2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion

The 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes, 2e BEP) was a Foreign Legion airborne unit established in Algeria in 1948. The unit was shipped to Southeast Asia in early 1949 to take part in the First Indochina War (1946-54). It was annihilated there in 1954, during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The following year, the reconstituted 2e BEP became the most decorated battalion having fought in Indochina.

The 2e BEP returned to North Africa in late 1955 and was reorganized. Its officers and legionnaires helped to form 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 - 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion's History

 

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

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion 1948 – 1955

– in 1948, a new parachute battalion would be organized in Algeria
– a country situated in North Africa
– Algeria was an integral part of France (1848-1962)
– since 1832, the Foreign Legion had been stationed there
– Algeria was seen as homeland for the Legion
– its headquarters was also based there, at Sidi Bel Abbes

– in 1948, another parachute battalion had already existed in Algeria
1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP, future 1er REP)
– established in July 1948
– in November of the same year, 1er BEP would move to Indochina

 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1948

2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion
2e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes (2e BEP)

2e BEP was established on October 1, 1948
– organized in Sidi Bel Abbes (Algeria)
– then HQ of the Foreign Legion
– 2e BEP’s HQ + 1st Company were formed there
– led by Major Burgière (par interim)

– 2e BEP’s 2nd + 3rd Company were formed in Morocco
– by volunteers coming from 4e DBLE (Half-Brigade, later 4e REI)
– in late October, the companies were regrouped
– to form the battalion
– they were stationed in Sétif, northeastern Algeria
– at Caserne Chadeysson, an old French barracks

Captain Solnon took command (November 5)
– he replaced Major Burgière at the head of the battalion

– November-December, parachute training
– the legionnaires were trained in Philippeville
– a town situated some 110 miles (180 km) north-east of Sétif
– a home to the French Army’s local CES (Parachute Training Center)
– the legionnaires were trained there by regular French paratroopers
– they attended the training with “blue berets” and “red berets”
– future paratroopers of the French Army’s regular units
– in mid-December, the training was over

– December 18, 2e BEP obtained its fanion

 

Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Algeria
Algeria. Then integral part of France and a homeland to the Legion since the 1830’s.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Algeria - Sétif - Philippeville
In 1948, the 2e BEP was organized in Sidi Bel Abbes, the then HQ of the Legion. Later that year, the battalion would move to Sétif, to be based there. Its men would attend their parachute training in Philippeville (now Skikda), at the local French air base.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1949

First Indochina War (1946-54)
– French Indochina refers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– under the French rule since the 1880s
– in Indochina in the 1940s, a new conflict started
– between France and the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was an independence movement, led by Ho Chi Minh
– in September 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France for Vietnam
– clashes between French forces and the Viet Minh started
– in 1946, first Foreign Legion units landed in Indochina
– in December 1946, the Viet Minh attacked Hanoi, Vietnam
– the then capital of French Indochina
– First Indochina War officially started

 
January 1949:
2e BEP to leave North Africa for Indochina
– January 5, 2e BEP left Sétif for Mers El Kebir
– an important port near Oran, northwestern Algeria
– January 13, 2e BEP left Mers El Kebir for Indochina
– the battalion would join miliatry operations there

February 1949:
– February 9, 2e BEP landed in Indochina
– stationed in then Saigon, Southern Vietnam
Saigon was the largest city in Vietnam
– today known as Ho Chi Minh City
– it was the capital of Cochinchina
– then title for Southern Vietnam

– in mid-February, 2e BEP deployed to Cambodia
– part of French Indochina
– 2e BEP’s rear base was placed at Phnom Penh (the capital)
– the battalion conducted patrols within the city
– they also conducted operations in Cambodia
– to maintain order in the region
– besides, guarding of French military convoys
– however, Viet Minh rebels were infrequent there

– in Saigon, only one company remained
– as a rapid reaction force
– rotated every 4-6 weeks

March 1949:
– in mid-March, Operation Tigre
– south of Saigon, Southern Vietnam
– 3rd Company, 2e BEP took part

– March 24, 2e BEP’s first combat jump
– during Operation Prestige
– in southern Cambodia
– 1st + 3rd Company participated

June 1949:
– in early June, Operation Jonquille
– west of Saigon
– 1st Company, 2e BEP took part
– alongside men from the 1er REC

2e BEP’s first killed officer
Lieutenant René Fiévet
– a platoon leader with 2nd Company
– he was killed on June 3, 1949
– during a skirmish in Cambodia
– at Phum Russei Sraoh of Phnom Penh

August 1949:
– August 10, a skirmish with rebels
– in the Bat Deng sector, southern Cambodia
– south-west of Phnom Penh
– 2nd Company, 2e BEP took part
– 9 rebels were killed
– however, a legionnaire was fatally wounded

 
2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in August 1949:

