Parachute Company of 3e REI

The Parachute Company of 3e REI (Cie Para) was the very first airborne unit of the French Foreign Legion. The company was established in Northern Vietnam in April 1948, to support French troops during the First Indochina War (1946-54). The men took part in several operations in remote, forested regions. Legion paratroopers were mainly opening roads for supply convoys to maintain viability of outlying French posts. The company was finally disbanded in May 1949. Its men merged with the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion.

La version française de cet article: Compagnie Parachutiste du 3e REI

 
Parachute Company of 3e REI's history - Cie Para - 3 REI - CP/3 - L'histoire de la Compagnie Parachutiste du 3e REI

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Tonkin 1948-1949

In early 1948, the second year of the First Indochina War started. The Viet Minh (a far-left nationalist and pro-independence movement of Ho Chi Minh) was well established in forested, mountainous parts of Tonkin (then title for Northern Vietnam), quite isolated to conduct successful attacks on remote French posts or supply convoys moving in such hardly accessible regions bordering with China. The Viet Minh was crossing the border regularly; also their supplies and reinforcements.

To increase the mobility of the French forces in Indochina, and mainly in Tonkin, the leadership decided to use paratroopers. Several French airborne units would be constituted. Even the French Foreign Legion obtained a demand to form first paratroopers. In February 1948, a decision to establish a Foreign Legion airborn unit in Tonkin was made, followed by a decision from March to establish such units within the Legion in North Africa.

In early 1948, the only Foreign Legion infantry unit being stationed in Tonkin to maintain order there was the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3e REI), while the other two infantry regiments + a cavalry regiment operated in Cochinchina (then Southern Vietnam), and southern Annam (Central Vietnam). It follows that the very first airborne unit of the Legion would be constituted within the 3e REI.

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Establishment

Parachute Company of 3e REI
Compagnie Parachutiste du 3e REI (Cie Para)

Cie Para was established on April 1, 1948
– formed with Foreign Legion volunteers
– coming from all Legion infantry regiments in Indochina
– from 3e REI, 2e REI, 13e DBLE
– the company was stationed at Gia Lam
– a French military air base in Hanoi, Tonkin
– the capital of then Indochina

Lieutenant Jacques Morin took command

  • a 23-year-old French officer
  • with the Legion since 1947
  • in 1949, he joined 1er BEP
  • in the 1950s, a deputy commander of 1er REP (ex-1er BEP)
  • in 1959, Major Morin left the Foreign Legion
  • he ended up his military career in 1961
  • because of the Generals’ Putsch
  • Major Jacques Morin died in 1995

 
Lieutenant Salles became his deputy
– an officer coming from Legion combat engineers

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Jacques Morin
Jacques Morin. In 1948, Lieutenant Jacques Morin became the commander of the very first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion, Cie Para of 3e REI.

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Composition

The Parachute Company was composed of 5 officers, 12 NCOs and 130 legionnaires. That means 147 men in total in April 1948. They were devided into four platoons.
 

HQ Platoon

– consisting of 3e REI men
– including Browning machine guns + Brandt Mle 1935 mortars (60 mm)
– led by Staff Sergeant Armando Masetto

  • a senior NCO born in Italy in 1919
  • serving also as the Adjudant of company
  • a senior NCO assisting with unit administration
  • he would be killed in Indochina in 1952

 

1st Platoon

– also consisting of 3e REI men
– led by Lieutenant Paul Arnaud de Foïard

  • a popular French officer
  • with the Foreign Legion since 1944
  • a commander of the 2e REP in 1965-67
  • he moved the 2e REP from Algeria to Corsica
  • in 1975-77, he commanded the 11th Parachute Division
  • Army general Arnaud de Foïard died in 2005

 

2nd Platoon

– consisting of 13e DBLE men
– led by Lieutenant Roger Audoye

  • a French officer, future Major
  • an official chronicler of Parachute Company
  • the original chronicle (a manuscript) handed over to 2e REP
  • in 2012, by his three sons
  • in 1952, Legion Paratroopers War Memorial
  • Lieutenant Audoye managed its construction in Algeria
  • in Sétif, within the then headquarters of 3e BEP (later 3e REP)
  • today, the Memorial is placed at Camp Raffalli
  • a home to the 2e REP

 

3rd Platoon

– consisting of 2e REI men
– led by Lieutenant Michel Camus

  • a French officer, a future colonel
  • he became an Army writer

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Equipment

For airborne military operations, like other paratroopers of the then French Expeditionary Corps in Indochina, the company was equipped with U.S. Airborne T-5 Parachutes. These parachutes were used during WWII – in Normandy for example.
 

