Who was Charles de Gaulle?
Aside from his role as a leader in World War II and President of the French Fifth Republic, DeGaulle was important in skillfully maintaining French independence from the two superpowers during the Cold War. He was not comfortable relying on the U.S. to defend France from an attack from the Soviet Union, and had no intention of France becoming a pawn in the dispute between the two. For that reason, he devised a plan where France (and hopefully the balance of Western Europe) could stand alone as a third party in the Cold War, aligned with neither the U.S. nor the U.S.S.R. He even arranged for France to test its own nuclear bomb in the Sahara Desert in 1964. Unfortunately, other Western European countries did not buy into his ideas, and his plans for a European alliance collapsed.
DeGaulle also managed to blunder his way into the Quebec Liberation movement in Canada. After making a speech there, he said to the audience, "Vive Quebec," followed by "Vive Quebec Libre!" (long live free Quebec) The Dominion government was not amused and said as much. After the failure of his European defense league and his faux pas in Canada, DeGaulle's influence waned substantially before his death.
Charles de Gaulle was an important French leader during and after World War II.
At the start of WWII, de Gaulle was not an important man. His rise began when he was the only member of the French cabinet to leave the country rather than accepting the German occupation. De Gaulle then became the leader of the Free French who were in exile during WWII. After the war, he became a political leader. He was the President of the Provisional Government after the liberation of France. After resigning that office, he held many other important positions, culminating in a ten year stint as President of the Republic from 1959 to 1969.