Parachute Company 3e REI

The Parachute Company 3e REI (Cie Para du 3e REI) was the French Foreign Legion’s first airborne unit. The company was formed in April 1948 in Northern Vietnam. There, the Legion paratroopers conducted operations in remote, forested areas as part of the First Indochina War (1946-54). The company was disbanded in late May 1949 and merged with the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion.

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

Parachute Company of 3e REI - History - Cie Para



In early 1948, the second year of the First Indochina War started in Southeast Asia’s French Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). The Viet Minh – a nationalist, communist-led Vietnamese movement of Ho Chi Minh – was well established in forested, mountainous parts of Tonkin (what Northern Vietnam was called back then), mainly in the north, on the border with China. These barely accessible areas were isolated enough for successful guerilla attacks on remote French posts or supply convoys. In addition, the nearby Chinese border was favorable for Viet Minh supply trains and reinforcements.

To increase the mobility of the French forces in Indochina, and especially in Tonkin, the French command decided to use paratroopers, a modern element of the army. Therefore, in February 1948, a decision was made to establish a Foreign Legion airborne unit in Indochina, while another decision (from March) ordered the creation of such parachute units within the Legion in North Africa.

Meanwhile in Tonkin, the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3e REI) was the only Foreign Legion infantry unit to maintain order there. It was one of the two most decorated French regiments, which had distinguished itself in World War II and earned, among other things, the U.S. Distinguished Unit Citation with a blue streamer. Its units were posted along the Chinese border and were the first ones to face Viet Minh attacks. For that reason it was decided to form the first Legion airborne unit in Tonkin, within the 3e REI.


Parachute Company 3e REI: Activation

The Parachute Company 3e REI (Compagnie Parachutiste du 3e REI, Cie Para) was created on April 1, 1948, with elements from three Legion infantry regiments serving in Indochina at the time. The new company, which consisted of an HQ platoon and three combat platoons, was stationed at Gia Lam, a French military air base in Hanoi, the capital of Tonkin. Lieutenant Jacques Morin took command. He was only 23 years old. Morin was one of the Foreign Legion officers who, due to their resistance activities, had been held captive at Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. Lieutenant Salles from Foreign Legion engineer units became his deputy.


HQ Platoon Cie Para

The HQ Platoon – which included Browning machine guns and Brandt Mle 1935 mortars (60 mm) – comprised men from the 3e REI, led by Staff Sergeant Armando Masetto. Born in Italy in 1919, the latter NCO also served as the command sergeant major (company SM in the U.K.). Masetto would be killed in Indochina in 1952.


1st Platoon Cie Para

Even the 1st Platoon was formed with men from the 3e REI. They were led by Lieutenant Paul Arnaud de Foïard, an experienced Foreign Legion officer who had participated with the RMLE in the Liberation of France (1944-45).


2nd Platoon Cie Para

The 2nd Platoon consisted of men from the 13e DBLE, commanded by Lieutenant Roger Audoye. An official chronicler of the company, he oversaw the construction of the Legion Paratroopers War Memorial in Algeria in 1952 (which now stands at the 2e REP’s Camp Raffalli in Corsica). The officer’s sons turned the Cie Para’s original war diary over to the 2e REP in 2012.


3rd Platoon Cie Para

The 3rd Platoon was composed of men from the 2e REI and was led by Lieutenant Michel Camus, a future colonel who became an Army writer.


Composition, Equipment, and Uniform

While the 3e REI provided 60 men (two officers, five NCOs, and 53 corporals and legionnaires), the 2e REI contributed 45 men to the formation of the Cie Para, while the 13e DBLE sent 43 men. Two officers and a legionnaire came from the 15e CEG (Legion military engineers) and the 64e CRALE (a vehicle repair unit, future 2e CMRLE).

Altogether, in late April 1948, the Parachute Company 3e REI was composed of five officers, 12 NCOs, 17 corporals, and 113 legionnaires, numbering 148 men in total. The sixth officer and two men would join the company at a later date.

For airborne military operations, the company used U.S. Airborne T-5 Parachutes, as did other paratroopers of the French Expeditionary Corps in Indochina at the time. These parachutes had seen action during World War II – in Normandy, for example.

