In August 1939, Catroux, known for his relatively liberal views regarding colonialism, was sent to Indochina as governor-general. He was one of only two overseas commanders who rejected the June 1940 armistice with Germany. Following the French military defeat, Catroux also came under intense Japanese pressure for base rights in northern Indochina, which the Vichy government conceded in late August 1940 in exchange for Japanese recognition of French sovereignty over the colony. Ordered back to France on 26 July 1940, he led an unsuccessful colonial anti-Vichy revolt, before joining Charles de Gaulle's Free French forces in London in September.
When British forces took Vichy-held Syria in June 1941, Catroux immediately became the Free French delegate general for the mandates of Syria and Lebanon and promised the areas postwar independence, pledges that de Gaulle declined to endorse. Deeply involved in the complicated maneuverings between Vichy and Free French representatives in Algiers after the November 1942 Allied landings, in which the Free French eventually prevailed, Catroux was designated to establish control over all French colonial forces. Although he stalwartly supported de Gaulle, he lamented his leader's ferocious quarrels with the British. In June 1943, Catroux became commissioner for Muslim affairs throughout the French colonies. Appointed governor of Algeria in June 1944, he began extending French citizenship to Algerian Muslims. In September, he was named French minister for North Africa.
After the war, Catroux spent the years between 1945 and 1948 as the French ambassador to Moscow, and in 1954, he presided over France's inquiry into the loss of Indochina. In 1956, he became governor-general of Algeria but resigned after four days when reactionary European colonists objected to his presumed proindependence views. A de Gaulle confidant during the general's 1953–1958 exile, Catroux chaired the court-martial in 1961 that condemned those French generals who rebelled against de Gaulle's instructions to cease hostilities in Algeria. Catroux died in Paris on 21 December 1969.
Gillois, André. Histoire secrète des Français à Londres de 1940 à 1944. Paris: Hachette, 1973.; Kersaudy, François. Churchill and de Gaulle. New York: Atheneum, 1981.; Ordioni, Pierre. Tout commence à Alger, 1940–1945. Paris: Éditions Albatros, 1985.