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.
The above half-hour feature from English-language France 24 spends some time with a French Foreign Legion group in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. The interesting thing is there is, of course, Belgian and Italian Legionnaires present, but also a hard leg from Tennessee, because why not in a force with 140 nationalities thrown together in a camouflaged melting pot?
(Watch for the money shot after about 1.58– a pretty swag night drop)
From FFL.net In early April, legionnaires from the 1st Company of the French Foreign Legion’s 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (Le 2e régiment étranger de parachutistes- 2e REP) jumped over the Salvador Pass of northern Niger, on the Niger’s border with Libya and Algeria, in the deep Sahara.
The Salvador Pass is an important crossroads for the drug and arms trafficking carried out, according to French officials, by radical islamist groups and local rebel/criminal gangs, in the land of nowhere in the heart of the Sahara, near the Niger’s border with Libya and Algeria. As stated earlier, the legionnaires from 1st Company of 2e REP have been based in Madama, a new French forward operating base located in north-eastern Niger, near the Salvador Pass, as part of Operation Berkhane. The legionnaires from 2e REP have been conducted operations there to search and eliminate the trafficking gangs. They will have spent several months there.
The French have the reputation of, since the great pull out following the end of WWII (they were perhaps the largest colonial power on the continent from 1830-1960) of being the ‘Gendarme d’Afrique,’ with over 3,000 officers and men– often of the Legion, deployed across the continent at any given time helping to keep local governments in power and chasing bandits, insurgents and terrorists.
They even proxied a war with Libya between 1978 and 1987, defeating the best that Muammar Gaddafi’s could buy in the so-called Toyota War that pitted up-armed commercial pick up trucks and Chadian forces against Libyan T-62/72s.