5th Foreign Regiment

The 5th Foreign Regiment (5e Régiment Etranger, 5e RE), the only regiment of the French Foreign Legion established in Asia (even two times, in French Indochina). In then French colony, the Regiment of Tonkin (a nickname related to then title for northern Vietnam, its birthplace) was keeping order and building local infrastructure between 1930-45. In Indochina, it fought against Japanese troops (1940 and 1945), Thailand troops (1941) and the Viet Minh (1946 and 1949-54).

In 1956, it left Indochina for North Africa, to take part in the Algerian War (1956-62). Becoming a mixed engineering unit and redesignated to 5e RMP in 1963, it was stationed in French Polynesia, as the only regiment of the Legion. Its main task was to build and guard a new French nuclear testing site on Mururoa. Redesignated to 5e RE in 1984, the regiment was disbanded in June 2000.

5e Régiment Etranger - 5 RE - 5RE - 5eme RE - History

 

Foreign Legion in French Indochina 1883-1930

1883 – 1885:
Tonkin Campaign
– November 8, first legionnaires landed in Asia
– 1st Battalion (Major Doddier)
– it landed in Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam)
– in 1883-85, four Legion battalions deployed there
– they faced the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops

1885 – 1907:
Pacification of Tonkin
– four Legion battalions took part in
– clashes with “pirates“, a rebel groups of Chinese origin
– legionnaires also carried out construction works
– they were building local infrastructure
– it means roads, bridges, outposts, gardens…
– in 1907, the Pacification of Tonkin ended

1907 – 1914:
– in Tonkin, legionnaires continued in building infrastructure

1914:
– severe clashes with Chinese rebels in northern Tonkin

1914 – 1918:
World War I
– in September, World War I started
– France was involved in
– the fights took place in France and in the Balkans

– because of that, legionnaires had to left Indochina
– they reinforced the units on the front lines
– in 1916, only a simple company stayed in Tonkin

1918:
Attack of Lang Son
– Lang Son is an important city in Tonkin
– hundreds of Chinese rebels attacked the city
– it resulted in decision to bring the Legion back

1920:
– 4th Battalion, 1er RE landed in Tonkin

1922:
– 4th Battalion, 2e REI landed in Tonkin
– in 1926, it became 9th Battalion, 1er REI (ex-1er RE)

1927:
– 7th Battalion, 1er REI landed in Tonkin
– ex-4th Battalion, 4e REI (created in Algeria in 1921)

1930:
Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion
Demi-brigade de Légion étrangère, DBLE
– August 2, DBLE was established in Tonkin
– it was composed of 4th + 7th + 9th Battalion, 1er REI (1er RE now)
– these battalions were Batallions Formant Corps (BFC)
– BFC means an administratively independent, self-sustaining unit

– 1st Battalion, 1er REI landed in Tonkin in August
– it joined the DBLE

– in September, DBLE was redesignated
– it became a new regiment

 

5e REI – 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1930-1939

1930:
5th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5e Régiment étranger d’infanterie, 5e REI

September 1, DBLE became the 5e REI
– 5e REI was stationed around Hanoi, Tonkin
– Hanoi was the then capital of French Indochina
Lt Colonel Debas took command

– 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)
  • 3rd Battalion (ex-9th BFC of 1er REI, ex-4th BFC/2e REI)
  • 4th Battalion (ex-1st BFC of 1er REI)

– the unit was nicknamed as Regiment of Tonkin (Regiment du Tonkin)

– in reality, the establishment of 5e REI wasn’t finished until April 1931

1931 – 1939:
– 5e REI served as a reserve combat unit
– its main task was to participate in road building and military construction projects
– only a long-serving legionnaires had the right to serve with

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

– in September, 5e REI’s reorganization
– 3rd Battalion was disbanded
– 4th Battalion was renamed to a new 3rd Battalion

1936 – 1940:
– 5e REI conducted important public and military infrastructure construction missions
– hundreds of miles of roads through the jungle were built

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1930s - Viet Tri - French Indochina
Viet Tri, Tonkin. The 5e REI’s Music Band in front of the regimental HQ (mid-1930s)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1930s - General Rollet - French Indochina
General Rollet, nicknamed Father of the Legion, the first commander of the Legion during his visit to the 5e REI in Tonkin in 1936.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1930s - Edgar Puaud - Tien Yen - French Indochina
Tien Yen, Tonkin. The 5e REI’s officers and French officers posing for a photograph during road building (1938). In the center, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 5e REI, Major Puaud. Having served with the Legion 1926-40, Edgar Puaud became in 1943 the commander of the Legion of French volunteers (LVF) fighting Soviet forces on the Eastern Front, alongside Germans. In 1944, as Oberführer, he became the commanding officer of the Division Charlemagne, a French Waffen-SS unit. General Puaud, severely wounded, died in March 1945.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1930s - Viet Tri - Soccer team - French Indochina
The 5e REI’s soccer team posing in Viet Tri (1938)

 

5e REI – 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1939-1945

1939:
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

– 5e REI was involved in building fortifications
– however, no German soldier entered Indochina

1940:
Japanese invasion of French Indochina
– September 22, Japanese troops invaded Indochina
– their objective was northern Tonkin, on the border with China