Cie Para: Uniform

Headgear
– Cap, General Service – a jungle green (or khaki) beret
– nicknamed Gurkha beret by the French
– initially provided by the British Fourteenth Army of Burma
– on operations, sometimes replaced by bush hats (model Far East)
– during ceremonies, officers wore calot (also bonnet)
– a red-topped green Legion sidecap

Fatigues
– M1943 green herringbone twill (HBT) uniform
– a U.S. uniform used during WWII
– for Cie Para, supplemented with a British belt
– leather boots or U.S. M1943 double-bucklets boots
 

Cie Para: Weapons

– France’s MAS 36 rifle (collapsible rifle butt)
– France’s FM 24/29 light machine gun
– U.S. M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun
– U.S. M1 carbine
– also other weapons of all sorts

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Activities in 1948

As a Foreign Legion unit, Cie Para administratively depended on the 3e REI, for all sorts of administrative purposes relating to the Army and the Legion (service, payment, unit assignments, promotions etc.).

For operational purposes relating to military field operations, the company was assigned to a French regular unit: 3rd Battalion, 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment (1er RCP), a battalion of “Hunters” under the leadership of Major Albert Fossey-Francois. They were being deployed to Indochina between 1947-48.

This battalion made part of the Provisional Parachute Half Brigade (DBMP, 1946-48), an airborne unit comprising first three parachute battalions being stationed in Tonkin in the early stage of the war. The DBMP was led by Lieutenant Colonel Henri Sauvagnac (in the 1950s, he would command all French airborne units in Indochina).

 

Cie Para: April 1948

First Foreign Legion Paratroopers
– April 3, first legionnaires finished their training
– a platoon of Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard
– they were awarded with French Para Wings
– after prescribed six training jumps

– April 17, other legionnaires became paratroopers
– that day, over 80 men obtained their Para Wings

First combat jump of Cie Para
– April 26, first operational combat jump
– over Van Xa, north-west of Hai Duong
– a town east of Hanoi
– the unit would conduct a reconnaissance operation
– to search rebel elements
– two days later, the operation ended
– 2 legionnaires were wounded

 

Cie Para: May 1948

– May 4-10, a week military operation
– in the Son Tay region, west of Hanoi

First combat action for Cie Para
– May 4, first clashes with the Viet Minh
– at Phung Thuong
– 4 legionnaires were wounded

Lieutenant Morin wounded
– May 5, a skirmish with enemy
– near Ai Mo, south-east of Son Tay
– Lieutenant Morin was wounded
– the company commander was shot in the leg
– a legionnaire was also wounded
– they both would be evacuated by a helicopter
– the enemy was finally fought off

– May 9, other causalities
– at Yen Lo, south-east of Son Tay
– 2 legionnaires were wounded

 
– May 15-17, another military operation
– in the Gia Loc sector, south-east of Hanoi
– tens of rebels were killed or wounded
– 2 legionnaires were wounded

 
Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard to leave the unit
– May 31, 1st Platoon’s leader left the company
– Lieutenant Paul Arnaud de Foïard
– because of a serious disease
– he had to be repatriated to France
– to stay four years in convalescence

Second Lieutenant Jean Vion
– a new officer joined the company in early June
– Second Lieutenant Jean Vion
– to replace Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard
– to take command of 1st Platoon, Cie Para
Jean Vion came from 64e CRALE (future 2e CMRLE)
– in 1949, Lieutenant Vion joined 1er BEP (future 1er REP)
– seriously wounded in Algeria in late 1956
– in 1959, Captain Vion took command of 3e CSPL
– Colonel Jean Vion died in France in July 2018

