Henri Mordacq

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Jean Jules Henri Mordacq.

Jean Jules Henri Mordacq (12. January 1868 L'Ours Naissance, Clermont-Ferrand – 14. April 1943 Paris) was a French general. He was a close aide to Clemenceau during 1918 and later during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Prior to these political roles, general Mordacq had been a frontline divisional commander in 1916 and 1917 and was wounded twice on the battlefield. During his early years as a captain he had become the saber champion of the officer corps in the French Army.

Early career[edit]

Mordacq's early military years as lieutenant were in Algeria before joining the First Regiment of the Foreign Legion in French Indochina in 1893. Fighting off the remaining pirates in Tonkin, he became an intelligence officer during the Colonnes du Nord in 1896 where he met Galliéni and Lyautey. He came back to Algeria for a year and then studied in Paris at the Ecole de Guerre to become a staff officer. He then became known for his military writing pushing for reforms from the military schools to tactical warfare. He became chief of staff of Georges Picquart's 10th Division of Infantry. When Picquart became Secretary of War in Clemenceau's first Government in 1906, he became very influential as Picquart's right hand. He pushed for the nomination of former mentor Ferdinand Foch at the head of the Ecole de guerre before becoming an instructor there in 1910. He gave there the first strategy course in France known as the Cours des maréchaux for it was only open to the top fifteen students at the Ecole de guerre. He came back to the Office of war promoting further reforms. Then Secretary and former comrade at Saint-Cyr Adolphe Messimy nominated him Director-in-second and head of the military classes at the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1912. He trained the future lieutenants an captains who would lead the French units in combat at the start of World War I.

First World War[edit]

In August 1914, Mordacq was chief of staff of general Archinard's First Reserve Corps Group in the Eastern Army. When the Germans breached the French lines through Belgium, he asked for a frontline command and became commander of the famous 159th Regiment of Alpine Infantry. He immediately took part in the Battle of the Frontiers and his regiment participated in the ending of the German advance in the Vosges before the First Battle of the Marne led to the Race to the Sea. He then took command of the defence of Arras, the key to the sea and again halted the German advance there, which led to the stabilization of the front and the beginning of trench warfare.

Nominated colonel, he took command of the 90th Brigade which witnessed on April 22, 1915 the first chemical attack of military history. His troops stood firm in the following weeks and took back the lost ground. He was made general de brigade in 1916 and took command of the 24th division of infantry, which would take part in the battle of Verdun and to the Battle of the Somme. In early 1917, he led his division in the Champagne region and threw back the Germans back to its lines before the Chemin des Dames attack.

He was to take command of an infantry corps in Italy but was called in early November 1917 to become the military chief of staff in Clemenceau's second government in what was to be nicknamed the Ministère de la Victoire.

In government[edit]

He proved himself essential to the reorganisation of the French command and was Clemenceau's influential right-hand man from 1917 to 1920, thus participating extensively in the Allied victory in 1918.

In January 1920, he became commander of the 30th infantry Corps occupying in Rhineland in Wiesbaden. He remained at his command until 1925 when he left the army, angered by the resentment of the present political and military leaders who alienated him for his criticism of the appeasement policy toward Germany and for his unrelenting loyalty to Clemenceau abandoned by the politician resentment in 1920.


From 1925 to his death in 1943, Mordacq wrote more than twenty books and published dozens of articles in influential reviews to promote the action of Clemenceau and his in the troubled days from November 1917 to 1920, explaining the choices and reforms which were made in order to achieve military and political victory.

His strong criticism of former friend Philippe Pétain's promulgation of racial laws in 1941 may have led to his mysterious death in 1943. Mordacq was found dead in the Seine under the Pont des Arts on 12 April 1943.

Mordacq's military career, distinctions and writings are presented in greater detail in his French-language Wikipedia page.