Battle of Lang Son
– September 22-24, French troops in Langson opposed to the Japanese
– Lang Son is the city attacked by the Chinese in 1920
– 2nd Battalion, 5e REI took part in
– several legionnaires were killed
– September 25, the French reached an agreement with Japan
– some 40,000 Japanese troops could be stationed in Indochina

– in October, local rebels conducted actions against the French
– the main rebel formation was the Viet Minh
– it stands for League for the Independence of Vietnam
– Viet Minh was a nationalist and (in the late 1940s) pro-Soviet Union movement

– also in October, 1st Battalion moved to Cambodia
– Cambodia was part of then Indochina
– they had to defend the border against Thailand

– at that time, 3rd Battalion, 5e REI restored order in Cochinchina
– Cochinchina was then title for southern Vietnam
– later, the unit also moved to Cambodia

– November 1940 – January 1941
– operations to restore order in northern Tonkin
– 2nd Battalion, 5e REI took part in
– these operations ended on January 15, 1941

1941:
Franco-Thai War
– in January, a new conflict in French Indochina started
– it took place in Cambodia and Laos, on the border with Thailand
– since October 1940, Thailand wanted to annex several border regions
– 1st + 3rd Battalion, 5e REI took part in the conflict
– on January 31, an armistice was signed

Battle of Phum-Preav
– January 16, an important battle of the Franco-Thai War
– a severe battle with the Thai Army at Phum-Preav, western Cambodia
– it lasted 8 hours
– 3rd Battalion, 5e REI got involved in
– legionnaires faced well organized Thai forces
– Thai forces were equipped with modern tanks and armored vehicles
– they were also supported by Thai aircrafts
– however, legionnaires stopped the advance of the Thai
– they also destroyed three Thai tanks
– Captain Chalvidan + Lieutenant De Cros Peronard (or De Gros Peronnard sometimes, an officer of Dannish origin) were killed
– 33 legionnaires were killed (in the majority) or wounded
– for this action, the battalion was mentioned in the order of the Army

Japanese invasion of southern Indochina
– in July, the Japanese forces moved also to southern Indochina
– since July 1941, the Japanese were stationed all over Indochina

1941 – 1945:
– 5e REI lived a relatively normal, independent life
– it was a very autonomous unit, far away from Europe or Africa
– the then French Vichy regime was an ally of Nazi Germany
– because of that, 5e REI was not in war with the Japanese
– however, the Allies controlled the Pacific
– because of that, French Indochina was cut off from supplies
– in 1941, 5e REI received its last Foreign Legion drafts

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1940 - Legionnaire - French Indochina
A legionnaire of the 5e REI, wearing a combat uniform (around 1940)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1940 - French Indochina
5e REI’s legionnaires during a parade in French Indochina (around 1940)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1941 - Marcel Chalvidan - French Indochina
Captain Marcel Chalvidan. A company commander with the 3rd Battalion, 5e REI during the Battle of Phum-Preav, he was killed by a bullet in the head when launching a counter-attack. Born 1905, Marcel Chalvidan served with the regiment since 1938.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1942 - insignia - French Indochina
The first regimental insignia of the 5e REI (left). It was created by Colonel Alessandri (then commander) in 1942. The insigne bears the Francisque, the coat of arms of France’s Vichy regime. In late 1944 or early 1945, the Francisque was replaced by the Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of Free France (right).

 

5e REI: Japanese coup d’état in French Indochina 1945

March 9, 1945:
Japanese coup d’état in French Indochina (Operation Bright Moon)
– the Japanese were afraid of an Allied invasion of Indochina
– a military campaign attacking French garrisons all over the colony
– all of the garrisons were overrun
– the Japanese replaced French officials
– in reality, French Indochina ceased to exist
– new states were established
– Empire of Vietnam, Kingdom of Cambodia and Kingdom of Laos

5e REI during the Japanese coup d’état
– in Viet Tri, 5e REI’s HQ was invaded by the Japanese
– Lt Colonel Belloc (commanding officer) was imprisoned

  • Lt Colonel Jean Belloc had served as an officer in the Legion since 1919
  • in 1919, then Lieutenant Belloc was sent to Indochina
  • he joined the Legion Company
  • in 1920, Lieutenant Belloc took command of the company
  • in 1922, he left Tonkin for North Africa and Syria
  • in 1937, then Major Belloc returned to Tonkin
  • he became the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5e REI
  • in 1941, Major Belloc led his unit in the Battle of Phum-Preav
  • in November 1942, Lt Colonel Belloc took command of the 5e REI
  • in November 1945, Lt Col Belloc was liberated

– Major Laroire (his deputy) was seriously wounded and died
– as Captain, he commanded a company during the 1941 Battle of Phum-Preav

– in Lang Son, Tank Platoon, DML (Motorized Detachment)
– it was defending the French garrison
– led by Lieutenant Duronsoy, the legionnaires were fighting for 18 hours
– the survivors were executed by the Japanese

– in Ha Giang, Disciplinary Platoon
Section Speciale de Discipline, led by Adjudant-chef Sury
– consisting of 87 men, they fought all the night
– 82 legionnaires were killed

