Foreign Legion events: May 21 – 31

On this day. Discover the Legion’s interesting historical events which occurred between May 21 and May 31. Learn about famous operations, campaigns, battles, activations or dissolutions of units and other important Foreign Legion historical events which happened from 1831 to these days. Every day is supplemented with a picture.

To see all historical events, go back to: French Foreign Legion – Historical Events

 

French Foreign Legion: May 21

1845, in northern Algeria, a two-day military operation ended
– carried out by 2nd Battalion, 1er RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 1er RE)
– the successful operation was aimed at the Beni Mezrough rebel tribe
– it took place in the Orleansville region

1852, in northeastern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– the battle occurred in the Batna region
– legionnaires from 2e RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI) got involved
– led by Major Montmarie
– they made part of a composite French column
– that day, 19 rebels were killed
– about 50 rebels were wounded
– Captain Martinez + Captain Tranchot + 13 legionnaires were also wounded
– in 1859, Lt Colonel Martinez would become the 1er RE’s regimental commander
– he was a Spanish ex-Carlist fighting in Spain against the original “Old Legion” in the late 1830s

1944, Battle of Mount Leucio
– an action of the Italian Campaign of WWII
– part of Operation Diadem (also Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino)
– the Allies attacking the German positions
– on the Gustav Line, near the Garigliano river in central Italy
– on May 21, a fierce battle
– it took place all the day
– the men from 13e DBLE (Half-brigade) got involved
– that day, the unit suffered heavy casualties
– Lieutenant Joseph de Ferrieres de Sauveboeuf was killed
– 20 legionnaires were also killed
– 4 officers + 59 legionnaires were wounded

1954, in then French Indochina, a successful battle with the Viet Minh
– part of a large military operation
– it took place near Nui Khe Non
– in the Phu Ly region, Northern Vietnam
– 2nd Amphibious Group, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) got involved
– around 300 Viet Minh rebels were killed or imprisoned
– however, 5 legionnaires were also killed

1957, in northwestern Algeria, a four-day military operation started
– at Djebel Amour, in the Ain Sefra region
– several Foreign Legion units got involved
– 6th Motorized Company, 2e REI
2e REC (Cavalry Regiment)
2e CSPL (Saharan Motorized Company)
– at least 18 rebels would be killed

– in the photo, the fanion of the 2nd Amphibious Group, 1er REC in French Indochina, 1954

1er REC - 1 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - 2e GA - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: May 22

1855, in the Crimea, a Legion attack aimed at Russian positions
– an action during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854-55)
– part of the Crimean War (1854-56)
– it took place near Fort Quarantaine, Sevastopol
– the attack was launched by both Foreign Legion Regiments
– 1er RLE (1er RE now) and 2e RLE (2e REI now)
– it started in the evening and took all the night
– the legionnaires faced twelve Russian battalions
– half of the enemy trenches were seized, however
– nevertheless, the Legion suffered heavy casualties
– 1er RLE losses:
– Captain Franzini + 2 lieutenants + 24 legionnaires killed
– 4 officers + 103 legionnaires wounded
– 2e RLE losses:
– Captain Philippe + Captain Rigny + Lieutenant Tisserant killed
– 27 legionnaires also killed
– 6 officers + 153 legionnaires wounded
Sevastopol was then capital of the Crimea, Russian Empire
– the Crimean War (1854-56) was a conflict between Russia and an alliance of France, Britain, Ottoman Empire and Sardinia

1915, in Morocco, a skirmish with local Branes tribe rebels
– during the Pacification of Morocco (1907-34)
– in the Taza region
– legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 1er RE got involved
– 3 legionnaires were killed
– Lieutenant Fouquart was seriously wounded

1925, in northern Morocco, a battle with local rebels
– part of the Rif War (1920-27)
– during an operation to supply the Amzou post
– close to Ain Aicha, in the Fez region
– 6th Battalion, 1er RE got involved
– led by Major Cazaban
– the legionnaires successfully fought off the enemy
– however, 5 legionnaires were killed
– 29 legionnaires were wounded

