Henri Dentz

Henri Dentz in 1940

Henri Fernand Dentz (16 December 1881 – 13 December 1945) was a soldier and general in the French Army (Armée de Terre) and, after France surrendered during World War II, 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 Dentz and the Vichy forces were methodically 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[]

See also[]