– in Hanoi, DML
– Captain Fenautrigues (its commander) was killed in the city
– DML was defending the Citadel of Hanoi
– Armored Platoon (Adj Roman), 4 old armored cars (Panhard Levassor)
– Moto Platoon (Adj Lacroix-a-Grandpierre), composed of 4 motorcycle groups
– DML fought for over 15 hours
– 12 legionnaires were killed + 20 wounded

– in Vinh (central Vietnam), DCA (Anti-Aircraft Detachment)
– Sergeant Faussonne + 16 legionnaires
– after severe fighting, the platoon was annihilated

– near the Mount Bavi (northern Tonkin), 7th Company, 2nd Battalion
– it got involved in a fierce battle with the Japanese
– only 30 legionnaires survived
– later, they successfully re-joined their battalion

– in Tien Kien, SHR (HQ Platoon) was annihilated
– Second Lieutenant Herbert Muller, its platoon leader, was killed
– he was a long-serving legionnaire, aged 47

– in Tong, 1st + 2nd Battalion, 5e REI
– they joined the French column of General Alessandri
– Alessandri commanded the 5e REI 1940-42
– he grouped French forces stationed in the region
– the column (some 1,500 troops) will march to China

March 10, 1945:
– 3rd Battalion tried to join Gen Alessandri’s column
– the unit was attacked by the Japanese
– only 150 legionnaires will survive and join the column
– its 9th Company, detached at that time, operated independently
– the company joined the column in April

March 11, 1945:
– in Tong, Lt Colonel Marcelin, a new commander of 5e REI
– he was executed by the Japanese
– 2 officers + 25 legionnaires were also killed

– the vast majority of 5e REI was regrouped
– it comprised some 850 legionnaires

March 13, 1945:
– Gen Alessandri’s column devided into two parts
– first part included 1st + 2nd Battalion
– second part included 3rd Battalion

– they started to march to China

March 13 – May 2, 1945:
March to the Death
– the French troops had to march 800 km (500 miles)
– through the jungle, being poorly clothed, stocked and equipped
– they were permanently chased by the Japanese
– legionnaires got involved in several fierce battles
– they were also decimated by diseases
– after 50 days, the columns entered China

May 2 – June 15, 1945:
– the columns had to move to Tsao Pa, China
– they will march another 450 km (300 miles)
– on June 15, the long march finished
– only 580 legionnaires survived the movement
– they had to march about 1,250 km (800 miles) in 93 days

June 30, 1945:
– in China, 5e REI was deactivated

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Section Speciale - Disciplinary Platoon - French Indochina
Section Speciale de Discipline. Disciplinary Platoon of the 5e REI. Garrisoned at Ha Giang (close to the border with China), the unit was massacred by the Japanese on March 10, 1945.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - DML - Motorized Detachment - French Indochina
DML. 5e REI’s Legion Motorized Detachment. Composed of a tank platoon + two armored car platoons, it fought bravely during the March 1945 events. The insignia was created around 1942. The DML was disbanded in June 1945.

 

BM5 – Bataillon de Marche – Task Force – 1945-46

July 1945:
Task Force 5
Bataillon de Marche du 5 (BM5)

BM5 was established on July 1, 1945
– a task force composed of the 5e REI’s survivors
– formed in Tsao Pa, China
– it consisted of five companies
– HQ company
– 3 combat companies (1st + 2nd + 3rd)
– Depot company
– it comprised about 30 officers + 580 legionnaires
Captain Gaucher took command

  • Captain Jules Gaucher had served as an officer in the Legion since 1931
  • in 1937, then Captain Gaucher was sent to Indochina
  • he joined the 5e REI
  • in 1941, he and his unit participated in the Franco-Thai War
  • in 1945-46, he commanded the BM5 in Indochina
  • he returned to Indochina in 1949 to serve with the 13e DBLE
  • in 1953, Lieutenant Colonel Gaucher became a commander of the 13e DBLE
  • in 1954, he was killed in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu

– a few days later, the unit was reinforced
– tens of ex-5e REI legionnaires arrived to China
– BM5 will expand to 6 combat companies

September 1945:
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

First Indochina War
– in Indochina, a conflict started between the French and the Viet Minh
– 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
– later that year, the war officially started

February 1946:
– February 19, BM5 arrived back in Tonkin
– Tonkin was occupied by the Chinese at that time
– BM5 legionnaires were banned from enter their previous garrisons
– they had to live in the jungle and search their way to Hanoi
– in the jungle, clashes with the Viet Minh started

March 1946:
Battle of Tuan Giao, Tonkin
– first battle for BM5
– it occurred on March 1-2
– 18 Viet Minh rebels were killed

April-September 1946:
– BM5 served in northern Laos
– it got involved in several battles with the Viet Minh

– since June, BM5 was stationed in the Xam Neua region
– legionnaires built fortified outposts and conducted patrols

October 1946:
– BM5 was sent to Saigon
– Saigon was the capital of then Cochinchina (southern Vietnam)
– BM5 arrived in Saigon on October 23

– October 31, BM5 was disbanded
– its men were waiting for their repatriation
– they spent at least 5 years in Indochina
– the vast majority of them had its 5-year contract terminated

December 1946 – January 1947:
– December 12, BM5 legionnaires left Indochina for North Africa

– January 16, legionnaires of the disbanded BM5 landed in Algeria
– January 20, they arrived in Sidi Bel Abbes, then HQ of the Legion

