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Philippe Pétain

11/07/194019/08/1944

Philippe Pétain

Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Pétain (24 April 1856 – 23 July 1951), generally known as Philippe Pétain, Marshal Pétain (Maréchal Pétain) and sometimes, The Old Marshal (Le Vieux Maréchal), was a French general officer who attained the position of Marshal of France at the end of World War I, during which he became known as The Lion of Verdun (Le Lion de Verdun). In collaboration with Nazi Germany, he then served as the Chief of State of Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. Pétain, who was 84 years old in 1940, ranks as France's oldest head of state.

During World War I, Pétain led the French Army to victory at the nine-month-long Battle of Verdun. After the failed Nivelle Offensive and subsequent mutinies he was appointed Commander-in-Chief and succeeded in repairing the army's confidence. Pétain remained in command for the rest of the war and emerged as a national hero. During the interwar period he was head of the peacetime French Army, commanded joint Franco-Spanish operations during the Rif War and served twice as a government minister. During this time he was known as Le Vieux Maréchal (The Old Marshal).

With the imminent Fall of France in June 1940 in World War II, Pétain was appointed President of the Ministerial Council by President Lebrun at Bordeaux, and the Cabinet resolved to sign an armistice agreement with Germany. The entire government subsequently moved briefly to Clermont-Ferrand, then to the spa town of Vichy in central France. His government voted to transform the discredited French Third Republic into the French State, an authoritarian regime that collaborated with the Axis. After Germany and Italy occupied and disarmed France in November 1942, Pétain became a puppet of the German military administration.

After the war, Pétain was tried and convicted for treason. He was originally sentenced to death, but due to his age and World War I service his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died in 1951.

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Published in 21/09/2020

Updated in 19/02/2021

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