Pétain, Henri Philippe

Pétain, Henri Philippe

(äNrē` fēlēp` pātăN`), 1856–1951, French army officer, head of state of the Vichy government (see under VichyVichy
, city (1990 pop. 28,048), Allier dept., central France, on the Allier River. Vichy's hot mineral springs made it one of the foremost spas in Europe, with a casino (now a convention center) and grand hotels.
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). In World War I he halted the Germans at VerdunVerdun
, town (1990 pop. 23,427), Meuse dept., NE France, in Lorraine, on the Meuse River. A strategic transportation center, Verdun has varied industries and is situated in an agricultural region.
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 (1916), thus becoming the most beloved French military hero of that conflict. In 1917 he was appointed French commander in chief and in 1918 was made a marshal. He later went to Morocco, where he brought the joint French and Spanish campaign against Abd el-KrimAbd el-Krim
, 1882?–1963, leader of the Rif tribes of Morocco, called in full Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi. An important figure in the administration of the Spanish Zone until 1920, he took up arms against Spanish rule.
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 to a successful conclusion (1926). He was briefly (1934) war minister in the cabinet of Gaston Doumergue. In 1939, Pétain was named ambassador to Spain after France had recognized the new regime under Francisco FrancoFranco, Francisco
, 1892–1975, Spanish general and caudillo [leader]. He became a general at the age of 32 after commanding the Spanish Foreign Legion in Morocco.
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, who had served under Pétain in Morocco.

In World War II, when France was on the brink of collapse, Premier Paul ReynaudReynaud, Paul
, 1878–1966, French statesman and lawyer. He held several cabinet posts, and after Nov., 1938, as minister of finance in the cabinet of Édouard Daladier, he pursued an extremely deflationary policy.
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 recalled (May, 1940) Pétain from Spain and made him vice premier in an effort to bolster French morale with the name of the hero of Verdun. Believing that the nation's defeat was inevitable after the collapse of its military forces, Pétain urged that France sue for an armistice, and on June 16 he succeeded Reynaud as premier. The armistice went into effect on June 25, and more than half of France was occupied by the Germans. On July 10, 1940, a rump parliament suspended the constitution of the Third Republic, and Pétain took office as "chief of state" at Vichy, in unoccupied France. The Vichy government was fascistic and authoritarian. Pétain sought to improve the lot of France and of French prisoners of war by collaborating "honorably" with Germany, but his popularity decreased as he yielded to harsh German demands and obtained little in return. In Apr., 1942, Pierre LavalLaval, Pierre
, 1883–1945, French politician. Elected (1914) to the chamber of deputies as a Socialist, he held various cabinet posts and in 1926 became a senator as an Independent, moving away from his leftist affiliations.
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 took power, and thereafter the marshal was chiefly a figurehead.

After the Allied invasion of France (June 6, 1944) Pétain was taken, allegedly against his will, to Germany. In 1945 he voluntarily returned to France to face treason charges. His trial (July–Aug., 1945), at which much contradictory evidence was heard, ended with conviction, a sentence of death, degradation, and loss of property. General de Gaullede Gaulle, Charles
, 1890–1970, French general and statesman, first president (1959–69) of the Fifth Republic. The World Wars

During World War I de Gaulle served with distinction until his capture in 1916. In The Army of the Future (1934, tr.
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, then provisional head of the French government, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment in a military fortress. Detained at first in the Pyrenees, Pétain was later transferred to the island of Yeu, where he died.


See biographies by R. M. Griffiths (1970) and C. Williams (2005); J. Roy, The Trial of Marshal Pétain (tr. 1968).

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Pétain, Henri Philippe


Born Apr. 24, 1856, in Cauchy-la-Tour, Pas-de-Calais; died July 23, 1951, in Port-Joinville, Ile d’Yeu, Vendée. French military and political figure.

Pétain graduated from the military school at St. Cyr in 1878 and began his career as an officer. He was promoted to general in World War I. During the war he commanded an infantry brigade, an army corps, and from June 1915 to April 1916 the French Second Army, which was fighting at Verdun. In May 1916 he was placed in command of the Army Group Center. He became chief of staff in April 1917 and commander in chief of the French Army (replacing General R. Nivelle) in May 1917. He was in charge of suppressing mutiny among the soldiers in 1917.

Pétain rose to the rank of marshal in November 1918. From 1920 to 1931 he served as deputy chairman of the Supreme Military Council and simultaneously from 1922 as inspector general of the army. He commanded the French forces that crushed the Moroccan uprising for national liberation in 1925-26. Pétain was minister of war from February to November 1934 and ambassador to Franco’s Spain in 1939-40. On May 17, 1940, he became deputy prime minister, and on June 16 prime minister. He carried out a profascist defeatist line. One June 22, 1940, he signed the Compiègne Armistice with fascist Germany.

On July 10, 1940, after the government moved to Vichy, the French National Assembly placed all authority in the hands of Pétain. This signaled the end of the Third Republic. From July 1940 to August 1944, Pétain was chief of state, as well as prime minister until April 1942, of the fascist Vichy regime. He presided over the abolition of democratic freedoms, the policy of cooperation with the fascist German occupying forces, and the persecution of French patriots. He was arrested in April 1945. In August he was condemned to death by the Supreme Court. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

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