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Bataillon de Marche du 5 - BM 5 - French Indochina
Task Force 5 (BM5), composed of the 5e REI’s survivors of the 1945 march to China. The insignia was created by Captain Gaucher in 1945.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Jules Gaucher - French Indochina
Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher. As Captain, he took command of the BM5. Born 1905, Jules Gaucher had served with the 5e REI since 1937 (9 years without an interruption, probably a record for an officer in the modern history of the Legion). The commander of the 1st Battalion, 5e REI during the march to China in 1945. He was killed in 1954 in the well-known Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - BM 5 - Repatriated legionnaires - Sidi Bel Abbes - 1947
5e REI’s repatriated legionnaires marching in Sidi Bel Abbes (then main garrison of the Legion), Algeria, late January 1947.

 

5e REI: First Indochina War 1949-54

1946 – 1954:
First Indochina War

1949:
5e REI was re-activated in Indochina, on November 1, 1949
– formed with the 3rd Battalion, 6e REI + 5th Battalion, 4e REI

– they became 1st + 2nd Battalion, 5e REI

1st Battalion was stationed in Son Tay Tonkin
2nd Battalion was stationed in Tien Yen, Tonkin

Lieutenant Colonel Binoche took command

– 5e REI took part in the First Indochina War
– in November, operations in the Hoa Binh region, Tonkin
– 1st Battalion took part in

1950:
– operations in the Haiphong and Phu Ly region, Tonkin
– 1st Battalion took part in

– in April, 3rd Battalion was established
– composed of Legion’s staff + 500 Vietnamese auxiliaries
– it was placed in the Hongay region, Tonkin

– also in April, 2nd Battalion was placed in the Haiphong region
– it has to occupy several small outposts

– April 12, 5e REI received its regimental color

– in July, 1st Battalion moved to Tourane, Annam
– Annam was then title for central Vietnam
– 1st Battalion was operating in the region
– 2nd Battalion was placed in the Mon Cay region, Tonkin

– in September, 1st Battalion moved back to Tonkin
– it replaced 2nd Battalion in the Mon Cay region
– 2nd Battalion was placed at Lang Son
– then, it moved back to the Tien Yen region

– in December, Mobile Group 6 (GM6) was formed
– a combat task force consisting of French regular and Legion units
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion were part of
– it was operating in the Tien Yen region

1951:
– 3rd Battalion moved to the Sontay region

De-Lattre Line
– a fortified line in northern Tonkin
– 1st + 3rd Battalion took part in building it

– 2nd Battalion was operating in the Tien Yen region

– in September, 3rd Battalion moved to Hanoi
– there, it became part of GM4

– September-October, Operation Mandarine
– GM4 took part in
– around 1,200 Viet Minh’s men were killed

– since November, operations in the Hoa Binh region, Tonkin
– 1st + 3rd Battalion took part in

1952:
– in March, 4th Battalion was established
– composed of Vietnamese auxiliaries in the majority
– it was stationed at Hongay, Tonkin

– since March, 1st Battalion was placed in the Bac Ninh region
– it conducted operations in the region

Battle of Dai Vi Thuong (Operation Polo)
– April 18, a fierce battle in the village near Hanoi
– 1st Battalion lost over 140 legionnaires

– in June, 4th Battalion moved to the Bac Ninh region

– in July, 2nd Battalion left Tien Yen
– it was placed in the Phat Diem region, Tonkin Delta

– also in July, 3rd Battalion moved to Tourane, Annam

– in September, 3rd Battalion returned back to Tonkin
– it was placed at Na San to build several armed positions

Battle of Na San
– November 23 – December 2
– Na San was a French stronghold surrounded by 30 smaller armed positions
– the stronghold has also a complicated trench system, enforced with barbed wires
– the French had 11 battalions + 6 artillery batteries placed there
– they included 3rd Battalion, 5e REI + 3rd Battalion, 3e REI + 1er BEP + 2e BEP
– Na San was attacked by three Viet-Minh divisions (9 regiments)
– after two weeks of heavy fighting, Viet-Minh lost around 3,000 soldiers
– the French won the battle, Viet-Minh was defeated

– in December, severe battles for 2nd Battalion
– it lost 77 legionnaires

– 2nd Battalion left the Tonkin Delta for the Bac Ninh region

1953:
– operations in the Tonkin Delta and in the Ninh Binh region
– 1st Battalion took part in

– in February, 4th Battalion was disbanded

– in March, 3rd Battalion became part of GM1

– April-May, 3rd Battalion moved to Luang Prabang in Laos
– Laos was part of then French Indochina

– in June, Mobile Group 5 (GM5) was formed
– it operated in the Ninh Binh region
– 2nd Battalion was part of

– also in June, 2nd Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company (2e CMMLE) was established
– a mortar company, attached to the 5e REI

– in July, 1st Battalion gained the Fourragère of the War Cross

– also in July, Operation Hirondelle
– GM5 alongside the 2e BEP took part in

– in September, 3rd Battalion became part of GM5

– also in September, Operation Brochet
– GM5 (2nd + 3rd Btn) took part in
– over 170 Viet Minh’s men were killed

– in December, Operation Epervier
– GM5 took part in

1954:
– in January, 1st Battalion was placed in Laos

– since January, GM5 in the Thai Binh region
– later, it moved back to the Ninh Binh region

