De Gaulle in His Glory
On this day in 1944, Gen. Charles de Gaulle marched triumphantly into liberated Paris. He led a procession down the Champs-Elysees, and when sniper fire broke out, he did not bend or cower. He kept going. Later, inside the cathedral of Notre Dame, where De Gaulle and everyone had gathered to sing a Te Deum, more shots rang out, this time from inside the cathedral. The BBC radio correspondent on the scene reported:
He walked straight ahead in what appeared to me to be a hail of fire from somewhere inside the cathedral – somewhere from the galleries up near the vaulted roof. But he went straight ahead without hesitation, his shoulders flung back, and walked right down the central aisle, even while the bullets were pouring around him. It was the most extraordinary example of courage that I’ve ever seen.
Malcolm Muggeridge, who was a British intelligence officer at the time, saw it all as well, and wrote:
The effect was fantastic. The huge congregation who had all been standing suddenly fell flat on their faces. … There was a single exception; one solitary figure, like a lonely giant. It was, of course, de Gaulle. Thenceforth, that was how I always saw him — towering and alone; the rest, prostrate.
De Gaulle was a son of a bitch, but what a magnificent son of a bitch he was!