Charles De Gaulle - Between The Wars


Between The Wars

After the armistice, de Gaulle continued to serve in the army, and was with the staff of the French military mission to Poland as an instructor of Polish Infantry during its war with Communist Russia (1919–1921). He distinguished himself in operations near the River Zbrucz and won the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari - although the award was granted in five classes at the time, with class I and class II reserved largely for royalty and field marshals, and de Gaulle received the class V award sans cross.

He was promoted to commandant in the Polish Army and offered a further career in Poland, but chose instead to return to France, where he taught at the École Militaire. Although he was a protégé of his old commander, Marshal Philippe Pétain, de Gaulle believed in the use of tanks and rapid manoeuvres rather than trench warfare.

De Gaulle served with the Army of Occupation in the Rhineland in the mid 1920s. As a commandant ("major") by the late 1920s, he briefly commanded a light infantry battalion at Treves (Trier) and then served a tour of duty in Syria, then a French protectorate under a mandate from the League of Nations. During the 1930s, now a lieutenant-colonel, he served as a staff officer in France. In 1934 he wrote Vers l’Armée de Métier ("Toward a Professional Army"), which advocated a professional army based on mobile armoured divisions. Such an army would both compensate for the poor French demography, and be an efficient tool to enforce international law, particularly the Treaty of Versailles which forbade Germany from rearming. The book sold only 700 copies in France, where Pétain advocated an infantry-based, defensive army, but 7,000 copies in Germany, where it was read aloud to Adolf Hitler.

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