2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion

The 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes, 2e BEP) was a French Foreign Legion airborne unit activated in Algeria in late 1948. The unit took part in the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and was annihilated there during the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The following year, in 1955, the reconstituted 2e BEP became the most decorated French battalion to have fought in Indochina. Back in Algeria, it helped create a new unit: the well-known 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP), which took over the battalion’s number, traditions, and history.

2e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes - 2 BEP - 2e BEP - 2eme BEP - 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion's History


The following article is part of the History of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment.


1948: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Algeria

Since 1831, the Foreign Legion had been stationed in North Africa’s Algeria and adopted the country as its homeland. In 1848, Algeria became an integral part of France.

A century later, in 1948, the Foreign Legion’s main headquarters was still based in Algeria. That year, the decision was made to organize airborne units within the Legion. A March 27 decree ordered such a formation in North Africa. Thus, the Legion’s headquarters made a call to all volunteers among Foreign Legion forces stationed in the territory to join the new airborne units. Dozens of legionnaires applied.

The first such unit, the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP), was established in Algeria in July 1948.

By the way, the first legionnaires-paratroopers had already appeared in North Africa during World War II. But that is another story.

In the meantime, since the spring of 1948, two companies of another airborne battalion had formed in Fez in North Africa’s Morocco, within the Legion’s 4e DBLE (Demi-Brigade, later renamed the 4e REI).

On October 1, 1948, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes, 2e BEP) was officially activated. The battalion’s HQ and 1st Company (Captain Cailloud) were organized a week later in the Caserne Chadeysson, an old French barracks in Sétif, northeastern Algeria. Major Burgière from the DCRE temporarily took charge of the battalion (though only on paper; Captain Cailloud represented him). The volunteers trained in Morocco would join the new unit and form its 2nd and 3rd Companies.

On November 5, Captain René Solnon replaced Major Burgière and took command of the 2e BEP.

Throughout November and December, the legionnaires underwent parachute training at the French Army’s Parachute Training Center in Philippeville (now Skikda), located some 110 miles (180 km) northeast of Sétif. In mid-December, the men earned their Parachutist Badge.

The 2e BEP obtained its fanion (a small flag, the equivalent of a guidon or company color) on December 18. Now it was ready to join the ongoing First Indochina War.

2e BEP’s composition in Algeria in late 1948

  • Command – Captain Solnon
  • Second-in-command – Captain Dussert
  • HQ Company – Captain Gombeaud
  • 1st Company – Captain Caillaud
  • 2nd Company – Captain Cazaumayou
  • 3rd Company – Lieutenant Verguet


2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Algeria - Sétif - Philippeville - map
Algeria, an integral part of France and the homeland of the Legion, from 1831 until 1962. The 2e BEP was activated in Sétif in 1948, partially with the men coming from Sidi Bel Abbès, then-HQ of the Legion. They earned their Parachutist Badge in Philippeville, France’s main parachute training center in North Africa at the time.

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Sétif - Caserne Chadeysson - 1950s
Caserne Chadeysson, the barracks of the 2e BEP in Sétif, Algeria.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Lt Colonel Royer - Captain Solnon - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 or 1949
Lt. Colonel Royer (right), then-head of the DCRE (headquarters and main depot of the Legion, based in Sidi Bel Abbès), is handing over the fanion of the recently established 2e BEP to Captain Solnon, its commander.


1949: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

French Indochina. The title refers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia: today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. These countries had been under French rule since the 1880s, with the important help of legionnaires. This rule was temporarily interrupted in March 1945, when French Indochina faced the Japanese occupation.

In late 1945, with the defeat of the Japanese Empire, the first French troops were installed back in Indochina, now partially occupied by the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam), a nationalist movement led by Ho Chi Minh. The latter declared independence from France for Vietnam in September 1945. A formal agreement between the French government and the movement ended in December 1946, when the Viet Minh launched a general attack aimed at French garrisons. The First Indochina War started. Ho Chi Minh was forced to leave Hanoi, a former capital of French Indochina and the capital of Tonkin (which was then the French name for Northern Vietnam). He moved with his men to the north, to remote forested and mountainous areas bordering China.

At that time, in late 1946, the Foreign Legion had stationed three infantry regiments in Indochina, as well as a small number of autonomous logistics companies. In early 1947, the 1er REC cavalrymen reinforced these units, followed by the 1er BEP in late 1948.

On January 13, 1949, it was the 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion’s turn to board a ship and leave Africa for Asia.

On February 9, the battalion landed in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), the largest city in Vietnam and the then-capital of Indochina. The city served also as the capital of Cochinchina (what was Southern Vietnam back then).

After a week-long stay in Saigon, the 2e BEP deployed to Cambodia. The HQ and HQ Company were stationed at Kep (the coast of the Gulf of Siam), while the 1st Company and the rear base moved to Phnom Penh, the capital. The other two companies were based inside the country (Kampong Speu, Kompong Luong).

The battalion conducted patrols within the capital and its companies’ garrisons and protected French military convoys. In addition, it carried out military operations in the countryside, to maintain order in the region. Nevertheless, Viet Minh rebel activities were infrequent in Cambodia at the time.

Military operations began for the battalion in Indochina in March. These included Operation Prestige in southern Cambodia, where the 1st and 3rd Companies carried out the first combat jump.

Thereafter, for operational reasons, the 1st Company returned to Saigon to serve as a rapid reaction force there; every four to six weeks, it was rotated with other companies of the battalion.

In early June, 1st Company men were involved in Operation Jonquille west of Saigon, alongside 1er REC units.

Meanwhile, on June 3, the battalion lost its first officer in action. Lieutenant René Fiévet, a platoon leader with the 2nd Company, was killed in a skirmish in Cambodia, near Phnom Penh.

On August 10, nine rebels were killed in a gunfight in the Bat Deng sector, southern Cambodia. A legionnaire with the 2nd Company was fatally wounded.

At the time, the 2e BEP comprised 27 officers, 90 NCOs, and 625 legionnaires (742 men in total).