The Cie Para men wore the M1943 green herringbone twill (HBT) uniform, used by U.S. Army personnel in World War II; it was supplemented with a British belt. They also wore leather boots or U.S. M1943 “Double-Buckle” boots.

Their headgear consisted of a jungle green (or khaki) beret, also known as a Gurkha beret. It came from the stock of Britain’s Fourteenth Army of Burma. The beret was sometimes replaced by a bush hat (Far East model). During ceremonies, officers of the company wore a red-topped green Legion sidecap, known as a calot or bonnet.

The Legion paratroopers were equipped with various weapons, including France’s MAS 36 rifle (with a collapsible rifle butt) and an FM 24/29 light machine gun, a U.S. M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun, a U.S. M1 carbine, and other weapons of all sorts.

Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - French Indochina
French Indochina. French colonial territories in Southeast Asia in the 1940s – Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. At the time, Vietnam was divided into three parts: Tonkin (North), Annam (Central), Cochinchina (South). The Cie Para was organized and stationedn in Hanoi, the capital of Tonkin, in April 1948.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Jacques Morin
Jacques Morin. In 1948, as a lieutenant, he became commander of the first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion, Cie Para.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Legionnaires - Hanoi - Gia Lam
Legionnaires assigned to the Cie Para, at Gia Lam Air Base, 1948. They were the first Legion paratroopers to wear the green beret, which was later adopted by the entire Legion. The legionnaire on the left also wears the badge and fourragère of the 3e REI.


Parachute Company 3e REI: First Steps

As a Foreign Legion unit, the Parachute Company administratively depended on the 3e REI for a variety of administrative purposes related 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 Chasseur Parachute Regiment (1er RCP), a battalion of “Hunters” under Major Albert Fossey-Francois.

Deployed to Indochina between 1947 and 1948, the battalion comprised part of the Provisional Parachute Demi-Brigade (DBMP, 1946-48). The demi-brigade was an airborne unit consisting of the first three French parachute battalions stationed in Tonkin in the early stages of the Indochina War. It was led by Lieutenant Colonel Henri Sauvagnac, future commander of all French airborne units in Indochina (in the 1950s).

On April 3, the first Foreign Legion paratroopers – a platoon under Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard – finished their instruction and were officially awarded French Para Wings after having completed the prescribed six training jumps. Two weeks later, on April 17, another 80 legionnaires finished their instruction and became paratroopers.


Parachute Company 3e REI: April-May 1948

On April 26, the Parachute Company made its first combat jump. It was dropped into Van Xa, northwest of Hai Duong and east of Hanoi. The unit was tasked with a two-day reconnaissance operation to search for Viet Minh elements. Two legionnaires were wounded.

In early May, the company men saw their first action, which occurred during a week-long operation in the Son Tay region, west of Hanoi. On May 4, the Viet Minh engaged the unit at Phung Thuong; four legionnaires were wounded.

The next day, Lieutenant Morin was wounded in a skirmish with the enemy near Ai Mo. The commander was shot in the leg and had to be evacuated by a helicopter along with another wounded legionnaire from his company.

On May 9, two legionnaires were wounded in combat at Yen Lo, southeast of Son Tay.

During an operation in the Gia Loc sector, southeast of Hanoi, which took place between May 15 and 17, dozens of Viet Minh men were killed or wounded.

On May 31, Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard – the 1st Platoon’s leader – left the unit. He had to be repatriated to France because of a serious disease that he’d contracted in Indochina. He would convalesce for four long years. From 1965-67, he commanded the 2e REP and transferred it from Algeria to Corsica.

The officer was replaced in early June by Second Lieutenant Jean Vion, future commander of the 3e CSPL (in 1959).

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion - 1948 - Operations - Hanoi - Hai Duong - Son Tay - Gia Loc
Between April and May 1948, the Cie Para 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. From April to May 1948, Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard led the 1st Platoon, Cie Para 3e REI. Then he had to be repatriated to France due to a serious disease. However, 17 years later, he returned to the Legion paratroopers. From 1965-67, Lt. Colonel Arnaud de Foïard commanded the 2e REP 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. He died a few weeks later.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Jean Vion
Jean Vion. In June 1948, as a second lieutenant, he replaced Lieutenant Arnaud de Foïard as the leader of the 1st Platoon, Cie Para 3e REI. A lesser-known but popular Legion officer and the editor-in-chief of the Képi Blanc (the Legion’s official magazine) in the 1950s, Colonel Vion died in 2018.