– in February, a battle in Laos for 1st Battalion
– over 80 Viet Minh’s men were killed

– also in February, 3rd Battalion gained the Fourragère of the War Cross

Battle of Trung Thon
– March 2, a fierce battle in the Trung Thon village, Tonkin
– GM5 took part in
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion together lost over 180 legionnaires
– 2nd Battalion had to be reorganized

Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– March-May, in northern Tonkin
– 2e CMMLE participated in
– the company was annihilated

Battle of Ban Sa Ang
– March 22, a fierce battle in the Thakhek region of Laos
– 1st Battalion lost over 170 legionnaires (including 48 killed)
– Major De Chassey, the battalion commander, was also killed

– April 16, a severe battle near Vinh Truyen
– GM5 was involved in
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion together lost 90 legionnaires
– Viet Minh lost around 150 men

– in late April, 2nd + 3rd Battalion left Ninh Binh
– they were stationed between Hanoi and Haiphong
– both battalions remained part of GM5

– in May, 1st Battalion left Laos and returned to Tonkin
– it was also stationed between Hanoi and Haiphong

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

– during the war, 5e REI had 22 officers + 654 legionnaires killed

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Insignia - French Indochina
The second regimental insignia of the 5e REI. It was designed in late 1949. The original insignia was silver. It became gold in 1951.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1950s - Colonel Raberin - General Cogny - French Indochina
During the First Indochina War, General Cogny decorates the regimental color of 5e REI, held by Colonel Raberin, the then commanding officer (1951-54).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Operation Brochet - French Indochina
Operation Brochet, First Indochina War. Legionnaires serving with 3rd Battalion, 5e REI (September 1953)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - French Indochina
5e REI legionnaires during an operation of the First Indochina War (around 1953)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - French Indochina
5e REI legionnaires in the First Indochina War (1954)

 

5e REI: French Indochina 1954-56

1954:
– an order to leave Tonkin

– in October, 5e REI was stationed at Kien An near Haiphong
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion left GM5

– in November, 5e REI left Tonkin
– it moved to Tourane, Annam

1955:
– in March, 1st Battalion finished its Camp de Chassey near Tourane

– in June, 3rd Battalion left Tourane
– it was stationed at Cap Saint-Jaques, Cochinchina (southern Vietnam)

– in July, 2nd Battalion also left Tourane
– it was also stationed at Cap Saint-Jaques, Cochinchina

– in September, 1st Battalion moved to Ba Ria, Cochinchina
Operation Clotaire for 5e REI, alongside 1er REC + 2e BEP

1956:
– January, 1st + 3rd Battalion + 1er REC left French Indochina
– in February, these units landed in North Africa

– in March, 2nd Battalion left Indochina
– it was the last Foreign Legion unit to leave Asia
– it landed in North Africa in early April

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Insignia - French Indochina
The third regimental insignia of the 5e REI . It was created in late 1954 by Lt Col Boissieu.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955 - Phu Loc - French Indochina
Phu Loc, Annam. The regimental color and the 3rd Battalion, 5e REI during the last Camerone Day in Indochina (April 30, 1955)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955 - Cap Saint-Jaques - French Indochina
Cap Saint-Jaques, Cochinchina. At its new HQ in southern Vietnam, the 5e REI celebrated its 25th anniversary (September 1955)

 

5e REI: Algeria 1956-1963

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

1956:
– 5e REI joined the Algerian War

– in February, 1st + 3rd Battalion landed in North Africa
– they were stationed in Orleansville, Algeria

– thereafter, the battalions moved close to the border with Morocco
– HQ was placed in Nedroma
– 1st Battalion was placed in the Nedroma region
– 3rd Battalion was placed in the Marnia region

– in March, the first firefight with rebels in Algeria for 5e REI
– it took place near Marnia
– Captain Cozzete was killed

– in early April, 2nd Battalion landed in North Africa
– it also moved to Algeria

– in April, fierce battles with rebels for 1st + 3rd Battalion
– over 160 rebels were killed

– in May, 5e REI’s HQ + 2nd Battalion were stationed at Tourenne
– 1st Battalion moved to Hafir, later Ain Djadja
– 3rd Battalion moved to Tlemcen

– in July, severe clashes with rebels for 3rd Battalion
– over 100 rebels were killed

1957:
– in January, operations in the Marnia region
– 87 rebels were killed

– in February, fighting for 3rd Battalion near Khemisis
– over 40 rebels were killed

– in April, severe clashes in the Fillaoussene region
– 3rd Battalion took part in
– over 30 rebels were killed

– in August, 2nd Battalion was disbanded

– also in August, 1st Battalion moved to Tourenne

– in September, fighting for 1st + 3rd Battalion
– over 40 rebels were killed

– in October, clashes with rebels for 3rd Battalion
– 30 rebels were killed

– in December, Commando Sbih of rebels was annihilated
– 25 rebel commandos were killed

1958:
– in March, a battle at Djebel Gorine for 5e REI
– 77 rebels were killed

– May-August, 1st Battalion deployed to Djelfa region

5e REI’s reorganisation
– in October, the unit became an intervention force
– it was composed of HQ + two EMT (tactical forces, ex-battalions)
– each EMT consisted of 3 combat companies
– another 3 non-combat companies were part of the 5e REI

