Charles de Gaulle was the key French leader during the World War II. He was a soldier who championed the cause of a Free France after Germany occupied France early in the war. His figure embodied the resistance of the French people and he continued to strive for French freedom even after French government had submitted to Hitler.
Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890 to a well-read and devoutly religious family. He inherited a love for literature from his family. Gaulle decided to join the military early in his life. To this end, he enrolled at the top military academy of France and had completed his studies by 1912. Gaulle was fairly young at the time but eager to show his skills in the battlefield. He would soon get a chance to do so at World War I.
During World War I, Charles de Gaulle fought in a number of battles. These included the famous Battle of Verdun which took place in 1916. During the Battle of Verdun, he was injured and taken prisoner by the French forces.
He was subsequently freed when the war ended with German defeat. Charles de Gaulle fought bravely throughout World War I and was injured many times. In recognition of his services, he was awarded a medal. More importantly, he gained significant renown and fame for his services during World War I.
Charles de Gaulle wrote a number of books, many of them related to military topics. In one of his books published in 1932, he provided recommendations on how to create a better army. According to some military historians, the German armies made use of these recommendations even when the French largely ignored them.
World War II broke out in 1939. Soon after the war broke out, Germany concentrated its forces on the French border in an attempt to run over the country. Gaulle was initially appointed a brigadier general of the army but was subsequently promoted to the position of the undersecretary for defense and war.
He was still serving in this position when the French government decided to surrender to the Germans in the face of a large-scale invasion. This was purportedly done to avoid bloodshed but Gaulle refused to accept this surrender.
Charles de Gaulle fled to England in 1940. He began making radio broadcasts and speeches to the French people, inspiring them to resist the invasion and fight back. He also organized support for France from its colonies.
He ultimately contributed to the allied efforts in retaking France from Germany and became the face of the newly-liberated France. In 1945, he became the president of the provisional government of France. He would continue to play an active role in French politics during subsequent decades.
Charles de Gaulle was popularly known for his overbearing pride in being a Frenchman, something which others saw as arrogance. He refused to collaborate with anyone while sacrificing French interests, a quality which often irked other world leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also exceptionally tall for the time period, at around six feet and five inches.