– in the image, then Prime Minister Paul Painlevé, who also served as War Minister at the time, is decorating legionnaires of the 6th Battalion, 1er RE close to Ain Aicha, Morocco, 1925

1er RE - 1 RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1925 - Ain Aicha - Morocco

 

French Foreign Legion: May 23

1832, first Foreign Legion officer to be killed
– that day, the very first officer of the Legion was killed
– in Algeria, during a fierce battle with local rebels
– at Sidi Mohammed Titteri
– close to Maison Carree near Algiers, the capital
– a platoon of 3rd Battalion, Foreign Legion got involved
– 27 legionnaires of German and Swiss origin
– led by Lieutenant Cham (also of Swiss origin)
– they were attacked by a company of local rebels
– the legionnaires and their commander fought to the finish
– all of them were massacred
Lieutenant Jean Cham became the first killed-in-action officer of the Foreign Legion

1855, in the Crimea, a Legion attack aimed at Russian positions
– an action during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854-55)
– part of the Crimean War (1854-56)
– it took place near Fort Quarantaine, Sevastopol
– the attack was launched by 1st Battalion, 1er RLE
– 1st Foreign Legion Regiment (1er RE now)
– as the previous day, the attack started in the evening and took all the night
– the Russians managed to defend their positions
– Lieutenant Opdenhoff + 10 legionnaires were killed
– 4 officers + 71 legionnaires were wounded
Sevastopol was then capital of the Crimea, Russian Empire
– the Crimean War (1854-56) was a conflict between Russia and an alliance of France, Britain, Ottoman Empire and Sardinia

1949, in then French Indochina, a Viet Minh attack
– aimed at legionnaires from 9th Company, 3e REI
– in the Dong Khe region, Northern Vietnam
– Second Lieutenant Louis Laspoumaderes + 10 legionnaires were killed
– 24 legionnaires were wounded

1960, in northern Algeria, a skirmish with local rebels
– close to Djelfa
– legionnaires from 2e REC (Cavalry Regiment) got involved
– 7 rebels were killed
– a legionnaire was also killed
– 3 legionnaires were wounded

2013, Operation Morpho ended
– a ten-day operation deep in the jungle of French Guiana, South America
– aimed at illegal gold-diggers and their camps
– legionnaires from 3e REI participated

– in the photo, a 3e REI legionnaire during Operation Morpho in French Guiana, May 2013

3e REI - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2013 - Operation Morpho - Guiana

 

French Foreign Legion: May 24

1837, Battle of Huesca
– an action of the First Carlist War (1833-40)
– a civil war in Spain
– fought between Carlists and Liberals (supported by France and Britain)
– the battle took place near the hermitage of San Jorce de Alcoraz
– close to Huesca, Aragon region, northeastern Spain
– the original “Old” Foreign Legion got involved
– its 1st + 2nd Battalion (1,200 men), led by Colonel Conrad
– 350 officers and legionnaires would be killed or wounded
– between the killed, Major Montallegri + Captain Mille + Lieutenant Wolff
– the original “Old Legion” (est. 1831, around 4,100 legionnaires) was handed over to Spain in June 1835 to fight in the First Carlist War for Maria Christina, Regent of Spain
– in early 1839, “Old Legion” would be dissolved
– tens of its survivors joined the “New Legion” in Algeria
– the current Legion, formed in 1836

1857, in northern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– part of a large French operation
– to pacify the Kabylie region
– the battle took place near Affensou, in the Tizi Ouzou province
– 1st Battalion, 2e RE (Foreign Regiment, 2e REI now) got involved
– 5 legionnaires were killed
– 39 legionnaires were wounded

1976, 1976 Djibouti helicopter crash
– an accident in today’s Djibouti
– it occurred during a military exercise
– a helicopter with legionnaires on board crashed
– the legionnaires belonged to GOLE
– Foreign Legion Task Force (assigned to 2e REI)
– Staff Sergeant Zolic + 5 legionnaires were killed
– another 4 legionnaires were seriously burnt
– at the time, for the Legion, it was the worst loss in a single incident since the end of the Algerian War in 1962
– nevertheless, officially, the accident has remained completely forgotten in France