 

Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Indochina
French Indochina. Then French colonial territories in Southeast Asia.
Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - French Indochina
French Indochina. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. Then Vietnam was devided into three parts: Tonkin (North), Annam (Central), Cochinchina (South). In Tonkin (Northern Vietnam) was situated Hanoi, the capital of French Indochina. Cie Para was organized and stationed there.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Hanoi - Hai Duong - Son Tay - Gia Loc
Between April and May 1948, Cie Para of 3e REI participated in operations in the sectors of Hai Duong, Son Tay and Gia Loc.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Paul Arnaud de Foïard
Paul Arnaud de Foïard. In April-May 1948, Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard led the 1st Platoon, Cie Para of 3e REI. In late May, he had to leave the company to be repatriated to France, due to a serious disease. However, 17 years later, he returned back to Legion paratroopers. In 1965-67, Lt Colonel Arnaud de Foïard commanded the 2e REP (left) and moved the regiment from Algeria to Corsica. In 2005, General Arnaud de Foïard was honored to carry the hand of Captain Danjou during Camerone Day in Aubagne (right). He died a few weeks later.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Jean Vion
Jean Vion. In June 1948, Second Lieutenant Jean Vion replaced Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard as a platoon leader of the 1st Platoon, Cie Para of 3e REI. A lesser-known but popular Legion officer, an editor-in-chief of the Képi Blanc magazine in the 1950s, Colonel Vion died in mid-2018.

 

Cie Para: June 1948

Northeastern Tonkin, controlled by 3e REI and crossed by the important Colonial Road 4 (RC4), is situated along the border with China. The region saw a growing activity of the Viet Minh back in late 1947, when the 3rd Battalion, 1er RCP participated in heavy fighting there. In mid-1948, the situation in northeastern Tonkin became complicated again.

To enable French covoys to reach remote towns and posts, RC4 (and a smaller RC3) had to remain open and patrolled. The Parachute Company of 3e REI was alerted.

Deployment to Cao Bang
– June 9-10, Cie Para jumped over Cao Bang
– the capital of the Cao Bang region
– a region controlled by 3e REI
– the company would be stationed in Cao Bang
– at the well-known local citadel
– the unit would be tasked with opening RC4
– between Cao Bang and Dong Khe
– also with opening RC3, from Cao Bang to Bac Kan
– to support and protect French supply convoys

Company’s strength in mid-June 1948
– in mid-June, the Cie Para was composed of 149 men
– 6 officers + 15 NCOs + 128 legionnaires
– however, there were only 121 men in Cao Bang
– the rest (28 men) remained in Hanoi
– they were hospitalized or served at the rear base

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Cao Bang
In June 1948, Cie Para deployed to Cao Bang.

Tonkin - Cao Bang - RC4 - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Vietnam - Indochina
Cao Bang. The square barracks in the front (left) is the citadel, the HQ of 3e REI in 1948-50. Cie Para was placed there in June 1948. The citadel was destroyed during the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979).

 

Saint Michael – Patron of French Paratroopers
– June 13, a military ceremony took place in Hanoi
– in the cathedral of Hanoi
Saint Michael became officially the patron of French paratroopers

 
Operation to occupy Quang Uyen
– June 19-29, a joint operation
– alongside two Algerian Skirmisher companies
– to open RC3 and to occupy Quang Uyen
– a village and a crossroad east of Cao Bang
– some 15 miles (24 km) distant
– then, to patrol the sector west and south of the village
– 3 legionnaires would be killed
– 2 legionnaires would be imprisoned

GMC road accident
– in the night of June 19-20, a serious road accident
– it occurred during moving on RC3
– at the beginning of the operation
– a GMC truck slipped on the road
– with 3rd Platoon on board, it crashed into a ravine
– 19 legionnaires were wounded

 
Very first Foreign Legion paratrooper killed
– June 21, the company was attacked
– by Viet Minh mortar shelling
– on their way to Quang Uyen
– close to Hill 520
– between Deo Ma Phuc and Quang Uyen
Legionnaire Bogdan was killed
– the very first Legion paratrooper killed in action

