5th Foreign Regiment

The 5th Foreign Regiment (5e Régiment Etranger, 5e RE) was an infantry unit of the French Foreign Legion and the only regiment of the Legion established in Far East (in French Indochina, mostly today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). The regiment was activated in 1930 as the 5e REI. It participated in the Franco-Thai War, Second World War, First Indochina War and Algerian War. The 5e RE was disbanded in July 2000. Traditions of 5e RE were adopted by the 2e REG.

5th Foreign Regiment History - 5 RE - L'histoire du 5e Régiment Etranger


5e REI – 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1930-1945

August 2, 1930Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (Demi-brigade de Légion étrangère, DBLE) is established in Indochina (southeast Asia)

– DBLE is composed of four battalions of the 1er REI
– they have already been stationed in Indochina since 1920
– these battalions are Batallions Formant Corps (BFC)
– BFC means that the battalion is administratively independent, self-sustaining unit

September 1, 1930 – DBLE became the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment (5e Régiment étranger d’infanterie, 5e REI)

– 5e REI is composed of four battalions:

  • 1st Battalion (ex-4th BFC of 1er REI (based in Indochina since 1920)
  • 2nd Battalion (ex-7th BFC of 1er REI, ex-4th Btn/4e REI created in Algeria in 1921)
  • 3rd Battalion (ex-9th BFC of 1er REI, ex-4th BFC/2e REI)
  • 4th Battalion (ex-1st BFC of 1er REI)

April 1, 1931 – 5e REI is stationed in the Tonkin region (the northernmost part of Vietnam)
– Foreign Legion has already been for 47 years there (with a short pause during WWI), since 1883
– 5e REI is nicknamed as Regiment du Tonkin (Regiment of Tonkin)

May 7, 1932 – 5e REI received its flag

September 1932 – after a short time of its life, the 3rd bat. is disbanded and its place is taken over by the 4th bat

1936-40 – 5e REI conducts public and military infrastructure construction missions

January – May 1941 – 5e REI is in Cambodia to fight in the Franco-Thai War

1941 – 1945 – 5e REI lives a calm life
– in 1941, it receives its last Foreign Legion drafts
– the French Vichy regime was an ally of Nazi Germany
– because of that, 5e REI was not in war with the Japanese
– 5e REI as a very autonomous unit, far away from Europe or Africa, lives a relatively normal, independent life


Camps of the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment in Tonkin in 1935
5e REI camps in Tonkin in 1935 – HQ in Vietri, Disciplinary Platoon (Section spéciale) in Hagiang, a main base in Tong
Legionnaires of the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment in 1941
Legionnaires of the 5e REI in the Franco-Thai War in 1941


BM5 – Bataillon de Marche du 5e REI 1945-1946

March 1945 – liberated France is in war with Japan

March 9, 1945 – Japanese coup de main (direct assault) in French Indochina
– 87 legionnaires from the Disciplinary Platoon (Section spéciale) based in Hagiang are fighting against hundreds of Japanese
– 64 legionnaires are killed

March 10, 1945 – an order to leave Tonkin for China, where the French forces of Indochina are regrouped

March – June 1945 – legionnaires of 5e REI march through the jungle
– they marched more than 1,500km (1000 miles) during 93 days and fought against the Japanese

July 1, 1945 – 5e REI was disbanded
– 5e REI was disbanded in Mong Tzeu, China, because of large losses while marching and fighting in the jungle
– the rest of survived legionnaires created the Provisional Battalion of 5e REI (Bataillon de marche du 5e REI, BM5)

– BM5 was commanded by captain Jules Gaucher
– as the 13e DBLE commander, he was killed in Indochina in March 1954, during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu

February 19, 1946 – BM5 arrived back in the Tonkin region, Indochina

March-October 1946 – BM5 is fighting against rebels in the jungle in the Tonkin region and in the northern Laos

October 23, 1946 – fights terminated, legionnaires are sent to Saigon

November 1, 1946 – BM5 is disbanded

December 1946 – BM5 legionnaires shipped to Africa

January 20, 1947 – legionnaires of the BM5 landed in Africa
– they spent about 12 months of marching and fighting in the jungle
– most of them overrun their signed 5-year contract


Insignia of the 5e REI 1930-45 and the BM5
Insignia of the 5e REI 1930-46 and the BM5
5e REI - 5 REI - Repatriated legionnaires - BM5
Repatriated legionnaires of the BM5 marching in Sidi Bel Abbès (a main base of the Foreign Legion) after their arrival in January 1947


5e REI – First Indochina War 1949-1954

November 1, 1949 – 5e REI was recreated in Indochina with legionnaires from the 3rd Battalion of the 6e REI and the 5th Battalion of the 4e REI

February – March 1950 – Operation Tonneau

May 19503rd battalion is formed

January – February 1952 – Battle of the Hoa Binh

1952 – Operations Mercure, Polo, Dromadaire, Sauterelles, Cigogne and Caïman

June 19532nd Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company (2e CMMLE) was established and attached to 5e REI

July 1953 – Operation Hirondelle

September 1953 – Operation Brochet

January – May 1954 – the 1st battalion fought against rebels in the Tonkin region
– 5e REI suffered heavy losses

March – May 1954 – 2e CMMLE and volunteers from 5e REI participated in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– 5e REI participated also in the battles in the Ban Seng Phon region

