How the DS Saved the French President’s Life

Charles de Gaulle was one of France’s most well-known politicians in recent French history, surviving over thirty assassination attempts in his lifetime.

  Charles de Gaulle

The most notorious one was in 1962 when a group dubbed ‘The OAS’ (Secret Army Organization) fired 140 bullets into the president’s Citroën DS as he was traveling from the Elysée Palace to Orly airport.

The group killed two bodyguards and shot out three tires but it was said the car that saved his life. De Gaulle forever loved the DS after that.  (The assassination attempt was portrayed in the film The Day of the Jackal — a 1973 political thriller directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale. Based on the 1971 novel by Frederick Forsyth, the film is about a professional assassin known only as the “Jackal” who is hired to assassinate Charles de Gaulle.  Watch that scene here:

The group had tried to kill him because they thought de Gaulle had betrayed France after he accepted Algerian independence.

Undoubtedly, it wasn’t just the car that saved his life during that assassination attempt in 1962 – he had an experienced driver who managed to handle the car successfully.

In other attempts, it was also his chauffeur that saved his life. A year earlier, he had been traveling to his country house with his wife when his Citröen car came alongside a napalm bomb hidden under a sand-pile on the road. De Gaulle’s favourite chauffeur, a man called Francis Marroux, drove straight through the flames as de Gaulle urged him to go faster while explosions happened around them.

De Gaulle had made many enemies during his long and tumultuous political career, but not one of the assassination attempts succeeded.

He died of a heart attack at his country home watching television in 1970.

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