Parachute Company 3e REI: June 1948

A situation in northeastern Tonkin, once complicated in late 1947, had deteriorated again in mid-1948. A sparsely populated, poorly accessible, forested, and mountainous area, controlled by 3e REI units and crossed by important Colonial Road 4 (RC4), saw growing Viet Minh activity. To enable French supply convoys to reach remote posts, RC4 and a smaller RC3 (also crossing the region) had to remain open and safe. The Parachute Company 3e REI was thus alerted.

From June 9-10, the Cie Para jumped into Cao Bang, an administrative center of the same-named region bordering China. The company was posted there, at a well-known local citadel, alongside other 3e REI units. It was tasked with opening and patrolling RC4, between Cao Bang and Dong Khe, and RC3, between Cao Bang and Bac Kan, to support and protect French convoys moving there.

At the time, in mid-June 1948, the Parachute Company’s strength on paper was 149 men (six officers, 15 NCOs, 22 corporals, and 106 legionnaires). However, actually, no more than 121 of them were deployed to Cao Bang, with the other 28 men remaining in Hanoi at the hospital or the rear base.

Meanwhile, in the cathedral of Hanoi, during a military ceremony on June 13, Saint Michael officially became the patron of French paratroopers.

Later that month, from June 19-29, an operation to open RC3 took place some 15 miles (24 km) east of Cao Bang. The Legion paratroopers participated alongside two Algerian Tirailleur companies. Their goal was to occupy Quang Uyen, a village and important crossroad, and to patrol the sector.

On the night of June 19-20, on the way to Quang Uyen, a serious road accident occurred on RC3. A GMC truck with the 3rd Platoon on board slipped on the road and crashed into a ravine. Nineteen legionnaires were wounded.

On June 21, still on their way to Quang Uyen, the company convoy was attacked by Viet Minh artillery. The attack took place between Deo Ma Phuc and Quang Uyen, near Hill 520. Legionnaire Bogdan was hit and became the first Foreign Legion paratrooper killed in action. Another man, Legionnaire Jost, was seriously injured. He died nine days later, on June 30.

On June 24, a smaller operation occurred at Lung Phay, a village 1.5 miles (2.5 km) south of Quang Uyen, to find and rescue two legionnaires whom the enemy had captured a day earlier. The men couldn’t be found. Moreover, Legionnaire Ben Allah was killed during a skirmish at the village.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Cao Bang
In June 1948, the Parachute Company 3e REI 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 H.Q. of the 3e REI from 1948-50. The Cie Para was posted there in June 1948. The citadel was destroyed during the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979).
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Deo Ma Phuc - Quang Uyen - Lung Phay
In late June 1948, the Cie Para was sent to occupy Quang Uyen. On June 21, between Deo Ma Phuc and Quang Uyen, Legionnaire Bogdan was hit by a mortar shell and became the 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 Cie Para legionnaires.


Parachute Company 3e REI: July 1948

In late June 1948, the 3rd Battalion 1er RCP left Indochina and returned to the Caserne Chadeysson in Sétif, Algeria (the H.Q. of the 3e BEP and Foreign Legion paratroopers in North Africa from 1949-55). However, historians have missed this information, and notes don’t clarify the unit to which the Cie Para was assigned in the following months for military operations.

The answer might be the 3e REI, as the company had been deployed in the Cao Bang region at the time. This thesis is supported by the fact that the company didn’t carry out any airborne operations in that region for the next several months. The company became a pure infantry unit, using two GMC trucks, two Dodge trucks, and a Jeep for movement.

Also, the DBMP’s destiny is unclear. Often, publicly available French sources indicate the unit was disbanded by late June 1948 even though two of its original three airborne battalions – the 1er BPC (Shock Battalion) and the 1st Battalion 1er RCP – were still operating in Tonkin in the second half of 1948. For the record, the 1st Battalion 1er RCP was led by Major Henri de Vismes; as a lieutenant colonel, he became the first commander of the 2e REP in Algeria.

