Charles de Gaulle was born in 1899.
He entered the army as a young man. He fought bravely during World
War One and was wounded three times before being captured by the
Germans at Verdun. His height (nearly 2 metres) made it very difficult
for him to escape successfully but he had five attempts.
||After the First World War, he became Secretary
General at the Council of National Defence. He began to question many
of the ideas the French had for defending their country. He realised
that the new German Republic was beginning to rebuild its army. He could
see that the strong German Air Force could be a big threat to France
in the future.
De Gaulle thought that France should build
up and modernise her armed forces since he believed that the Nazis in
Germany were preparing for war. He wanted France to concentrate on building
tanks as he saw that this could be the way in which the next war would
be fought. However, most other generals and the government did not agree
In 1939, World War II began and in May 1940 France was attacked by Germany and the Battle of France was fought. General de Gaulle was only 49, the youngest general in the French Army. He organized his new forces of tank battalions to the southern edge of the German breakthrough to cover several infantry formations defending Paris. On May 18, De Gaulle began the only counter-attack against Germany. De Gaulle desperately tried to save France from invasion, but the situation got worse, and the French government surrendered to the Nazis.
De Gaulle managed to escape to England just
before the armistice was signed by the French government handing France
to the Nazis. From England, he made an impassioned appeal to the French (see opposite) on June 18th, 1940, asking them to unite with him to resist. He said:
la France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre" - France may have lost one battle, but it has not lost the war.
He spent the next 4 years organizing increasing
French resistance and calling for support from French colonies. He proclaimed
himself the leader of the Free French (later the Fighting French) forces.
De Gaulle found himself with a French navy, air force, and army, which
were under the general command of the British.
Back in France, the government controlled by the Nazis declared that he was a national enemy and a traitor and sentenced him to death.
Liberation of Paris 1944
|In 1944, the
invasion of France by the Allies on D-Day, brought de Gaulle back
to France. He triumphantly entered
Paris on August 26, 1944 and became the President of the country. De Gaulle and the victorious Free French forces marched through the Arc de Triomphe when they liberated Paris. The photo shows the Liberation of Paris and was taken by a journalist at the time.
In 1946, he resigned but he returned to
politics in 1958 when he was asked to draw up another constitution.
He became President of France in 1959 and served for ten years until
He oversaw many important issues, such as the War of Independence with Algeria, France's atomic bomb program, the building of the space rocket Ariane and France's space program, and the building of the Concorde. He concentrated on making France the corner stone of European politics and the European Economic Community. His policy was called "the politics of grandeur" because he sought to make France a great power. His politics for governing at home, though, were traditional and conservative. The May Revolution of 1968 resulted in a general strike of workers against unfair conditions and resulted in his downfall and that of his government.
De Gaulle died suddenly on November 10,
1970 at his home in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. Today, he is regarded as one of the most influential men in France during the 20th century