Alain Le Ray, 96; World War II Resistance Leader

Associated Press
Friday, June 8, 2007

Alain Le Ray, 96, a World War II Resistance leader whose escape from a notorious Nazi prison forged his image and who later fought in colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria, died June 4, it was reported from Paris. No cause of death was disclosed.

The career officer was captured in June 1940 and, less than a year later, became the first to escape from the infamous Colditz prison in Germany. The Nazis had touted the prison as escape-proof, and his exploits were recounted in a 1976 book "Premiere a Colditz" -- "First in Colditz."

Back in France, Gen. Le Ray entered the Resistance. The expert mountain climber helped in an operation in the Alpine region of Vercors and became the first military chief of the Vercors network in May 1943.

Born Oct. 3, 1910, in Paris, Gen. Le Ray rose within the Resistance to commander of the French Forces of the Interior in the Alpine Isere region. In 1945, his forces moved to Mount-Cenis, where they forced the Germans from their last French mountain strongholds. He organized the liberation of the Isere area with Allied forces.

He later was named a lieutenant-colonel, taking part in the 1953-54 Indochina campaign.

From 1956 to 1958, Gen. Le Ray served as chief of staff of the paratrooper division in Algeria, the North African colony also waging an independence war. He then was named military attache in Bonn. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1961 and, a year later, was made commander of the 27th Alpin Division in Kabylia, Algeria.

He was named general in 1968, two years before retiring.

Survivors include his wife, Luce, the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning French writer Francois Mauriac.

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