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Marshal Petain & The Orleans Regime, Part One

by Raymond Speer

Author says: what if Marshall Petain continued the fight from Orleans? muses Raymond Speer. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

Calm Man Visits a Crisis The Year 1940

On June 14th,General Henri Phillippe Petain (pictured) replaced Paul Reynaud as the Premier of the Third French Republic. The eighty four year old H P Petain had won celebrity as the commander at Verdun who had thwarted a mutiny among his men by the allowance of vacation breaks and superior rations. He had done nothing since, but was still praised for the good sense he had shown in the last war.

Premier Paul Reynaud had leaped to the conclusion that Paris had to be evacuated on June 5 when Reynaud was told that German Panzer forces were roaming free in French territtory, unattached to their still fighting opposition. A believer in military analysis by newspaper headline, the Premier concluded that meant that France was finished.

General Weygand, supposedly commanding the defense of the capitol,announced to his civilian superiors that British infantry, tanks and airplanes were even then departing Paris. The British liason to the French Cabinet bitterly retorted that there were no such forces in retreat and Weygand's reproach was that the British were irresponsible with their military communications.

On June 8th,

General Charles de Gaulle (pictured) did his job and prepared an order by which France could withstand a seige by the German forces.

When de Gaulle telephoned Weygand, the senior general openly laughed at de Gaulle as if Weygand regarded further resistence to be a joke.

Weygand said that seventy percent of French industrial capacity would be lost to the Germans by week's end, and that North Africa was no more than seven poorly equipped Negro divisions.


On June 9th,Petain wrote Reynaud (pictured) and for the first time suggested asking the enemy about an armistice.

In a meeting later that day, Petain said that everything would have to be done anew if Paris was abandoned for any city in the South. When Charles de Gaulle arrived in Paris on the morning of June 10, 1940, he found that Weygand had moved his GHQ out of metro France. Premier Reynaud was calling up his Cabinet members as individuals more like he was planning a summer picnic than a new capitol.

The crucial moment was de Gaulle's realization that Petain's opinion was the key to what France could do next. The cynical Weygand had disillusioned everyone and had adjudged every military circumstance to be absolutely against France. But only in the previous day had Petain taken to uttering defeatist ideas aloud.

The story goes that de Gaulle fell to his knees before Petain and prefaced his speech with an apology for all the years of arrogance he had shown against Petain's agenda of consideration for soldiers. De Gaulle regretted that and hoped that the senior general would listen to him now. Further reasonable resistance was still an option and would be in the best interests of France. "As I finished, " de Gaulle summarized, "the Old Marshall nodded his head and told me that he had always heard I was persuasive. Having heard me out, he had learned my reputation was deserved".

On the evening of June 10, Italy abandoned neutrality and attacked France across its border with Italy. That aggression was repulsed by the local French command with no reference to the central French Government. Amazingly, Petain was in the car with Reynaud and deGaulle as the limousine drove to Orleans, the new capitol. (Weygand was in Briare, a suburb of Orleans to the East). By dawn, as the Premier and the Marshal went to their hotel rooms, de Gaulle was still busy organizing their communications exchange.

On June 11th,

Reynaud asked if Paris was going to be defended, or whether Weygand (pictured) would let it be an Open City that would be surrounded without a fight. Weygand's staffers answered both ways and not until June 13 did an official answer reach General Hering ---- Premier Paul Reynaud has decided on the Open City option.

The Open City decision was Reynaud's choice. Reynaud believed that the French Army was at its worst in an operation requiring expediency, and so he vetoed combat in and around Paris fearing a gigantic butcher's bill that would gut the City forever. On all other topics, he deferred to Marshal Petain and General de Gaulle.

An odd sideshow to history was the ill-considered British proposal that France rescind French sovereignty and join Great Britain in a Union Of Government. That suggestion had never been made by any Frenchmen and was backed with no sound thinking, causing men in Orleans to conclude the British had gone daft from desperation. De Gaulle sent Churchill and company away without an audience with Petain. "Had the Marshall heard that nonsense," said de Gaulle later, "it would only have disheartened him."

President Lebrun of the Third Republic signed the papers making Petain the new Premier of France on June 14 at 10 PM, following a day in which Reynaud's continuation in office was considered and re-considered.

Meanwhile, Weygand was ignored and replaced by Gen. Charles de Gaulle. Weygand had wasted his last day in office planning another retreat (that one to the provincial town of Vichy, where Weygand preferred the hotels and mineral water there.)


On June 17th, Marshall Petain (pictured) sat down at the microphones and announced that France stood confident "on our own soil" and would refuse "any degregation" that was incompatible with National Honor.

"Beloved though Paris is, we know that most of France is still free and we owe it to our brothers and sisters in occupied zones to maintain our national independence."


Author says this is my first installment in my Marshal Petain & The Orleans Regime.

Other Contemporary Stories

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Raymond Speer, Guest Historian of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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