Henri Philippe Petain Facts

Henri Philippe Petain Facts
Philippe Petain was a French career military officer and politician who is quite a controversial figure in world history. He was such an effective officer in World War I that he was promoted to Field Marshal toward the end of the war. He became a popular war hero in France in the interwar years, but when Germany conquered France in 1940 he decided to collaborate with the Nazi government. Petain became the head of state of the new Vichy government and actively worked with Germany on both the military front and domestically. After World War II, Petain was arrested by the French government and tried for treason and a number of other crimes. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but President de Gaulle commuted his sentence to life in prison, which is where he died on July 23, 1951 at the age of ninety-five.
Interesting Henri Philippe Petain Facts:
Petain was born Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain on April 25, 1856 in Cauchy-à-la-Tour, France to middle class family.
He married his wife, Eugenie, late in life, in 1920. The couple had no children.
He joined the French Army at the age of twenty and although he showed an aptitude for military doctrine and the art of war, he was often at odds with his superiors over those ideas.
Petain was fifty-eight and a colonel when World War I broke out in 1914.
He was quickly promoted to brigadier-general and requited himself quite well at the First Battle of the Marne.
After playing a major role in the defense of Verdun in 1916, he was nicknamed the "Lion of Verdun" and promoted to Commander-in-Chief.
Petain's military philosophy favored the use of overwhelming firepower, but eschewed costly frontal attacks.
He led a military campaign against desert tribes in Morocco between the wars.
Petain played a major role in the construction of the Maginot Line in the 1920s and 1930s.
He served briefly as France's Minister of War between the wars, but stepped down due to frustration over the government's scaling down of the military.
While serving as France's ambassador to Spain, German forces invaded the Low Countries.
After the French Army was decimated by Germany, British Prime Minister urged Petain and the French to keep fighting the Germans with guerilla warfare. Petain then requested British troops but received none so he became set on signing a separate peace with Germany.
Once the new government in Vichy was installed, a "national revolution" was launched whereby resistance was outlawed and Jews were often persecuted.
When the Allies liberated France in 1944, Petain and other members of the Vichy government were exiled to Germany until the end of the war.
As Germany collapsed, Petain went to neutral Switzerland and could have received asylum in Spain, but instead returned to France to stand trial.
Many world leaders, including American President Harry Truman, requested that Petain be released, but to no avail.
Much like Napoleon 100 years earlier, Petain was imprisoned on a small island.
Petain's health rapidly diminished while he was in prison. He suffered from dementia and was released to private home to die.


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