  • Command – Captain Solnon
  • Deputy commander – Captain Dussert
  • HQ Company – Captain Gombeaud
  • 1st Company – Captain Caillaud
  • 2nd Company – Captain Cazaumayou
  • 3rd Company – Lieutenant Verguet

 
– at that time, the battalion consisted of around 740 men
– 27 officers + 90 NCOs + some 625 legionnaires

 
September-December 1949:
– September 17, Operation Quadrilatere II
– north of Saigon
– 3rd Comapny took part
– 20 rebels were killed

– November 15, 2e BEP back in Saigon
– stationed at Quan Tre, northwestern part of Saigon
– the unit would serve as a rapid reaction force
– for southern part of Indochina

– December 26, an operation at Hieu Tu
– in the Tra Vinh sector, south-west of Saigon
– 1st Company took part
– it jumped over the village
– 3 legionnaires were killed
– several legionnaires were wounded

 
2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in late 1949:

  • Command – Captain Solnon
  • Deputy commander – Captain Dussert
  • HQ Company – Captain Cazaumayou
  • 1st Company – Captain Caillaud
  • 2nd Company – Lieutenant Cabiro
  • 3rd Company – Lieutenant Verguet

 

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Insignia - insigne - 1949
The insignia of the 2e BEP, created in Cambodia in 1949. The insignia bears an Asian dragon representing French Indochina, with the wings symbolizing an airborne unit. It also bears the seven-flame grenade of the Legion and the Legion’s green & red colors.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Setif - Caserne Chadeysson - 1950s
Caserne Chadeysson, the barracks of the 2e BEP in Sétif, Algeria.
Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Indochina
French Indochina. Then French colonial territories in Southeast Asia.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - French Indochina
French Indochina. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. Then Vietnam was devided into three parts: Tonkin (North), Annam (Central), Cochinchina (South). In Southern Vietnam (Cochinchina) was situated Saigon, its capital and the largest city of Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City today).

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1950

January 1950:
– in early January, 2e BEP deployed to Annam
– Annam was then title for Central Vietnam
– 2e BEP had to maintain order there
– in the Quang Tri and Hue regions

– January 6, a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– at Dai Giang, near Hue
– many rebels were killed
– 4 legionnaires were also killed

February 1950:
– February 6, an operation north of Hue
– HQ Company participated
– 15 Viet Minh rebels were killed

– February 20, 2e BEP back in Saigon
– 2e BEP was stationed at the Tan Son Nhat Airfield
– an important airfield located near Saigon
– built by the French in the 1930s

– after one year in Indochina, 2e BEP lost 41 men killed + 77 men wounded

March-May 1950:
– operations close to Tra Vinh
– between March 29 – April 4
– south-west of Saigon
– in the Tra Cu and Ba Cum sectors
– 2nd Company (Ltn Cabiro) participated
– alongside men of the 1er REC
– 45 rebels were killed
– 2nd Company would be mentioned in the order of the Army

– April-May, small operations close to Saigon

May-August 1950:
– late May-July, 2nd Company in Central Annam
– it would operate in the Dong Hoi region
– for example, in Operation Minos

– June-August, 1st Company deployed to Laos
– it would operate in the Pakse region
– June 22, a skirmish near Kien Ngong, Laos
– 5 legionnaires were killed

– in August, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army

August-October 1950:
– late August, operations in the Baria sector
– south-east of Saigon
– 3rd Company took part

– Operation Rouleaux
– August 30 – September 2
– between Cho Phuoc Hai and Phuoc Buu
– west of the town of Baria
– south-east of Saigon
– 1st + 2nd Company took part

– in mid-September, 2e BEP moved to Tonkin
– Tonkin was the then title for Northern Vietnam
– 1st + 2nd Company, 2e BEP deployed
– about 250 men, led by Captain Dussert
– a response to growing Viet Minh activities in the region
– September 18, they moved to Hanoi
– the then capital of French Indochina

– September 23, a combat jump close to Pa Kha
– in the Lao Cai region, northwestern Tonkin
– close to the Chinese border
– to support French troops there
– during the operation, an officer died
– Lieutenant Yvon Neveu
– October 6, both companies returned to Hanoi

2e BEP stationed in Hanoi
– in October, HQ + 3rd Company also arrived in Hanoi
– to join the two companies
– 2e BEP was placed at Bach Mai Airfield
– the barracks of the 1er BEP
– a Legion unit annihilated in Tonkin in early October
– during the Battle of RC4

– October 30, Captain Paul Dussert took command of the 2e BEP
– the deputy commander since the establishment of the unit
– however, he wouldn’t command the 2e BEP for a long time
– three weeks later, he would be injured in a road accident
– Captain Dussert had to leave Indochina

