On May 24, 1976, during a military training exercise, a SA 330B PUMA helicopter of the French Army crashed into the Djadjaboka thalweg near Holhol in southern Djibouti, killing eight men on board, including the six legionnaires from the 6th Company of the Foreign Legion’s GOLE. The helicopter was assigned to the French Army Light Aviation Detachment (DETALAT) of Djibouti.
The legionnaires were members of the 3rd Platoon, 6th Company from the Foreign Legion Combat Team (Groupement Opérationnel de la Légion Étrangère, GOLE), an intervention force created in 1971. The GOLE was part of the then 2e RE, based in Bonifacio on the island of Corsica. In February 1976, the 6th Company of GOLE deployed to Djibouti, the then French colony (located in the Horn of Africa) called the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (TFAI). They deployed to Djibouti in response to 1976 Loyada incident. In the incident, 30 French children were hijacked by Djiboutian FLCS insurgents in Djibouti City a few days earlier. The hostages were rescued by the 2e REP legionnaires on February 4, before the 6th Company landed in Djibouti. However, the GOLE legionnaires stayed in Djibouti for a four-month-long mission.
On May 24, the 3rd Platoon, 6th Company would conduct a firing exercise. The legionnaires were being transported from Arta, the base of the rotational unit of 13e DBLE, to a military shooting range at Holhol. The first rotation conducted by three PUMA went without problems. During the second rotation, one PUMA, with three crew members and eleven legionnaires on board, crashed to the ground for unknown reasons. Two of the crew members and six legionnaires died in a fire. One crew member and five legionnaires were thrown from the helicopter. Although badly burnt, they survived. They were rescued and transported to France a few hours later, to be hospitalized in Paris.
In the accident, the Legion suffered its worst losses in a single incident since the end of the Algerian War. Nevertheless, the event will be totally forgotten during next almost 40 years. There is no article in French on the internet being concerned with the incident. The reason could be another Djibouti air accident killing legionnaires, which occurred six years later: Mont Garbi 1982 accident.
In any case, these two accidents are the deadliest incidents for the Foreign Legion, which occurred since the end of the Algerian conflict in 1962.
Killed legionnaires of the 3rd Platoon, 6th Company:
- Sergent-chef ZOLIC Smajil – the deputy to a platoon commander
- Caporal-chef COLETT Julien
- Legionnaire GAUMONT Pierre
- Legionnaire BRUNNER Alois – his brother Ruddy was among the badly burnt survivors
- Legionnaire GALIESER Joseph
- Legionnaire LARIER René
– Brunner, Galieser and Larier were fresh legionnaires, being deployed to Djibouti right after finishing their basic instruction
Killed crew members of the DETALAT crashed helicopter:
- Adjudant DUBOST Jean-Louis – a pilot
- Maréchal des logis chef BAIXAS Christian
The page was updated on: May 24, 2015