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Rapace

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Saint-Marc served with 2e BEP in Indochina where he commanded the 2e CIPLE (Compagnie Indochinoise Parachutiste de la Légion Étrangère, Foreign Legion Indochinese Paratroopers Company), comprising Vietnamese volunteers recruited locally, and later with 1er REP in Algeria. He was 1er REP acting CO during the April 61 putsch. He served some time in prison for that before the 1968 amnisty.
 

jonny

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“‘don’t put your soldiers at the horns of an ethical dilemma”, in this case the choice between discipline and honor. It is interesting to note, he added, that in 1940 ‘De Gaulle chose honor against discipline’, but in 1961 ‘he created the conditions for the coup by relying on discipline and forgetting honor.’ »

Exactly: The Algerian problem in a nutshell (and in just one sentence, brilliant!). That’s why we rebelled. We valued honour to the people we were there to defend, more than we valued discipline, or subservience to a government that was poised to abandon them to their gory faith, “La valise ou le cercueil” (the suitcase or the coffin).

A great find Lyderik, very interesting and very well researched.
 

Rapace

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With all due respect for an honourable man, in saying that, Saint-Marc is (or was) comparing apples and oranges. The situation of 1940, where the future of France as a free nation was at stake had nothing to do with the context in Algeria of 1961. The ressemblance is only superficial. In 1961, the political situation in Algeria had become so intractable that there was only a choice between bad solutions. Leaving Algeria was probably a lesser evil unless we were poised for a 30+ year war. To some extent, it's a bit similar to the situation of the Americans, when they decided to sign the Paris agreements with the North Vietnamese, withdraw from the country and “abandon” the South Vietnamese. Very sad, but politics are seldom black or white situations.
 

jonny

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Ok, and thanks Rapace for your insightful comments. But again you are also comparing apples with oranges. The Americans had been messing up in Vietnam for little more than a decade or two. The French had been in Algeria since 1830, with hundreds of thousands of European settlers living there, French, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, etc. Most of them living peacefully with their Muslim neighbours for generations. They had also built all the prosperous farms, cities and infrastructure from scratch.

All these settlers were abandoned by De Gaulle at a stroke of a pen, and left to their own devices, as were all those native Algerian men who had served honourably in the French army, the Harkis, who were abandoned to be killed along with their families in medieval cruelly manners by the ‘victorious’ FLN.

To me, and many others who lived through this period, the sacrifice of the Harkis is the most shameful act in all of French history.

There were no American settlers in Vietnam to abandon.

And by the way, militarily the war was over anyway in 1962, with the ALN terrorist rabble roundly defeated by the French army. There was only the political wing of the FLN left to negotiate with the French out of Egypt, or thereabouts.
 

Rapace

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If you carefully read what I wrote, I said “to some extent, it's a bit similar to the situation of the Americans (in Vietnam)”... Obviously, the fact that in Vietnam there wasn't any American community living there is a major difference with the situation in French Algeria. However, from a political standpoint, there are similarities: a war greatly unpopular among a vast majority of the internal public opinion, in particular because conscripts were sent to fight in Algeria, like US draftees were sent to Vietnam, and increasing criticism from the international community, let alone a huge financial cost. Although the ALN had basically been militarily defeated, after the large “search and destroy” operations in 1959-1960 of the so-called “Plan Challe” (named after Gen Maurice Challe, commander in chief of the French forces in Algeria, and one of the leaders of the 1961 putsch), the insurrection would have sooner or later risen up again from their ashes. Staying in Algeria would have meant living for decades with “the finger on the trigger”, a bit like (I repeat, a bit like) the Israelis with the Palestinians. De Gaulle was just not ready to pay this price.
True that the way Harkis were left behind is extremely painful... If I can get a bit personal, my father, from a Pied-Noir family, was an Algeria veteran and commanded a platoon of harkis during the war. He never really spoke of his experience, but from some details I could definitely see it was something that impacted him forever. BTW, I was born in Algiers a few months before we had to pack-up and go...
 

jonny

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Thanks Rapace, all well put.

I took part in the Challe Plan, also known as the “Challe steamroller”, hitting the ALN katibas one after the other, from one end of Algeria to the next. That was all good clean fun 😎.
 

jonny

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And my great respect to your father, commanding a Harki platoon during the Algerian war. I presume his rank would have been lieutenant (?). We crossed paths some times with the Harkis in the mountains and they looked professional (and mean SOBs 😎).
And you were born in Algeria about the same time when I was leaving! Thanks for sharing, mate, but then again, why “vive De Gaulle” after that kind of family history?