– November 22, Captain Rémy Raffalli took command
– a young French officer, a cavalryman
– he arrived in Indochina to take command of the 1er BEP
– to replace its commanding officer, Major Pierre Segrétain
– however, the battalion was annihilated at the same time
– because of that, Captain Raffalli was transferred to 2e BEP

– late November, Operation Flore
– in the Thai Binh region
– south-east of Hanoi

– in December, 2e BEP patrolled around Hanoi

 
2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in late 1950:

  • Command – Captain Raffalli
  • Deputy commander – Captain Coat
  • HQ Company – Lieutenant Longeret
  • 1st Company – Captain Caillaud
  • 2nd Company – Captain Cabiro
  • 3rd Company – Lieutenant Verguet

 

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, between August 30 and September 2, 1950.
Paul Dussert - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere
Paul Dussert. A little-known officer of the Legion. The head of the 2e BEP in late 1950. He was seriously wounded during an accident and had to leave Indochina, after three weeks of commanding. Captain Dussert had served as a deputy commander of the 2e BEP since late 1948. Promoted to Major, Paul Dussert would lead the 3e BEP (a depot & training unit, future 3e REP) in Algeria in 1952-54.
Rémy Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1951-52
Rémy Raffalli. The famous commanding officer of the 2e BEP, since November 1950. A member of the Legion since 1949. He joined it as a young French cavalry officer. Before deploying to Indochina, Rémy Raffalli served with the 3e BEP in Algeria.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1951

January 1951:
Foreign Airdrop Company
Compagnie Etrangère de Ravitaillement par Air (CERA)
CERA was constituted on January 1, 1951
– the company consisted of around 250 men
– between them, 140 legionnaires
– from the 2e BEP and ex-1er BEP
– Captain Bernard Cazaumayou (2e BEP) took command
– the company was dissolved later that year, in August

Provisional Company, 1er BEP assigned to 2e BEP
– January 1, Provisional Company, 1er BEP was assigned to the 2e BEP
– a company composed of survivors of the famous 1er BEP
– the battalion annihilated in October 1950 in Tonkin

– in January, operations north-west of Hanoi
– between Vinh Yen and Son Tay

February 1951:
– in February, operations south-east of Hanoi
– in the Ke Sat and My Trach sectors

Battle of Ly Dong
– February 3, a battle with the Viet Minh
– east of Ke Sat
– 2e BEP took part
– 40 rebels were killed
– 4 legionnaires were also killed

– in February, a rotation of the men
– a large number of officers and legionnaires left the battalion
– they finished their prescribed two-year stay in Indochina

March 1951:
– in March, operations in the Dong Trieu sector started
– a sector in the Quang Ninh region
– east of Hanoi
– the operations continued until May

Reactivation of 1er BEP
– in March, 2e BEP helped to form a new 1er BEP
– 3rd Company was transferred to the new unit
– 4 officers + 80 men

Battle of Dong Trieu
– March 29-31, a battle with the Viet Minh
– 2e BEP participated
– about 400 rebels were killed

April 1951:
Indochinese Company
– April 1, 2e CIPLE was created
– Foreign Legion Indochinese Parachute Company
– consisting of local auxuliaries in the vast majority
– assigned to the battalion

– in April, 2e BEP’s reorganization
– 1st Company became 3rd Company
– 2nd Company became 4th Company
– because of the freshly reconstituted 1er BEP
– the new 1er BEP was composed of 1st + 2nd Company + 1er CIPLE
– 2e BEP would be composed of 3rd + 4th Company + 2e CIPLE

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

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

 

June-July 1951:
– June-July, operations around Nam Dinh and Phat Diem
– in the Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh regions
– south-east of Hanoi

Battle of Co Da
– June 7, a battle with the Viet Minh
– close to Duc Hau, north of Phat Diem
– 2e BEP participated
– 57 Viet Minh rebels were killed
– 5 legionnaires were also killed

Second Battle of Co Da
– June 15, another battle with the Viet Minh
– 2e BEP participated
– Captain Jacques Bertoleaud (2e CIPLE) was fatally wounded
– 6 legionnaires were killed
– Captain Raffalli was wounded and evacuated

– in mid-July, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

Commando Leyion
– July 15, Commando Leyion was established
– the first guerrilla warfare unit of the Legion
– because of that called Commando Leyion (Legion in Vietnamese)
– consisting of Legion leaders and local auxiliaries
– 8 leaders (2e BEP’s NCOs + Corporals) + around 40-60 men
– assigned to the 2e BEP
– Lieutenant Barbier de Préville (2e BEP) took command
– in February 1952, renamed to Commando De Preville
– in honor to its commander killed in action
– since then, led by Staff Sergeant Jahnwitz
– a German NCO
– Commando Preville was dissolved in June 1952

August 1951:
– in early August, Captain Raffalli re-joined the battalion
– he was promoted to Major