– in November, 5e REI was stationed at Arzew

1959:
– February-April, operations in the Ouarsenis region
– 63 rebels killed

– April-June, new operations in the Ouarsenis region
– 95 rebels killed

– in July, Operation Etincelle in the Hodna region

– July-October, Operation Jumelles
– in the Grande Kabylie region, nord-eastern Algeria
– 5e REI took part in, alongside 1er REP (ex-1er BEP), 3e REI, 13e DBLE

– August 22, 5e REI liberated Pierre du Bois de Dunilac and his wife
– a Swiss painter captured and held by Algerian rebels for two months

– in November, Operation Emeraude
– in the Collo region, nord-eastern Algeria
– 5e REI took part in, alongside 3e REI and 13e DBLE

– December-January, Operation Pierres Précieuses
– it took place also in the Collo region

1960:
– in February, 5e REI served in Algiers, the capital

– in October, 5e REI moved to the Beni Melloul region
– operations alongside 1er REC and 3e REI
– 77 rebels were killed

– in December, operations in the Aures mountains
– 5e REI alongside 13e DBLE

1961:
– in January, operations in the Khenchela and Tebessa regions
– over 40 rebels killed

– in February, 5e REI returned to Arzew

– in March, operations in the Oran region

– in April, 5e REI moved to the Geryville region
– it guarded the border with Morocco

– in May, 5e REI moved to the Tlemcen region
– it continued to guard the border with Morocco

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

– in June, Algeria gained its independence

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Orleansville - Algeria
Caserne Lasalle, Orleansville. The very first garrison of the 5e REI in Algeria (February 1956)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria
5e REI legionnaires during first military operations in Algeria (1956)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Chenel - Algeria
Algeria, 1956. Officers of the 3rd Battalion, 5e REI and their famous commander (right), Major Chenel. Lieutenant in 1941, he led the last draft sent from North Africa to Indochina. In March 1945, he commanded a volunteer parachute platoon of the 5e REI (never authorized). He had to make about 350 km (200 miles) alone to join the 5e REI marching to China. In 1954, Major Chenel fully participated in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. He was nicknamed Zatopek (after the Czechoslovak long-distance runner) by his legionnaires, for his fast and long marches during military operations. Colonel in 1962, he commanded the 2e REP and later 1er RE. Major General Chenel left the Army in 1973.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algeria
Algeria. 5e REI legionnaires man a 75 SR canon (1957)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - War Memorial - Tlemcen - 1958 - Algeria
5e REI’s War Memorial inaugurated in Tlemcen, Algeria, April 1958
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Algeria
Algeria. 5e REI legionnaires during an operation (1958).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Turenne - Algeria
Turenne. The new garrison to the 1st Battalion, 5e REI (1958).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Dog Platoon -1959 - Ouarsenis - Algeria
Ouarsenis, Algeria. The Dog Platoon, 5e REI during Camerone Day (April 30, 1959)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Arzew - Algeria
Arzew. The 5e REI during a parade in its garrison town (June 1959).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Operation Jumelles - Algeria
Operation Jumelles in the Grande Kabylie region (September 1959). Note the green berets replaced the kepis.

 

5e REI: Algeria 1962-63

1962:
– in July, 5e REI was placed in the Bechar region

– in October, 5e REI was stationed at Ain Sefra, western Algeria
– 5e REI’s depot was still stationed at Arzew

March-September 1963:
– in March, 5e REI received an order to be deployed to the Pacifc
– initially New Caledonia, then Tahiti, French Polynesia

– March-September, 5e REI legionnaires were sent to France
– they will get engineering training in engineer regiments (RG)
– in Montpellier (20e RG) and in Grenoble (4e RG)

– June 21, first legionnaires of the 5e REI left Algeria for Tahiti
– they will build a new military base in Arue

– July 19, first legionnaires of the 5e REI landed in Tahiti
– some of them are immediately sent to the Mururoa atoll
– they had to build France’s new nuclear test site

– in September, another 120 legionnaires of the 5e REI left Algeria
– they were also shipped to Tahiti

October 1963:
– in Arzew, Algeria, the original 5e REI was reduced
– it consisted of HQ Company + 2nd Company
– Major Desjeux took command

– at the same time in Polynesia, a new 5th Regiment was created
– both units were coexisting during next 8 weeks

November 1963:
– November 30, 5e REI was officially disbanded

 

5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Ain Sefra - Redoute Clavery - Algeria
Redoubt Clavery, Ain Sefra. The last Camerone Day in North Africa for the 5e REI (April 30, 1963)
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Grenoble - 4e Regiment Genie - France
4th Engineer Regiment (4e RG), Grenoble, France. A 5e REI legionnaire is learning how to man heavy equipment (1963).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Mers El Kebir - Algeria
Mers El Kebir. First 5e REI legionnaires are leaving North Africa for French Polynesia (June 21, 1963).
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Arzew - Camp d'Armandville - Algeria
Camp d’Armandville, Arzew. The main base of the 5e REI between 1959-63. Legionnaires participate in the last regimental event, the dissolution ceremony (November 30, 1963).

