The World at War


Francois Darlan

French Admiral and Politician

Born: August 7, 1881 at Nerac, Lot-et-Garrone
Died: December 24, 1942 at Algiers

     Darlan graduated from l'Ecole Navale in 1901 and served with distinction in World War I. His political involvement began when he was appointed liaison officer to the Navy Minister in 1925. He returned to active duty in 1934, serving a term as Commander of the Atlantic Fleet before being named Naval Chief of Staff in 1936 by Leon Blum who judged the Admiral something of a Republican.

     Darlan was brought into the cabinet as Navy Minister under Petain as the debacle moved towards its inevitable conclusion in June 1940. His support for the armistice was rewarded with an appointment as Deputy Premier and designated successor to Marshal Petain in February 1941. Darlan advocated military and political collaboration. He signed the Paris Protocols that opened ports and airfields of the southern zone and the colonies to German forces.

     Darlan resigned from government after the German ambassador, Otto Abetz, engineered Laval's return to power on April 17, 1942 but maintained his position as Commander in Chief of the Armistice Army.

     He was visiting Algiers when the Allies invaded North Africa on November 8, 1942. Roosevelt was determined to an alternative to General de Gaulle. The Admiral agreed to jump on the Allied ship and was named High Commissioner for French North Africa. His tenure ended on Christmas Eve 1942 when he was assassinated by Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle, a young member of the royalist resistance.

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