– Lieutenant Lemaire took command of 3rd Company
– Lieutenant De Saint-Marc took command of 2e CIPLE

– in early August, 2e BEP deployed to Central Annam
– the battalion jumped over Kon Tum
– to re-take two lost French outposts
– 2e BEP would stay in the region until September

– Captain Robert Kalck died
– a deputy commander of the 2e BEP
– an ex-commander of the 1re CSPL
– he died accidentally during the jump over Kon Tum

September-October 1951:
– in September, small operations in Central Annam
– around Quang Tri and Hue
– in late September, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

Battle of Nghia Lo
– October 3-10, a battle with the Viet Minh
– close to Nghia Lo, Yen Bai region, northwestern Tonkin
– to support attacked French outposts
– 2e BEP participated
– the outposts were defended
– at least 53 Viet Minh rebels were killed by the battalion
– Lieutenant Jacques Lecoeur + 7 legionnaires were also killed

– Captain Yvon Coat killed
– 3rd Company commander
– killed in an accident during a supply mission
– October 15, near Nghia Lo

– October 25, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

– Captain Merglen became a new deputy commander of 2e BEP

November-December 1951:
– in November, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army
– it was its 2nd mention in dispatches

Battle of Hoa Binh
– a battle with the Viet Minh
– between November 1951 and late February 1952
– close to Hoa Binh
– about 50 miles (80 km) west of Hanoi
– December 15, 2e BEP joined the battle
– operations north of Hoa Binh

 

CERA - Foreign Airdrop Company - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1951
Foreign Airdrop Company. The insignia of CERA, created in 1951. The company was composed of about 250 men, including 140 legionnaires from 2e BEP and (ex-)1er BEP.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Insignia - insigne - 1949
The insignia of Commando Leyion, designed in 1951. The very first guerrilla warfare unit of the Legion. Officially called Commando 10, led by Lieutenant Gilles Barbier de Préville of 2e BEP. He was killed in action in late February 1952. Then, the commando was named after him, Commando De Preville. In 1952, the insignia also changed: Leyion was replaced by De Preville. The unit, assigned to the 2e BEP, was dissolved in June 1952.
Sergeants - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Nghia Lo - Indochina - 1951
2e BEP’s Belgian and German sergeants during operations around Nghia Lo, in the Cao Bang region of Northern Vietnam, October 1951. Note that both NCOs wears different uniforms. At that time, even companies within a battalion were often distinguished by their battledress.
Yvon Coat - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Nghia Lo - Indochina - 1951
Captain Yvon Coat, 3rd Copmpany’s commander, during operations around Nghia Lo, October 1951. A few days later, he died accidentally during a supply mission.
Major Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Fanion - 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 successfully ended. Note the side cap (calot, also bonnet) of the battalion commander and boonie hats of the fanion guard, rarely seen at a Legion airborne unit parade.
General de Lattre - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1951
General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, the then Chief of the French armed forces in Indochina, when reviewing 2e BEP’s Honor Guard, 1951.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1952

January-February 1952:
Battle of Hoa Binh
– the battle with the Viet Minh close to Hoa Binh
– it would continue until late February 1952
– 2e BEP joined the battle in mid-December
– they fought alongside 1er BEP or 13e DBLE
– in January, operations along RC6 (Colonial Road)
– between Xuan Mai and Ao Trach, east of Hoa Binh
– Lieutenant Albert Beaurel + Lieutenant Paul Delearde were killed
– at least 30 legionnaires were also killed

– February 25, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

March-May 1952:
– in March-May, operations around Hanoi, Bac Ninh and Hung Yen
Bac Ninh is situated north-east of Hanoi
Hung Yen is situated south-east of Hanoi
– May 15, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

– in May, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army
– it was its 3rd mention in dispatches

– late May-early June, Operation Kangourou + Operation Antilope
– close to Phu Ly, south of Hanoi
– 2 legionnaires were killed

July 1952:
– July, operations close to Hai Phong
– an important port town east of Hanoi

Fourragere in colors of the War Cross of TOE
– TOE means Foreign Theater of Operations
– July 18, 2e BEP obtained a fourragere
– for its first two mentions in the order of the Army

September 1952:
Major Rémy Raffalli fatally wounded
– September 1, an operation south of Hanoi
– close to Chuyen My, between Hanoi and Phu Ly
– in fact, it should have been the last operation for Major Raffalli
– two days later, he had to leave the battalion and Indochina
– his two-year stay should have been finished
– besides, the 2e BEP’s commander was fatally wounded
– Major Rémy Raffalli died on September 10

Major René Bloch took command of 2e BEP

October 1952:
– in October, 2e BEP’s new reorganization
– the companies were redesignated again
– because of the 1er BEP’s 1st + 2nd + 3rd combat companies
– 2e BEP was also reinforced
– 2e BEP would consist of 4th + 5th + 6th Company + 2e CIPLE

