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, 1930:
Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (Demi-brigade de Légion étrangère, DBLE)
DBLE was established in Indochina (southeast Asia)
– it was composed of four battalions of the then 1er REI (1er RE now)
– they had been stationed in Indochina one by one, since 1920
– these battalions were Batallions Formant Corps (BFC)
– BFC means that the battalion is administratively independent, self-sustaining unit

September 1, 1930:
5th Foreign Infantry Regiment (5e Régiment étranger d’infanterie, 5e REI)
– DBLE became the 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 was stationed in Tonkin (the northernmost part of Vietnam)
– Foreign Legion had already been placed there for 47 years (with a short pause during WWI), since 1883
– 5e REI was nicknamed as Regiment of Tonkin (Regiment du Tonkin)

May 7, 1932:
– 5e REI received its regimental colors

September 1932:
3rd Battalion was disbanded

1936 – 1940:
– 5e REI conducted public and military infrastructure construction missions

1939 – 1940:
World War II (Second World War) started on September 1
– France, including the Foreign Legion, participated in
– Battle of France (May 10 – June 22, 1940)
– France was defeated
– Armistice signed by Nazi Germany and France on June 22
– for France, WWII temporarily ended

January – May 1941:
Franco-Thai War
– a conflict in Cambodia
– 5e REI was involved in

1941 – 1945:
– 5e REI lived a calm life
– in 1941, it received 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
– it lived 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) was attacked
– based in Hagiang, legionnaires fought against hundreds of Japanese
– 64 legionnaires were killed

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

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
– it suffered heavy losses while marching and fighting in the jungle

Provisional Battalion of 5e REI (Bataillon de marche du 5e REI, BM5)
– the rest of survived legionnaires created a new unit
BM5 was commanded by Captain Jules Gaucher
– he was killed in Indochina in March 1954
– he was killed during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– he served there as the 13e DBLE commander

World War II ended
– on September 2, Japan finally signed the surrender documents
– it officially ended the war
– Germany surrendered earlier that year, on May 8

1945 – 1946:
First Indochina War started
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– in Indochina, a conflict started between the French and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet-Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was a nationalist and (later) pro-Soviet Union 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

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

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

October 23, 1946:
– fights terminated, legionnaires were sent to Saigon

November 1, 1946:
BM5 was disbanded

December 1946:
– BM5 legionnaires left Indochina for Africa

January 20, 1947:
– legionnaires of the disbanded 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
– it was formed with legionnaires from the 3rd Battalion of the 6e REI and the 5th Battalion of the 4e REI

February – March 1950:
Operation Tonneau

May 1950:
3rd battalion is formed

January – February 1952:
Battle of Hoa Binh

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

June 1953:
2nd 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 was regrouped

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

August 1954:
First Indochina War ended
– the war in Indochina ended on August 1
– France had to leave northern Vietnam
– in 1956, French troops had to leave the entire Indochina pensisula

November 8, 1955:
– 5e REI was 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, 1956:
2nd battalion of 5e REI left Indochina for Africa
– it became 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

1954 – 1955:
Algerian War started
– in North Africa, local rebels intensified military actions
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– they were aimed at French forces presented in these regions
– the main rebel force fighting the French was the FLN
– FLN stands for National Liberation Front
– later in 1955, that operations escalated to the Algerian War

– 5e REI joined the Algerian War
– fighting in the Tlemcen region

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

– fighting in the Djelfa and Oran region

Operation Jumelles in the Kabylie region

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

Operation Trident in the Aurès Mountains

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

March 19, 1962:
Algerian War officially ended
– on March 18, Évian Accords treaty was signed
– it ended the Algerian War
– however, military operations were conducted until September 1962


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, 1963:
5th 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

– 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

– 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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