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François Darlan, French admiral and politician of Vichy France

Admiral of the Fleet François Darlan (August 7, 1881December 24, 1942) was a French naval officer and senior figure of the Vichy France regime.

Darlan was born in Nérac, Lot-et-Garonne, graduating from the École Navale in 1902. During World War I, he commanded an artillery battery. He remained in the navy after the war, and was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1929. Darlan was made chief of staff in 1936 and admiral of the fleet in 1937. In 1939 he was given command of the entire French Navy.

When Paris was occupied in June 1940, Darlan was one of those who supported the prime minister, Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain. He was rewarded by retaining his post as minister of the navy. He ordered the majority of the fleet to French North Africa, but fearing it would fall into German hands it was destroyed by the Royal Navy at Mers El Kébir on July 3 at the cost of around 1,300 French naval dead. This act did much to confirm Darlan's Anglophobia, but he still declined to commit the remaining vessels to German control.

In February 1941 he replaced Pierre Laval as deputy to Pétain and was also made minister for the interior, defence and foreign affairs. He was de facto head of the government. In January 1942 he gained a number of other government posts. He was as much a "collaborationnist" as Pierre Laval, and promoted a political alliance between French Vichy Forces and German Forces, by Paris Protocols. However, the German government had become suspicious of his opportunism and "malleable loyalties" and in April he was made to surrender the majority of his responsibilities back to the more clearly pro-Nazi Laval. Darlan retained the post of Commander of the French armed forces.

He arrived in Algiers on November 7, to visit his son just before the beginning of Operation Torch. The day after, the 8th of November 1942, at 1 pm, following secretly made agreements in Cherchell on October 23, 1942, between Algiers resistance and General Mark W. Clark of the combined allied command, 400 badly armed French civilians neutralized, alone, by their Putsch of November 8, 1942, the coastal artillery of Sidi Ferruch and the Vichy XIX Army Corps of Algiers in about fifteen hours. To achieve that result, their forces, under the command of José Aboulker, Henri d'Astier de La Vigerie, and Colonel Jousse, occupied, at night, most of the strategic points of Algiers (the General Government, Prefecture, Staff headquarters, telephone central, barracks, etc.) and arrested most of the Vichy military and civil rulers. One of those groups, composed with some youngsters of the Ben-Aknoun College, under the command of cadet Pauphilet, had succeeded in arresting General Juin, Chief commandant in North Africa, as well as the Admiral Darlan.

Afterwards, Algiers having been occupied on the first day by allied forces, thanks to the French resistance, General Clark compelled the Admiral François Darlan and General Juin, after 3 days of talks and threats, to order French forces to end hostilities, on November 10 in Oran and November 11 in Morocco, providing Darlan remained head of a French administration. For this he was dismissed from the Vichy government, and Vichy Southern France was 'invaded' by the German army in Operation Attila. In return General Eisenhower agreed with Darlan’s self-nomination as the High Commissioner of France for North and West Africa on November 14, a move that enraged Charles De Gaulle. On November 27 the remaining French naval vessels were scuttled at Toulon.

Most French troops in Africa followed Darlan's lead but certain elements joined the German forces in Tunisia.

On the afternoon of December 24, 1942 a 20-year-old French patriot, Ferdinand Bonnier de La Chapelle, entered Darlan's headquarters in Algiers and shot him twice. Although La Chapelle had been a member of the resistance group led by Henri d'Astier, it is believed he was acting alone.

Darlan died a few hours later and de La Chapelle was executed by firing squad on 26 December. Darlan was replaced as High Commissioner by another French flag officer, General Henri Giraud.

Generally, Darlan was unpopular with the Allies — it was said that "no tears were shed" at his funeral. Unfortunately, his successor, General Giraud, was not very popular either; Giraud had asked General Eisenhower, on the 7th of November 1942, about taking over command of all Allied forces for Operation Torch, and refused to help the Allies until the operation has been successful in Algiers, where he arrived only on 9 November. He was generally considered overly pompous by the Allied generals. Giraud, despite being a real patriot, was committed to the Vichy regime. Consequently he supported Pétain’s pro-Nazi laws, and kept Vichy internees in Southern Algeria deportation camps. But the worse Giraud did was to put under arrest in the Sahara, under the false accusation of having participated in Darlan's death, 27 Resistance leaders who had risked their lives on the 8 November 1942, to prevent the French Vichy forces of Algiers opening fire on allied forces.


  • Henri Michel, Darlan, Hachette, Paris, 1993.
  • George F. Howe, North West Africa: Seizing the initiative in the West, Center of Military history, US Army, Library of Congress, 1991.
  • Arthur L. Funck, The politics of Torch, University Press of Kansas, 1974.
  • Professeur Yves Maxime Danan, La vie politique à Alger de 1940 à 1944, Paris, L.G.D.J., 1963.
  • Christine Levisse-Touzet, L'Afrique du Nord dans la guerre, 1939-1945, Paris, Albin Michel, 1998.
  • Professeur José Aboulker et Christine Levisse-Touzet, 8 novembre 1942 : Les armées américaine et anglaise prennent Alger en quinze heures, Paris, « Espoir », n° 133, Paris, 2002.

Preceded by:
César Campinchi
Minister of Marine
Succeeded by:
Gabriel Auphan
Preceded by:
Vice President of the Council
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Pierre Étienne Flandin
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by:
Pierre Laval
Preceded by:
Marcel Peyrouton
Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by:
Pierre Pucheu
Preceded by:
Charles Huntziger
Minister of National Defense
Succeeded by:
Eugène Bridoux

Template:End boxde:François Darlan fr:François Darlan he:ז'אן פרנסואה דרלאן sl:François-Jean Darlan


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