– in the picture, the memorial plaque of the 1976 GOLE helicopter crash inside the Legion’s cemetery at Bonifacio, Corsica (the GOLE’s garrison 1971-77)

GOLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1976 - Memorial - Bonifacio

 

French Foreign Legion: May 25

1881, in northwestern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– near Bou Alem, in the Geryville region
– a Foreign Legion task force got involved
– led by Major Laffont
– 28 rebels were killed or wounded

1925, Battle of Djebel Bibane
– in Morocco, a battle with local rebels
– part of the Rif War (1920-27)
– close to Ghafsai, in the Fez region
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RE got involved
– led by Major Deslandes
– the legionnaires successfully fought off the enemy
– however, 2 legionnaires were killed
– 19 legionnaires were wounded

1956, in northeastern Algeria, a skirmish with a rebel group
– near Bir El Ater, in the Tebessa region
– 23e CPLE (Foreign Legion Motorized Company) got involved
– 6 rebels were killed
– 23e CPLE was a Legion independent unit (est. Jan 1955)
– equipped with Jeeps, Dodges and AMM8 armored cars
– in June 1956, the unit helped to form GPLEA
– Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group
– in late 1956, GPLEA companies merged with 2e REI

1957, in northwestern Algeria, a military operation
– carried out by 2nd + 3rd Battalion, 5e REI
– near Azails, in the Tlemcen region
– that day, 14 rebels were killed

– in the rare image, 23e CPLE and its AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) armored cars in Tebessa, Algeria, mid-1950s
– note the 23e CPLE legionnaires wearing light khaki berets
– they kept them as veterans from 1er REC units serving in Indochina
– 1er REC armored cavalry units used these berets there

23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: May 26

1842, in northern Algeria, a military operation
– aimed at the Sbeah and Beni Ouragh rebel tribes
– a 1er RLE task force participated
– 1st Foreign Legion Regiment, now 1er RE
– elite companies led by Major De Caprez

1960, in northeastern Algeria, a two-day operation ended
– carried out by 4e REI legionnaires
– in the Souk Ahras region, close to the Tunisian border
– at least 28 rebels were killed

1991, Operation Godoria started
– an operation in Djibouti (Horn of Africa)
– a response to thousands of armed Ethiopian refugees
– crossing the Ethiopia-Djibouti border
– 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) took part
– then stationed in Djibouti
– also 2e REP (Parchute Regiment) men
– then forming a rotational company of 13e DBLE
– the operation ended in early June

– in the picture, two 1960 Kepi blanc magazine covers show 4e REI members surveying the Algeria-Tunisia border in the Souk Ahras region
– note the AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) equipped with the “12,7” (M2 Browning) machine gun
– in late 1959, the green berets of para-legionnaires were extended to all Legion units
– they became the only regular headgear worn during operations (replacing khaki-covered kepis and light khaki berets)

4e REI - 4 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1960 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: May 27

1978, Battle of Kolwezi was finally over
– a successful airborne operation in Central Africa
– in then Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo now)
– to rescue over 2,000 European hostages held by local rebels
– held in the city of Kolwezi, an important mining center
– in the Katanga province of southern Zaire
2e REP (Parachute Regiment) carried out the operation
– May 19-20, its legionnaires jumped over Kolwezi
– they seized the town and liberated the Europeans
– in the following week, several operations took place
– to clear the area of any remaining rebels
– May 27, all of these operations were over
– the next day in the early morning, the 2e REP left Kolwezi
– during the battle, 247 rebels were killed
– 163 rebels were imprisoned
– 5 legionnaires were also killed
– an officer + 19 legionnaires were wounded
– over 2,000 Europeans were rescued
– the operation was largely covered by the media
– because of that, the 2e REP became popular around the world

– in the photo, after the Battle of Kolwezi was over, 2e REP legionnaires parade in Zaire, June 1978

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1978 - Battle of Kolwezi - Operation Bonite - Congo

 