Back to the story: In early July, Lieutenant Morin had recovered from his wound and rejoined the company, which had been temporarily commanded by Lieutenant Camus.

From July 7 to 31, the Parachute Company participated in Operation Michel in the Dong Khe sector, some 20 miles (30 km) southeast of Cao Bang. Its legionnaires operated north and south of Dong Khe, along RC4, and northeast of the town, along a road going to Phuc Hoa. They were opening the roads and supporting French outposts along them. Two legionnaires were wounded during the operation.

Additionally, the tropical climate was hostile to legionnaires. After six weeks in the Cao Bang region, the company’s strength was reduced from the original 121 combat-ready men to only 75 in mid-July.

At the same time, fierce fighting occurred in another part of the region, with a severely attacked 3e REI post of Phu Tong Hoa (where Captain Cardinal, Lieutenant Charlotton, and 19 legionnaires of the 3e REI were killed).

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

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Legionnaires
Parachute Company men in Tonkin, 1948, with berets and bush hats.


Parachute Company 3e REI: August-November 1948

In August and September, the Cie Para continued carrying out its tasks in the Cao Bang region. The men patrolled the town or served at the citadel, the French H.Q. of the region. In September, they conducted patrols along RC3 between Cao Bang and Ban Cao, a small commune southwest of the town.

Two years later, from September to October 1950, the Cao Bang region would see a bloody event: the Battle of Colonial Road 4 (or the Battle of RC4). More than 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 high command. The barely accessible region bordering China would become uncontrolled by the French, allowing the Viet Minh to easily receive supplies – firearms, ammunition, food – and trained reinforcements through the border. This was still in the future, however.

In early October 1948, the 2nd Battalion 1er RCP landed in Tonkin. An administratively independent unit (formant corps; the regiment had already been disbanded at the time), it was accompanied by the H.Q. of a new superior airborne unit: the Airborne Light Group (GLAP), led by Lt. Colonel Breil de Pontbriand. The GLAP was to replace, in Hanoi on October 16, the former DBMP and bring together all the paratroopers present in Tonkin. We may assume that the Cie Para would be assigned to the GLAP for operational purposes.

In October, the men continued patrols around Cao Bang and guard duties at the citadel. It also visited the heavily attacked 3e REI post on RC3, Phu Tong Hoa.

Later that month, the Parachute Company moved to the town of Lang Son, located on RC4, some 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Cao Bang. It was stationed at Camp Gallieni.

After a longer time, on November 1, a new airborne operation was carried out by the company men. It involved Lieutenant Camus and 45 legionnaires who jumped north of Cao Bang without encountering any resistance.

On November 15, an operation took place near Loc Binh, about 12 miles (20 km) southeast of Lang Son. Legionnaire Egg was killed, and Corporal Wolff was wounded.

In the meantime, deputy commander Lieutenant Salles left the company. He joined a Legion engineer unit, the 38e CCB.

In late November, the Parachute Company’s six-month deployment in northeastern Tonkin was over. The unit was replaced in Lang Son by the 2nd Company, 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP), another Legion airborne unit. The battalion had been created in Algeria in mid-1948 under Major Pierre Segrétain, and it landed in Indochina in mid-November.

The Parachute Company returned to Hanoi with only 79 combat-ready men.

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


Parachute Company 3e REI: December 1948

As of December 1948, four French airborne battalions were assigned to the GLAP and served in Tonkin. Alongside the two autonomous 1er RCP battalions (1st, 2nd) were a Colonial Battalion of Parachute Commandos and the Foreign Legion’s 1er BEP.

The still autonomous Parachute Company ceased to be part of the 3e REI and was naturally assigned to the 1er BEP for administrative purposes. During operations, it served alongside Major Francois’ 2nd Battalion 1er RCP.

In December, two company officers were hospitalized: Lieutenant Audoye (2nd Platoon) and Lieutenant Camus (3rd Platoon). They were victims of the climate and local diseases. Only Lieutenant Morin and Second Lieutenant Vion left.

On December 9, the company left the base of Gia Lam and was posted southwest, in the center of Hanoi, at Kham Thien.