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

  • Command – Captain Bloch
  • Deputy commander – 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

 

– October 11, a battle with the Viet Minh
– south of Hanoi
– about 50 rebels were killed
– 4 legionnaires were also killed

November 1952:
– Operation Lorraine
– in November, a large military operation
– in the Phu Doan and Yen Bay regions
– north-west of Hanoi
– up to 30,000 French troops were involved in
– between them, legionnaires from 2e BEP and 1er BEP
– during the operation, the Viet Minh suffered important losses
– the operation ended on November 14
– 3 legionnaires of 2e BEP were killed

– November 19, 2e BEP deployed to Son La
– west of Hanoi
– to support French troops there
– in an important operation against the Viet Minh
– the battalion would move to Yen Chau
– south-east of Son La

– November 21, clashes with the Viet Minh
– close to Yen Chau
– 2 legionnaires were killed
– 9 legionnaires were wounded

– November 23, 2e BEP was placed at Na San
– an important airfield south-east of Son La
– fortified and ready for a large battle

November-December 1952:
Battle of Na San
– a ten-day battle between the French and the Viet Minh
– it took place in the Son La region of Northern Vietnam
Na San was a French stronghold
– it was surrounded by 30 smaller armed positions
– the French had 11 battalions + 6 artillery batteries placed there
– between them, 4 Legion battalions + a Legion mortar company
Na San would be attacked by 9 Viet Minh regiments
– the battle ended on December 2, by the French victory
– the Viet Minh lost about 3,500 men

– December 25, 2e BEP left Na San
– it would move to Co Noi
– to re-take an abandoned French military camp
– located only a few miles south-east of Na San
– nevertheless, the mission took a week
– several legionnaires were killed
– about 20 legionnaires were wounded

 

Hoa Binh - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1952
Legion paratroopers during the Battle of Hoa Binh, early 1952.
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 - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1952
2e BEP’s position at Na San, late 1952.
Na San - Paratroopers - Foreign Legion Etrangere - attack - Indochina - 1952
Legion paratroopers attacking a Viet Minh position during the successful Battle of Na San, late 1952.
Remy Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - September 1952
Wounded Major Rémy Raffalli during his transfer to Saigon. Clutching the 2e BEP’s fanion, he is saluting his men, for the last time. Wounded during a military operation on September 1, 1952, Major Raffalli died nine days later. The 2e BEP’s commander was wounded two days before the end of his prescribed two-year stay in Indochina.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1953

January-February 1953:
– in January, Camp of Co Noi would be rebuilt
– an abandoned French military camp
– a few miles south-east of Na San
– 2e BEP participated

– Junauary-February, patrolling around Co Noi

– in late February, 2e BEP returned to Hanoi

March 1953:
– in March, operations around Phuc Yen and Vinh Yen
– west of Hanoi
– about 70 rebels were captured by the battalion

April-June 1953:
– in April, operations in the Phu Ly region
– north-west of Phu Ly, south of Hanoi

Plain of Jars in Laos
– April 20, 2e BEP moved to the Plain of Jars in Laos
– in the Xieng Khouang region, east of Luang Prabang (the capital)
– to be placed at a large military camp
– alongside the men from 2e REI or 3e REI

– Captain Georges Hamacek killed
– 4th Company commander
– May 11, he was killed during an operation
– at the Plain of Jars in Laos
– one of the very rare clashes in Laos
– that day, 36 rebels were also killed

– in June, operations in Laos
– mainly patrols around the Plain of Jars
– 2e BEP also seized several villages and towns
– between them Lat Boua, Ban Ban or Muang Souy

July 1953:
– July 1, Captain Albert Merglen took command of 2e BEP
– Major Bloch left Indochina

– July 6, 2e BEP returned back to Hanoi

– Operation Hirondelle
– July 17-21
– a large military operation to destroy Viet Minh supply depots
– in the Lang Son region of Northern Vietnam
– three Foreign Legion units took part
– 2e BEP (jumping over the Loc Binh sector)
– 2nd Battalion, 5e REI
– a bulldozer platoon from the mixed 22nd Engineers-Legion Battalion
– the operation was marked by extreme weather conditions
– several legionnaires died from heat exhaustion

August-September 1953:
– August-September, Operation Claude
– near Kien An and Phu Khe
– in the Hai Phong region, east of Hanoi
– 64 rebels were killed
– 9 legionnaires were also killed

– Operation Brochet
– September-October, a three-week operation
– south-east of Hanoi
– along the Red River in the Hung Yen region
– between Ke Sat and Hung Yen
– aimed at Regiment 42 of the Viet Minh
– the operation started on September 22
– at least 10,000 French troops were involved in
– between them, legionnaires from 2e BEP and 1er BEP
– the operation ended on October 12

