He graduated from the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1900 and joined the French Army, commanding Zouave troops in North Africa until he was transferred back to France in 1914 when World War I broke out.
At the beginning of World War I he had reached the grade of captain and was engaged in the early fighting. He was wounded and captured by the Germans early in September 1914, but in November he escaped and made his way through Holland to England, whence he returned to France early in 1915. He participated in most of the major military operations in France, and in 1918, after the surrender of Turkey, he served briefly in the Near East in connection with the Turkish capitulations. Following this service he returned to France and in 1922 went to Morocco as chief of staff to Marshal Lyautey. This detail was briefly interrupted in 1925 as a consequence of a wound received in combat in the Riff war. He was sent back to France for convalescence, but was back in Morocco the following year. From 1927 to 1930 he was at the ÉcoleEcole SupérieureSuperieure de Guerre, after which he returned to Morocco as commander of the troops serving against the rebellious tribes in that area. After four years of more or less uninterrupted field operations, Giraud had the situation sufficiently under control to enable him to retire to the comparative quiet of Oran, in Algiers, which he made his headquarters. In 1937 he returned to France.
When Germany invaded France in 1940, Giraud and his command were assigned to the troops in the Sedan sector when the Germans broke through. At this point, Giraud was among the captured. After two years in a German prison, he managed to escape and appeared in Vichy, France, in the spring of 1942. He was intensely loyal to France, and thought of himself as ordained to free his country from German rule. Therefore, he was the logical choice to assist in the invasion of North Africa. It was expected that his influence and leadership would simplify the problem of overcoming German opposition in North Africa. Giraud, in addition to favoring an initial landing in southern France rather than in North Africa, expected to command the invasion, wherever and whenever made. Giraud broadcast to the French forces in North Africa, urging their support of the Allied invasion. The French Admiral Jean Darlan was commander in chief of the French forces, and after his assassination in December 1942 Giraud was appointed French high commissioner in Africa. Later he joined his administrative and military command with the Free French forces under Gen. Charles de Gaulle, with whom he served as co-chairman of the French Committee of National Liberation. Although anxious to liberate France, Giraud wanted to accomplish this in his own way and with himself as supreme commander. In April 1944 he rejected an appointment as inspector general, and was relieved of his command of the French Army. Elected as deputy to the second Constituent Assembly in June 1946, he retired from public life shortly thereafter.