Just curious, no need to reply if too personal, or anything.


1564483449844.jpeg

Which springs to mind:


Cheers!
 

Rapace

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Yes, my father was a 2LT in Algeria. He fought in the region of Sétif, in what was called “Petite Kabylie” by the French colonials, located between the “Grande Kabylie” (region of Tizi Ouzou) in the West and the city of Constantine in the East. He was attached to 2nd Battalion of 11e RTA (Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens). Interesting to note that the battalion was commanded by Lt-Col Joseph Raphanaud, who served as a Legion officer in Indochina and who was one of the prominent characters of the book by Paul Bonnecarrère “Par le sang versé”, along with Capt Mattei, of 3e REI, who was in the north of Tonkin, in the region of Cao Bang, near the Chinese border. Raphanaud belonged to 2e REI and commanded one of the two armoured trains nicknamed “la Rafale”, that were operating in Cochinchina (south of Indochina).
I'm not going to dwell too much on this, but there were diverse opinions in the family about De Gaulle, not all of them negative. As for me, looking at the “big picture”, I truly believe that, in his whole political life the positive largely outweighs the negative. The IVe République – the political regime in France, from 1946 to 1958 – had been unable to find a proper way out in Indochina and was losing control over what was taking place in Algeria. My opinion (and only mine) is that, when De Gaulle came back to power in 1958, he originally believed he would be able to find an acceptable political solution (maybe some form of autonomy, while retaining the links with mainland France), but later realised that it was such a mess that he was left with no other choice than cutting the Gordian knot or accepting an endless war, as I said above.
 

Joseph Cosgrove

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(...) Raphanaud belonged to 2e REI and commanded one of the two armoured trains nicknamed “la Rafale”, that were operating in Cochinchina (south of Indochina. (...)
The small Corsican train (I think Pink Floyd posted a pic) was nicknamed la Rafale, after at least one of these trains.
 

jonny

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Yes, my father was a 2LT in Algeria. He fought in the region of Sétif, in what was called “Petite Kabylie” by the French colonials, located between the “Grande Kabylie” (region of Tizi Ouzou) in the West and the city of Constantine in the East. He was attached to 2nd Battalion of 11e RTA (Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens). Interesting to note that the battalion was commanded by Lt-Col Joseph Raphanaud, who served as a Legion officer in Indochina and who was one of the prominent characters of the book by Paul Bonnecarrère “Par le sang versé”, along with Capt Mattei, of 3e REI, who was in the north of Tonkin, in the region of Cao Bang, near the Chinese border. Raphanaud belonged to 2e REI and commanded one of the two armoured trains nicknamed “la Rafale”, that were operating in Cochinchina (south of Indochina).
I'm not going to dwell too much on this, but there were diverse opinions in the family about De Gaulle, not all of them negative. As for me, looking at the “big picture”, I truly believe that, in his whole political life the positive largely outweighs the negative. The IVe République – the political regime in France, from 1946 to 1958 – had been unable to find a proper way out in Indochina and was losing control over what was taking place in Algeria. My opinion (and only mine) is that, when De Gaulle came back to power in 1958, he originally believed he would be able to find an acceptable political solution (maybe some form of autonomy, while retaining the links with mainland France), but later realised that it was such a mess that he was left with no other choice than cutting the Gordian knot or accepting an endless war, as I said above.
Hi Rapace,

All good points. I actually accept that De Gaulle, in the end, did the best possible solution for France on the Algerian problem. However, for most of those European Pieds-Noirs who had lived perhaps for several generations in Algeria, De Gaulle was a miserable traitor. When shortly after his election he toured Algeria in 1958 and declared, in this bombastic patronising voice that only De Gaulle’s could muster to the Pieds-Noirs on their transistor radios that “Je vous ai compris” (I have understood you). This particular statement became the most ridiculed and mocked utterance of any French politician over the following years of unrest in Algeria. Because his next move was to pull the French military out of the country, and abandon the Pieds-Noirs to the mercy of the insurgents, which was not very merciful at all.

Apart from all that, Rapace, I reckon your father and I must have crossed paths a few times in Algeria. While I served in 2 REP, our main areas of operation were mostly in North Eastern Algeria, from the Aures and Nementchas mountains in the south to the Collo presqu'île de Collo, the petite Kabylie and La Calle in the north east. Basically in the same secteurs as your father. I would have loved to have met your father over a couple of beers and exchanged notes !

Cheers!
 

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