Throughout December, the company platoons rotated every week between four posts. One platoon guarded the H.Q. of French paratroopers in Hanoi. The second guarded the SEPP (the parachute maintenance and packing building), while another was put on alert as a rapid reaction force at Bach Mai (the other air base in Hanoi). The fourth platoon carried out ordinary duties at Kham Thien.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Operations - Gia Lam - Kham Thien - Bach Mai
In December 1948, the Cie Para left Gia Lam Air Base (occupied by the 1er BEP since mid-November) and was stationed at Kham Thien. Each week a platoon was on alert at Bach Mai Airfield.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Legionnaires - Hanoi
Cie Para legionnaires in Hanoi, 1948.


Parachute Company 3e REI: January-March 1949

In January, the platoons continued rotating among the four posts. In addition, the company provided groups consisting of several men to patrol around Kham Thien and Bach Mai.

In late January, Second Lieutenant Vion was promoted to lieutenant.

From January 30 to February 4, Operation Parasol occurred close to Hanoi alongside the 2nd Battalion 1er RCP. Two legionnaires were wounded.

Operation Lena took place around Phuong Tri, in the Hai Duong sector, between February 8 and 12. It involved 100 combat-ready men of the Parachute Company.

In February, the platoons rotated at Bach Mai (put on alert).

On February 19, the company was assigned to the 1er BEP for both operational and administrative purposes.

In early March, the week-long Operation Diane took place west of Hanoi. The Cie Para men participated alongside their colleagues from the 2nd Battalion 1er RCP and the 1er BEP. On March 3, a fierce battle occurred at Cha Nue; 30 rebels were killed.

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


Parachute Company 3e REI: Lao Cai in 1949

In late March 1949, the Parachute Company deployed to a remote, lesser-known region of Lao Cai (also spelled Lao Kay). It was tasked with maintaining order in the sector.

The town was situated on the Red River in the northwestern part of Tonkin, at the border with China, about 140 miles (220 km) northwest of Hanoi. It was the last station of the Vietnamese section of the Kunming–Hai Phong Railway, a 531-mile (855 km) railway built by France from 1904 to 1910, connecting Hai Phong in Vietnam with Kunming in China. Thanks to the railway and the Red River, the relatively small town of Lao Cai became an important transport hub.

In late March, only some 83 combat-ready men patrolled between Lao Cai, Pho Lu, and Coc Xam, as well as between Lao Cai and Cha Pa.

In April, the company was divided into two operational combat teams under Lieutenants Morin and Vion and operated around Lao Cai and Coc Xam. Legionnaires Foersterling and Rates were killed.

In early May, Lieutenant Camus left the unit and was repatriated to France because of a disease.

Meanwhile, on May 3, the Parachute Company was reorganized. It consisted of an HQ and two “commando” platoons under Lieutenants Vion (1st) and Audoye (2nd), reinforced by men of the now disbanded 3rd Platoon.

From May 15-20, the 2nd Platoon – Lieutenant Audoye and 28 legionnaires – conducted a military liaison mission in support of Pac Khouang, a remote French outpost about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Lao Cai. That meant two days of marching through the dense, hostile jungle. Luckily, the mission was successful, and nobody was lost.

On May 21, the last operation for Cie Para legionnaires began; it was carried out by the 1st Platoon – Lieutenant Vion and 41 legionnaires. Their task was to board three Junkers J.U. 52 (German World War II aircraft used by the French in Indochina) and jump into Lang Lom, a village around 45 miles (70 km) southeast of Lao Cai, halfway to Yen Bai. From Lang Lom, the legionnaires had to march another five-and-a-half miles (9 km) west through the jungle to reach Ngoi Giom. The French command decided to reinforce this post, due to its proximity to Dai Phac and Dai Buc, two posts which had recently been attacked and captured by the Viet Minh.

Lieutenant Vion’s men reached the post of Ngoi Giom, occupied by local pro-French auxiliaries, and waited for an attack. It came the next day, on May 24. The post was shelled by the enemy artillery, which seriously injured Legionnaire Maingault. He died on June 5, becoming the last man of the company killed in action.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operations - Lao Cai
In late March 1949, the Cie Para deployed to Lao Cai, a remote town at the Chinese border. It was the only Foreign Legion unit to be stationed there during the First Indochina War (1946-54).

