François Darlan

François Darlan

François Darlan

This article is about a Vichy French officer during World War II. He was involved in Operation Torch.

Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan (Nérac, 7 August 1881 to Algiers, 24 December 1942) was a French admiral and collaborator in Vichy France.

Darlan studied from 1899 to 1901 at the École Navale. He was an expert in ballistics in 1912 and was an instructor at the training ship Jeanne d’Arc. During the First World War, he commanded a battery of naval forces in several different fronts. After the war, he remained in the Navy in 1929 as contre-admiral and in 1932 as vice-admiral. Between 1926 and 1936, he was the private secretary to the Minister of Marine, Georges Leygues and then he commanded a squadron Atlantic. Darlan was promoted to admiral in 1936 and in 1937 to Chief of Staff of the Navy. On 6 June, 1939, he was promoted to “Admiral de la flotte” and had command of the entire French fleet.

When Paris was occupied in June 1940, Darlan Marshal was one of those stood behind Philippe Pétain. Darlan was rewarded with maintaining his position as Minister of Marine and quickly demanded the departure of the majority of the French fleet to French North Africa. Despite assurances from Admiral Darlan, the British feared that the fleet would fall into German hands, and on 3 July, 1940 resulting in the attack on Mers-el-Kebir by the Royal Navy with about 1,300 Frenchmen were killed. Darlan had a dislike of parliamentarism and Britain.

Darlan replaced in February 1941 Pierre-Étienne Flandin as Pétain’s deputy. He was also appointed as the Minister for the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs, with Darlan de facto becoming the head of the Vichy regime. In January 1942, Darlan took over other government posts. Darlan sought economic and military cooperation with Germany in exchange for better conditions compared to the truce. Darlan was convinced that Britain could not win by war and the European continent had to leave Germany. He saw France as a mediator in this. He said that cooperation with Germany was the least bad solution. But he underestimated Hitler’s distrust of France.

Darlan and the German ambassador to France, Otto Abetz signed in May 1941 the Protocols of Paris. The distrust of Hitler against France ended any possibility of an alliance with France. End of February 1942 showed Darlan’s policy as a failure. In April 1942, Darlan abdicated in favor of Pierre Laval, but retained his post of commander of the French forces.

On 7 November, 1942, just before the Operation Torch, Darlan went towards Algiers to visit his son in the hospital because of polio. Darlan did not know about the secret agreement between the resistance in Algeria and the U.S. General Mark Wayne Clark on 23 October, 1942 was closed in Cherchell.

Just noon after 8 November, 1942, 400 poorly armed French partisans attacked the coast artillery of Sidi Ferruch and the French XIX Army Corps of Algiers. Approximately 15 hours later, both the resistance forces neutralized. Under the command of José Aboulker, Henri d’Astier de La Vigerie and Colonel Jousse, and the Resistance Army occupied the most strategic points in Algiers and arrested military and state officials of Vichy. One citizen groups, cadets from the Ben-Aknoun College managed to arrest Darlan and General Alphonse Juin, the commander in North Africa.

After three days of talks and threats, Clark forced Darlan and Juin to command the French troops to cease the hostilities on 10 November in Oran and 11 November in Morocco. Darlan remained the head of the French government. In return, General Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed with Darlan’s self appointment on 14 November as High Commissioner of France for North and West Africa, a move that aroused anger of Charles de Gaulle. On 27 November, the last French naval vessels sunk in Toulon.

When it was thought that Darlan was a prisoner of the Allies, he was dismissed from the Vichy government just before the Operation Anton, the German invasion of the unoccupied France. Most French troops followed Darlan, but certain elements joined the German forces in Tunisia.

On 24 December 1942, Darlan was murdered in Algiers by Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle on 26 December, 1942.

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