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Viewing Topic "French Foreign Legion Paratroopers in the Indochina War"
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Posted by: Amaral After finishing Porch's book I re-read the classic "French Foreign Legion Paratroops" and had one idea: Martin Windrow can make a double publishing for those troops like he did with the Legion in 1871-1914, with a Warrior and an MAA. While the MAA shows the uniforms and, most importantly, the battles, the Warrior analyses what it would have been like to be a member of the French Foreign Legion airborne battalions and how the experience, equipment, tactics and training of the Legion developed, especially the parachutes - at the beginning they still jumped without weapons like rifles and machine guns, needing valises for them to be parachuted, like the Germans in Crete. Before anyone tries to say "Oh, do it with Algeria then". No, it can't be done. At all times in the book we see the following: "For reasons of space, the combat history of these units follows in note form; and only major, or particularly characteristic operatons are listed." (page 7, about Indochina) "Shortage of space naturally prevents more than the briefest note on this long and complex battle;" (page 13, about Dien Bien Phu) "Both REPs earned a high reputation as units of the 'general reserve' throughout the Algerian War; but this brief summary does not allow a detailed record of their operations" (page 17, Algerian War) And not to mention the huge differences in uniforms, Windrow spends three full pages just to explain how diverse the uniforms in Indochina [alone] were before explaining the plates. The wealth of detail of the FFL paratroopers in Indochina is too rich to be wasted in such cramped footnotes. For exemple, the first FFL airborne unit was the "Compagnie Parachutiste du 3e REI" commanded by Lt. Morin, the unit was attached to the 3rd Bn of the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes (a Metropolitan unit) and operated in Indochina while the 1er and 2e BEPs were parachute trained in Algeria. This unit today is completely forgotten, few people know about it (I didn't). But this is just he start. In the summary of the 1st BEP we have the following: "18 Mar. 1948 Operation 'Bayard' - first operational jump: successful op. NE of Haiphong." (Hmm... Ok. I want to know more about this operation.) "Mid-Oct. [1949] Op. 'Thérèse' - bn. jumped near Loung Phai pass, RC 4 after ambush Spahi unit 13 Oct. and radio silence Legion guarrison Loung Phai post. After 'blind' jump over appalling DZ among wooded cliffs, found burnt-out trucks and dead of ambush; but Loung Phai garrison found still hounding out." (Looks interesting, more details will be nice.) And there is the largest operation carried out by the French in the entire war: "9 Nov. Op. 'Marion', airborne phase Op. 'Lorraine' - 30,000 French struck at VM rear depots around Phu Doan. 1er, 2e BEP and 3e BPC (3rd Colonial Para Bn.) jumped from 450 ft over rough DZ near Phu Doan; found and destroyed important dumps; RV'd with Groupes Mobiles 1 and 4, attacking up RC 2 from Vietri; withdrew safely down RC 2 on 16 Nov. (Road force, withdrawing 17 Nov., heavily ambushed.)" This small paragraph does not show the intensity of the operation. There were two major depots in Yên Bay and Thai-Nguyên and the French assembled: - Four complete mobile groups; - One airborne group with three battalions; - Five commando units; - Two armored sub-groups; - Two tank destroyer and reconnaissance squadrons; - Two Dinassauts; - Two artillery battalions; - Huge number of engineering forces (there was no mobility in Indochina without them) The French had to coordinated three different services (air, land and water) with clock-work precision. And they did. After destroying massive supply depots and arms caches (with more modern weaponry and vehicles as the French had) the forces started to withdraw, a long and perilous maneuver. At 0930 of the 17 the French column in Chan-Muong (Groupe mobile 4 and 1) was heavily ambushed with artillery, machine guns and regular troops of the VM Regiment 36 charging hand-to-hand. After hours of fighting the French managed to force the VM back at 1630, and only after a desperate uphill bayonet charge of the remnants of the II/2e REI and the BMI (Bataillon de Marche Indochinois). The men were fighting for ten hours since 0700 - they had some brief firefights until reaching this valley - and they would be attacked again at 1830, but with less damage. This is just another exemple of interesting battle descriptions that are still to be explored by Osprey. For lack of space there are very, very, very few - if any - personnel accounts of the battles in both wars, and I am always looking for the fighting man's point of view. The experience of the double books WAR/MAA showed that this can be made in a perfect fashion, and I strongly suggest Osprey tak this opportunity. I can imagine the artwork showing the trainees at the Groupement d'Instruction Parachutiste in Khamisis, near Sidi bel Abbès, in a Warrior title. The quarters in Hanoi with men drawn from Metropolitan and Colonial para units - volunteers of the 25th Airborne Division - with veteran men from Legion infantry and cavalry units (some of them with parachute experience in other armies) to form the first two battalion of FFL paratroop (a third one was kept in Algeria for training). The individual equipment, some kick-ass battle artworks, at least one paratroop drop with the troopers running in the middle of the firefights to get their valises with the rest of the equipment and, of course, at least one plate showing the paratrooper in jumping order - the silk was hard to get and expensive at the time, making parachutes valuable, the VM paind bounty for them. With all this I could that maybe, just maybe, Martin Windrow in his infinit wisdon and mercy could make a book on the BEPs (or the whole FFL) in Indochina just as he did in "Our Friends Beneath the Sands". Okay, okay, I know, I am dreaming too much. I will just leave this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqMkiU0bb30
Posted on: 13/12/2013 04:41:00

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Posted by: CMB
Total Posts: 10
Joined Date: Monday, 15 March 2010
Hi Amaral, You're right as rain--there's plenty of scope for multiple volumes on the First Indochina War. In addition to the Warrior title you suggested, I would love to see a couple of Campaigns. Dien Bien Phu, of course. Also, RC 4. And there's potential for a good Raid on the near-capture of Ho Chi Minh.
Posted on: 29/12/2013 22:26:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
I hope they will listen to us, CMB.
Posted on: 31/12/2013 05:51:00
Posted by: CMB
Total Posts: 10
Joined Date: Monday, 15 March 2010
Fingers crossed, Amaral! Perhaps our wish will come true in 2015. Happy New Year!
Posted on: 01/01/2014 00:05:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Same here, Happy New Year!
Posted on: 03/01/2014 04:08:00
Posted by: CMB
Total Posts: 10
Joined Date: Monday, 15 March 2010
2014 has been pretty good so far, but I'm on vacation for another week. Then it's back to another semester of grad school (history, of course). How's the new year treating you, Amaral?
Posted on: 06/01/2014 22:48:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
Well, what can I say? I dropped teaching in November and I am planning to make a trip with my girlfriend this month or the next (probably to Chile). The food was very nice and I eated for the next three months - I am a little big, with 1,88m and 92kg ;-) - and as I no longer have to attend anyone I am free to expend as long as I want at the gymn or reading my books (today I bought my 2014's first Osprey book). So far, so good.
Posted on: 07/01/2014 04:43:00
Posted by: CMB
Total Posts: 10
Joined Date: Monday, 15 March 2010
Sounds like the good life to me! I got the Essential Histories on Spanish American Wars for Independence for Christmas, and it's making me want to go to South America.
Posted on: 07/01/2014 06:18:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
I saw this one, but Noriko was firm with me saying that I must save for the trip, at least when I showed WAR 165 "US Army Paratrooper in the Pacific Theater 1943–45" and said "Can we at least have this one?" she answered "Okay, only this one and this is it!". But I will certainly buy the Latin american one.
Posted on: 07/01/2014 19:10:00

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