– Legionnaire Jost was seriously wounded
– he died nine days later, on June 30

 
Fighting at Lung Phay
– June 24, an operation to search 2 missed legionnaires
– imprisoned by the Viet Minh the previous day
– Cie Para scoured Lung Phay
– a village 1,5 miles (2,5 km) south of Quang Uyen
– then, the company was involved in a skirmish
– Legionnaire Ben Allah was killed

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Deo Ma Phuc - Quang Uyen - Lung Phay
In late June 1948, Cie Para was sent to occupy Quang Uyen. On June 21, between Deo Ma Phuc and Quang Uyen, Legionnaire Bogdan was killed by a mortar shell and became the very first Foreign Legion paratrooper killed in action. His comrade, Legionnaire Jost, was fatally wounded and died a week later. On June 24, Legionnaire Ben Allah was killed at Lung Phay during an operation to find two captured para-legionnaires.

 

Cie Para: July 1948

In late June 1948, the 3rd Battalion, 1er RCP left Indochina and returned back to Caserne Chadeysson in Setif, Algeria (HQ of 3e REP and Foreign Legion paratroopers in Algeria in 1949-55). However, this information was missed by historians and there aren’t any notes clarifying which unit the Cie Para was assigned to thereafter, for military operations.

It could be most likely the 3e REI, because the company was being deployed in the Cao Bang region at the time. This thesis is supported by the fact that any airborne operation wasn’t carried out by the company in the next several months spent in this region. The company became an infantry unit, equipped with two GMC trucks, two Dodge cars and a Jeep.

Btw, the following destiny of the DBMP is also unclear in French sources. It is often noted to be disbanded in late June, even if there were still another two French airborne battalions of DBMP operating in Tonkin in the second half of 1948: 1er BPC (Shock Battalion) and the 1st Battalion, 1er RCP (led by Major Henri de Vismes, the very first commander of 2e REP in Algeria).

 
Lieutenant Morin to rejoin the company
– in early July, Lieutenant Morin rejoined the company
– he recovered from his wound

Operation Michel
– July 7-31, a joint military operation
– in the Dong Khe sector
– a town south-east of Cao Bang
– some 20 miles (30 km) distant
– close to the border with China
– Cie Para operated along RC4
– north and south of Dong Khe
– also along a road going to Phuc Hoa
– north-east of Dong Khe
– to open roads and support French posts
– 2 legionnaires were wounded during the operation

Cie Para reduced due to the climate
– during six weeks in the Cao Bang region, the men suffered
– the tropical climate was hostile
– the legionnaires were becoming ill
– in mid-July, the unit’s strength was only 75 men
– out of the original 121 men having deployed there

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Cao Bang - Dong Khe - Phuc Hoa
In July 1948, Cie Para operated along RC4, between Cao Bang and Dong Khe, and also along a road going from Dong Khe to Phuc Hoa.

 

Cie Para: August-November 1948

In August and September 1948, the Cie Para still operated in the Cao Bang region. In August, the men patrolled around the town or carried out service duty at the citadel, the French HQ of the region. In September, the company conducted patrols along RC3 between Cao Bang and Ban Cao, situated south-west of the town.

Two years later, in September-October 1950, the Cao Bang region would see a bloody battle: Battle of Colonial Road 4 (or Battle of RC4), in which over 3,500 French troops would be lost, including hundreds of legionnaires. It would be called the first French defeat, caused by a tactical error of the French high command. The hardly accessible region bordered by China would become uncontrolled by the French, which allowed the Viet Minh and China to supply easily the movement in Tonkin with firearms, ammunition, food and trained reinforcements.

In early October, 2nd Battalion, 1er RCP – an administratively independent unit (formant corps, the regiment had already been disbanded at the time) landed in Tonkin. Alongside the battalion, HQ of a new superior airborne unit to replace the former DBMP and to embody all French paratroopers in Tonkin also landed there: Airborne Light Group (GLAP), led by Lt Colonel Breil de Pontbriand. The GLAP officially replaced the DBMP in Hanoi on October 16. It’s more than sure, that the Cie Para would be assigned to the GLAP in late October for operational purposes.