In mid-September, the 3rd Company – deployed to Saigon at the time – participated in Operation Quadrilatere II. Twenty rebels were killed.

In mid-November, for administrative and operational reasons, the entire battalion departed from Cambodia and was transferred to Saigon. There, it continued to serve as a rapid reaction force for southern parts of Indochina, including Cochinchina and Cambodia. While one of the companies was always put on alert at Tan Son Nhat Airfield (an important airfield that the French built in the city in the 1930s), the others were involved in the construction of a new camp at the nearby Quan Tre village. They subsequently occupied it.

In late December, the 1st Company jumped over the village of Hieu Tu (in the Tra Vinh sector, southwest of Saigon), which had come under attack by two enemy battalions. The attackers were forced to withdraw. Three legionnaires were killed during the action.

Southeast Asia - 1949 - French Indochina
French Indochina in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Vietnam was divided into three parts at the time: Tonkin (North), Annam (Central), Cochinchina (South). In Cochinchina was situated Saigon, the capital of Indochina and the largest city of Vietnam (called Ho Chi Minh City today).

Lycee Petrus Ky High School - Saigon - French Indochina - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - 1949
Petrus Ky High School in Saigon. The 2e BEP was stationed there in early 1949.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Cambodia - 2e Cie - 2nd Company - Ltn Barjot - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - 1949
Lieutenant Barjot and his men from the 2nd Company 2e BEP in Cambodia, 1949.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Insignia - insigne - 1949
The insignia of the 2e BEP, designed in Cambodia in 1949. The Asian dragon represents French Indochina, while the wings symbolize an airborne unit. The Legion is represented by its seven-flame grenade and the green & red colors.


1950: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

In early January, the 2e BEP was sent to Annam (the French title for Central Vietnam back then), to maintain order in the Quang Tri and Hue regions. Near Hue on the 6th, the legionnaires were engaged by the Viet Minh and liquidated many of its men. Four legionnaires also died, however.

A month later, on February 6, the HQ Company killed 15 rebels during an operation north of Hue.

On February 20, the 2e BEP was back in Saigon. During one year of its engagement in Indochina, the unit suffered 41 men killed and 77 men wounded.

In March, the battalion quit the camp at Quan Tre and was installed directly at the Tan Son Nhat Airfield.

Between late March and early April, the 2nd Company under Lieutenant Cabiro participated in operations in the Ba Cum sector, close to Tra Vinh, alongside men from the 1er REC. On April 1, Cabiro’s men attacked and occupied fortified enemy positions, killing 49 of the numerically superior rebels. For that action, the company was cited (mentioned in dispatches) at the Army level – the French highest possible citation a unit or a person could receive.

In late May, the same company was involved in the week-long Operation Minos. Alerted on May 21, the men jumped over the village of My Trach in Central Annam’s Dong Hoi region to support an ambushed French unit. The next day, the village was searched; survivors were found and evacuated. The company returned to the Dong Hoi region in June but left it in July without any major combat action.

In late June, it was the turn of the 1st Company, which was sent to the Pakse region in Laos. On the 22nd, Lieutenant Borgniet’s platoon was engaged. It lost five legionnaires, and several of its men were wounded and captured, including the officer; he died in captivity in May 1951. The company had spent six weeks in Laos, without any further details, and arrived back in Saigon in early August.

That month, the 2e BEP was cited at the Army level for its well-recognized actions.

In late August, the battalion companies moved southeast of Saigon, on the coast. While the 3rd Company operated west of Baria and on the Nui Nua island, the other companies took part in Operation Rouleaux, which occurred (south)east of the town, between Cho Phuoc Hai and Phuoc Buu, from August 30 to September 2. Numerous enemy camps and hideouts were destroyed.

As of September, the situation in Tonkin (e.g., Northern Vietnam) had deteriorated greatly. The Viet Minh – supported by the new communist regime in neighboring China – had intensified its actions in the northern part of the territory. The French troops stationed close to the Chinese border, mostly the Legion’s 3e REI, faced up to six enemy regiments and a possible encirclement. Having suffered heavy casualties, they were eventually ordered to withdraw to the south, through the RC4 colonial road. However, the Viet Minh, well informed about the French intentions, attacked the town of Dong Khe (located on RC4) and captured it, thus preventing the French from retreating. To help them in their withdrawal, airborne units – including the 1er BEP – were sent to the region.

Therefore, in mid-September, the 2e BEP was alerted and, on the 18th, the first detachment of the battalion under Captain Paul Dussert, second-in-command, was transferred to Hanoi in Tonkin. It consisted of an HQ element and the 1st and 2nd Companies. They were stationed at Bach Mai Airfield, France’s second major air base in Tonkin and home to the 1er BEP, which had left it a day earlier for operations on RC4.

Five days later, the two 2e BEP companies jumped over Sin Ma Kay, close to Pha Long, in the Lao Cai region in northwestern Tonkin. They had to cover the retreat of a French Army battalion of Moroccan light infantrymen to Lao Cai, along the border with China. During their move through a wild, mountainous forest, a Viet Minh unit was engaged and lost 20 men. On September 27, Lieutenant Yvon Neveu of the 2nd Company drowned while trying to cross a flooded river. On October 6, the detachment succeeded, without further incidents, in reaching Lao Cai and was transported back to Hanoi. Two days later, a sad news arrived: the 1er BEP was annihilated south of Dong Khe. It became the very first French airborne battalion lost in combat.

On October 9, the 3rd Company arrived in Hanoi from Saigon. The remaining elements of the 2e BEP left Cochinchina for Tonkin 10 days later.

Only Captain Solnon stayed in Saigon. He would leave the battalion for a French HQ staff post in the city. Captain Dussert replaced him as the commander of the 2e BEP in late October. But not for long. He had to leave the battalion (and Indochina) after suffering injuries in a car accident on November 18.