October 1953:
2e BEP’s 3rd reorganization
– the companies were redesignated again
– HQ + 5th + 6th + 7th + 8th Company

– in October, Major Hubert Liesenfelt took command of 2e BEP
– Captain Merglen would leave Indochina in late 1953

 
2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in late 1953:

  • Command – Major Liesenfelt
  • Deputy commander – Captain Gallouet (???)
  • HQ Company – Captain Piccato (???)
  • 5th Company – Captain Boge
  • 6th Company – Captain Vial
  • 7th Company (ex-4th Coy) – Lieutenant Le Cour Grandmaison
  • 8th Company (ex-2e CIPLE) – Lieutenant Pétré

 

November-December 1953:
– November-December, operations close to Hung Yen
– south-east of Hanoi

– in November, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army
– it was its 4th mention in dispatches

– in December, Captain Delafond took over the 7th Company

– also in December, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army
– it was its 5th mention in dispatches

– in late December, 2e BEP deployed back to Laos
– placed at Seno, central Laos

 

Georges Hamacek - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Laos - Indochina
Captain Georges Hamacek (right) and his men from 4th Company, 2e BEP interrogate a captured Viet Minh rebel during a military operation in Laos, May 11, 1953. Later that day, Captain Hamacek would be killed.
Rene Bloch - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953 - Laos
Major René Bloch (left, with the radio), the 2e BEP’s commander between September 1952 and July 1953, during an operation in Laos in May-June 1953.
Laos - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953
2e BEP men patrolling in Laos, 1953.
CIPLE - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Laos - Indochina - 1953
2e BEP’s local auxiliary + men of the 2e CIPLE (Indochinese Parachute Company) in Laos, 1953. The composite company consisted of local auxiliaries in the majority. Later that year, it would become 8th Company, 2e BEP.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Camerone - Laos - Indochina - 1953
2e BEP’s non-commissioned officers celebrating in Laos, 1953.
Operation Brochet - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953
Operation Brochet. 2e BEP men marching in the Hung Yen sector of the Red River Delta (Northern Vietnam), September 1953.
Albert Merglen - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Bach Mai - Hanoi - Indochina - 1953
Captain Albert Merglen (without kepi, civil clothes, surrounded by 2e BEP officers) leaving the 2e BEP, Bach Mai Airfield in Hanoi, December 1953. Captain Merglen led the battalion between July and October 1953.
Fanion - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1953
2e BEP’s Fanion (first version). Note the War Cross medal with four palmes (representing four mentions in dispatches in the order of the Army), gained before December 1953. The fanion also bears the red & blue fourragere, obtained for the first two mentions.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1954

January-March 1954:
– January 13, 2e BEP back in Vietnam
– the unit left Laos and moved back to Vietnam

– Operation Atlante
– January 17, 2e BEP was placed at Nha Trang
– in southern Annam (Central Vietnam)
– to participate in the operation
– in February, 2e BEP moved to Plei Ku in Annam

– in mid-March, 2e BEP returned back to Hanoi

March-May 1954:
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– March 13 – May 7
– the most important and most tragic battle of the First Indochina War
– it took place in the valley of Dien Bien Phu
– in northwestern Tonkin
– in March, France had roughly 11,000 troops at Dien Bien Phu
– between them, some 5,000 legionnaires
– the Viet Minh had over 50,000 troops on the hills around the valley
– in mid-March, the Viet Minh attacked the French positions

– April 9-10, 2e BEP jumped over Dien Bien Phu
– to participate in the battle

 
2e BEP’s composition in Indochina in April 1954:

  • Command – Major Liesenfelt
  • Deputy commander – Captain Gallouet
  • HQ Company – Captain Piccato
  • 5th Company – Lieutenant De Bire
  • 6th Company – Captain Brandon
  • 7th Company – Captain Delafond
  • 8th Company – Lieutenant Pétré

 

– in April, 2e BEP was mentioned in the order of the Army
– it was its 6th mention in dispatches

Provisional Foreign Parachute Battalion
Bataillon de Marche Étranger de Parachutistes (BMEP)
– April 24, BMEP was established at Dien Bien Phu
– consisting of 1er BEP + 2e BEP survivors
– significantly devastated, both units merged
– the new battalion was composed of four companies
– two were formed by ex-1er BEP men
– another two formed by ex-2e BEP men (3th + 4th Company, BMEP)
– led by Lieutenant Le Cour Grandmaison + Lieutenant Pétré

Battle of Dien Bien Phu to be over
– the battle was over on May 7, 1954
– the valley was overrun
– finally, around 14,000 French troops participated in the battle
– only about 3,300 French troops survived (including legionnaires)
– the Legion lost 6 battalions + 3 mortar companies in the battle
– between the annihilated units, 2e BEP and 1er BEP
– 2e BEP suffered heavy losses
– several officers were killed
– Captain Charles Delafond (7th Company)
– Captain Léonce Piccato (HQ Company)
– Lieutenant Jean Garin
– Lieutenant Dominique Fragonard
– Second Lieutenant André Morand
– over 90 legionnaires were also killed
– tens of its men were wounded