 
– in October, Cie Para conducted patrols around Cao Bang
– besides, guard duties at the citadel of Cao Bang
– also a mission to Phu Tong Hoa
– a 3e REI post on RC3
– heavily attacked by the Viet Minh in late July

Cie Para to move to Lang Son
– in late October, Cie Para moved to Lang Son
– a town on RC4, south-east of Cao Bang
– some 60 miles (100 km) distant
– to be stationed at Camp Gallieni

– November 1, an airborne operation
– Lieutenant Camus and 45 legionnaires
– to support a French post north of Cao Bang
– threatened by the Viet Minh
– finally, without encountering any resistance

– November 15, an operation near Loc Binh
– some 12 miles (20 km) south-east of Lang Son
– Legionnaire Egg was killed
– Corporal Wolff was wounded

Lieutenant Salles to leave Cie Para
– in mid-November, Lieutenant Salles left the unit
– a deputy to the company commander
– he would join the 38e CCB

Cie Para to return to Hanoi
– in late November, the six-month deployment was over
– Cie Para left northeastern Tonkin
– in Lang Son, it was replaced by 2nd Company, 1er BEP
– another Legion airborne unit (future 1er REP)
– constituted in Algeria in mid-1948
– having arrived to Indochina in mid-November
– Cie Para of 3e REI returned back to Hanoi
– the unit’s combat-ready strength was only 79 men
– after many months spent in the jungle

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Lang son - Loc Binh
In late October 1948, Cie Para moved to Lang Son, then home to 1st Battalion, 3e REI. In November, the company took part in an operation near Loc Binh. Legionnaire Egg would be killed.

 

Cie Para: December 1948

In December 1948, four airborne battalions served in Tonkin, being assigned to the GLAP. Alongside the two autonomous 1er RCP battalions (1st + 2nd), there were a Colonial Battalion of Parachute Commandos and the Foreign Legion’s 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP), both having landed in Tonkin in November. The 1er BEP, led by Major Pierre Segrétain, was constituted in Algeria in July 1948. In Tonkin, the larger Legion unit should play more important role and, simultaneously, absorb the small, original Cie Para.

 
Cie Para assigned to 1er BEP
– December 1, Cie Para was assigned to 1er BEP
– for administrative purposes
– the company ceased to be part of the 3e REI
– during military operations, the unit followed a regular Army unit
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RCP of Major Francois
– however, Cie Para was still designated as an autonomous unit

– in early December, an operation in the Red River Delta
– south-east of Hanoi

Cie Para officers to the hospital
– in December, two officers were hospitalized
– Lieutenant Audoye of 2nd Platoon
– Lieutenant Camus of 3rd Platoon
– because of the climate and diseases
– only Lieutenat Morin and Second Lieutenant Vion left

Cie Para to Kham Thien
– December 9, the company was relocated
– it was stationed at Kham Thien
– a post in the center of Hanoi
– south-west of Gia Lam

Service duty in Hanoi
– in December, the platoons served in Hanoi
– they rotated every week on three posts
– to guard the HQ of French paratroopers in Hanoi
– to guard SEPP (maintenance of parachutes)
– to be on alert as a rapid reaction force at Bach Mai
Bach Mai was another military air base of Hanoi
– one platoon relaxed and performed service duties at Kham Thien

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Gia Lam - Kham Thien - Bach Mai
In December 1948, Cie Para left the Gia Lam air base (occupied by 1er BEP since mid-November) and was placed at Kham Thien. Every week, a rotating platoon was on alert at the Bach Mai airfield.