Thus, a few days later, Captain Rémy Raffalli took command of the 2e BEP. He had originally arrived in Indochina to lead the 1er BEP and replace its commander, Major Segrétain. However, the decision was made to officially inactivate the 1st Battalion after the October disaster on RC4.

In late November, the 2e BEP was involved in Operation Flore, close to Thai Binh, in the Tonkin Delta.

2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in late 1950

  • Command – Captain Raffalli
  • Second-in-command – Captain Coat
  • HQ Company – Lieutenant Longeret
  • 1st Company – Captain Caillaud
  • 2nd Company – Lieutenant Cabiro
  • 3rd Company – Lieutenant Verguet


Operation Rouleaux - photo album - French Indochina - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - 1950
An official photo album commemorating the 2e BEP’s 1950 Operation Rouleaux, distributed among men of the unit. Courtesy of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of Poland’s Foreign Legion veteran association (A.A.A.L.E. de Pologne) and the author of Zygmunt Jatczak: I regret nothing.

Operation Rouleaux - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1950 - French Indochina
Operation Rouleaux. A Viet Minh rebel captured by 2e BEP legionnaires during the operation.
Paul Dussert - 1950 - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere
Captain Paul Dussert, in 1950. A little-known officer of the Legion, he did his first tour in Indochina with the 2e REI, from 1946-1948. Deputy commander of the 2e BEP since late 1948, he became its provisional commander in late 1950. After being seriously wounded in a car accident three weeks later, he had to leave Indochina. Promoted to major back in Algeria, Dussert commanded the 3e BEP in Sétif (a depot & training unit, future 3e REP) from 1952-1954.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Sin Ma Kay operation - Ltn Neveu - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere
In late September 1950, two 2e BEP companies jumped over Sin Ma Kay in northwestern Tonkin, at the border with China. They had to cover the retreat of a French Army battalion. During the challenging operation, Lieutenant Neveu (2nd Coy) drowned while trying to cross the flooded river of Song Chay (in the photo).
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Hanoi - 1st Company - 1re Cie - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere
Legionnaires of the 1st Company 2e BEP with their company fanion in Hanoi, late 1950. Note they wear the green beret, a distinction reserved for Legion paratroopers. Nevertheless, wearing it was prohibited under Major Segrétain in the 1er BEP, and therefore, only 2e BEP men wore it occasionally, until late 1950.
Rémy Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1950-1952
Rémy Raffalli. A young cavalry officer, he joined the Legion and its 3e BEP in 1949. He deployed to Indochina in late 1950, to succeed Major Segrétain at the lead of the 1er BEP. However, the unit had been recently annihilated. Thus, Raffalli replaced injured Dussert and took over the 2e BEP. An intelligent, smiling person, he became popular among his subordinates. However, wearing the green beret was not allowed under his command. Like Segrétain, he had been influenced by old school superior officers of the Legion resisting the wearing of the beret by legionnaires.


1951: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

After the inactivation of the 1er BEP due to its annihilation on RC4 in October, the Provisional Company 1er BEP was created on January 1 and administratively assigned to the 2e BEP. The combat-ready company kept the battalion’s fanion, history, and traditions.

Also on January 1, the Foreign Airdrop Resupply Company (CERA) was activated in Hanoi. It consisted mainly of the former 1er BEP men, but several 2e BEP personnel were attached to the company, too. The unit resupplied French frontline troops and posts via air.

In French sources, 1951 is known as the Year of De Lattre, named after the popular General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, who had become commander-in-chief of the French forces in Indochina in late December 1950. His persona significantly raised the morale of the French troops, and his tactical mindset allowed his forces to impose heavy defeats on the enemy. Under De Lattre’s command, the French – including many Legion units – built an extensive network of cement fortifications, trenches, and blockhouses in Tonkin (called De Lattre Line), as well as new airfields. For the record, the general had great respect for para-legionnaires. He spent his first Christmas Eve – the most sacred holiday – in Indochina with the 2e BEP.

From early January, operations continued for the battalion. The first important confrontation with the Viet Minh in the new year occurred southeast of Hanoi, near Ke Sat, on February 3. That day, 40 rebels were liquidated. The battalion lost four legionnaires.

Later that month, the prescribed rotation of men took place. Their two-year tour of duty in Southeast Asia was over, and they could return to North Africa. New officers and legionnaires replaced them. They had been trained and supplied by the 3e BEP, an instruction and depot unit of Legion paratroopers created in Algeria in late 1949, and based in the 2e BEP’s former barracks in Sétif.

In early March, the Provisional Company 1er BEP was reinforced by four officers, 11 NCOs, and 69 legionnaires from the 2e BEP and became Parachute Battalion A. Two weeks later, after having received a large detachment from Algeria’s 3e BEP, it was transformed into a new 1er BEP.

Until May, the 2e BEP conducted operations in the mountain range of Dong Trieu, in the Quang Ninh region, east of Hanoi. The Viet Minh launched an offensive there. During the Battle of Mao Khe from March 29-31, about 400 enemy soldiers were eliminated by a French group comprising two airborne battalions, including the 2e BEP.

The year 1951 was also marked by the new “yellowing” policy destined for the French armed forces in Indochina. Local anti-communists loyal to France were recruited to replenish the under-strength French units, including the Legion ones. Thus, both the BEPs became mixed, with companies composed of legionnaires and local auxiliaries. On top of that, each battalion got its own Foreign Legion Indochinese Parachute Company (CIPLE), a unit composed entirely of local natives. As non-legionnaires, they wore a white beret instead of the Legion’s white képi during parades. The 1re CIPLE had served with the 1er BEP, and the 2e CIPLE with the 2e BEP, since April 1.

Along with the “yellowing” of the units, a reorganization affected the 2e BEP in early April. It resulted in a change in company designations: The 1st Company became the 3rd, and the 2nd Company became the 4th. Now the new 1er BEP was composed of the 1st and 2nd Companies and the 1re CIPLE. Meanwhile, the 2e BEP was composed of the 3rd and 4th Companies and the 2e CIPLE.

