Mont Garbi Accident 1982

In early February 1982, a French Foreign Legion airborne platoon had to carry out a routine training jump in the Republic of Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa. The legionnaires boarded their aircraft and took off…

1982 Mont Garbi Accident - Foreign Legion - 2 REP - Djibouti

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: Prelude to the tragedy

Djibouti was a French colony since 1896 (known as French Somaliland). The territory was officially controlled by France until 1977, when Djibouti received its independence. After 1977, France has still maintained close ties with the country and also the French permanent military presence (even in 2019) in this strategically important region, the gate to the Red Sea.

In late January 1982, Captain Darras and his 4th Company of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP) of the French Foreign Legion deployed to Djibouti for the so-called Short Period Mission (Mission de Courte Durée, MCD), which usually lasted 5-6 months at that time (4 months in later years). At the remote Arta outpost, the men of Captain Darras would replace the 1st Company, 2e REP as a company team (called Rotational Company) of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e DBLE).

The 13e DBLE was stationed in Djibouti between 1962 and 2011. The periodically rotating 2e REP companies had reinforced the Demi-Brigade since October 1974. They helped maintain order in the region, guard the French ammunition depot and were trained in desert warfare. Six years earlier, in early February 1976, both units took part in the Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission to rescue French children kidnapped by local militants.

 
Africa - Djibouti - Map

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Djibouti - 1981
2e REP legionnaires as a company team (called Rotational Company) of the 13e DBLE in Djibouti, 1981. At the time, they rotated every 5-6 months.

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: The routine mission

On February 3, 1982, a common French military exercise was planned in Djibouti. In the morning, Staff Sergeant Storai and his 2nd Platoon, 4th Company, 2e REP were lined up at France’s Air Base 188 in Djibouti (the capital). Having arrived on January 25, it was their only 10th day in Africa. Together with the French Marines’ Commando Jaubert, they were assigned to carry out a routine training jump over the drop zone G (Gayo Yare), nord-west of the capital.

Two French aircrafts Nord 2501 Noratlas of the Overseas Transportation Squadron (ETOM) 88 were present at the base at 07.00 in the morning. The first one, numbered 140 and commanded by Major Dalmasso, was occupied by the 2nd Platoon of Staff Sergeant Storai, a veteran of the 1976 Loyada rescue mission. The second aircraft, commanded by Major Lorenzi, was occupied by Commando Jaubert. The day was dawning. The two aircrafts started moving and took off.

The first Noratlas headed in direction of Tadjoura, the oldest town in Djibouti. Besides the five-head crew and the 2nd Platoon (25 men) with their leader, there were another five persons on board. Three officers, all of them captains. Two of them members of the Legion: Captain Philipponnat, a deputy commander of the 4th Company, 2e REP and Captain Chanson from 13e DBLE, a former commander of the 2nd Company, 2e REP. The latter accompanied an officer from the French Armed Forces in Djibouti’s Staff, Captain Droulle. Another man from the 13e DBLE was Corporal Lauriol. He was transferred to Djibouti from the 2e REP with Captain Chanson shortly before that. This morning, he was responsible for collecting all parachutes after the jump. A jumpmaster issued from Commando Jaubert, Master Gloanec, completed the group. On board, 36 men in total.

The weather wasn’t good. The Noratlas 140 with those 36 men on board disappeared from sight of the second aircraft soon after their takeoff. The second aircraft tried to make contact repeatedly with their leader, without success. They contacted the drop zone at Gayo Yare, but no one had news from the Noratlas 140. Having been told it, the second aircraft continued in carrying out its mission and Commando Jaubert jumped over the designated drop zone. At 9.00 in the morning, the second aircraft touched down back at the air base of Djibouti.

 

Nord 2501 Noratlas - Armee de l'Air - French Air Force - 1969
A Nord 2501 Noratlas of the French Air Force. Source: Wikipedia.org

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: The tragedy

At the same time, a third Nord 2501 Noratlas waited on the runway. It would be used as an observation aircraft in emergency response to the disappearance of the first Noratlas. The observation aircraft would search all day long. However, it wasn’t until the next day in the morning, when the sad message arrived. The missing Noratlas 140 was discovered.

To be more precise, its partly burnt remains. They were discovered on the foothills of Mont Garbi, a mountain in the western part of the Tadjoura Region of Djibouti. It is located some 60 miles (100 km) west of Djibouti City. With the height of 5,500 ft (1,680 metres), the mountain is the third highest point in Djibouti.

According to the official version, at 07.39 in the morning of February 3, due to the bad weather and an incorrect barometric setting of the aircraft’s altimeter, the Noratlas 140 crashed into Mont Garbi and exploded. All 36 men on board died. Nobody survived.

For the Foreign Legion, the 1982 Mont Garbi Accident has remained the most tragic day since the end of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) of the First Indochina War.

By a strange quirk of fate, another tragic air accident killing legionnaires occurred also in Djibouti, six years earlier: 1976 Djibouti helicopter crash. However, this accident is forgotten nowadays…

 
2e REP - 2 REP - Djibouti - Mont Garbi - Accident - 1982 - Map

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Djibouti - Mont Garbi - Noratlas 140 - 1982
Crashed Noratlas 140 at Mont Garbi, February 1982. A very rare image shows 2e REP legionnaires from 3rd Platoon, 4th Company at the site of the accident. The unique images were published on an already deleted website in 2004.

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: Paying Homage

On February 12, 1982, a memorial ceremony to pay homage to the killed 2e REP legionnaires took place at Camp Raffalli, the military base of the 2e REP located near Calvi, Corsica. Besides local authorities and civilians, also two important persons attended the ceremony. Then Defence Ministry Charles Hernu and General Jeannou Lacaze, then the Chief of the General Staff of the Armies, the highest-ranking French military person. General Lacaze was a former commanding officer of the 2e REP, who led his regiment during a successful anti-rebel operation in Chad in 1969-70. After the ceremony, the legionnaires were burried at the military cemetery of Calvi.

On June 3, 1982, a Mont Garbi memorial was inaugurated in Djibouti at the site of the tragedy to commemorate the sad accident and its victims. The memorial was built by the 2nd Works Company, 13e DBLE, with the help of French commando marines.

 

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi Accident - Calvi - Paying Homage - 1982
Camp Raffalli, February 12, 1982. The ceremony to pay homage to the killed 2e REP legionnaires took place at the military base of 2e REP near Calvi, Corsica.

2e REP - 2 REP - Mont Garbi Accident - Calvi - Lacaze - Hernu - Guignon - 1982
Chief of the General Staff of the Armies General Jeannou Lacaze, France’s Defence Ministry Charles Hernu and Colonel Michel Guignon, then the commanding officer of the 2e REP pay homage to the victims during the ceremony at Camp Raffalli, February 12, 1982.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi Accident - Calvi - Paying Homage - 1982
At the cemetery of Calvi, the last farewell.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi Accident - Djibouti - Memorial - 1982
Memorial at Mont Garbi, June 1982. The freshly inaugurated memorial at Mont Garbi to commemorate the tragedy. On the base, 2CT 13DBLE letters stand for 2nd Works Company, 13e DBLE which built the memorial.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi Accident - Djibouti - Memorial - Saint Michel - 1982
Saint Michel at Mont Garbi, September 29, 1982. Legionnaires from Combat Support Company (CEA), 2e REP pay homage to their comrades at Mont Garbi on Saint Michael Day, the holiday for all French paratroopers. The company replaced the 4th Company in Djibouti in early August.

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: Victims

Victims: 2e REP

  • Captain PHILIPPONNAT Eric – 4th Company’s second-in-command
  • Staff Sergeant STORAI Georges – 2nd Platoon’s leader, veteran of Loyada
  • Sergeant DORE Patrick – group leader, 7 years of service
  • Sergeant POMIER Dominique – group leader, a freshly appointed NCO
  • Sergeant WOUTIER André – group leader, decorated in Kolwezi
  • Corporal OEHLMANN Gustav (from West Germany)
  • Corporal OLETTA Albin (from France)
  • Corporal PELTON Eddy (from France)
  • Corporal SIMONET Francois (from France)
  • Corporal BURGRAFF Adolph (from West Germany)
  • 1st Class BEAUTEMPS Marc (from France)
  • 1st Class BETON Norbert (from France)
  • 1st Class KERTY Gallien (from France)
  • 1st Class ZASSER Raymond (from Algeria)
  • Legionnaire BUZUT Muslum (from Turkey)
  • Legionnaire DEPIERRE Paul (from France)
  • Legionnaire DEVAUX Robert (from France)
  • Legionnaire FALAUT Marc (from France)
  • Legionnaire GALVES Francisco (from Portugal)
  • Legionnaire GORDON Luis (from France)
  • Legionnaire GUNES Yasar (from Turkey)
  • Legionnaire LEON Lawrence (from United States)
  • Legionnaire LIMA DA SILVA (from Portugal)
  • Legionnaire LUANG Eric (from Madagascar)
  • Legionnaire SENDERS Jean (from Belgium)
  • Legionnaire THIU-SAM Jerome (from Madagascar)
  • Legionnaire VELMAR Maurice (from France)

 

Victims: 13e DBLE

  • Captain CHANSON Jacques
  • Corporal LAURIOL Guy (from France)

 

Victims: FFDJ Army Staff

  • Captain DROULLE Robert

 

Victims: Commando Jaubert

  • Master GLOANEC Jacky (Jean-Paul) – jumpmaster

 

Victims: Air Force

  • Major DALMASSO Henri – pilot & aircraft’s commander
  • Captain COUILLAUT Jean – second pilot
  • Captain TADDEI Fabien – navigator
  • Master Sergeant DAENINCKX Gérard – mechanician
  • Captain DEMANGE Jean – observer

 

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi Accident - Calvi - Plaque - 2011
2e REP’s Memorial plaque. The memorial plaque at Camp Raffalli in Corsica to commemorate the men killed at Mont Garbi. The plaque was inaugurated in late 2011. After almost 30 years, minor spelling inaccuracies could appear.

 
 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: Additional Images

Some additional images related to the Mont Garbi accident of 1982.

 

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 4e Compagnie - 4th Company - Corsica - 1981
Snipers of the 2nd Platoon, 4th Company, 2e REP when training in Corsica in late 1981. A few weeks later, they would be killed in Djibouti during the aircraft crash. The company serves as the 2e REP’s Sniper & Destruction/Explosives Company.

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 4e Compagnie - 4th Company - Djibouti - 1982
A sniper of the 4th Company, 2e REP in Djibouti, March 1982.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 4e Compagnie - 4th Company - Djibouti - 1982
Legionnaires of the 4th Company, 2e REP training with explosives in Djibouti. After the February disaster, the company had to continue in carrying out their tasks. Several military courses were conducted, including a sniper course and a medical course, in which 32 legionnaires of the company took part. Two large military exercises alongside the 13e DBLE passed off. The 4th Company, 2e REP left Djibouti on August 2, 1982, after more than six months spent in this African country.
Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi - Djibouti - 2015
Mont Garbi, late January 2015. A detachment of the 13e DBLE, led by Lt Colonel De La Presle and consisting of former members of the 2e REP, arrived to commemorate the tragedy. At the time, the 13e DBLE had served in the United Arab Emirates already (since 2011). This small detachment realized one of the last official ceremonies of the Legion at Mont Garbi. With the beret, Ali Liaquat. An ancien (veteran) of the 2e REP with 15 years in the Legion. Since 2011, he has maintained the tradition of the accident’s annual commemoration.
Foreign Legion Etrangere - Mont Garbi - Djibouti - 2019 - Ali Liaquat
Mont Garbi, late January 2019. Ali Liaquat with his friends at the foothill of Mont Garbi (in the background) during their annual Ascension du Mont Garbi event to commemorate the tragedy. After the departure of the Legion from Djibouti, they remain the single ones to be regularly present there every year.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 4e Compagnie - 4th Company - Djibouti - 1982
In memoriam of the 2nd Platoon, 4th Company, 2e REP. R.I.P.

 

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Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
UNP – Ain Bugey’s Paratrooper National Unity
Wikipedia

 

 

Other Foreign Legion sad accidents:
2016 Avalanche accident in the Alps
1976 Djibouti helicopter crash
1932 Turenne Rail Accident
1908 Forthassa Disaster

 

 

The page was updated on: February 09, 2019

 

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