 

5e RMP: French Polynesia 1963-1984

October 1963:
5th Mixed Pacific Regiment
5e Régiment Mixte du Pacifique (5e RMP)

5e RMP was constituted in Algeria on October 1, 1963
– a mixed engineering unit
– 5e RMP comprised 3 battalions
– HQ & Service Battalion + 2x Construction Battalion
– its main task was to build and guard a new French nuclear site

– 5e RMP consisted of legionnaires in the majority
– it also consisted of French regular military engineers and marines
– some 400 local civilians worked within the regiment
– the regiment adopted the color, history and traditions of the 5e REI
Lt Colonel Nougues took command

– 5e RMP was stationed at Camp of Arue, Papeete
– Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia
– the town is located in Tahiti

December 1963:
– 5e RMP received its regimental color on December 9

– also in December, the last ex-5e REI detachment left Algeria
– it landed in Tahiti in January 1964

1964:
– in April, 2nd Battalion moved to the Hao atoll
– there, it had to build a forward operating base
– the atoll is located 920 km (about 600 miles) east of Tahiti

– also in April, 5e RMP’s reorganization
– the battalions were dissolved
– the regiment will be composed of 7 companies
– HQ Company + Heavy Equipment Company
– 2 construction companies + 3 logistic support companies

1965:
– 5e RMP was stationed in Camp of Arue, Papeete
– its detachments were working on Hao and Mururoa

– in August, military facilities built on several atolls
– these atolls surround the Mururoa atoll

– construction works on the Mangareva island, French Polynesia

– in October, 5e RMP’s reorganization
– the regiment started to be commanded by a non-Legion officer

1966:
5e RMP’s missions:
– to build and maintenance military facilities
– to realize construction missions to support the testing site
– to secure the testing site and the nearest region
– to help improve local infrastructure in Polynesia

Pacific Testing Center
Centre d’Expérimentation du Pacifique (CEP)
– in 1966, CEP was established and launched first nuclear tests
– first nuclear test on Mururoa on July 2, 1966

– construction works on the Fangataufa atoll, French Polynesia
– also this atoll will become a nuclear testing site
– in August 1968, first test of H-bomb on Fangataufa

1971:
– the regiment was tasked with additional missions
– to maintain and repair military vehicles and heavy equipment in Tahiti
– electrical distribution for Papeete, Hao and Mururoa
– water distribution for Hao, Mururoa and Fangataufa

1975:
– 5e RMP left Camp Arue of Papeete, Tahiti
– only a detachment stayed there
– the regiment was fully stationed on the Mururoa atoll

– 5e RMP was composed of:

  • HQ & Service Company (CCS)
  • Construction Company (CT)
  • Heavy Equipment Company (CE)
  • Water Company (CEE, desalination sea water)
  • Transportation & Repair Company (CTR)
  • logistic support detachment (Camp Arue, Papeete)

– since 1975 until 2000, the commander will be replaced every year
– in common French regiments (including the Legion’s), it is a two-year period

– around 250 local civilians worked with the regiment

1977:
– construction works in the Gambier Islands and the Hao atoll

1978:
Nuutania prison restoring order
– January 14, 5e RMP legionnaires were sent to Nuutania
– Nuutania is the biggest prison of French Polynesia
– legionnaires stopped a rebellion and restored order

– construction works on the Mururoa atoll

1979-84:
– in 1979 and 1982, construction works on the Fangataufa atoll

– in 1981, a tropical cyclone damaged the Mururoa atoll
– legionnaires had to rebuild the military facilities
– they also had to repair the damaged anti-ocean wave wall

– in October 1981, 3rd Squadron, 1er REC deployed to Mururoa
– its legionnaires helped with reconstruction works
– in May 1982, the wall was repaired

Pacific Wall (Mur du Pacifique)
– in 1983, several tropical cyclones damaged the Mururoa atoll
– an order to build a solid barrier around the atoll
– in 1986, a new wall was finished
– the wall is 6 m (20 ft) high, 5,000 meters (3 miles) long
– it was composed of some 70,000 tons of reinforced concrete

– on June 30, 1984, 5e RMP was redesignated

 

5e RMP - 5 RMP - 5th Pacific Mixed Regiment - 5th RMP- Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1964 - Insignia - French Indochina
The regimental insignia of the 5e RMP. It was created in 1964 by Lt Col Nougues.
5e REI - 5 REI - 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment - 5th REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Nougues - Algeria
Mers El Kebir, Algeria. Lt Colonel Nougues, the future commander of the 5e RMP in Polynesia, having a beer with 5e REI legionnaires before they depart for Tahiti (June 21, 1963).
5e RMP - 5 RMP - 5th Pacific Mixed Regiment - 5th RMP- Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Papeete - Tahiti - French Polynesia
Papeete, Tahiti. First legionnaires landed in French Polynesia (July 19, 1963)
5e RMP - 5 RMP - 5th Pacific Mixed Regiment - 5th RMP- Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1963 - Camp Arue - Papeete - Tahiti - French Polynesia
Camp Arue, Papeete. Legionnaires are building their new military base in French Polynesia (1963)
5e RMP - 5 RMP - 5th Pacific Mixed Regiment - 5th RMP- Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1964 - Camp Arue - Papeete - Tahiti - French Polynesia
Camp Arue, Papeete. The new military base of the Legion in Tahiti, French Polynesia (1964)
5e RMP - 5 RMP - 5th Pacific Mixed Regiment - 5th RMP- Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1966 - Hao - French Polynesia
Hao, French Polynesia, 1966. The military facilities and local infrastructure on the atoll were built by 5e RMP legionnaires