2e BEP’s new composition in Indochina in April 1951

  • Command – Captain Raffalli
  • Second-in-command – Captain Kalck
  • HQ Company – Lieutenant Longeret
  • 3rd Company – Captain Coat
  • 4th Company – Lieutenant Louis-Calixte
  • 2nd Indochinese Company – Captain Bertoleaud


Following its defeat in the Dong Trieu, the Viet Minh launched another offensive, this time from the Tonkin Delta in the direction of Nam Dinh, a city southeast of Hanoi. Since late May, three enemy divisions (about 35,000 men) had been involved in what is now known as the Battle of the Day River. The 2e BEP again participated, until mid-July. The Viet Minh suffered heavy casualties.

During the Battle of the Day River, the battalion engaged in two significant actions at Co Da, north of Phat Diem. On June 7, the unit killed 57 Viet Minh soldiers there. However, on June 15, Captain Raffalli was wounded and evacuated, while Captain Jacques Bertoleaud (2e CIPLE) was fatally injured. Six legionnaires died, too.

In mid-July, the 2e BEP left the Delta and rejoined Hanoi.

In the meantime, Commando Leyion was formed within the battalion, under Lieutenant Barbier de Préville. A platoon-sized guerrilla warfare unit, intended to operate beyond enemy lines, it was composed of eight European cadres (two officers, and six NCOs and corporals) and former Viet Minh members. Its name meant “Legion” in Vietnamese. In late February 1952, the unit was renamed to Commando De Preville, in memory of the lieutenant killed in action at the time. Until its dissolution in June 1952, the commando was led by Staff Sergeant Jahnwitz.

In early August, recovered Captain Raffalli rejoined the battalion and was promoted to major. In the meantime, Lieutenant Lemaire took command of the 3rd Company, while Lieutenant De Saint-Marc took command of the 2e CIPLE.

From August 8-10, the 2e BEP was deployed to Central Annam and jumped over Kon Tum to retake two French outposts lost to the enemy. During the jump, several men were injured, and one died accidentally: Captain Robert Kalck, then-second-in-command of the battalion. He had previously commanded the 1re CSPL Saharan Company in Algeria.

After a month spent in the Kon Tum sector, from where the Viet Minh had already disappeared, the men were brought – through Saigon – to Quang Tri in Central Annam, the city they had gotten to know back in January 1950. The legionnaires carried out several operations and convoy escorts. Then, in late September, they moved to Hue in Tonkin for a few days, before returning to Hanoi.

Meanwhile, the Viet Minh under General Giap tried to launch another offensive after three failed ones that year. This time, Giap abandoned the flat Delta and chose to attack the mountainous Tai province in western Tonkin and its French administrative center, Nghia Lo. General de Lattre, in Washington at the time, was temporarily represented by his deputy, General Salan. The latter decided to let the enemy (about 15,000 men) advance to Nghia Lo and then attack it from the flanks, cutting it off from supply routes.

Thus, in early October, the 2e BEP was sent to reinforce the garrison of Nghia Lo (Operation Therese) and support another French airborne battalion already on the spot. From October 3-10, the 2e BEP fought with the Viet Minh in impassable, densely vegetated terrain near Gia Hoi. The enemy lost 53 men. However, Lieutenant Jacques Lecoeur and seven legionnaires were also killed. On October 10, Giap decided to retreat.

On October 15, near Nghia Lo, Captain Yvon Coat died in an accident during a supply mission.

Ten days later, the battalion returned to Hanoi. There, Captain Merglen became its new deputy commander.

In November, the 2e BEP was cited again at the Army level. This was its second such unit citation.

Later that month, on the 22nd and 23rd, it moved to Saigon. The next two weeks were spent on practice jumps, training, and minor operations around the city.

Meanwhile, in Tonkin, General de Lattre de Tassigny had gone on the offensive. Following the previous victories, he selected the strategically important city of Hoa Binh, located about 35 miles (55 km) west of Hanoi, for his plan. He wanted to lure the Viet Minh divisions there and confront them.

The Battle of Hoa Binh began on November 10. The 1er BEP was one of the first units to participate. Sooner or later, other Legion units were involved in the battle, including the 2e BEP, which joined the operations on December 15 after returning from Saigon. The battalion carried out tasks north of Hoa Binh, in the densely forested mountain massif of Mont Ba Vi. There, the legionnaires searched the enemy and its supply routes, often alongside their comrades from the 1er BEP.

Heavy fighting occurred on December 24 along the road between Ap Da Chong and Yen Cu. The 2e CIPLE suffered 12 dead, including Lieutenant Beaurel, and 31 wounded. The enemy lost 127 men.

CERA - Foreign Airdrop Company - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1951
Foreign Airdrop Resupply Company (CERA). The insignia of the little-known company that was created in early 1951 and composed of the men coming from both Legion parachute battalions.

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Insignia - Commando Leyion - insigne - 1951
The insignia of the Commando Leyion, a guerrilla warfare unit consisting of former Viet Minh members. Assigned to the 2e BEP and later renamed as Commando De Preville, it was dissolved in mid-1952. The insignia was probably designed in 1951.
Sergeants - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Nghia Lo - Indochina - 1951
Belgian and German sergeants from the 2e BEP during operations around Nghia Lo, in the Tai province of western Tonkin, in October 1951. Note that both NCOs wears different uniforms. At that time, even companies within a battalion were often distinguished by their battledress.
Captain Yvon Coat - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Nghia Lo - Indochina - 1951
Captain Yvon Coat, the 3rd Company 2e BEP commander, during operations around Nghia Lo, October 1951. A few days later, he died accidentally during a supply mission. Note the 1943 USMC uniform, popular in the 2e BEP.
Major Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Fanion - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1951
Major Raffalli, followed by the 2e BEP’s fanion guard and his men during a parade, after the operations around Nghia Lo were successfully over. Note the side cap (calot, also bonnet) of the battalion commander and the boonie hat of his men.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Battle of Hoa Binh - patrol - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Tonkin - 1951
2e BEP men during the Battle of Hoa Binh, west of Hanoi, in late 1951.
General de Lattre - Major Raffalli - 2e BEP - Indochina - 1951
General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (right) in Hanoi in November 1951, when leaving French Indochina for France. He is saluted by his friend, Major Raffalli. Note the general’s black armband in mourning of his only son Bernard who was killed in action in the Red River Delta earlier that year. General de Lattre, highly respected by both the French forces and the Viet Minh, died of cancer seven weeks later.


