- NAME: Charles de Gaulle
- OCCUPATION: Military Leader, World Leader
- BIRTH DATE: November 22, 1890
- DEATH DATE: November 09, 1970
- EDUCATION: Military Academy of Saint-Cyr
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Lille, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Colombey-les-deux-Églises, France
- Full Name: Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle
- Full Name: Charles de Gaulle
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Charles de Gaulle rose from French soldier in World War I to exiled leader and, eventually, president of the Fifth Republic. He served as president from 1959 to 1969.
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Charles de Gaulle rose from French soldier in World War I to exiled leader and, eventually, president of the Fifth Republic, a position he held until 1969. De Gaulle's time as a commander in World War II would later influence his political career, providing him with a tenacious drive. His time as president was marked by the student and worker uprisings in 1968, which he responded to with an appeal for civil order.
"A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless."
The son of a philosophy and literature professor, famed French leader Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890, into a patriotic and devoutly Catholic family. De Gaulle was a well-educated and well-read child. Early on, he dreamed of being a military leader. He enrolled at the country's top military academy, Saint-Cyr, in 1909. In 1912, he completed his studies and joined an infantry regiment that was commanded by Colonel Philippe Pétain, serving as a lieutenant.
During World War I, de Gaulle distinguished himself on the battlefield. He was wounded twice early on, and received a medal for his service. Promoted to captain, de Gaulle fought in one of the war's most deadly confrontations—the Battle of Verdun—in 1916. During the fight, he was injured and, subsequently, taken prisoner. After several failed escape attempts, de Gaulle was freed at the end of the war.
A bright and skilled soldier, de Gaulle enrolled in a special training program at the École Supérieure de Guerre after the war. He later worked with Pétain and served on France's Supreme War Council. Gaining some international experience, de Gaulle spent time in Germany and the Middle East.
Also an insightful writer, de Gaulle explored a number of military issues in his books. He published his examination of Germany, La Discorde chez l'ennemi, in 1924. Another important book was Vers l'armée de métier (1932), in which he made suggestions for creating a better army. This critical work was largely ignored by French military officials, but not by the Germans. According to some reports, the German military followed some of de Gaulle's recommendations in World War II. He and his mentor, Petain, had a falling out over another book, a military history piece entitled La France et son armée (1938).
At the time fighting broke out between Germany and France, de Gaulle was leading a tank brigade. He was temporarily appointed the brigadier general of the 4th Armored Division in May of 1940. Continuing to rise up professionally, de Gaulle became the undersecretary for defense and war for French leader Paul Reynaud that June. A short while later, Reynaud was replaced by Pétain. Pétain's new government, sometimes called the Vichy government, worked out a deal with Germany to avoid further bloodshed. The Vichy regime became infamous for collaborating with the Nazis.
A dedicated nationalist, de Gaulle did not accept France's surrender to Germany in 1940. He instead fled to England, where he became a leader of the Free French movement, with the support of British prime minister Winston Churchill.
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