Citroen helps De Gaulle survive assassination attempt - HISTORY
Year
1962

Citroen helps De Gaulle survive assassination attempt

On August 22, 1962, President Charles De Gaulle of France survives one of several assassination attempts against him thanks to the superior performance of the presidential automobile: The sleek, aerodynamic Citroen DS 19, known as “La Deesse” (The Goddess).  

When the Citroen DS made its sensational debut at the 1955 Paris Motor Show, its streamlined, understated form stood out among the tail-finned and chrome-covered cars popular in that era. A far cry from Citroen’s famous 2CV (dubbed the “ugly duckling”), the DS had a 1.9-liter engine and power-assisted gearshift, clutch, steering and brake systems. Its crowning aspect, however, was a hydropneumatic suspension system that Citroen would become known for, which automatically adjusted the height of the car to keep it level and enable the driver to maintain control more easily. Citroen took 12,000 orders for the DS by the end of that first day, and it soon became known as the preferred mode of transportation among France’s wealthy and most powerful citizens.

In August 1962, a group called the OAS (Secret Army Organization in English) plotted an assassination attempt on President De Gaulle, who they believed had betrayed France by giving up Algeria (in northern Africa) to Algerian nationalists. Near dusk on August 22, 1962, De Gaulle and his wife were riding from the Elysee Palace to Orly Airport. As his black Citroen DS sped along the Avenue de la Liberation in Paris at 70 miles per hour, 12 OAS gunmen opened fire on the car. A hail of 140 bullets, most of them coming from behind, killed two of the president’s motorcycle bodyguards, shattered the car’s rear window and punctured all four of its tires. Though the Citroen went into a front-wheel skid, De Gaulle’s chauffeur was able to accelerate out of the skid and drive to safety, all thanks to the car’s superior suspension system. De Gaulle and his wife kept their heads down and came out unharmed.

Frederick Forsyth dramatized the events of that August in his best-selling novel “The Day of the Jackal,” later made into a film. In 1969, De Gaulle–knowing that he owed his life to that Citroen–attempted to prevent the outright sale of France’s premier auto manufacturer (owned by the Michelin family of tire fame) to the Italian automaker Fiat by limiting the stake Fiat could buy to 15 percent. In 1975, to avert potential bankruptcy, the French government funded Citroen’s sale to a group that included its French rival, Peugeot; the result was PSA Peugeot Citroen SA, formed in 1976.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Michael Collins assassinated

Irish revolutionary and Sinn Fein politician Michael Collins is killed in an ambush in west County Cork, Ireland.In the early part of the century, Collins joined Sinn Fein, an Irish political party dedicated to achieving independence for all Ireland. From its inception, the party ...read more

U.S. wins first America’s Cup

On August 22, 1851, the U.S.-built schooner America bests a fleet of Britain’s finest ships in a race around England’s Isle of Wight. The ornate silver trophy won by the America was later donated to the New York Yacht Club on condition that it be forever placed in international ...read more

International Red Cross founded

The Geneva Convention of 1864 for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field is adopted by 12 nations meeting in Geneva. The agreement, advocated by Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, called for nonpartisan care to the sick and wounded in ...read more

Shootings at Ruby Ridge

In the second day of a standoff at Randy Weaver’s remote northern Idaho cabin atop Ruby Ridge, FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi wounds Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, and then kills Weaver’s wife, Vicki.Randy Weaver, an alleged white supremacist, had been targeted by the federal ...read more

Battle of Bosworth Field

In the last major battle of the War of the Roses, King Richard III is defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor, the earl of Richmond. After the battle, the royal crown, which Richard had worn into the fray, was picked out of a bush and placed on Henry’s ...read more

VC repudiates Johnson’s peace overture

For the first time in two months, Viet Cong forces launch a rocket attack on Saigon, killing 18 and wounding 59. Administration officials denounced the attack as a direct repudiation of President Johnson’s speech of August 19, in which he appealed to the North Vietnamese to ...read more

Kennedy reports stalemate in Vietnam

Kennedy administration officials quoted in The New York Times estimate that there are 20,000 guerrilla troops in South Vietnam. Despite hundreds of engagements during the preceding two months and encouraging victories for South Vietnamese forces, the Viet Cong had grown in ...read more

Graduated bombing policy condemned

Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General John P. McConnell, states before a Senate Subcommittee that adopting a graduated bombing policy in North Vietnam was a mistake. Three days later, Secretary of Defense McNamara admitted that the bombing of North Vietnam had not materially ...read more

Nolan Ryan registers 5,000th strikeout

On this day in 1989, Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers becomes the first pitcher in major league history to register 5,000 career strikeouts. Ryan would go on to rack up a total of 5,714 strikeouts, over 1,500 more than his closest competition.Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. was born January ...read more

Ulysses S. Grant marries

On this day in 1848, future President Ulysses S. Grant marries Julia Boggs Dent.The couple had a relatively lengthy engagement, caused first by Julia’s father’s disapproval of his daughter marrying a poorly paid soldier and, later, by Grant’s absence while fighting in the ...read more

Hired killer Jim Miller joins Texas Rangers

The hired assassin Jim Miller briefly joins the Texas Rangers, demonstrating how thin the line between outlaw and lawmen often was in the West.Many lawmen in the Old West had never been on the wrong side of the law themselves, but more than a few moved easily between the worlds ...read more

Hurricane Andrew pounds Bahamas

Hurricane Andrew hits the Bahamas on this day in 1992. There and in South Florida, where it arrived two days later, the storm was responsible for the deaths of 26 people and an estimated $35 billion in property damage. Hurricane Andrew was so concentrated that it resembled a ...read more