May 1954:
Captain Claudius Vial took command par interim
– May 8, Captain Vial took administratively command of the 2e BEP
– then commander of the 2e BEP’s rear base (depot) in Hanoi
– logistics personnel + wounded legionnaires

3e BEP to arrive in Indochina
– May 25, 3e BEP landed in Indochina
– another Legion airborne battalion
– having been serving in Algeria since 1949
– the unit would restore the 2e BEP
– in Algeria, a new 3e BEP would become 3e REP in 1955

June 1954:
2e BEP’s reactivation
– June 1, 3e BEP was redesignated
– a new 2e BEP was re-created
– based at Hai Phong
– led by Major Georges Masselot
– reinforced by several ex-2e BEP elements
– from the dissolved depot in Hanoi (led by Captain Vial)
– also reinforced by wounded men returning from hospitals
– some 120 local auxiliaries would join the new 2e BEP

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

  • Command – Major Masselot
  • Deputy commander – Captain Gauthier
  • HQ Company – Captain Muzeau
  • 5th Company – Captain Ducassou
  • 6th Company – Lieutenant Marce
  • 7th Company – Captain De Carvalho
  • 8th Company – Lieutenant Mounier

– 2e BEP was composed of 701 men, including 118 local auxiliaries

 

July 1954:
– July, operations around Hai Phong

2e BEP to move to Cochinchina
– July 21, 2e BEP left Tonkin (Northern Vietnam)
– after four years, it returned to Cochinchina (Southern Vietnam)
– 2e BEP would be stationed back in Saigon

– July 30, the last skirmish with the Viet Minh
– at Thu Dau Mot, south of Saigon
– 2 legionnaires were wounded

August-December 1954:
First Indochina War ended
– August 11, the First Indochina War ended
– the ceasefire in Southern Vietnam went into force
– the last of the 5 ceasefires in Indochina (since late July)
– the French had to leave Northern Vietnam

Fourragere in Military Medal colors
– August 18, 2e BEP gained a new fourragere (the yellow one)
– for its first four mentions in the order of the Army

– August 31, 2e BEP was placed at a camp of Hanh Thong Tay
– in November, the camp was designated as Camp Raffalli
– named after the killed commander
– the camp was located north of then Tan Son Nhat Airfield
– an international airfield of Saigon

– in November-December, operations around Saigon
– Operation Bambou or Operation Dragon

 

Dien Bien Phu - Anne-Marie 4 - Huguette 7 - Map - 1954 - First Indochina War
Dien Bien Phu. The site of the decisive battle between the French and the Viet Minh, which occurred in northwestern Vietnam during March-May 1954. The 2e BEP jumped over Dien Bien Phu on April 9 and April 10 and was annihilated there, within a few weeks.
Hubert Liesenfelt - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1954
Major Hubert Liesenfelt, after returning from Viet Minh POW camps, September 1954. The 2e BEP’s commander between October 1953 and April 1954. He jumped with his battalion over Dien Bien Phu. At the end of the battle, he was imprisoned.
Georges Masselot - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Hanoi - Indochina - 1954
Major Georges Masselot (left), his deputies (Captains Gauthier + Vial) and the Fanion Guard of the new 2e BEP (ex-3e BEP) during the last Bastille Day Parade in Hanoi, July 14, 1954. The former 3e BEP, having arrived from Algeria in late May under the leadership of Major Masselot, became a new 2e BEP on June 1, 1954. Note the local auxiliary (of the Fanion Guard) wearing a white beret instead of a white kepi, as a non-legionnaire.
Camp Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - 1954
Major Masselot, the Fanion Guard and the 2e BEP parade at Camp Raffalli, a new HQ of the battalion located in Saigon, Southern Vietnam, late 1954. The fourth man from the left (a member of the Fanion Guard), Horst Roos. A German legionnaire, he joined the Legion in 1951 and did two deployments in Indochina, as a paratrooper. Horst Roos would leave the Legion after 40 years of service, in 1991, as the then most senior NCO.

 
 

2e BEP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion in 1955

January-May 1955:
– January-May, 6th Company deployed to Plei Ku
– to protect civilians in the south of Annam (Central Vietnam)

– January-May, 2e BEP patrolled around Saigon
– it also protected the important port near the city

Far East Airborne Brigade
– February 1, BAPEO was established
– based in Saigon
– Colonel Bastiani took command
– 2e BEP was assigned to the brigade
– alongside two colonial parachute battalions

– in early February, 2e BEP was reinforced
– by about 150 men from the leaving 1er BEP
– 1er BEP would leave Indochina for Algeria

 
2e BEP’s composition in Southern Vietnam in mid-1955:

  • Command – Major Masselot
  • Deputy commander – Major Chaume
  • HQ Company – Captain Barbier
  • 5th Company – Captain Ducassou
  • 6th Company – Lieutenant Marce
  • 7th Company – Captain De Carvalho
  • 8th Company – Captain Perrier

July-August 1955:
Fourragere in colors of the Légion d’Honneur
– July 13, 2e BEP gained a new fourragere
– the famous red fourragere of the Legion of Honor
– it became the most decorated battalion having fought in Indochina

– Combat Support Company
– in late July, local auxiliaries had to leave the battalion
– since August, they would join new Vietnamese armed forces
– 8th Company (a “Vietnamese” unit) was reorganized
– it became Combat Support Company
Pioneer Platoon (with bearded men) was created within
– most likely the only French all-bearded airborne unit

November 1955:
2e BEP to leave Indochina
– November 1, 2e BEP left Indochina
– the battalion was sent back to Algeria, North Africa
– November 18, it landed in Algeria
– the men moved to Philippeville
– 2e BEP spent almost 7 years in Indochina

– in Indochina, 2e BEP suffered heavy losses
– 32 officers, 85 NCOs and 707 legionnaires of the 2e BEP were killed

2e BEP’s dissolution
– November 30, 2e BEP was administratively dissolved
– its companies would help to form a new regiment

December 1955:
2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
2e Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes (2e REP)

2e REP was constituted on December 1, 1955
– ex-2e BEP + ex-3e REP (Parachute Regiment, ex-3e BEP)
– the unit was stationed at Philippeville
– led by Major Masselot par interim

– see the History of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment

 
 

Officers & NCOs - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - 1er BEP - 1 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - Saigon - 1955
A rare joint gathering of officers and NCOs of both, 1er BEP and 2e BEP (standing back), in Saigon on February 7, 1955. Among the men from 1er BEP, we can see young Second Lieutenant Jean-Marie Le Pen (the future well-known French politician), Adjudant Roger Degueldre (the future officer of 1er REP, executed as a pro-French Algeria partisan in 1962) or Captain Hélie de Saint Marc (who would lead the 1er REP during the Generals’ Putsch in Algiers in 1961).
Fanions - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - 1er BEP - 1 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - 1955
The fanions of both, 2e BEP and 1er BEP, during a leaving ceremony in Saigon, February 7, 1955. Both fanions were decorated with the yellow fourragere at the time.
Camp Raffalli - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saigon - 1955
The 2e BEP parade at Camp Raffalli of Saigon, Southern Vietnam, June 1955.
Exercise Clotaire - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP legionnaires during Exercise Clotaire in Southern Vietnam, mid-1955.
2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1955
2e BEP’s legionnaires in Southern Vietnam in 1955.
Georges Masselot - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina - 1955
Red Fourragere. On July 13, 1955, the 2e BEP was awarded with the red Fourragere in colors of the Légion d’Honneur for its six mentions in the order of the Army. It became the highest decorated battalion taking part in the war in Indochina. Here, Major Masselot (holding the already awarded new fanion of his 2e BEP) is also decorated with the fourragere, by General Jacquot (kepi), the then Chief of the French ground forces in Indochina.
Cross-country team - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP’s Cross country runners, led by Corporal Haas (holding the trophy). They represented well the battalion in the summer of 1955 and won then military challenges. Corporal Haas (a military champion of Saigon) would be killed in Algeria in late 1956.
Saigon Airfield - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Vietnam - 1955
2e BEP legionnaires at Saigon‘s Tan Son Nhat Airfield, 1955. The airfield was located south of their Camp Raffalli. During the Vietnam War (1959-75), the then Tan Son Nhut Air Base (different spelling) would be used by the U.S. Armed Forces as their major base in Vietnam.
Mers El Kebir - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - 1955
The 2e BEP 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, its men would help form a new unit, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP).

 
 

———
 

Main information & images sources:
More Majorum (German legionnaires in Indochina)
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins
Pierre Sergent: Paras-Légion (France Loisirs, 1982)
Pierre Montagnon: Les parachutistes de la Légion (Pygmalion, 2005)
Hommes de Guerre magazines
Ecpad – French Army media agency
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)
Google Maps
Wikipedia.org

 
More from the history of the Foreign Legion’s paratroopers:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
Parachute Company of 3e REI
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company
CERA – Foreign Airdrop Company
 

See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded battalions:
BLEM: Foreign Legion Madagascar Battalion
3e BMLE: 3rd Foreign Legion Task Force
61e BMGL: 61st Engineer-Legion Mixed Battalion
Foreign Legion Moroccan Motorized Group
Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group
 

 

The page was updated on: September 24, 2018

 

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