French Foreign Legion: May 28

1871, Paris Commune ended
– a revolutionary government supported by armed radical socialists and anarchists occupying the capital of France
– existing since March 1871
– after the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)
– Provisional Foreign Regiment was sent to Paris to restore order there
– a unit established in late 1870, participating in the war
– consisting of three battalions
– French conscripts (non-legionnaires) in the majority since December 1870
– because of heavy losses

– the previous day, May 27, 1871, an important battle
– 5th Battalion, Provisional Foreign Regiment attacked the rebel positions
– rebel artillery on the heights of the Buttes-Chaumont, northeastern Paris
– one of the two last strongpoints of the revolutionary government
– after a fierce battle, the 5th Battalion successfully seized the positions
– at the same time, 1st + 2nd Battalion participated in operations in the streets of Paris
– they took over 2,000 prisoners

– the next day, May 28, all resistance ceased
– the French Army took control over Paris
– in June, Provisional Foreign Regiment battalions left France for Algeria
– at the same time, 3rd + 4th Battalion, Foreign Regiment served there
– being composed of German legionnaires in the vast majority
– they weren’t allowed to fight in France in 1870-71

1925, in Morocco, a battle with local rebels
– part of the Rif War (1920-27)
– close to Skoura, in the Fez region
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RE were involved
– led by Major Deslandes
– the legionnaires successfully fought off the enemy
– however, 2 legionnaires were killed
– 19 legionnaires were wounded

1940, Battle of Narvik
– part of the Battles of Narvik, Norwegian Campaign of WWII
– they took place between April 9 – June 8, 1940
– close to the city of Narvik, Norway
– Allied forces (Britain + France + Norway + Polish troops) against German troops
– during the night of May 28-29, an important ground battle started
– it lasted over fifteen hours
– seen as the first major Allied and French victory during WWII
– 13e DBMLE legionnaires were involved
– Provisional (sometimes Mountain) Half Brigade (13e DBLE now)
– the legionnaires successfully seized German positions
– however, 13e DBMLE suffered losses
– Captain Armand de Guitaut + Captain Roger Guillemain were killed
– 28 legionnaires were also killed
– Lieutenant Robert Garoux was fatally wounded
– 41 officers and legionnaires were wounded

1949, in then French Indochina, a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– near Phu Nham, close to Viet Tri, Northern Vietnam
– legionnaires from 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP) were involved
– 12 Viet Minh rebels were killed

1955, in northern Algeria, clashes with local rebels
– they took place in the Aures mountains
– 3rd + 4th Company, 3e REI were involved
– that day, 11 rebels were killed

– in the image, 13e DBMLE legionnaires leaving the Legion’s HQ of Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria in early March 1940, to take part in the Norwegian Campaign

13e DBMLE - 13 DBMLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1940 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: May 29

1916, in Morocco, a battle with local rebels
– members of the Beni Bou Yala rebel tribe
– the battle occurred near Ras El Dar
– in the Taza region
– 6th Battalion, 1er RE were involved
– the unit had several casualties
– 10 men were killed or wounded
– between the wounded, Lieutenant Dumas

1958, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre killed
– a legendary French officer
– 21 years of service with the Foreign Legion
– the commanding officer of the famous 1er REP (Parachute Regiment)
– at the time, called as the most elite unit of the French Army
– Lt Colonel Jeanpierre was killed during Operation Taureau III
– part of the Battle of the Borders (Jan-May 1958)
– a series of operations during the Algerian War (1954-62)
– in the Guelma region, northeastern Algeria
– Lt Colonel Jeanpierre was navigating his men from a helicopter
– however, the helicopter was hit by a rebel missile
– it crashed into Djebel Mermera
– Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre died

Pierre Jeanpierre was born in 1912 in France
– as a French officer, he joined the Legion in 1937
– he served in Algeria and Morocco in 1937-39
– 1939-41, Syria and Lebanon with the 6e REI
– with 6e REI, he took part in the 1941 Syria-Lebanon Campaign
– a member of the French resistence 1942-44
– imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp 1944-45
– after WWII, a Legion recruiting officer in Germany
– 1948-50, a deputy commander of the 1er BEP (later 1er REP)
– he participated in the Battle of RC4 in October 1950
– the whole battalion was annihilated
– Captain Jeanpierre led 22 survivors of the 1er BEP through the jungle
– an instruction battalion in Algeria in 1951-54
– since 1954, he re-joined the 1er BEP/1er REP
– he would stay with the unit until his death
– Lt Colonel Jeanpierre saw the 1er BEP/1er REP as his own unit
– he trained his men to be the most elite French soldiers
– he succeeded and became a legend