May 12, 1954 – 5e REI is regrouped

May 31, 1954 – 2e CMMLE is disbanded
– the company was destroyed in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu

November 8, 1955 – 5e REI is placed in the Annam region

January 14, 1956 – 1st + 3rd Battalion of 5e REI left Indochina for Algeria
– in Algeria, they will join the Algerian War

March 12, 19562nd battalion of 5e REI left Indochina for Africa
– it is the last Foreign Legion unit which left Indochina


5e REI in the First Indochina War
Legionnaires of the 5e REI in the First Indochina War
2nd Battalion of the 5e REI is leaving Indochina
2nd Battalion of the 5e REI: The last render homage to the Flag, the last Legion unit leaving Indochina, after 73 years


5th Foreign Infantry Regiment – Algerian War 1956-1962

1956 – 5e REI joined the Algerian War

– fighting in the Tlemcen region

1957 – 5e REI participated in the battles in the west of the Oran region
– 2nd battalion is disbanded

1958 – fighting in the Djelfa and Oran region

1959Operation Jumelles in the Kabylie region

August 22, 1959 – 5e REI liberated Pierre du Bois de Dunilac (a Swiss painter) and his wife
– they were captured and holded by Algerian rebels for two months

1960Operation Trident in the Aurès Mountains

March 1961 – operations in Oran city and in the Géryville region

March 19, 1962 – Algerian War officially ended
– Algeria became an independent state


5e REI liberated Pierre du Bois de Dunilac
5e REI liberated Pierre du Bois de Dunilac
5th Foreign Infantry Regiment in the Algerian War
Legionnaires of the 5e REI in the Algerian War


5e REI – 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1962-1963

March 1963 – 5e REI is organized as an engineer regiment
– its main purpose had been to conduct public and military infrastructure constructions

March-September 1963 – legionnaires of 5e REI are sent to the engineer regiments in France
– to Montpellier (4e Génie) and Grenoble (20e Génie)
– they have to learn how to manipulate with the military engineering engines/vehicles

May 21, 1963 – first legionnaires of the 5e REI are sent to Tahiti (French Polynesia)
– their main task had been to build a new military base in Arue

July 19, 1963 – first 5e REI legionnaires landed in Tahiti
– some of them are immediately sent to the Mururoa atoll to build the future nuclear test site

September 1963 – other 120 legionnaires of the 5e REI moved from Algeria to Tahiti

November 30, 1963 – 5e REI is officially disbanded


Camps of the 5e REI in Algeria in 1963
Camps of the 5e REI in Algeria in 1963: Ain Sfera and Camp d’Armandville (the last ceremonies of the 5e REI before its dissolution)
Departure of first legionnaires of the 5e REI to French Polynesia
May 21, 1963 – Mers El Kébir: Departure of first legionnaires of the 5e REI to French Polynesia
Arrival of first legionnaires at Tahiti
July 19, 1963: Arrival of first legionnaires at Papeete, Tahiti (French Polynesia)


5e RMP – 5th Mixed Pacific Regiment 1963-1984

October 1, 19635th Mixed Pacific regiment (5e Régiment mixte du Pacifique, 5e RMP) is constituted
– 5e RMP consisted of legionnaires, marines, military engineers and 400 civilian persons

December 1963 – 5e RMP is stationed in Tahiti (French Polynesia) at Camp d’Arue

1965 – 3 companies of the 5e RMP are placed on Hao attol
– the attol is located 920 km (about 600 miles) to the east of Tahiti

1965 – 1976 – 5e RMP built a large civil and military infrastructure in French Polynesia

January 5, 1976 – 5e RMP is regrouped at Mururoa to protect a nuclear test site

January 14, 1978 – legionnaires of the 5e RMP are sent to Nuutania
– they had to calm down the rebellion in the biggest prison of French Polynesia


Camp of the 5e RMP in Polynesia in 1964
Camp d’Arue of the 5e RMP in French Polynesia in 1964


5e RE – 5th Foreign Regiment 1984-2000

July 1, 1984 – 5e RMP is reorganised
5th Foreign Regiment (5e Régiment étranger, 5e RE) is created

January 2, 1987 – a group of 5e RE legionnaires landed on the Wallis and Futuna Islands (
– the islands are located between New Caledonia and Tahiti (over 3,000 km/1,800 miles west from Tahiti)
– legionnaires helped to rebuild the local infrastructure of the islands, having been devastated by a tropical cyclone

February 1988 – 5e RE legionnaires worked on the Marquesas Islands
– they fixed the wall of defense of the most important local port on the islands
– more than 15,000 tons of material were used up for

November 1993 – a new reconstruction mission on the Wallis and Futuna Islands
– a result of an earthquake

1997 – French nuclear tests are terminated
– 5e RE left Mururoa for Hao

July 1, 2000 – 5e RE was disbanded

November 2000 – 5e RE’s flag is placed in the Foreign Legion’s Museum in Aubagne


5e RE at Mururoa in the 1980s
5e RE at Mururoa in the 1980s
Insignia: 5e REI, 5e RMP, 5e RE
Regimental insignia: 5e REI in 1949 and 1956, 5e RMP in 1964, 5e RE in 1984




Regimental song of 5e RE: Le front haut et l’âme fière


Information & images source (besides that already defined):
Képi blanc – official FFL magazine
Ecpad – French Army media agency


See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded regiments:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment



The page was updated on: January 19, 2016


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