Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France


Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France

The second world war witnessed vast scale destruction to life and property. It also marked the end of imperialism and graveled the way for democracy and independence of countries in Europe. The war saw some fascinating leaders among the great ones. One of them was Philippe Petain. His life progressed from a war hero to a traitor.

Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France
Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France

Philippe Petain Early Life And Military Career  

Phillipe Petain was born in 1956 in a family with a rich legacy of serving France in the military. His grandfather had remained a veteran of many wars and inspired him to serve in the French army. He graduated from the Army Academy in 1876 and joined the military as a general officer. His role was confined to garrisons and administration, and he progressed from general officer to colonel at the age of 58 before the first world war. His gallantry was evident when he led an infantry unit in the battle of Verdun against the Germans that won him honor for his remarkable deeds. He was one of the best wartime strategists and was made commander in chief during the war.

Post World War 1 

The French government bestowed Petain with the highest honor “Marshal ” for his contribution to world war I. 

Petain retired, but only to return as supreme commander of armed forces when the French were having difficulties in combating liberal forces in their colonies. Also, the rise of fascism and nazism did not bode well for the future. 

Petain was an excellent strategist, but his ideas were rejected by the French government on account of huge expenditures spend on the military. 

Petain saw the need to increase air capability to counter the threat. He became minister of war in 1935 and continued to serve with enthusiasm with limited resources. By now, the French were too keen on defending territories rather than expanding their colonies. 

Glory And Informal Exit Of Philippe Petain

It was the real test of Petain’s character when Germany invaded France in 1939. The French policy was to defend and follow diplomacy to end the war. The Germans were cruel in their offensive approach. The French with limited resources had to depend on British forces, but that did not happen. Lastly, the French government had to sign an armistice with Germans. Though Britain supported the new French army led by de-Gaulle to fight against Germans. 

Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France
Philippe Petain: The Marshal Of France

The French government was uncertain of both Britain’s and German military tactics. Cabinet decided to sign the armistice treaty with Germany. 

Petain became the chief head of states at the age of 84. He adopted an aggressive policy that was dictatorial. Petain suppressed democratic voices and arrested communists.

He became a figurehead controlled by Adolf Hitler. Petain was in power till 1944, before Germans were forced to leave France. 

Trial

Petain was accused of war crimes in cohorts with Germans and was sentenced to death. But a pardon appeal to the president for commuting the sentences yielded response. The president changed the death sentence to life imprisonment, considering his massive contribution to world war I. He passed away in 1951 at the age of 95.

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