French Leader, General. He was born in Cauch-a-la-Tour, France. Philippe Petain joined the French Army and then attended the St Cyr Military School. He was a distinguished veteran of World War I and in particular the battle of Verdun. In the postwar years, Petain was promoted to Field Marshal, remaining active in military affairs. In Morocco, he brought the joint French/Spanish campaign against Abd el-krim to a conclusion, served briefly as war minster and then rewarded for his service by his appointment as ambassador to Spain, terminated by the start of the Second World War. Returning to France, now crumbling under the force of the Nazi invasion, was appointed vice-premier to boost morale of the French nation. Realizing defeat was at hand, he signed an armistice with the Nazis. Petain was given full powers and allowed to set up a puppet government in the unoccupied portion of France with its capital located in Vichy. It became known as the Vichy government and ruled with Nazi approval. Because of his age, Petain was soon replaced by his Deputy Pierre Laval. Petain remained as a figurehead. His government passed anti-Semitic laws, rounding up French, Spanish and Eastern European Jews for deportation to German concentration camps. Their factories turned out war goods for Nazi armies and the remnants of the French Navy were used to aid German forces. After the Allied invasion of France, Petain and other members of the Vichy cabinet fled to Switzerland. At War's end, he voluntarily returned to France to face pending treason charges. His trial ended with a conviction and a sentence of death, degradation, and loss of property. General de Gaulle, then provisional head of the newly liberated country commuted his sentence to life imprisonment due to his age. He was first detained in the Pyrenees waiting execution and later transferred to the prison on the island of Yeu, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he died at age 95 and was buried without fanfare.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
Alphonsine Berthe Eugénie Hardon Petain
1877–1962 (m. 1920)