 

Parachute Company of 3e REI: Activities in 1949

Cie Para: January-March 1949

– in January, service duty in Hanoi
– the platoons were carrying out their tasks
– they rotated on three posts as in December
– also, patrols around Kham Thien and Bach Mai
– carried out only by groups
– 7-10 men led by a sergeant

– in late January, Second Lieutenant Vion promoted
– he became Lieutenant

– January 30 – February 4, a military operation
– close to Hanoi, alongside 2nd Battalion, 1er RCP
– 2 legionnaires were wounded

Operation Lena
– February 8-12, a military operation
– around Phuong Tri, in the Hai Duong sector
– 100 combat-ready men of Cie Para took part

– in February, service duty at Bach Mai
– rotating platoons being on alert

Cie Para assigned to 1er BEP for operational purposes
– February 19, the company was assigned to 1er BEP by the GLAP
– for administrative and also operational purposes

Operation Diane
– in early March, a week military operation
– the second phase of a joint operation west of Hanoi
– alongside 2nd Battalion, 1er RCP + a 1er BEP platoon
– March 3, during the operation, a fierce battle
– it occurred at Cha Nue
– 30 rebels were killed

 
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operation Diane - Operation Lena

 

Cie Para: March-May 1949

In late March 1949, the Parachute Company of 3e REI deployed to a remote, less-known region of Lao Cai, situated in the northwestern part of Tonkin, at the border with China. During the eight-year Indochina War, the Cie Para was the only Foreign Legion unit to be stationed there, to maintain order in the sector with the important Red River. One year later, even the men of 2e BEP visited the region, but for a very short operation only.

Nevertheless, an old cemetery of the Foreign Legion still existed at Coc Leu at the time, in the northern part of the town of Lao Cai. In May 1949, the Cie Para would restore it and pay homage to their “anciens” being reposed there.

 
Deployment to Lao Cai
– March 23 – May 29, Cie Para at Lao Cai
– a town along the Red River, at the border with China
– situated north-west of Hanoi
– some 140 miles (220 km) distant
– Cie Para would operate in the region
– between Lao Cai, Pho Lu and Coc Xam
– and between Lao Cai and Cha Pa
– some 83 combat-ready men only

– in April, operations around Lao Cai and Coc Xam
– Cie Para was devided into two operational combat teams
– led by Lieutenants Morin and Vion
– legionnaires Försterling et Rates would be killed

Lieutenant Camus to leave Indochina
– May 1, Lieutenant Camus left the unit and Hanoi
– he would be repatriated to France
– because of a disease

Cie Para of 3e REI reorganized
– May 3, the company was reorganized
– it would consist of three parts
– HQ + two “commando” platoons
– 3rd Platoon was disbanded
– its men reinforced the two remaining platoons
– led by Lieutenants Vion (1st) and Audoye (2nd)

 
Mission to Pac Khouang
– May 15-20, a military liaison mission
– in support of Pac Khouang, a remote French outpost
– some 30 miles (50 km) south-east of Lao Cai
– in fact, two days of marching through the hostile jungle
– the most distant point achieved during the two-month deployment
– the mission was carried out by 2nd Platoon
– Lieutenant Audoye and his 28 legionnaires

 

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operations - Lao Cai
In late March 1949, Cie Para deployed to Lao Cai, a far remote town at the Chinese border. It was the only Foreign Legion unit to be stationed there during the Indochina War.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operations - Lao Cai - Cho Pa - Pho Lu - Coc Xam - Pac Khouang
Between March and May 1949, Cie Para maintained order in the region and conducted patrols between Lao Cai and Cho Pa, and in the direction of Pho Lu and Coc Xam. In mid-May, Lieutenant Audoye and his men carried out a liaison mission to Pac Khouang, distant two days of marching in the jungle.

 

Deployment to Ngoi Giom
– the last operation for Cie Para legionnaires
– to support a remote French outpost of Ngoi Giom
– located between Lao Cai and Yen Bai
– 1st Platoon would carry out the operation
– Lieutenant Vion and his 41 legionnaires
– May 21, the platoon boarded three Junkers JU 52
– German airplanes used by the French in Indochina
– the platoon would jump over Lang Lom
– a village located south-east of Lao Cai
– some 45 miles (70 km) distant
– then, they would march through the jungle to Ngoi Giom
– 5,5 miles (9 km) west of Lang Lom
– situated close to the Red River
– the operation was a reaction to Viet Minh attacks
– aimed at nearby Dai Phac and Dai Buc posts
– held by local auxiliaries
– the two posts were attacked and overrun on May 19

