De Gaulle during World War II; he typically wore the uniform of a Général De Brigade
De Gaulle during World War II; he typically wore the uniform of a Général De Brigade





A brief video summarizing Charles De Gaulle's speech to the French people after they have been defeated by the Wehrmacht



















Charles De Gaulle

This article is about the French statesman and general. For other disambiguation click here

Overview

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (22 November 1890 - 9 November 1970) was a French general, resistant, and a writer. De Gaulle was the leader of Free France and its Free French Forces (1940-1944). The Free French Forces, under the command of Charles de Gaulle, continued to fight alongside the Allied Forces for the surrendered France and its the exiled government. against the Axis Powers, which largely constituted of the Wehrmacht. Charles De Gaulle was the leader of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (1944-1946) and founded the Fifth Republic and was elected as the 18th President of France in 1958, until his resignation in 1969. De Gaulle was a predominant and influential figure in French politics, particularly during the Cold War era.




Early Life

Charles De Gaulle in 1897
Charles De Gaulle in 1897


Charles De Gaulle was born in the city of Lille as the second son of a patriotic,nationalistic, upper-middle-class Roman Catholic French family. His father, Henri De Gaulle was a professor in history and literature, and later founded his own school. His father came from a long line of parliamentary gentry from Normandy and Burgundy His mother, Jeanne, came from a wealthy entrepreneur family from Lille.

As a boy, De Gaulle showed interests in military matters, and was very well educated. His father encouraged him to debate philosophical and military issues. As a result, De Gaulle grew familiar with French history from an early age. He showed great interests in the works of the famous Romanticist poet François-René de Chateaubriand, as well as the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Plato De Gaulle was educated in the Collège Stanislas de Paris before he joined the military academy of Saint-Cyr, where he received advanced military training, and graduating in 1912. De Gaulle served as a platoon commander in the infantry regiment commanded by Colonel Philippe Pétain during World War I. De Gaulle grew bitter towards the outdated tactics the French army used, and discussed his frustration with other officers. Charles de Gaulle's unit gained immense reputation after successfully crawling into No man's land to listen to the conversations of the enemy entrenched. He received a citation for his bravery in 1915. His unit was able to bring back immensely valuable information, which helped overturn the tides of the First Battle of the Marne to favour the French. De Gaulle was later taken prisoner at the Battle of Verdun after being wounded several times by a bayonet charge. After several failed attempts to escape, he was finally released after the war ended


Bayonet Charge - Battle of Verdun
Bayonet Charge - Battle of Verdun








Between the wars

De Gaulle continued his education after World War I, and finished a two-year course of special training in tactics and strategy at the École Superieure de Guerre (War College), where he later taught as a professor. De Gaulle continued to serve in the army, and was sent on a mission to instruct the Polish military during its war against Communist Russia between 1919 and 1921. He received the highest Polish Military decoration, the Virtuti Militari Cross for his service. De Gaulle was promoted to the Staff of the Supreme War Council in 1925.

Charles de Gaulle in his French military uniform
Charles de Gaulle in his French military uniform

During the times between World War I and World War II, Charles de Gaulle spent much of his time reading military strategy and tactics. He published his own book, La discorde chez l'ennemi, in which he examined Germany's rise to a nationalistic society in response to the harsh punishment it received after World War I by the Treaty of Versailles. In his second book, Vers l'armee de metier, published in 1932, de Gaulle suggested training a better army, that relies more on tanks, mechanized warfare and fast manoeuvrability tactics, with coordinated infantry and air support, rather than the traditional and outdated, slow, mass infantry warfare used during World War I. His work was largely criticized by French military officials, and was largely ignored, selling only 700 copies in France. Although his work was neglected in France, it gained massive popularity amongst Germany's military officials, selling over 7000 copies in the country. The tactics de Gaulle advocated in his book (the use of tanks and mechanized warfare instead of a defensive infantry-based army) were used against him in the German Blitzkrieg attack, which ultimately forced France to surrender in 1940.


German Blitzkrieg was composed of a combined mechanized and infantry divisions
German Blitzkrieg was composed of a combined mechanized and infantry divisions





De Gaulle in World War II


The French Renault tank
The French Renault tank

France surrenders

At the start of World War II, de Gaulle was still a Colonel and, while initially he commanded the French Fifth Army during World War I, de Gaulle was convinced that his mechanized warfare tactics were the only way the French could have a potential chance at opposing the German blitzkrieg. As such, he kept antagonizing the other generals and officers who refused to modernize the army. After the German breakthrough at Sedan, in the Ardennes region in 1940, Charles de Gaulle was moved to command the 4e Division cuirassée, which consisted of 200 Renault tanks. The tank division brought short-lived success, pushing back the advancing Germans at Caumont. It is important to note that the tanks were very lightly armoured and had a very weak main gun and were completly
The Panzer IV
The Panzer IV
outclassed by the Panzer IV and were not accompanied with infantry and air support. However, despite the offensive orchestrated by de Gaulle's armoured division, the push barely slowed down the advancing Germans. France was still losing territory quickly and could not resist the Blitzkrieg due to the lack of modernization of the army. It was one of the few successes France had during the war nonetheless. His efforts to push back the Wehrmacht were recognized, and as such, he was promoted to Brigadier General by Paul Reynaud. Despite the dire conditions, de Gaulle was one of the few officials opposing the surrender of France. Instead, he proposed moving the government to Algeria, which was a very important colony to the French, and instead start coordinating offensive strategies from the colony. On June 14 1940, France officially surrendered to Germany.



Normandie-Niemen coat of arms
Normandie-Niemen coat of arms





Free French Forces


Although Charles de Gaulle heavily opposed the surrendering of France, he learned that Marshal Philippe Pétain has become premier of France on June 16 1940 and that he was planning to reach out to Germany to seek an armistice De Gaulle, furious by the decision of the French premier,decided to rebel against the government along with a few other senior officers of the French army. Charles de Gaulle flew to England with 100 000 francs in secret funds given to him by the previous prime minister Paul Reynaud.
In England, de Gaulle denounced Vichy France's decision to seek an armistice with the enemy, and immediately set out to build the Free France Forces with the allocated funds he received, as well as with the help of the rebelling senior officers. On June 18, 1940, Winston Churchill gave permission to de Gaulle to deliver his famous Appeal of 18 June address on the BBC Radio. The speech encouraged the French people to continue resisting Nazi Germany, denounce and work against the Vichy government and support the Allied cause in England. Although the original speech was only heard by a few people in France, de Gaulle's next speeches gained widespread popularity and attracted massive audience numbers in Vichy France. As such, de Gaulle`s speeches helped rally the French army and people, and created the Free French Forces movement. On August 2, 1949, de Gaulle was condemned by the Vichy Regime to death for high treason, however the sentence was never executed. DE Gaulle se the headquarters of Free France in Central London and gained increased support from the Allied forces. He formed the Free French National Council and appointed himself as a president. The newly formed coalition encompassed Communist French as well as Catholic French. In 1942, the movement gained great traction, and was able to overcome the Vichy government in Syria and Lebanon, increasing its influence outside of France and England. Although the French communists were under the allegiance of the Soviet Union, they fought alongside the resistance when Germany invaded Russia during Operation Barbarossa. In 1942, de Gaulle created the Normandie-Niemen squadron force, which consisted of the Free French Air Force. It was the only Allied fighting squad that remained in combat in the eastern front until the end of World War II.
de Gaulle delivering his Appeal of 18 June
de Gaulle delivering his Appeal of 18 June

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D-DAY

As the preparations for the liberation of Europe, or D-Day began to gain pace and tractions, the Americans were growing tired of de Gaulle's tendency
to view the conflict through a French lens constantly. The American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, refused to recognize de Gaulle's legitimacy as prime minister of the Free French National Council, mainly due to the lack of elections. Roosevelt considered de Gaulle to be anti-democracy, and called him "an apprentice dictator." Additionally, Roosevelt advised Winston Churchill to not share any specific detail about the Normandie Offensive, as he didn't trust him to keep the information to himself. The level of encryption of the codes were extremely weak compared to the American and British, and thus could be easily stolen by German spies. Nevertheless, Churchill still decided to share the information with de Gaulle 2 days prior to the invasion. However, Churchill and de Gaulle's relationship kept fluctuating, with Churchill sometimes praising him as "the spirit of the Army." and sometime accusing de Gaulle of high treason in the height of the battle, and calling for him to be deported to Algiers "in chains if necessary." Winston Churchill's frustration with de Gaulle stems from his stubbornness and from the fact that France was seen as dead weight and holding the Allied war efforts back, while contributing little to the war effort.
De Gaulle marching into France with his staff under L'Arc de Triomphe
De Gaulle marching into France with his staff under L'Arc de Triomphe

On the day of the invasion, France gathered an entire army, which was composed of resistance fighters and French colonial troops from North Africa. The France First Army was able to liberate large territory held by the Germans in France and pushed the Milice and Germans back. On June 14, 1944, de Gaulle left Britain to go to the liberated parts of France, where he was warmly greeted. In the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, de Gaulle was greeted by an energized crowd, and delivered a famous proclamation.

"Paris! Paris outraged, Paris broken, Paris martyred, but Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the assistance of the armies of France, with the support and assistance of the whole of France!... The enemy is faltering but he is not yet beaten. He is still on our soil. It will not suffice that we, with the assistance of our dear and admirable allies, will have chased him from our home in order to be satisf
ied after what has happened. We want to enter his territory, as is fitting, as conquerors... It is for this revenge, this vengeance and this justice, that we will continue to fight until the last day, until the day of the total and complete victory."
People warmly greet de Gaulle's arrival at Bordeaux
People warmly greet de Gaulle's arrival at Bordeaux


De Gaulle with Winston Churchill on D-Day
De Gaulle with Winston Churchill on D-Day



The Americans increased their support to France, and rerouted their 28th Infantry Division from the front line to the Champs Elysees to help repel the Germans. Although Roosevelt still didn't accept the legitimacy of de Gaulle, Eisenhower was keen on cooperating with him to organize D-Day. The same day, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to accept the legitimacy of Free France, and Einsenhower agreed to meet de Gaulle in Paris for the first time.



Post WWII/Cold War era

France was left devastated after the ending of the war. The winter of 1946 - 1947 was especially bad, resulting in the failure of crops and agriculture. This resulted in the reduction of bread and food, which resulted in widespread death and disease. This has led to an increase in black market trades and illegal smuggling of goods. In 1948, circumstances dramatically changed when the Americans announced the Marshall Aid, which was a large scale financial assistance to Europe to help them rebuild after the destruction of World War II. This has resulted in a major rebound in the French economy, and was dubbed by de Gaulle the "Thirty Glorious Years" (Trente Glorieuses) France's GDP kept growing for 30 years straight, eventually surpassing the GDP of England, the strongest European nation for centuries. Along with economic growth came social growth and army growth. Nuclear arms became a hot topic of debate and created tension with America. France wanted to have their nuclear weapons 'ready to deploy at all directions' which signifies French independence and means they could potentially be aimed at America. This has been a retaliation demand of the plan proposed by Dean Rusk that US missiles would be aimed at France if it doesn't comply with the nuclear deal. The issues intensified when de Gaulle became prime minister, as he had the tendency to ignore

the view points of others.

With the onset threats of the Cold War, and a possible invasion by the Soviet Union, the United States, Canada and a number of European Nations set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to coordinate any military reaction if the Soviet Union declared war on the West. De Gaulle saw that the organization was too dominated by the UK and the US and that America will back-stab European nations and not comply with the deal. Furthermore, de Gaulle
De Gaulle with Mao Ze Dong
De Gaulle with Mao Ze Dong

established rather friendly relationship with the Soviet Union, and pulled out of NATO command organization structure and SEATO (the south eastern equivalent of NATO). Additionally, France was the first European nation to open diplomatic relationship with the communist People's Republic of China (PRC) and consider its legitimacy. The move was heavily criticized by the US, however de Gaulle used the opportunity to create a split between China and the USSR, in what is known as the Henry Kissinger's "triangular diplomacy."


Vive le Quebec Libre!


In July 16, 1967, de Gaulle visited Canada to celebrate the nation's 100 year anniversary during Expo 67. On July 24 1967, de Gaulle shouted Vive le Quebec Libre from Montreal's city hall, then added "Vive le Canada Francais" and "Vive la France." The famous speech was heavily criticized in Canada and France, and Lester B. P
Vive le Quebec Libre
Vive le Quebec Libre

earson, Canada's prime minister added that "Canada does not need to be liberated." Charles de Gaulle left Canada two days after the issuing the speech, without attending his scheduled visit to Ottawa. Although the move was not famous among English - Speaking Canadians, it was a watershed moment to recognize Quebec Sovereignty.





Death and Legacy

Charles de Gaulle resigned from political life on April 28 1969, after getting his proposed reform to the Senate rejected by a nationwide referendum. Georges Pampidou, his long time assistant, became president after his resignation.
Two weeks before his 80th birthday on November 9 1970, de Gaulle died suddenly from a ruptured blood vessel while watching television and playing
Charles de Gaulle's gravestone
Charles de Gaulle's gravestone

Solitaire. He enjoyed robust health throughout his whole life, and his death came in as a shock. President George Pampidou announced that "Le general est mort. La France est veuve." (General de Gaulle is dead, France is a widow). Prior to his death, de Gaulle made arrangements that nobody would attend his funeral except for close friends family members and his Compagnons de la Libération. Pampidou arranged a separate funeral in the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral for all the foreign dignitaries wanting to honour de Gaulle.

Statues have been erected in his honour in Warsaw, Moscow,Bucharest and Quebec. De Gaulle created the French Fifth Republic and massively improved the French economy and infrastructure and its dominance on the world map. De Gaulle was saw a massive approval rate by the Frenchmen, or the "Gaullists". His name is used on countless French avenues, metros, an aircraft carrier and France's main airport. He also brought independence to Algeria, despite the reluctance to do so by senior French government officials. Charles de Gaulle will always be remembered as a man who changed France's history forever, and still casts a shadow over French society and the French government today.