– in the photo, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre, the commander of 1er REP killed on May 29, 1958

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre

 

French Foreign Legion: May 30

1842, in northeastern Algeria, Djidjelli was attacked again
– the capital of the Djidjelli region
– attacked by around 1,000 local rebels
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion, 2e RLE defended the town
– Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI
– they were stationed at Djidjelli at that time
– tens of rebels were killed

1954, in then French Indochina, a battle with the Viet Minh
– close to Hien Luong
– in the Bac Ninh region, Northern Vietnam
– a platoon of the 1st Battalion, 3e REI was involved
– led by Sergeant Le Tallec
– 22 Viet Minh rebels were killed
– however, Sergeant Le Tallec was also killed

1960, in northeastern Algeria, a military operation
– conducted by legionnaires from 4e REI
– at Djebel Mesla, in the Souk Ahras region
– that day, at least 9 rebels were killed

– in the picture, legionnaires of the 1st Battalion, 3e REI in Indochina in the mid-1950s

3e REI - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: May 31

1847, in northeastern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– it took place in the Bougie region
– Major Meyer and his 2nd Battalion, 2e RLE were involved
– Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI
– that day, a legionnaire was killed
– 13 legionnaires were wounded

1943, 1er REIM + 3e REIM dissolution
– in North Africa, 1er REIM + 3e REIM were dissolved
– Infantry Regimental Combat Teams (or Provisional Regiments)
– both provisional combat units were formed in 1943
– to take part in the 1943 Tunisia Campaign
– a series of battles during the North African Campaign of WWII
– between Axis (Germans + Italians) and Allied forces
– 1er REIM + 3e REIM also participated in the final offensive
– it occurred near Djebel Zaghouan (May 6-11)
– they were opposing the German Africa Corps of Marshal Rommel

1949, Parachute Company of 3e REI dissolution
– in then French Indochina, CP, 3e REI was dissolved
– the very first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion
– formed in Hanoi, Northern Vietnam
– in April 1948, by Lieutenant Jacques Morin
– to take part in the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– in June 1949, its legionnaires merged with 1er BEP
– Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP

1954, 1re CMMLE + 2e CMMLE + 1re CEPML dissolution
– in then French Indochina, 1re CMMLE + 2e CMMLE + 1re CEPML were dissolved
– Foreign Legion mortar companies
– Mortar Mixed Companies + Heavy Mortar Parachute Company
– the units took part in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– they were annihilated there
– the three mortar companies have never been re-created

1958, Battle of the Borders ended
– a series of military operations during the Algerian War (1954-62)
– the most violent action of the war
– it started in late January 1958
– the operations took place in the Guelma region, northeastern Algeria
– close to the border with Tunisia, home to many rebel camps
– the rebels were crossing the border regularly
– to supply and reinforce rebel units in Algeria or to escape French troops
– the French started to build electric fence barriers on the border in 1957
– five French airborne regiments took part in the Battle of the Borders
– in the first place, 1er REP (Parachute Regiment)
– the legionnaires were chasing the rebels alongside the border
– unitl late May, almost 1,200 rebels were killed by the 1er REP
– for that action, the 1er REP was named “the most elite regiment within the French Army”
– however, the 1er REP’s commander, Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre, was killed at the end of the battle
– also 111 officers and legionnaires of the regiment were killed during the battle

– in the image, Lt Col Jeanpierre, the famous commander of the 1er REP (killed on May 29, 1958) and his legionnaires during the Battle of the Borders, Algeria, 1958

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Algeria - Lt Colonel Jeanpierre

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: May 11 – 20
Foreign Legion events: June 01 – 10
French Foreign Legion history