team destroyed five transformers and five pylons. As a result, it "was paralyzed for six months," Mr. Crêmieux-Brilhac recounted.
On the same night, he wrote, other members of the group destroyed equipment that provided power to steel mills in Le Creusot, which is in a coal-mining region. That damage, he added, was "irreparable for the rest of the war."
Mr. Jarrot is also said to have helped organize escape routes that helped make it possible for 4,000 Allied airmen whose planes had been shot down and who had become prisoners of the Germans to escape.
A son of a railroad worker, he was born in Burgundy. Mr. Jarrot worked for a power and gas company and became a mechanic who specialized in heavy vehicles. He also took up motorcycle racing and was the French national champion in one motorcycle category in 1937.
In the summer of 1940, when France suffered its humiliating defeat, German soldiers captured Mr. Jarrot. But he broke free and made his way back to Burgundy by bicycle. It was there that he began organizing the escape routes. He also played a role in the secret dropping of consignments of weapons for the Resistance by Britain's Special Operations Executive. The Germans arrested him early in 1942, but let him go for lack of evidence.
Then he walked through the Pyrenees into Spain. After five months of internment there, he made his way to Britain.
He was also awarded American, British and Belgian decorations for his Resistance work.
His two brothers were also active in the Resistance but were captured by the Germans and sent to concentration camps. One was among many prisoners who were inadvertently killed just before the war's end, when the Royal Air Force mistakenly raided German prison vessels off the German coast.
After the war, Mr. Jarrot was a garage owner and became active in Gaullist politics. He was elected and re-elected to the French Parliament and also was a member of the European Parliament. He was Quality of Life Minister from 1974 to 1976 and was a member of the French Senate from 1986 to 1995.
He married Odette Boulanger in 1946, and they had two children.
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© 2000 by Neil Mishalov