– May 24, Ngoi Giom was shelled by the Viet Minh
– 2 legionnaires were wounded
– one of them, Legionnaire Maingault, died on June 5
the very last killed legionnaire of the company

 
Return to Hanoi from Lao Cai
– May 29, the deployment at Lao Cai ended
– the detachment of Cie Para returned to Hanoi
– Lieutenant Morin + HQ Platoon + 2nd Platoon

 
Dissolution of Parachute Company of 3e REI
– May 31, in Hanoi, Cie Para of 3e REI was disbanded
– the very first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion
– operating in Northern Vietnam during 13 months
– since June 1, the Cie Para men would merge with 1er BEP
– 3 officers + 14 NCOs + 92 legionnaires (109 men together)

 

Cie Para: June 1949

1st Platoon to leave Ngoi Giom
– June 6, the operation at Ngoi Giom ended
– the detached platoon would return to Hanoi
– the last elements of the disbanded company
– guarding an outpost lost in the jungle of a remote sector
– for Lieutenant Vion and his men, a three-day march started
– over 18 miles (30 km) to the south-west, through the jungle
– they would pass Lang Lom, Lang Chang and Gia Hoi
– at Gia Hoi, they reached Colonial Road 32 (RC32)
– from Gia Hoi, they marched towards Nghia Lo
– a French garrison town of the region
– 11 miles (18 km) south-east of Gia Hoi
– the detachment arrived in Nghia Lo on June 9
– after taking a rest day, they devided into three groups
– to be transported by Junkers to Hanoi between June 11-13
– Lieutenant Vion‘s men were last elements to join 1er BEP

Sergeant Heinz Hammermeister
– a member of Cie Para since the very beginning
– a group leader of Lieutenant Vion‘s detachment
– one of the rare ex-paratroopers within the company
– a former Fallschirmjäger – German paratrooper
– during WWII, he participated in Operation Mercury
– the well-known operation in Crete in 1941
– the very first mainly airborne invasion in military history
– in mid-June 1949, he left Nghia Lo and joined 1er BEP
– a month later, in late July 1949, he would be seriously injured
– in a skirmish with the Viet Minh, during Operation Bastille
– Sergeant Heinz Hammermeister died the next day

 
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operations - Ngoi Giom

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Ngoi Giom - Lang Lom - Lang Chang - Gia Hoi - Nghia Lo
In late May 1949, Cie Para conducted the last airborne operation, when Lieutenant Vion and his 41 men jumped over Lang Lom, to reach a remote post of Ngoi Giom, harassed by the Viet Minh. Legionnaire Maingault would be fatally wounded there and will become the last casualty of the company. Thereafter, in early June, the detachment had to march three days through the hostile jungle to reach Nghia Lo, a French garrison town.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Legionnaires - Hanoi
Legionnaires of Cie Para, 3e REI in Hanoi, 1948. Note that they wear berets (model gurkha), as the very first paratroopers of the Legion. The other Legion airborne units wouldn’t adopt them until early 1951.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Legionnaires - Hanoi - Gia Lam
Legionnaires of Cie Para, 3e REI at Gia Lam air base, 1948. Note the legionnaire on the left, bearing the insignia and fourragere of the 3e REI.
3 REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Parachute Company - Insignia - Badge - Cie Para
Parachute Company of 3e REI‘s insignia. The insignia was designed in 1948. It bears an Asian dragon holding a sword, wings of an airborne unit, and a round plate made in Foreign Legion’s green and red colors, with a 3 REI inscription and the Legion’s gold seven-flame grenade.

 
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Main information sources:
Parachute Company’s war diary
More-majorum
Les parachutistes de la Légion 1948-1962 by Pierre Montagnon (Pygmalion, 2005)
La Légion étrangère en Indochine 1946-56 by Raymond Guyader (Heimdal, 2011)
The French Indochina War 1946–54 by Martin Windrow (Osprey Publishing, 1998)
Symboles et traditions
Camps Militaires d’IDRON
Google Maps
Mapcarta.com
Wikipedia.org

 

 

Foreign Legion’s other disbanded airborne units:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company
CERA – Foreign Airdrop Company

 

 

The page was updated on: May 30, 2019

 

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