Charles de Gaulle
|22 Nov 1890
|9 Nov 1970
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseCharles AndrĂ© Joseph Marie de Gaulle was born into a Catholic bourgeois family of old Normandy/Burgundy aristocracy. He was born in Lille and educated in Paris. In 1912, he graduated from the Ă‰cole SpĂ©ciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, a prestigious military academy, and joined the infantry. He participated in WWI as an army captain, and was wounded at the Battle of Verdun in Mar 1916 and taken prisoner by the Germans. After WWI ended, he joined the Polish Army in training Polish infantry, and would fight bravely near the Zbrucz River, winning him the Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish military award. In Poland, he would learn the strength of tanks and become interested in mobile warfare.
ww2dbaseWhen WW2 started, de Gaulle was a colonel in the French Army. He was given command of the French 4th Armored Division to defend against the German invasion. On 17 May 1940 he led 200 French tanks in an attack against German tanks at Montcornet, then again on 28 May near Caumont (where Germans retreated after the French assault; de Gaulle was the only French commander to cause a German retreat during the invasion). He was promoted to provisional brigadier general by Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, and later Under-Secretary of State for National Defense and War. PĂ©tain, the French Premier, surrendered to the Germans on 17 Jun 1940. De Gaulle refused to surrender along with his government, and chose to flee to London. On 18 Jun, he spoke to the French people on BBC radio from London, calling for resistence from the French people against the Germans. He later formed the Free French movement in London, a second government claiming soverignty over France (the formal government of France at this time was Vichy-France, which was recognized by the US and Britian formally). The Vichy-France government sentenced de Gaulle to death for treason against France for doing so. After the successful Allied campaign in North Africa, de Gaulle moved his government to the former French colony Algiers.
ww2dbaseDe Gaulle's unbending pride in the French nation combined with his personal ambition made him a difficult figure to work with for the rest of the western Allies. During preparations for the Normandy invasion, Dwight Eisenhower approached de Gaulle to ask for his formal support. De Gaulle refused to give support as a subordinate of a non-French. "I recognized in him many fine qualities", said Eisenhower. "We felt, however, that these qualities were marred by hyper-sensitiveness and an extraordinary stubbornness in matters which appeared inconsequential to us." While Eisenhower had formed friendship with many leaders among the Allies during the war, the American regretted that de Gaulle's stiff personality prevented a friendship from forming between the two.
ww2dbaseAfter the Allied forces liberated Paris, de Gaulle moved his headquarters once again, this time to Paris. His claim for the French capital was his method to deny Vichy-France from claiming legitimacy as the governing body of France.
ww2dbaseAfter WW2, de Gaulle continued to work to build the Frech republic. After working closely with the writing of a new constitution, de Gaulle helped in the founding of the Fifth Republic, and was elected president in November 1958. He oversaw economic measures to revitalize the nation, and worked cooperatively with Germany to form the EEC, which established the foundations to the European Union many years later. He was in office during the tumultuous (and sometimes violent) times when former French colonies sought independence from the nation; de Gaulle supported an independent Algiers, although it was opposed by many French. He involved himself in another controversy during a visit to Quebec, Canada, where he endorsed claims for Quebec's secession from Canada as an independent nation.
ww2dbaseDe Gaulle resigned on 28 Apr 1969 following a political defeat to transform the Senate. He passed away in his home in 1970 minutes after suffering an aneurysmal rupture.
ww2dbaseSources: Crusade in Europe, Wikipedia
Last Major Revision: Oct 2005
Charles de Gaulle Interactive Map
Charles de Gaulle Timeline
|22 Nov 1890
|Charles de Gaulle was born.
|5 Jun 1940
|French General de Gaulle was appointed the Undersecretary of State for War by Prime Minister Reynaud.
|22 Jun 1940
|Charles de Gaulle broadcast a speech from London, England, United Kingdom on the BBC; in this broadcast, he used the term Free French for the first time, while declaring himself the French leader in exile.
|23 Jun 1940
|French Army Commander-in-Chief General Maxime Weygand expelled Charles de Gaulle from the French Army.
|26 Jun 1940
|General de Gaulle created the French Volunteer Legion in United Kingdom.
|28 Jun 1940
|General Charles de Gaulle was recognized by the United Kingdom as the leader of Free French forces.
|8 Jul 1940
|In England, United Kingdom, General Charles de Gaulle denounced the ongoing British attacks on Vichy French forces.
|14 Jul 1940
|Free French leader Charles de Gaulle celebrated Bastille Day at the Cenotaph in London, England, United Kingdom.
|2 Aug 1940
|French military court sentenced General de Gaulle to death in absentia.
|4 Oct 1940
|General Charles de Gaulle arrived in Douala, French Cameroon via British cruiser HMS Devonshire to organize the invasion of Gabon, which was controlled by Vichy French forces.
|23 Oct 1941
|Charles de Gaulle met with leaders of resistance movements, asking them to bide their time and protect the lives of innocents.
|14 Jul 1942
|Charles de Gaulle renamed the Free French to the Fighting French.
|21 Apr 1943
|An attempt was made to assassinate General Charles de Gaulle when the Wellington bomber flying him to Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom was sabotaged at RAF Hendon. The pilot detected the elevator controls had been cut just before take-off and aborted the flight. At the time, the incident was hushed up and blamed on German intelligence but de Gaulle never flew by plane in Britain again.
|30 May 1943
|General Charles de Gaulle arrived in Algeria to become, with Henri Giraud, co-Presidents of the French Committee of National Liberation (FCNL) but soon used his superior political skills to become sole leader of the organization.
|4 Apr 1944
|Charles De Gaulle was appointed head of Free French military forces.
|26 May 1944
|To the dismay of Roosevelt and Churchill, de Gaulle proclaimed the Free French movement to be the "Provisional Government of the French Republic"; de Gaulle received recognition from most Allied governments, but this caused him to be left out of the planning for Operation Overlord.
|20 Aug 1944
|Charles De Gaulle landed at Cherbourg, France. Meeting Dwight Eisenhower later in the day, he convinced the Allied commander that the French capital of Paris should be a priority objective that should not be bypassed.
|9 Sep 1944
|General de Gaulle created a provisional government which included Communards.
|23 Mar 1945
|General de Gaulle granted limited self-government for Indochina, which was to remain a French colony.
|24 Aug 1945
|During a press conference in Washingon DC, United States, Charles de Gaulle declared that "France means to recover its sovereignty over Indochina" despite Emperor Bao Dai's warning of Vietnamese anti-French fervor.
|13 Nov 1945
|General Charles de Gaulle became the first post-war head of French government.
|9 Nov 1970
|Charles de Gaulle passed away.
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