Marshal Henri Petain, One of the Greatest Military Leaders of the War


Philippe Pétain (1856‒1951) was a French army commander, appointed to lead the defense of Verdun in February 1917. To the order to hold his sector whatever it took, Pétain is said to have replied “Ils ne passeront pas!” (They shall not pass!). However, some authorities attribute the remark to General Robert Nivelle. Exhausted and demoralized by the futile slaughter and failure of the Second Battle of the Aisne in April 1917, French troops began to mutiny on May 3, 1917. General Pétain calmed the insurrection by implementing more home leave, rotating soldiers out of the trenches at a faster rate, and improving conditions at the front. He was the French head of state in Vichy France in 1940‒44 and imprisoned for collaboration with the Third Reich. This photograph is from the War of the Nations, a compilation of 1,398 rotogravure images with brief descriptive captions relating to World War I and its immediate aftermath. The book was published by the New York Times Company and includes images that appeared in the Mid-Week Pictorial, a weekly magazine of news photographs published by the New York Times Company between 1914 and 1937. The photographs depict the main military and civilian leaders from the countries involved in the war, battle scenes, major weapons systems, ruins and destruction wrought by the fighting, the return of troops after the war and victory celebrations in various countries, and scenes from the Paris Peace Conference. In addition to the Western front in France and Belgium, the pictures cover the other theaters of the war, including the Eastern, Italian, and Balkans fronts, the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign, and the campaign in Mesopotamia and Palestine. Postwar developments covered include the revolutions in Germany and Russia and the intervention by Allied and American troops in Siberia. The book has a table of contents; 32 maps, including pictorial maps that illustrate fronts and campaigns; and a three-page appendix that provides a chronology of 1914‒19, statistics (including mobilized strength and the numbers of dead, wounded, and missing from all the belligerents), key wartime events, and the main provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

New York Times Company, New York


Title in Original Language

Marshal Henri Petain, One Of The Greatest Military Leaders Of The War. It Was He Who Said At Verdun: "They Shall Not Pass."


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print : black and white ; 34-42 centimeters

Last updated: November 14, 2017