On this day April 23, 1960
Dressed in his 1940s-vintage general’s uniform, President Charles de Gaulle delivered a televised speech calling on the military personnel and civilians of France to oppose the Algiers putsch, a coup d’état attempt against him in the metropole or in Algeria.
“An insurrectionary power has established itself in Algeria by a military pronunciamento… This power has an appearance: a quartet of retired generals (un quarteron de généraux en retraite).
It has a reality: a group of officers, partisan, ambitious and fanatic. This group and this quartet possess an expeditive and limited savoir faire.
But they see and understand the Nation and the world only deformed through their frenzy.
Their enterprise lead directly towards a national disaster … I forbid any Frenchman, and, first of all, any soldier, to execute any single one of their orders….
Before the misfortune which hangs over the fatherland and the threat on the Republic, having taken advise from the Constitutional Council, the Premier ministre, the president of the Senate, the president of the National Assembly, I have decided to put in cause article 16 of the Constitution [on the state of emergency and full special powers given to the head of state in case of a crisis].
Starting from this day, I will take, directly if needs arise, the measures which seems to me demanded by circumstances… Frenchwomen, Frenchmen! Help me!”
Due to the popularity of a recent invention, transistor radio, De Gaulle’s call was heard by the conscript soldiers, who refused en masse to follow the professional soldiers’ call for insurgency.
Trade unions decided for the next day a one hour general strike against the putsch. The few troops which had followed the generals progressively surrendered. General Challe also gave himself up to the authorities on 26 April, and was immediately transferred to the metropole.
The putsch had been successfully opposed, but the article 16 on full and extraordinary powers given to de Gaulle was maintained for five months. “The Battle of the Transistors” – as it was called by the press – was quickly and definitely won by De Gaulle.