Born in Lille on November 22, 1890. Died on November 9th, 1970 in Colombey-les-deux-églises. Army General. French President.
Charles de GAULLE : Born in Lille on November 22, 1890. Died on November 9th, 1970 in Colombey- les-Deux Eglises. Army General. French President.
Charles de Gaulle was the son of a Catholic schoolteacher, who introduced him to Barrès and Péguy. In 1912, he graduated from the St. Cyr military academy and was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in an infantry regiment in Arras, under commanding officer Colonel Henri-Philippe Pétain.
At the beginning of WWII, de Gaulle was wounded in his first fight at Dinant on August 15th, 1914. He was wounded again on March 10th, 1915. And on March 2nd, 1916, his regiment was nearly destroyed. De Gaulle was seriously wounded and taken prisoner. He attempted to escape five times, but his imposing height always gave him away.
When WWII began, de Gaulle was a colonel in Metz, commanding the 507th tank regiment. In 1940, he fought valiantly while leading his regiment at Montcornet.
On June the 1st, de Gaulle temporarily was named brigadier general and on June 6th, 1940, Paul Reynaud named him under-secretary of national defense. He opposed making a truce with the Germans and left France for London on June 15th. Three days later, his famous call came out on the BBC airwaves. In July 1940, was condemned to death in absentia for treason. De Gaulle’s principal thought at that time was to create the free French forces and to defend France’s interests vis à vis the Allied forces.
Relations between de Gaulle and Churchill were often strained, but the British Prime Minister was a significant help. Dealings with the American president, however, were not as easy, as the United States saw France as a victim and not as an ally. It is said that de Gaulle’s attitude and impressively led Resistance would lead people to change their minds.
De Gaulle managed to reach Alger in 1943 even though the Americans—kings of the hill—preferred Darlan and then Giraud. He set up a temporary government that would not be transferred to Paris until September of 1944. After the war, de Gaulle was President for several months, but resigned, disapproving of the new constitution. He set off to cross the desert. In 1958, with the failures of the French Fourth Republic in Indochina and in Algeria, and with great trouble stirring in Alger, de Gaulle was called back to power on June the 1st.
In September, a new constitution was approved by the French population and in December, de Gaulle was re-elected President of France.
During his presidency, de Gaulle fought to strengthen France financially and militarily and refused to submit his country to the United States or to the USSR. He favored both Franco-German reconciliation and the beginnings of the European Union. Internally, de Gaulle ended the war in Algeria in March of 1962 and also modified the constitution so that the President may be elected by universal suffrage. In 1965, he was reelected.
In 1968, de Gaulle confronted the violent demonstrations held by French students. Following the demonstrations was a general strike, which paralyzed the French government. But de Gaulle rose to the occasion. He held elections and the population rallied to him, ending the crisis.
After losing a referendum on a reform proposal, de Gaulle resigned and retired to his family home in Colombey-les-deux-eglises. He died on November 9th, 1970.
Charles de Gaulle was the author of several books, including: The Enemy’s House Divided (1924), The Edge of the Sword (1932), The Army of the Future (1934), France and her Army (1938) and several war memoirs.