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, the 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, which required two days of marching in the hostile jungle.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Operations - Ngoi Giom - map
In late May 1949, Lieutenant Vion’s 1st Platoon was dropped near Ngoi Giom, to reinforce and defend the post, harassed by the Viet Minh.


Parachute Company 3e REI: Deactivation

In the meantime, on May 29, the mission at Lao Cai was over. Lieutenant Morin and the HQ and 2nd Platoons returned to Hanoi after having spent two months in the remote sector.

As a matter of interest: in the 1900s, a legionnaire detachment was posted in the town of Lao Cai. However, during the eight-year First Indochina War, the Cie Para was the only Foreign Legion unit to be stationed there. At the time, an old Foreign Legion cemetery still existed at Coc Leu, in the northern part of the town. Therefore, in May 1949, the company renovated it and paid homage to their “anciens” (ancestors, veterans) who reposed there.

In Hanoi, the men learned about the deactivation of their Parachute Company 3e REI, which took place on May 31, 1949.

During the 13 months of its existence, it suffered six men killed in action, two men killed by accident, three men dying of disease, 27 men wounded, and two men missing.

The Cie Para men earned five citations, including one at the Army level (the highest possible).

A small portion of the company’s men left Indochina for North Africa. The rest – three officers, 14 NCOs, and 92 legionnaires (109 men in total) – merged with the 1er BEP.

On June 6, the 1st Platoon under Lieutenant Vion left Ngoi Giom and set out for a three-day march through the jungle, over 18 miles (30 km) to the southwest. They marched through Lang Lom, Lang Chang, and Gia Hoi and arrived in Nghia Lo on June 9. After a rest day, they formed three groups and were transported by Junkers to Hanoi from June 11-13. Lieutenant Vion’s men were the last elements to join the 1er BEP.

Among these last elements was also Sergeant Heinz Hammermeister. He was one of the rare former paratroopers in the company. A fallschirmjäger, German paratrooper, he participated in Operation Mercury in Crete in 1941; this was the first mainly airborne invasion in military history. In mid-June, he left Nghia Lo and joined the 1er BEP. A month later, in late July 1949, Sergeant Hammermeister was seriously injured in a skirmish with the Viet Minh; he died the next day.

Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949 - Ngoi Giom - Lang Lom - Lang Chang - Gia Hoi - Nghia Lo
At Ngoi Giom in late May 1949, Legionnaire Maingault was fatally wounded and became the last casualty of the Parachute Company. In early June, the 1st Platoon 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 - Tonkin - Legionnaires - Hanoi
Parachute Company 3e REI legionnaires in Tonkin.
Cie Para - Parachute Company - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948-1949 - Fanion
Fanion of the Parachute Company 3e REI, 1948-1949.
3 REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1948 - Parachute Company - Insignia - Badge - Cie Para
Insignia of the Parachute Company 3e REI. It was created in 1948. An Asian dragon holding a sword represents Indochina, the wing stands for an airborne unit, and the green and red colors and the seven-flame grenade symbolize the Foreign Legion.



Main information sources:
Parachute Company’s war diary
Képi blanc magazines
Pierre Dufour: Légionnaires parachutistes (Editions du Fer, 1989)
Pierre Montagnon: Les parachutistes de la Légion (Pygmalion, 2005)
Jean Luc Mesager & collective: Légionnaires parachutistes 1948-2008 (L’Esprit du Livre, 2008)
Pierre Sergent: Paras-Légion (France Loisirs, 1982)
Raoul Van Onsem: Derniers combats pour l’Indochine 1948-1955 (Editions Scaillet, 1991)
Raymond Guyader: La Légion étrangère en Indochine 1946-56 (Heimdal, 2011)
Martin Windrow, Wayne Braby: French Foreign Legion Paratroops (Osprey Publishing, 1991)
Martin Windrow: The French Indochina War 1946–54 (Osprey Publishing, 1998)
Symboles et traditions
Camps Militaires d’IDRON
Google Maps


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The page was updated on: May 31, 2024


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