1952: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

In late November 1951, two months after he had delivered a speech at The Pentagon, General de Lattre was forced to leave Indochina and return to France due to a serious illness. His condition quickly deteriorated, and on January 11, the popular officer died. General Salan replaced him. He didn’t see another advantage in holding Hoa Binh because the Viet Minh deployed three divisions there and went on the counteroffensive. The French supply road (RC6) was in danger of being cut off. Thus, Salan decided to withdraw his 20,000+ men from the region and redeploy them to the liberated Delta, where the enemy tried to infiltrate again.

The evacuation from Hoa Binh along RC6, known as Operation Arc-en-ciel, started in mid-January. The two BEPs protected the road section between Xuan Mai and Ao Trach, east of Hoa Binh. There were many clashes with the encroaching enemy. The withdrawal was achieved in late February. During the operations around Hoa Binh and along RC6, the 2e BEP lost Lieutenants Albert Beaurel and Paul Delearde, as well as 30 legionnaires. Sixty-five men were wounded.

From mid-March until early June, after a two-week rest period in Hanoi, the battalion resumed operations in the Delta (around Bac Ninh and Hung Yen), often alongside legionnaires from the 5e REI. A Viet Minh regiment was destroyed during that period, and over 1,000 enemy soldiers were imprisoned.

In May, the 2e BEP was again cited at the Army level. This was its third such unit citation.

Back in Hanoi in June, Commando De Preville was dissolved. However, another commando was formed within the 2e BEP, under Lieutenant Muelle, comprising around 40 men, local auxiliaries again in the vast majority.

In July, the battalion carried out tasks near Hai Phong, an important port town east of Hanoi.

On July 14, Bastille Day, the 2e BEP earned the fourragère (shoulder cord) in the colors of the Foreign Theaters of Operations’ War Cross (TOE, blue/red) thanks to its first two citations at the Army level. Thus, the whole battalion was allowed to wear the new award.

In late August, after a two-week shared leave at a holiday center on the coast, the battalion was sent to the south of the Delta for defensive construction work.

On September 1, the unit was back in operation, this time south of Hanoi, around Song Day. The task was to scout two villages for the enemy. During the operation, Major Raffalli was badly injured. This was to be his last operation, as he was to hand over command and fly home a few days later. The very popular officer succumbed to his injuries in the military hospital of Saigon on September 10.

Major René Bloch succeeded him and took command of the 2e BEP.

Throughout September and October, the operations continued in the Delta, along RC1, south of Hanoi. On October 11, a Viet Minh company was surprised and destroyed. About 50 men were killed and dozens imprisoned. The battalion suffered four killed and nine wounded.

Meanwhile, on October 1, the unit was once again reorganized. The 3rd Company became the 5th, while a 6th Company was newly activated. The 2e BEP now consisted of the HQ Company, the 4th, 5th, and 6th Companies, and the 2e CIPLE.

2e BEP’s new composition in Indochina in October 1952

  • Command – Major Bloch
  • Second-in-command – Captain Merglen
  • HQ Company – Captain Jeannerot
  • 4th Company – Captain Hamacek
  • 5th Company – Lieutenant Lemaire
  • 6th Company – Lieutenant Vial
  • 2nd Indochinese Company – Captain de Saint Marc


At the same time, convinced he couldn’t win in the flat Delta, Giap decided to return with three of his divisions to the mountainous Tai province and launch a new offensive there. However, General Salan ordered the building of a well-entrenched camp in the path of the advancing enemy, in the valley of Na San. By this, he sought to lure the Viet Minh divisions into a trap and force them to fight on French terms.

To slow the enemy’s advance and divert its attention from the construction of the camp, two important operations were launched northwest of Hanoi in early November. First was Operation Marion, an airborne operation near Phu Doan; both BEPs participated. During the operation, important enemy ammo depots were found and destroyed. These actions were seamlessly followed by the ground Operation Lorraine that occurred near Yen Bay, a base of the Viet Minh’s Division 308, with some 30,000 French troops involved. It was over in mid-November.

A week later, both BEPs were deployed to Na San, where the fortified camp had already been built, consisting of numerous defensive positions. The battalions rejoined the garrison, which would be composed of 11 battalions (including those of the Legion) and three artillery batteries.

Salan’s strategy was successful. The three Viet Minh divisions were attracted to and attacked the camp. During the fierce battle between November 23 and December 23, they suffered up to 3,000 men killed and wounded and were forced to stop the offensive and withdraw. The 2e BEP distinguished itself on December 1 during successful counterattacks to recapture two French strongpoints.

The battalion remained at Na San until late December, when it moved a few miles south of the valley to Co Noi. It had to retake this abandoned French post and rebuild it. The mission lasted a week because of the harassing enemy. Several legionnaires were killed, and about 20 were wounded.

Helie Denoix de Saint Marc - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Indochina - 1951 or 1952
Captain Denoix de Saint Marc (center) with 2e BEP men during a field Catholic mass in Indochina, late 1951 or early 1952. Behind him, seen to the right, is Adjudant Bonnin, a platoon leader with the 2e CIPLE. According to Saint Marc, “the best military personality I’ve ever met.” The warrant officer was killed in February 1952.

