Tag Archive | Dien Bien Phu

Swagger in Indochina

If this isn’t Diên Biên Phu aesthetic, I just don’t know what is.

Capt. Bernard Cabiro, commander of the 4th company of 1st BEP (French Foreign Legion) is smoking a Gauloise cigarette and carrying a German Luger P08 he picked up in 1944. Also, note the WWII U.S. Army Signal Corps-approved SCR 536 “handie talkie” which had a range of about a heavy whisper and the U.S. M1 helmet and liner, which also makes a good wash basin.

Original Fr. caption: Au nord de Diên Biên Phu, sur la piste “Pavie”, le capitaine Cabiro, commandant la 4e compagnie du 1er BEP (Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes) avec un émetteur-récepteur SCR 536 à l’épaule et son pistolet allemand Luger P 08 au ceinturon.

Just barely 17 when WWII started, Cabrio snuck out of occupied France and joined the 8e régiment de tirailleurs Marocains in North Africa in 1943 and fought with the Free French up the boot of Italy through 1944 and 45, finishing the conflict as an NCO with three Croix de guerres and an appointment to the French version of OCS at Cherchell. By 1946, he was in the Legion in Indochina as a sub-lieutenant in the 2e REI and by 1949 was in the Legion’s first paratrooper units.

The above image dates from around November 1953 when his battalion was dropped on Dien Bien Phu as reinforcements. Acting as a sort of fire brigade, his guys were in the thick of it for the next several months. Severely wounded in March 1954 he was evacuated out.

He spent the next two years in recovery in France and, a dozen surgeries later, returned to service in Algeria with 2e REP only to be drummed out in 1961 due to the smear of the Legion’s involvement in the putsch against De Gaulle over the withdrawal from North Africa.

His rank was later reinstated in 1974– on the reserve list– and, named a chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, he died in 1993 in Bordeaux.

Indochine jellyfish

(Paracas del 2º BEP en Dien Bien Phu, 1954) French Foreign legion paratroopers during Operation Camargue, Quang Tri, Indochina, July 1953. (Source: ecpad.fr) http://www.ecpad.fr/

French Foreign legion paratroopers during Operation Camargue, Quang Tri, Indochina, July 1953. (Source: ecpad.fr)

In the bad old days of the nearly 8-year long war in Indochina, which cost the French Union an amazing 75,581 dead, the French Army made extensive use of airborne forces to both try and encircle the Viet Minh and reinforce isolated bases.

Paracas del 2º BEP en Dien Bien Phu, 1954. Note the mix of US helmets and the surplus USMC 'Duck Hunter' camo left over from WWII (Source: ecpad.fr) http://www.ecpad.fr/

The 2nd Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment, which at the time included a pretty large German contingent. (Paracas del 2º REP en Dien Bien Phu, 1954.) Note the mix of US helmets, M1 carbine pouches and the surplus USMC ‘Duck Hunter’ camo left over from WWII (Source: ecpad.fr)

This included, in emergency situations, having the soldier’s first live paradrop take place under intense combat conditions.

No pressure…

The last combat for 5e REI of the French Foreign Legion, who carried the monicker of Régiment du Tonkin, was when their 2er and 3e Battalions were dropped into the green hell of Dien Bien Phu in March 1954 via quickly learned parachutes– although they were a “leg” infantry unit.Talk about a crash course.

It suffered so many casualties there that the unit was disbanded in 1955.

Légionnaires from 3e bataillon of 5e REI (Régiment Etranger d’Infanterie) during the “Brochet” operation. This legionnaire is armed with a MAS 36 rifle and an OF 37 offensive grenade. September 1953 (Source: ecpad.fr) http://www.ecpad.fr/

Légionnaires from 3e bataillon of 5e REI (Régiment Etranger d’Infanterie) during the “Brochet” operation. This legionnaire is armed with a MAS 36 rifle and an OF 37 offensive grenade. In the background is a classic MAT49 subgun. September 1953 (Source: ecpad.fr) Hattip Tales of War.

By the way, you have to love the old-school MAS36 on the legionnaire.

The 7.5×54mm 5-shot bolt action beast remained in service with the French military in one form or another from before World War II until it was finally replaced for good in 1978 by the FAMAS. The MAS49 semi-auto which was supposed to replace it never really did.

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