 

5e RE: 5th Foreign Regiment 1984-2000

1984:
5th Foreign Regiment
5e Régiment étranger (5e RE)

July 1, 1984, 5e RMP became 5e RE
– the regiment was no longer designated as mixed
– it became a Legion unit
Lt Colonel Albaladejo took command

– 5e RE was composed of legionnaires in the vast majority
– plus several French regular engineer and logistics elements
– also some 250 local civilians were integral to

– 5e RE built a runway in the south part of Mururoa

1986:
Marquesas Islands restoring order
– 5e RE legionnaires deployed to the Marquesas Islands
– on the islands, they participated in restoring order

1987:
– 5e RE legionnaires landed on the Wallis and Futuna Islands
– the islands were devastated by a tropical cyclone
– legionnaires helped with the reconstruction of local infrastructure

– later that year, they landed on the Cook Islands
– governed by New Zealand
– these islands were also devastated by a tropical cyclone

– after 22 years, 5e RE’s detachment left the Tematangi atoll

1988-94:
– in 1988, reconstruction works on the Marquesas Islands

– in 1988-90, a runway was built on the Hiva Hoa island

– in 1989, an exercise on the Marquesas Islands

– in 1989-90, cleaning works on the Hao atoll

– in 1990, 5e RE received its new regimental color on February 10

– in May 1990, Intervention Company
– a new unit was established
– its mission was to guard the airport of Mururoa
– the company was nicknamed Caravelle Company

– in 1990-91, a runway was built on the Rurutu island

1991:
French nuclear tests were suspended

1992-94:
– in 1992, reconstruction works on the Rurutu island

– in 1993, reconstruction works on the Wallis and Futuna Islands

– in 1994, construction works on Rikitea and Nukutavake

– in 1994-95, a runway was built on the Takume atoll

1995:
5e RE was composed of:

  • HQ & Service Company (CSBI)
  • Combat & Construction Company (CCT)
  • Transportation & Repair Company (CTR)
  • Intervention “Caravelle” Company (CI)

5e RE’s tasks in 1995-97:
– guard the Mururoa and Hao atolls
– carry out different construction missions in Polynesia
– maintain order in the region
– prevent the nuclear testing site from Greenpeace activists

1995-97:
– in 1995-96, French nuclear tests were restored

– in 1995, operations against Greenpeace activists

– in 1995-96, a runway was built on the Ahe island

last nuclear test in French Polynesia
– January 27, 1996, Mururoa saw the last nuclear test

– in 1996, military facilities construction on the Hao atoll

1997:
5e RE left Mururoa
– because of the tests ended, the unit had to leave the atoll
– in March 1997, 5e RE was stationed on the Hao atoll
– on the Mururoa atoll, all military facilities had to be removed

– in July, 5e RE was reduced

  • HQ & Service Company (CCBS)
  • Construction Company (CT)

1997-2000:
– in 1997-98, military facilities demolition on Mururoa and Fangataufa
– both atolls served as nuclear testing sites

– in 1998-2000, guard duty on Mururoa and Fangataufa
– a platoon of legionnaires replaced every two months

– in 1999, construction works on the Mangareva island

– in 1998-2000, a runway was built on the Hikueru atoll

– in May 2000, 5e RE legionnaires left French Polynesia

– June 30, 2000, 5e RE was disbanded

– in September 2000, 5e RE’s regimental color landed in France
– it was placed in the Foreign Legion’s Hall of Honour

 

5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1982 - Insignia - French Indochina
The new regimental insignia of the 5e RMP. The original one was modified in 1982 by Lt Col Beauchesne. The 5e RE adopted it in 1984.
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1984 - French Polynesia
Papeete, Tahiti. The sappers-pioneers of the freshly established 5e RE marching down the street (July 1984).
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1984 - French Polynesia
A 5e RE legionnaire and his vehicle during construction works on the Mururoa atoll in the mid-1980s
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1985 - Mur du Pacifique - French Polynesia
Mur du Pacifique (Pacific Wall) on the Mururoa atoll
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1980s - Mururoa - French Polynesia
The 5e RE on Mururoa in the 1980s
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1995 - Mururoa - French Polynesia
The 5e RE parades on Mururoa (1995)
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1995 - Takume - French Polynesia
Takume. The runway built by 5e RE legionnaires in 1994-95
5e RE - 5 RE - 5th Foreign Regiment - 5th RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2000 - Hikueru - French Polynesia
Hikueru. Vice admiral Moulin visiting 5e RE legionnaires (January 2000). On the atoll, they built a new runway. It was the last such construction for the 5e RE. Later that year, the regiment will be disbanded.

 

———

 

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

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Information & images source:
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion bulletins
Ecpad – French Army media agency
FSALE
Fanion Vert et Rouge
More Majorum – German legionnaires in Indochina 1945-56
Jean-Paul Mauhualt: Le Grand 5 (1883-2000)

———

 
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 14, 2017

 

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