Bach Mai - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Hanoi - Indochina - 1952
2e BEP legionnaires at their military base of Bach Mai in Hanoi, 1952.
Remy Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - September 1952
Fatally wounded Major Raffalli during his transfer to Saigon. While clutching the 2e BEP’s fanion, he is saluting his men, for the last time. Raffalli was shot during a military operation on September 1, 1952, two days before the end of his prescribed two-year stay in Indochina. He died nine days later.
Na San - French camp - Indochina - 1952
French camp at Na San, late 1952. Built as a stronghold, it was surrounded by 30 smaller armed positions held by French troops, including men of the 2e BEP.
Na San - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - attack - Indochina - 1952
The rare and iconic photo shows 2e BEP men attacking a Viet Minh position during the successful Battle of Na San, late 1952.


1953: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

In January, Co Noi was rebuilding as a fortified camp, following the example of Na San. Several battalions were gathered there. The 2e BEP rotated construction work with patrols in the area, but the enemy had retreated. On February 26, the battalion was back in Hanoi.

Throughout March and early April, the men participated in operations and patrols in the northern part of the Delta, in the Vinh Yen and Phuc Yen regions, along RC2. Almost 70 prisoners were taken there. On April 9, the battalion moved to the Song Day region in the south of the Delta and remained operating there until the 16th.

Meanwhile, the Viet Minh’s Division 304 advanced in Laos, threatening the Plain of Jars (Plaine des Jarres) and even the capital of Luang Prabang. The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape comprising thousands of stone jars scattered throughout the Xiangkhoang Plateau, in the central part of the country. There, the French decided to build another entrenched camp like the one at Na San and gather the evacuated pro-French auxiliary units. The camp – called the CRPJ resistance center – was built by several battalions, including three from the Legion’s 2e REI and 3e REI.

The 2e BEP was stationed there on April 18 to reinforce its defense. The Viet Minh attack came three days later, but the enemy soon gave up its efforts and retreated. The battalion remained in the Plain of Jars until early July, conducting patrols and smaller operations in the area. Among them was Operation Muguet in late May, during which Captain Georges Hamacek from the 4th Company was killed near Dong Danh.

On June 30, Captain Albert Merglen – previously deputy commander – replaced Major Bloch at the lead of the battalion.

A week later, the 2e BEP was back in Hanoi, where General Navarre succeeded General Salan and became the new commander-in-chief of the French forces in Indochina.

From July 17-21, the battalion took part in Operation Hirondelle. Two French airborne battalions were successfully dropped around Lang Son in northern Tonkin and destroyed the Viet Minh’s extensive ammunition and materiel depots. At the same time, the 2e BEP jumped over Loc Binh to wait for them and protect their retreat southward, to Tien Yen, along the well-known RC4. A mobile task force supported the operations, including legionnaires from the 5e REI and 26th Engineer Battalion.

On August 27, the battalion left Hanoi for Operation Claude in the Delta, close to Hai Phong, to search villages for the enemy. During fights south of Phu Khe on August 29-30, 18 Viet Minh men were killed and 28 imprisoned. However, Lieutenant Gilles and four legionnaires were also killed. On September 7, west of Phu Khe, the enemy had 55 men killed and five imprisoned. The battalion lost Second Lieutenant Yves Comtat and seven legionnaires, while 22 men were wounded. A week later, the unit returned to Hanoi.

Between September 21 and October 10, the battalion was involved in Operation Brochet, back in the Delta, to find and eliminate the enemy Regiment 42. The men searched a sector between Hung Yen, Ninh Giang, and Nam Dinh. Nevertheless, the enemy refused to fight and withdrew.

On October 1, another reorganization occurred. The 4th Company became the 7th, while the 2e CIPLE was renamed the 8th Company.

Two weeks later, Captain Merglen left the battalion and Indochina. Major Hubert Liesenfelt became the new commander.

2e BEP’s new composition in Indochina in October 1953

  • Command – Major Liesenfelt
  • Second-in-command – Captain Gallouet (???)
  • HQ Company – Captain Noel
  • 5th Company – Captain Boge
  • 6th Company – Captain Vial
  • 7th Company – Lieutenant Le Cour Grandmaison
  • 8th Company (ex-2e CIPLE) – Lieutenant Pétré


Until mid-December, there were only minor operations and patrols in and around Hanoi.

From December 13-24, the battalion operated in the rice fields of the Delta, near Hung Yen.

In the meantime, the Viet Minh once again advanced in Laos and occupied the town of Thakhek. Thus, on December 27, a French task force was formed and stationed a hundred kilometers south of the town. Among them were the 2e BEP and a 5e REI battalion. The men fortified their positions and patrolled the sector.

In November and then in December, to reward the commitment and successful actions of its men, the 2e BEP earned its fourth and fifth citations at the Army level.

Co Noi - patrol - 1953 - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina
A 2e BEP patrol in front of Co Noi Hill, south of the Na San valley, early 1953. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Identity card - 4th Company - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Indochina
A military ID card of Senior Corporal Sommer, a German from the 4th Company 2e BEP, issued in February 1953. It is signed by his commander, Captain Hamacek, who was killed three months later. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Georges Hamacek - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Laos - Indochina
Captain Georges Hamacek (right) and men from his 4th Company, 2e BEP interrogate a captured Viet Minh rebel during a military operation in Laos, May 11, 1953. A few moments later, the officer with Czech origins was killed.
Laos - 1953 - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina
2e BEP men advance in Laos, 1953.
Lieutenant de Biré - operation - 1953 - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina
Lieutenant de Biré and his platoon with the 5th Company 2e BEP during a military operation, 1953.
Greeting card - 1953 - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina
A rare greeting card of the 2e BEP, this one issued in 1953. Note its original fanion decorated with the War Cross that bears three palms for the three citations the battalion had earned. The blue/red fourragère was received thanks to them. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bach Mai - 1953 - Bataillon Parachutistes - Parachute Battalion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina
The 2e BEP is gathered in front of its barracks at Bach Mai for an exercise, 1953. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Rene Bloch - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953 - Laos
Major René Bloch, the 2e BEP’s commander between September 1952 and July 1953. He had served with the Legion since 1938.
CIPLE - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Laos - Indochina - 1953
Local auxiliary and his colleagues with the 2e CIPLE (Indochinese Parachute Company), 2e BEP in Laos, 1953. The company consisted of local auxiliaries in the majority. Later that year, it became the 8th Company.
Operation Brochet - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953
Operation Brochet. The 2e BEP legionnaires marching in the Hung Yen sector of the Red River Delta (Tonkin), September 1953.
Albert Merglen - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Bach Mai - Hanoi - Indochina - 1953
Captain Albert Merglen (without the képi, with civil clothing) – surrounded by 2e BEP officers – is leaving the battalion, December 1953. Coming from outside the Legion only for the three years spent with the 3e BEP (1951) and the 2e BEP, in the latter first as second-in-command, then as its commander, he rejoined the regular French paratroopers. For the record, from 1957-1960, he served as instructor at Fort Benning in the United States.


