“From Zero to Hero, Théodose Morel (Tom Morel),” by Karina Gonzalez of FIU
Throughout history, we often associated the champions of war through the generals who led the troops to victory. However, as history has shown, heroes appear in multiple forms- forms that do not necessarily need to be associated with higher ranking titles. One of the foremost examples of such heroes is Théodose Morel, also known as Tom Morel.
Retrieved from WWII Tom Morel
On the surface, Tom Morel was a military officer and French Resistance fighter during World War II. However, when diving deeper into the history and achievements of Tom Morel, it would be known that Tom Morel was responsible for leading the Maquis des Giléres, a Free Resistance group who fought against German occupation throughout 1940-1944.
Morel was born into a family of the Lyon bourgeoisie. His father was the son of a Lyon silk industrialist and his mother were from a family of Savoie jurists and soldiers. He was well schooled by the Lyon Jesuits where he was a Scout de France and patrol and moved towards a military career. At the Versailles private school of Sainte-Geneviève took the trial for the Saint-Cyr military academy, in which he enrolled in. On finishing in 1935 he was appointed sub-lieutenant and chose to be assigned to the 27th battalion de chasseurs alpins of Annecy.
Throughout May of 1939, Morel’s 27th battalion was stationed over the Italian border. However, in September 1939, while the battalion moved towards the Eastern front, the section commanded by newly promoted lieutenant remained guarding the Italian border. Soon after the Italians entered the war June of 1940, Morel distinguished himself in the battle of the Alps.
Morel’s battalion managed to decisively exploit the success of taking five prisoners the Italians had captured and seize important supplies. He was decorated with the croix de Guerre, a “French military decoration created in 1915 and 1939 to reward feats of bravery, either by individuals or groups, in the course of the two World Wars,” and obtained his first citation.
Shortly after, however, Morel became injured, but remained at the head of his section. Even injured, he continued to fight near the Petit-Saint-Bernard where his action forced the Italian troops to withdraw. He received a second citation, then was made Knight of the chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. He was still only 24 years old at the time.
Morel continued on to serve in the Army of the Armistice at Annecy under commandant Vallette d’Osia, where heparticipated in the sequestering of weapons and supplies. By 1941 he was appointed as an instructor at Saint-Cyr, which had moved to Aix-en-Provence in the zone libre. It was at this location where he began to encourage his pupils to join the French Resistance.
The French Resistance was a collection of individuals and organizations that fought against the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War. The Resistance consisted of both men and women who helped Allied soldiers and ran underground newspapers that provided intelligence information about enemy lines. The Resistance fighters consisted of all social class levels and ranged in age. The French Resistance had a crucial influence in helping the Allies to outcome in Western Europe – particularly paving the way to D-Day in June 1944. The French Resistance provided the Allies with fundamental knowledge reports as well as doing a gigantic measure of work to disturb the German stockpile and correspondence lines inside France.
France did not always see victory, however. The surrender of France in June 1940 left the French worried for their future. Many believed that the government had let both the people of France and France, itself, down. The obstruction development created to give the Allies insight, assault the Germans whenever the situation allows and to help the getaway of Allied aviators. Some groups within the Resistance were violent in nature, aiming to hurt or kill the German occupiers; these were known as maquis.
Théodose Morel’s actions throughout the duration of WW2 and the French Resistance that rose, were admirable. On one occasion, Morel organized a single military force against Vichy forces- German forces. A new flag was hoisted with the saying Vivre libre ou mourir, “Live free or die.” Morel declared that the location in which the flag was hoisted, that it was the first corner of France that was liberated from Nazi control.
The ongoing force of the Resistance against Nazi Germany continued throughout the 1940’s. However, even a few of the Resistance soldiers had their doubts when it came to the ongoing battles they faced. On one occasion there was a young man within Morel’s battalion who tried to desert the armed forces whilst taking equipment with him. The risk of the other soldiers and the action of stealing from the military base, led to the young man being condemned to death. However, even in such moments of despair, Morel sympathized with the young man- even while he was put to death.
As a leader of an armed force- especially one of the French Resistance- sympathy was not always looked upon. As a result of his sympathy, Morel’s battalion was replaced with another group by the head of the Milice.
Morel’s journey was cut short, however. By the age of 29, Tom Morel managed to serve as an impactful leader within the French Resistance. His bravery, however, led to his downfall.
By March 9th, seventy men led by Tom Morel crept down to the German-occupied valley and encircled a hotel in the village of Entremont. The men succeeded in entering the building and disarming some of the German-Nazis, but the commandant drew a revolver and shot Tom Morel through the heart. Humbert, Morel’s leading partner, instantly killed Lefèvre. But the revered leader of the maquis on the Plateau des Glières was dead.
Lieutenant Théodose Morel (1915-1944)
While Tom Morel was not responsible for the victory of France when it came to the German invasion throughout World War II, he was responsible for the individual battles that took place throughout the 1940’s. His victories were counted not only by the actual battles he won, but by the support he provided towards his men and other Resistance Fighters who struggled to see the possibility of France rising after the surrender that took place in the 1940’s.
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Maquis des glires, La Bataille. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://alain.cerri.free.fr/index4.html
MOREL, P. T. (n.d.). Promotion lieutenant Tom Morel 1987-1990. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20110831072636/https://tom-morel.dnsalias.net/
Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ordredelaliberation.fr/fr