Henri Dentz

Henri Dentz
Henri Dentz.jpg
Henri Dentz in 1940
High Commissioner of the Levant
In office
Preceded byJean Chiappe
Succeeded byGeorges Catroux as General Delegate to Syria and Lebanon
Personal details
Henri Fernand Dentz

(1881-12-16)16 December 1881
Roanne, Loire, France
Died13 December 1945(1945-12-13) (aged 63)
Fresnes, Val-de-Marne, France
AwardsGrand Officer of the Legion of Honour
Croix de Guerre 1914–1918
Croix de Guerre (Vichy)
Military service
Vichy France
Branch/serviceFrench Army
Vichy French Army
Years of service1900–1943
RankGénéral d'armée
CommandsArmy of the Levant
12th Army Corps
15th Army Corps
54th Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War

Henri Fernand Dentz (16 December 1881 – 13 December 1945) was a general in the French Army (Armée de Terre) and, after France surrendered during the Second World War, he served with the Vichy French Army.

Early life[]

On 16 December 1881, Henri Dentz was born in Roanne, Loire, France.

Military career[]

Syria-Lebanon campaign[]

As Commander in Chief of the Army of the Levant (Armée du Levant) and as High Commissioner of the Levant, Dentz was in charge of the defence of the French Mandate of Syria and the French Mandate of Lebanon in the Middle East. Dentz commanded an army of approximately 45,000 men.

Vichy authorities allowed aircraft from the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to refuel in Syria and Lebanon before and during the Anglo-Iraqi War. After this, the Allies planned an invasion of the French mandates.

On 8 June 1941, a force of approximately 20,000 Australian, Indian, Free French, and British troops, under the command of Sir Henry M. Wilson, invaded Syria and Lebanon from the British Mandate of Palestine and from Iraq. Fierce fighting ensued and the Vichy forces under Dentz progressively lost ground over a 13-day period. Damascus, the capital of Syria, was abandoned on 21 June 1941.

Fighting continued in Lebanon but the Vichy forces continued to lose ground. By July, the Australians were nearing Beirut. The fall of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, meant the end was near. On 10 July 1941, as the Australian 21st Brigade was on the verge of entering Beirut, Dentz sought an armistice. At one minute past midnight on 12 July 1941, a ceasefire went into effect. During the ceasefire, Dentz ordered ships and aircraft under his command to go to Turkey where they were interned.

For all intents and purposes, the ceasefire on 10 July 1941 ended the campaign. An armistice, known as the Armistice of Saint Jean d'Acre, was signed on 14 July 1941. There were 37,736 Vichy French prisoners of war who survived the conflict after fighting for Dentz. Most chose to be repatriated to Metropolitan France rather than join the Free French.

Aftermath and death[]

In January 1945, Dentz was sentenced to death for aiding the Axis powers. But Charles de Gaulle, the President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (gouvernement provisoire de la République française, or GPRF), commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. However, Dentz was not to serve much of this sentence. On 13 December 1945, he died in Fresnes, Val-de-Marne, France.

Command history[]