1954: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

In early January, part of the French task force in Laos – including the 2e BEP and 5e REI men – moved to Thakhek and recaptured the town. After having carried out additional smaller operations and patrols in Laos, the battalion was transported to Southern Annam in mid-January.

There, it took part in Operation Atlante to re-occupy the Qui Nhon and Tuy Hoa regions, without any major encounters with the enemy.

On January 30, the 2e BEP moved to Annam’s Central Highlands and for another seven weeks was based near Pleiku, at the junction of RC14 and RC19. The men patrolled and carried out minor operations in the sector until March 18. On that day, they rejoined Hanoi.

In the meantime, the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu had begun. This was the Viet Minh’s major assault on a huge French entrenched camp built in the remote valley of Dien Bien Phu in northwestern Tonkin, on the model of Na San. While the 1er BEP (and another four Legion battalions) had participated since the beginning, the 2e BEP was held in reserve until April 9. That day, the first part of the battalion jumped over the valley to reinforce the French garrison. The rest followed on the next day.

2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in April 1954

  • Command – Major Liesenfelt
  • Second-in-command – Captain Gallouet
  • HQ Company – Captain Vial
  • 5th Company – Lieutenant De Biré
  • 6th Company – Captain Boulinguiez
  • 7th Company – Captain Delafond
  • 8th Company – Lieutenant Pétré


At Dien Bien Phu, the 2e BEP men distinguished themselves by defending different strongpoints until the sad end on May 7, when the vastly outnumbered French garrison was overrun. The 2e BEP was annihilated, as were the other Legion and French Army units taking part in the battle. Two weeks before its sad end, the survivors of both BEPs had formed the Provisional Foreign Parachute Battalion (BMEP), which conducted the last defensive tasks and also ceased to exist on May 7. In one month of fighting, the 2e BEP had lost five officers and about 90 legionnaires, with hundreds of wounded and missing men.

For their determination to fight to the finish, all units of the French garrison earned a citation at the Army level. This was the sixth for the 2e BEP, the highest number among the French battalions involved in the 1946-1954 Indochina War.

Dien Bien Phu - 1954 - First Indochina War
Dien Bien Phu. The site of the decisive battle between the French and the Viet Minh, which occurred in northwestern Tonkin during March and May 1954. The 2e BEP jumped over Dien Bien Phu on April 9 and April 10 and was annihilated there, within two weeks.

Hubert Liesenfelt - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1954
Major Hubert Liesenfelt, the 2e BEP’s commander between October 1953 and May 1954, when returning from Viet Minh POW camps, in September 1954. Like all the other survivors at Dien Bien Phu, he was imprisoned.


Meanwhile, in Algeria, on May 5, the entire 3e BEP under Major Georges Masselot was shipped to Indochina, where it landed in Hai Phong three weeks later. The initial plan to jump over Dien Bien Phu was, of course, canceled. Instead, at Masselot’s personal request, the unit was redesignated as the 2e BEP, taking over the number, history, and traditions of the annihilated battalion, as well as its rear base under Captain Vial in Hanoi.

Thus, in Hai Phong, on June 1, a new 2e BEP under Major Masselot was officially born. The new battalion was composed of 23 officers, 110 NCOs, and 729 men, including about 50 volunteers from the REIs stationed in Tonkin and 118 local auxiliaries.

2e BEP’s new composition in Indochina in June 1954

  • Command – Major Masselot
  • Second-in-command – Captain Gauthier
  • HQ Company – Captain Muzeau
  • 5th Company – Captain Ducassou
  • 6th Company – Lieutenant Marce
  • 7th Company – Captain De Carvalho
  • 8th Company – Lieutenant Mounier


Until late July, the 2e BEP guarded the airport in Hai Phong and protected convoys on RC5 between the port city and Hanoi.

On July 21, the 1954 Geneva Accords were signed between the French and the Viet Minh, resulting in peace agreements (that went into force in Tonkin two days later) and the formation of the states of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam, under Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh), the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam, pro-Western-oriented), the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Kingdom of Laos. French rule in Indochina was over.

The same day, July 21, for the aforementioned reasons, the battalion left Tonkin and, after four years, was stationed back in Cochinchina’s Saigon.

On July 30, the battalion experienced its last combat action in Indochina: a skirmish at Thu Dau Mot, south of Saigon. Two legionnaires were wounded.

On August 11, the peace agreement signed in Geneva went into force in Cochinchina, future South Vietnam. The operational activities ceased and were replaced by instruction, maneuvers, guard duties, patrols, and construction work.

On August 18, the 2e BEP received a new fourragère, this time in the colors of the Military Medal (yellow/green), due to its previous five citations at the Army level. The recent sixth citation earned at Dien Bien Phu allowed the unit to wear another, more prestigious fourragère, though the unit wouldn’t receive it until the following summer.

By August 31, the 2e BEP was occupying a camp at Hanh Thong Tay, north of the Tan Son Nhat Airfield. The camp was rebuilt and, on November 11, renamed Camp Raffalli in honor of the popular fallen commander.

Major airborne maneuvers occurred near Saigon: Operation Bambou in November and Operation Dragon in December. The 2e BEP took part.

