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Henry Philippe Petain’s Life

Henry Philippe Petain was born into a family of peasants in Cauchy-a-la-Tour on April 24, 1856. Petain played an important role in World War II and he is recognized for his achievements. He was known for being the head of the Vichy government by using military tactics. His whole life revolved around the military, trying to make it stronger.

At the age of twenty, Petain joined the French Army. He attended a military academy, St. Cyr, and graduated at the age of 31. He later became a teacher at the Ecole de Guerre Military School. There, he studied the Russo-Japanese War and thought of some military tactics that he would later use. He believed that a powerful defense would consist of an increased number of shots made with modern weapons that would cause the enemy to retreat. Many believed the opposite of his ideas, including Ferdinand Foch (Spartacus).

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At the beginning of World War I, Petain was near retirement but still fought in the war but only was a colonel of infantry. During the first couple of months, he began to advance very rapidly in rank. By the middle of 1915, he became a general of the Second Army. All of his soldiers trusted him because he seldom made mistakes. In February of 1916, Joseph Joffre ordered him to defend the fortress of Verdun. He stopped Germany’s attack that lasted six months. Petain directed the French armies in the offensives that later ended the war (Sacklunch).

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Many with higher power trusted his ideas of not waging an offensive war and started the construction of the Maginot Line during World War II. In May of 1940, Premier Paul Reynaud invited Petain to join the cabinet. Everyone wanted to hear what he had to say about the situation where the French Military had collapsed. He told the cabinet that it would be useless to resist and told them to sign an armistice. On June o16, 1940, the armistice was signed.

The French Government then moved to Vichy France, an area that was unoccupied. On July 10, 1940, Petain was voted power to construct a constitution. He then declared himself the head of the Vichy government and the head of the state. Petain was playing a game with Germany because he wanted to shield France until Germany’s defeat. He always tried to make deals with Adolf Hitler, but they never agreed. Hitler thought that Petain wasn’t able to make his demands (Spartacus).

Petain wanted a better France that was based on work, family, and fatherland. He also wanted to help defend Europe against Bolshevism. Petain was forced to do what Hitler wanted him to be sentence to death for treason and aiding the German Army. Instead he was sentenced to life in prison. He died on the isle of Yeu just off the Brittany coast on July 23, 1951 at the age of 95 (Gi.Grolier).

Henry Philippe Petain was honored as a national hero at the defense of Verdun and was remembered for being a great general, teacher, and for being the head of Vichy France. Soldiers looked up to him because he never threatened their lives by making unreasonable attacks during the war. He was a very important man.

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