39th Riverine Craft Engineer Company

The 39th Riverine Craft Engineer Company (39e CEFG) was a Foreign Legion engineering watercraft unit constituted in Indochina in late 1951. It is supposed to be the only company of the Legion to use marine ranks for legionnaires. Its main purpose was to support French troops during riverine operations of the First Indochina War (1946-54). The company provided river crossings and transportation of troops, supplies and building materials along rivers. The unit was dissolved in 1955.

Foreign Legion Engineering Companies in French Indochina 1946-54

 

First Indochina War (1946-54)
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– in Indochina in the 1940’s, a conflict started between France and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was an independence movement
– 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

 

39th Riverine Craft Engineer Company

39th Riverine Craft Engineer Company
39e Compagnie d’Engins Fluviaux du Génie (39e CEFG)

39e CEFG was established on September 1, 1951
– an engineering watercraft mixed company
– designated for military operations in Northern Vietnam
– the company was composed of 3 officers + 213 men
– legionnaires + French sappers + local Vietnamese auxiliaries
– Vietnamese auxiliaries comprised 50% of the strength

– 39e CEFG was stationed at Port Redon
– a harbor of Hai Phong, Tonkin
– Tonkin was then title for Northern Vietnam
Lieutenant Gavalda took command temporarily

– in October, Captain Omnes became the company commander
– the unit was assigned to the FTNV (Northern Vietnam Ground Forces)

– 39e CEFG was devided into three platoons:

  • HQ Platoon
  • Crossing Platoon (Section de Franchissement)
  • Transportation Platoon (Section de Transport)

– 39e CEFG served as an engineer support unit
– it was equipped with several watercrafts:

  • a Russel tugboat
  • a Chrysler pusher/towboat
  • 5 x 50-ton barges for transportation
  • 4 x pontoon boats (of 12 tons, later 18 tons)
  • a number of rafts
  • M2 Bailey bridge
  • an LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized) for military operations
    – the LCM was transferred from the 15e CEG

 
– 39e CEFG was designated for riverine operations
– its main operational area was the Red River Delta
– a flat low-lying plain formed by the Red River in Northern Vietnam
– the company was running 11 different transit points there
– the unit carried out several tasks
– transportation of troops and supplies along rivers
– transportation of building materials
– river crossing operations for troops and supply columns
– supplying French troops during military operations
– engineering support during military operations

39e CEFG’s curiosity
– most likely the only unit to address legionnaires in marine ranks

 

39e CEFG: 1951 – 1955

1951-52:
– September-December 1951, works at Port Randon
– 39e CEFG was transporting building/engineering materials
– it also had to build its own base (prefabricated hangars)

– meanwhile, the unit was participating in military operations
– along the Canal des Bambous in the Hung Yen sector
– the canal is located west of Hai Phong

Battle of Hoa Binh
– a battle with the Viet Minh in Northern Vietnam
– December 1951 – February 1952
– 39e CEFG supported French units during the battle
– it was transporting troops along the Black River

 
1953:
– in 1953, operations in the Dong Trieu sector
– located north of Hai Phong

Mention in dispatches
– in March 1953, a mention in dispatches
– 39e CEFG was mentioned in the order of the brigade

– 1953-54, operations in the sectors of Ninh Binh or Nam Dinh
– pontoon bridge construction works around Hai Phong

 
1954:
First Indochina War ended
– in August 1954, the war in Indochina ended
– all French units had to leave Tonkin (Northern Vietnam)

3e CEFG’s reorganization
– in October 1954, 3e CEFG was reduced
– it was composed of 3 officers + some 130 men
– a number of local auxiliaries left the company

  • HQ Platoon – Master Sergeant Montfort
  • Crossing Platoon – Lieutenant Burgy
  • Transportation Platoon – Lieutenant Baudoin

– in October, dismantling of pontoon bridges at Vu Xa and Linh Xa

– in November 1954, 39e CEFG left Tonkin
– it moved to Tourane in Central Vietnam
– in December, the company moved to Southern Vietnam
– it was stationed at Binh Loi
– a western urban area of then Saigon

 
1955:
– in 1955, Lieutenant Miran became the company commander

– in March, 39e CEFG received an important reinforcement
– the men from the dissolved 4e CBB (Armored Boat Company)
– 4e CBB belonged to the 71st Engineer Battalion

– in October, 39e CEFG was reorganized and redesignated

 

39th Engineer Transportation Company

39th Engineer Transportation Company
39e Compangie de Transport du Génie (39e CTG)

39e CTG was established on October 1, 1955
– an engineer support unit, ex-39e CEFG
– the company was reinforced and reorganized
– some legionnaires were still serving within
Lieutenant Miran kept the command

– 39e CTG was devided into five platoons:

  • HQ Platoon
  • Crossing Platoon (Section de Franchissement)
  • Riverine Transportation Platoon (Section de Transport Fluvial)
  • 2 x Dump Truck Platoon (Section de Camions Bennes)

– 39e CTG was an engineering mixed unit
– designated for construction works in the Saigon sector
– assigned to Cap Saint-Jacques‘ Engineer HQ
– then title for the important cape located south-east of Saigon

– 39e CTG was equipped with several boats and vehicles:

  • 10 self-propelled barges
  • 2 pushers/towboats
  • 6 tugboats
  • 5 wherries
  • a number of Diamond dump trucks
  • a number of GMC dump trucks

– in late 1955, the company carried out different tasks
– dry creek dredging support near Cap Saint-Jacques
– supporting the 31st Engineer Battalion’s works east of Saigon
– arrangement of a military camp at Cap Saint-Jacques
– road buildings in the Saigon sector

– between 1951-54, the company transported at least 573,600 vehicles
– between 1954-55, it evacuated over 9,400 refugees from North Vietnam

39e CTG’s dissolution
– 39e CTG was dissolved on December 31, 1955

 

39e CEFG - 39 CEFG - 39 CTG - Riverine Craft Engineer Company - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1952
The insignia of 39e CEFG, created by Captain Omnes in 1952. It has the shape of a white ring buoy with a cross in red & green (Legion colors) and black (French enginneers’ color). The insignia bears the seven-flame grenade of the Legion and a breastplate (the symbol of French engineering units). Inside the ring, a riverine craft. The insignia hasn’t any symbol of French Indochina.
39e CEFG - 39 CEFG - 39 CTG - Riverine Craft Engineer Company - Indochina
Smaller riverine crafts in French Indochina in the 1950s.

 
 
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Main information sources:

Pierre Dufour: Génie-Légion – de Sidi Bel Abbes au Kosovo (Lavauzelle, 2000)
More-majorum.de (Germans in French Indochina 1946-56)
Insignes Legion (Fr)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)

 
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See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded engineering companies of Indochina:

1st Engineer HQ & Services Company
38th Dump Truck Company
40th Dump Truck Company
15th Engineer Maintenance Company
16th Engineer Maintenance Company

 

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The page was updated on: June 21, 2018

 

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