Year
1958

De Gaulle reassumes French leadership

During a French political crisis over the military and civilian revolt in Algeria, Charles de Gaulle is called out of retirement to head a new emergency government. Considered the only leader of sufficient strength and stature to deal with the perilous situation, the former war hero was made the virtual dictator of France, with power to rule by decree for six months.

A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle unsuccessfully petitioned his country to modernize its armed forces in the years before the outbreak of World War II. After French Premier Henri Petain signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June 1940, de Gaulle fled to London, where he organized the Free French forces and rallied French colonies to the Allied cause. His forces fought successfully in North Africa, and in June 1944 he was named head of the French government in exile.

On August 26, following the Allied invasion of France, de Gaulle entered Paris in triumph and in November was unanimously elected provisional president of France. He resigned two months later, claiming he lacked sufficient governing power. He formed a new political party that had only moderate electoral success, and in 1953 he retired. However, five years later, in May 1958, the Algerian revolt created a political crisis in France, and he was called out of retirement to lead the nation. A new constitution was passed, and in late December he was elected president of the Fifth Republic.

During the next decade, President de Gaulle granted independence to Algeria and attempted to restore France to its former international stature by withdrawing from the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance and promoting the development of French atomic weapons. However, student demonstrations and workers’ strikes in 1968 eroded his popular support, and in 1969 his proposals for further constitutional reform were defeated in a national vote. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, at 79 years old, retired permanently. He died the following year.

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