1982 Mont Garbi Accident

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…

La version française de cet article: Accident du Mont Garbi de 1982

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

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: Prelude to the tragedy

Djibouti had been a French colony since 1896, initially known as French Somaliland, and since 1967 as the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas. The territory was officially controlled by France until 1977, when Djibouti gained its independence. Nevertheless, the French have maintained close ties with the country since then, as well as their permanent military presence (even in 2021) in this strategically important region, the gate to the Red Sea.

That’s why we could find the French Foreign Legion already stationed in Djibouti in the early 1980s, represented there by the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e DBLE). Since late 1974, also the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP) from Corsica, France, had regularly deployed one of its five combat companies to the Horn of Africa to reinforce the 13e DBLE. Their stay, the so-called Short Period Mission (Mission de Courte Durée, MCD), lasted six months on average back then (four months in later years). Such deployment was always a welcome change for every legionnaire.

The Legion paratroopers helped their comrades from the Demi-brigade maintain order in the region or guard the French ammunition depot and were trained in desert warfare. The legionnaires also patrolled along the border to stop or neutralize rebels coming from Somalia and Ethiopia. In early February 1976, they took part in the Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission to save French children kidnapped by local militants.

When in Djibouti, every 2e REP company was administratively attached to the 13e DBLE to become temporarily its company team (called Rotational Company), the latter stationed at the remote military post of Arta.

Thus, in late January 1982, Captain Darras and his 4th Company, 2e REP left Corsica for Djibouti to replace there their colleagues from the 1st Company. They arrived in the African country on January 25.

 
Africa - Djibouti - Map

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - 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, with the participation of the 4th Company, 2e REP. So, in the early morning, Staff Sergeant Storai and his 2nd Platoon were lined up at France’s Air Base 188 in Djibouti City (the capital). It was only their tenth 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), situated northwest of the capital.

Two French aircraft Nord 2501 Noratlas of the ETOM 88 (Overseas Transportation Squadron) were present at the base at 07:00 a.m.. The first one, numbered 140 and commanded by Major Dalmasso, would be occupied by the 2nd Platoon of Staff Sergeant Storai, a veteran of the 1976 Loyada rescue mission. The second aircraft, commanded by Major Lorenzi, would be occupied by Commando Jaubert. The day was dawning. The two aircraft started moving and took off.

The first Noratlas headed in the direction of Tadjoura (also Tadjourah), the oldest town in Djibouti. Besides the five-head crew and the 2nd Platoon (composed of 25 men and their leader), there were another five persons on board, including three officers. Two of them were members of the Legion: Captain Philipponnat, a deputy commander of the 4th Company, 2e REP and Captain Chanson from the 13e DBLE, a former commander of the 2nd Company, 2e REP. The latter was accompanying Captain Droulle, an officer from the Staff of the French Armed Forces in Djibouti.

Another man on board was Corporal Lauriol from the 13e DBLE. Along with Captain Chanson, he had been transferred from the 2e REP to Djibouti shortly prior. That morning, he was to be responsible for collecting all parachutes after the jump.

Finally, Master Gloanec, a jumpmaster issued from Commando Jaubert, completed the group. In total, there were 36 men on board.

 

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

 

1982 Mont Garbi Accident: The tragedy

The weather wasn’t good and the Noratlas 140, with those 36 men on board, disappeared from the second aircraft’s sight soon after takeoff. The latter repeatedly tried to make contact with their leader, without result. Thus, the aircraft contacted the drop zone at Gayo Yare, but no one had news from the Noratlas 140. When heard this, the crew carried out their mission and Commando Jaubert jumped over the designated drop zone. At 9:00 a.m., the second Noratlas landed back at the air base in Djibouti City.

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

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

According to the official report, at 7:39 a.m., on February 3, due to 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. No one survived.

For the Foreign Legion, the 1982 Mont Garbi accident remains 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, six years earlier, another tragic air accident killing legionnaires had also occurred in Djibouti: the 1976 Djibouti helicopter crash. However, this accident is largely forgotten nowadays…

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

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - 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, two important persons also attended the ceremony: then Defence Ministry Charles Hernu and General Jeannou Lacaze, then 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 1969-1970. After the ceremony, the legionnaires were burried at the military cemetery in Calvi.

In Djibouti on June 3, 1982, a Mont Garbi memorial was unveiled 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 - 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 at 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 - Mont Garbi Accident - Calvi - Paying Homage - 1982
At the cemetery in Calvi, the last farewell.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - Mont Garbi Accident - Djibouti - Memorial - 1982
Memorial at Mont Garbi, June 1982. The freshly unveiled 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 - 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 the 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 - 4th Company - 2nd Platoon - killed men - 1982
The men of the 4th Company, 2e REP who perished on February 3, 1982.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - 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 - 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 - 4th Company - Djibouti - 1982
A sniper of the 4th Company, 2e REP in Djibouti, March 1982.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - 4th Company - Djibouti - 1982
Legionnaires of the 4th Company, 2e REP training with explosives in Djibouti. After the February disaster, the company had to keep 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 - 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 already served in the United Arab Emirates (since 2011). It was one of the last official ceremonies of the Legion at Mont Garbi. With the beret is 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 - 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 only ones to be regularly present every year.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - Mont Garbi - Djibouti - 2010 - Adjudant-chef Fayolle
Adjudant-chef Fayolle. ACH Fayolle (retired) at Mount Garbi in 2010, for the first time in 28 years. Early in February 1982, at the last moment, he left his jumpmaster seat in the aircraft to Master Gloanec from Commando Jaubert, since the senior NCO had just been assigned to the CECAP (Commando Training Center of Arta Plage) as an instructor. ACH Fayolle was among the first to arrive at the scene of the tragedy and discover the remains of his comrades he knew personally.
2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion - 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

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

 

 

More from the history of the Foreign Legion:
1863 Battle of Camerone
Foreign Legion in the Balkans: 1915-1919
1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1976 Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission
1978 Battle of Kolwezi

 

 

The page was updated on: February 02, 2021

 

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