Publish date:
Updated on

General Weygand is born

On this day, French Gen. Maxime Weygand is born in Belgium. He was one of the commanders who accepted the German surrender at the close of World War I only to advise the French government to surrender to the Germans early in World War II.

Although born in Belgium (his actual ancestry is uncertain), Weygand was educated in France and graduated from the Saint-Cyr training school for officers in 1888 with honors. He taught at a cavalry school where, in 1914, he won the respect of Gen. Ferdinand Foch, who made Weygand his chief of staff during the World War I.

Weygand held a variety of positions between the wars, including a post as adviser to the Polish army in 1920, and a stint as inspector general of the French army. He retired from active service in 1935, at age 68.

When the Germans invaded France in May 1940, Weygand was recalled into service to take command of the Allied troops in France-after the Germans were already overrunning much of the country. As the British Expeditionary Force was pushed to the Channel by the Germans and then finally pushed out of France, things looked increasingly desperate for the French.

Britain attempted to keep hope alive–Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered more British troops into France and British bombers continued to attack German lines of communication. But despite the British reinforcements and encouragement, Weygand ordered the French military governor of Paris to ensure that the French capital remained an open city-in other words, there was to be no armed resistance to the Germans. Orders to this effect meant that Weygand was pushing for an armistice, a capitulation–the enemy would be allowed to pass through unchallenged. Weygand addressed his cabinet with his assessment of the situation: “A cessation of hostilities is compulsory.” France capitulated.

Weygand served in the new German-loyal Vichy government as minister of defense, delegate general to French Africa, and governor-general of Algeria. He was dismissed in December 1941 and sent to Cannes to retire on a pension. He tried to get back into the fray in 1942 by flying to Algiers when the Allies invaded North Africa, but he was caught by the Germans and transported to Austria, where he sat imprisoned in an Austrian castle. Upon the surrender of Germany, he was released by U.S. troops of liberation but then rearrested on orders of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and charged with enemy collaboration. Weygand was “rehabilitated” within three years and pardoned for his concession to the Germans. De Gaulle was forced to admit that by the time Weygand took command of the army in France, “It was too late, without any doubt, to win the battle of France.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Women’s March

On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, hundreds of thousands of people crowd into the U.S. capital for the Women’s March on Washington, a massive protest in the nation’s capital aimed largely at the Trump administration and the perceived threat it represented to more

Vladimir Lenin dies

Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Bolshevik Revolution and the first leader of the Soviet Union, dies of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 54. In the early 1890s, Lenin abandoned his law career to devote himself to Marxist study and the provocation of revolutionary activity more

King Louis XVI executed

One day after being convicted of conspiracy with foreign powers and sentenced to death by the French National Convention, King Louis XVI is executed by guillotine in the Place de la Revolution in Paris. Louis ascended to the French throne in 1774 and from the start was unsuited more

Concorde takes off

From London’s Heathrow Airport and Orly Airport outside Paris, the first Concordes with commercial passengers simultaneously take flight on January 21, 1976. The London flight was headed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, and the Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Senegal in West Africa. more

President Carter pardons draft dodgers

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety more

Battle for Khe Sanh begins

One of the most publicized and controversial battles of the Vietnam War begins at Khe Sanh, 14 miles below the DMZ and six miles from the Laotian border. Seized and activated by the U.S. Marines a year earlier, the base, which had been an old French outpost, was used as a staging more

Carter pardons draft dodgers

On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardons all Vietnam War draft dodgers. During his presidential campaign, Carter had announced his intention to pardon those who had failed to register for the draft or left the country to avoid service. In a televised debate with more

Gun designer John Browning is born

John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the “father of modern firearms,” is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning’s more

Ferry sinks off Indonesian coast

On this day in 1996, an overloaded ferry sinks in an unexpected storm off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, killing 340 people. The 555-ton Gurita was typically used to ferry passengers between Indonesia’s islands. On January 21, it was scheduled to make the short trip from more

Switzer of Our Gang murdered

Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who as a child played “Alfalfa” in the Our Gang comedy film series, dies at age 31 in a fight, allegedly about money, in a Mission Hills, California, home. Alfalfa, the freckle-faced boy with a warbling singing voice and a cowlick protruding from the more

Alger Hiss convicted of perjury

In the conclusion to one of the most spectacular trials in U.S. history, former State Department official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury. He was convicted of having perjured himself in regards to testimony about his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during more

Ethan Allen is born

On this day 1738, Ethan Allen, future Revolutionary War hero and key founder of the Republic of Vermont, is born in Litchfield, Connecticut. Allen’s father, Joseph, intended Ethan to attend Yale University, but his death in 1755 precluded that option. Instead, Ethan, the oldest more

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies

In Moscow on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist more