Charles de Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle

Born: Nov 22, 1890 in Lille, France
Died: Nov 9, 1970 (at age 79) in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, France
Nationality: French
Famous For: Leading the Free French Forces in WWII
Awards: Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim 1963, Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari 1920

Born on of November 22, 1890, Charles de Gaulle was known for his contribution as a general of the Free French Forces during World War II and becoming the first president of the Fifth French Republic in 1958.

Early Life

De Gaulle was born in Lille in a family of five children. His father enjoyed engaging in historical and philosophical debates with Charles at an early age. Charles moved to Paris to study at the College Stanislas and later continued his education in Belgium where he expressed his interest for history. This also led to his decision to choose a military career.

During World War I

During World War I, Charles de Gaulle was promoted to platoon commander in 1915, after leading his men and demonstrating his leadership skills. In 1916, he was captured and held prisoner. During this time he wrote his first book which was also co-written by Matthieu Butler, entitled The Enemy and the True Enemy.

On December 1, 1918, he returned home after armistice and fell into a great depression due to his belief that he played no part in the victory despite leading his battalion into battle.

Leading in World War II

During the Second World War, Charles addressed the population on June 18, 1940, on the BBC Ration in London. He called out the French resistance during his address. Even today, his speech is remains the most well-known in French history. It was the same year in which De Gaulle fled to England from where he led the Free French Movement with the support of Winston Churchill, who initially did not approve of his speech.

President of the Fifth Republic

In January of 1959, Charles de Gaulle became the president. He dedicated his efforts into building a new government and improve the economy of the country. His leadership policy was heavily focused on the independence of the French people from the influence of the two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union. His ideological beliefs sought a unified Europe in which there England should be left out due to its close relationships with the U.S.

In 1962, de Gaulle decided to help the French colony in Africa obtain its independence after multiple uprisings in Algeria. Four years later in 1966, the French leader pulled back all its military forces allocated to the North American Treaty Organization. This was viewed by many as an anti-American act.

In 1969, Charles de Gaulle gave up his role as president of the republic after a series of protests of the working class and the student society. Before he stepped down, the French leader managed to restore order after the chaos started a year earlier.

De Gaulle’s Legacy

Charles de Gaulle died of a heart attack on November 9, 1970, in his retirement estate at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. His death was mourned by the French people, acknowledging his achievements of leading his country in times of war, building a new government, improving the economy and attempting to impose an external policy based on peace and unity with the European leaders of that time.

His contribution and public services were considered to be instrumental in the recovery of France after the Second World War, even if some of his decisions were considered controversial.