Black Cat Para

Happy Halloween, folks.

Check out this timely period image from 31 October 1956. Taken on Cyprus, it is of paratrooper Robert Gebhardt, of the 2e Régiment de Parachutistes Coloniaux (2e RPC) with his cat named “Nasser,” the commando unit’s mascot.

Paul Corcuff/ECPAD/Défense Réf. : MO 56-1B R4

Note his Denison-style smock with huge jump wings over his right pocket, his M1 helmet, and the muzzle of his MAS 36 rifle slung over his shoulder. 

2e RPC was originally formed in 1947 as a commando battalion of the same number (2e BCCP) and fought in Indochina as such before it relocated to Marrakech in 1954. Jumping into the Suez in 1956 (hence, Nassar), 2e RPC also got to see lots of combat in Algeria.

When France left its North African colonies in 1962, it was recast as the 2e Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (2e RPIMa), dropping its colonial moniker in exchange for a marine one despite the fact it is still part of the French Army rather than the French Navy. Confusing, right?

Today, the still parachute-capable 2e RPIMa is a battalion-sized light infantry unit based in the Indian Ocean colony of Réunion, where it serves as an RDF for France’s interests in the region. They spend lots of time on the continent conducting training with former French colonies.

No word on if they still stock black cats.

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