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Philippe Pétain

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Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain (24 April 1856 – 23 July 1951), generally known as Philippe Pétain (French: [fi.lip pe.tɛ̃]) or Marshal Pétain (Maréchal Pétain), was a French general who reached the distinction of Marshal of France, and was later Chief of State of Vichy France (Chef de l'État Français), from 1940 to 1944. Pétain, who was 84 years old in 1940, ranks as France's oldest head of state.

Because of his outstanding military leadership in World War I, particularly during the Battle of Verdun, he was viewed as a national hero in France. With the imminent fall of France in June 1940, Pétain was appointed Premier of France by President Lebrun at Bordeaux, and the Cabinet resolved to make peace 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. As the war progressed, the government at Vichy collaborated with the Germans, who in 1942 finally occupied the whole of metropolitan France because of the threat from North Africa. Pétain's actions during World War II resulted in his conviction and death sentence for treason, which was commuted to life imprisonment by his former protégé Charles de Gaulle. In modern France he is remembered as an ambiguous figure, while pétainisme is a derogatory term for certain reactionary policies.

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