Georges Masselot - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Hanoi - Indochina - 1954
Major Georges Masselot (left), his deputies (Captains Gauthier and Vial), and the fanion guard of the new 2e BEP (ex-3e BEP) in Hanoi, July 14, 1954. The 3e BEP under Major Masselot landed in Indochina in late May and became, on June 1, a new 2e BEP. Note the local auxiliary (with the fanion guard) wearing a white beret instead of the white kepi, as a non-legionnaire. For the record, the fanion is in fact a reproduced copy of the original one, lost at Dien Bien Phu.

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Bastille Day Military Parade - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Hanoi - Indochina - 1954
The new 2e BEP (ex-3e BEP) during the last Bastille Day Military Parade in Hanoi, July 14, 1954. The third NCO from the left is Sergeant Gregurek. He was killed in Algeria in early 1956.
Camp Raffalli - Major Masselot - Horst Roos - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - 1954
Major Masselot and the fanion guard leading the 2e BEP during a parade at Camp Raffalli, the new HQ of the battalion built in Saigon, late 1954. The fourth man from the left (member of the fanion guard) is Horst Roos. A German legionnaire, he joined the Legion in 1951 and did two tours in Indochina, as a paratrooper. He left the Legion as a warrant officer in 1991, after 40 years of service.


1955: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in Indochina

From January to May, the 5th Company under Captain Ducassou was deployed to Pleiku in Annam’s Central Highlands, to protect French and local pro-French civilians leaving to the south.

In early February, about 50 legionnaires of the 2e BEP joined the already reactivated 1er BEP, which was leaving Indochina for Algeria, while almost 150 men of the sister unit were assigned to the 2e BEP to remain in place.

In July, a draft arrived from Algeria and reinforced the 2e BEP, which now comprised 25 officers, 117 NCOs, and 800 legionnaires.

On July 13, the 2e BEP was rewarded with the awaited fourragère in the colors of the prestigious Légion d’Honneur (red), thanks to the sixth citation at the Army level earned for the Dien Bien Phu actions.

At the end of that month, the local auxiliaries left the battalion for a new national army of South Vietnam. Therefore, the 8th Company, in which they had served since the reactivation of the 2e BEP, was reorganized and became the Combat Support Company (CA). The Pioneer Platoon (with bearded men, following the tradition of the Legion sappers/pioneers) was created within it and became most likely the only French all-bearded airborne unit.

Between late August and mid-September, the battalion was involved in its last maneuvers in Indochina, including Operation Remy and Operation Atlas.

Finally, on November 1, 1955, it was the 2e BEP’s turn to return to North Africa, after almost seven years spent in Southeast Asia. It left behind 32 officers, 85 NCOs, and 707 legionnaires, all of them fallen for the glory of France and the Legion.

On November 18, the battalion landed in Algeria and moved to Philippeville (Skikda today) in the northeastern part of the country. There, the 2e BEP (in fact, ex-3e BEP) was reinforced with the men of the new 3e BEP (now Regiment) and transformed, on December 1, into a new unit: the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP).

Fanions - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - 1er BEP - 1 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - 1955
The 2e BEP and 1er BEP fanions during a joint ceremony in Saigon, February 7, 1955. Both fanions were decorated with the Military Medal fourragère (yellow/green) at the time. Note the 2e BEP’s new fanion which had replaced the 1954 reproduced copy.

Camp Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - South Vietnam - 1955
The 2e BEP marches at Camp Raffalli in Saigon, South Vietnam, June 1955.
Exercise Clotaire - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - South Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP legionnaires during Exercise Clotaire in South Vietnam, mid-1955.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - South Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP legionnaires in South Vietnam in 1955.
Legion of Honor Fourragère - Fanion - Georges Masselot - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - South Vietnam - 1955
Red Fourragère. On July 13, 1955, the 2e BEP was awarded the red fourragère in the colors of the prestigious Légion d’Honneur, for its six citations at the Army level which are visibly represented by the six palms on the fanion’s War Cross ribbon. The 2e BEP thus became the highest decorated French battalion of the Indochina war. Major Masselot (holding the new fanion) is also decorated with the fourragère, by General Jacquot (right), then-Chief of the French ground forces in Indochina.
Cross-country team - CPL Haas - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - South Vietnam - 1955
Cross country runners from the 2e BEP, led by Corporal Haas (holding the trophy). In the summer of 1955 they represented the battalion well and won the military competitions held at that time. Corporal Haas, a great sportsman and a military champion of Saigon, was killed in action in Algeria in late 1956.
Saigon Tan Son Nhat Airfield - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - South Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP men at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat Airfield, 1955. It was located south of their Camp Raffalli. During the Vietnam War (1959-75), then-Tan Son Nhut Air Base (note a different spelling) was used by the U.S. Armed Forces as their major base.
Mers El Kebir - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - 1955
The 2e BEP when landing at Mers El Kebir, Algeria, on November 18, 1955. The battalion returned to North Africa after almost seven years spent in Southeast Asia. Two weeks later, it transformed into the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP).


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Main information sources:
More Majorum (German legionnaires in Indochina)
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins
Jean Luc Mesager & collective: Légionnaires parachutistes 1948-2008 (L’Esprit du Livre, 2008)
Pierre Montagnon: Les parachutistes de la Légion (Pygmalion, 2005)
Pierre Montagnon: Histoire de la Légion (Pygmalion, 1999)
Pierre Dufour: Légionnaires parachutistes (Editions du Fer, 1989)
J. P. Benavente: More Majorum – Le 2e REP (Technic Imprim, 1982)
Pierre Sergent: Paras-Légion (France Loisirs, 1982)
Raoul Van Onsem: Histoire de la Légion (Editions Scaillet, 1991)
Alain Gandy: La Légion en Indochine (Presses de la Cité, 1988)
Henri Le Mire: L’épopée moderne de la Légion (SPL, 1977)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)


More about the history of Foreign Legion paratroopers:
1st Foreign Parachute Battalion
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
Parachute Company of 3e REI
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company


The page was updated on: December 15, 2023