The underdeveloped nature of Indochina demanded a number of technical units to perform combat support and service support functions that were not easily duplicated among the locally recruited labor force. As the few Foreign Legion engineering units proved their worth, they spun off a number of similar units with increasingly specialized functions throughout Indochina. These were followed by logistics and service units, to include an aerial delivery company and port terminal units. The peculiar combat environment of the major river deltas also produced a need for amphibious assault units – a need met by Legionnaire Cavalry from the most tradition – bound arm of the French Army.
In 1948 a new combat arm was added in the form of the parachute battalions. Traditionalists resisted this move, insisting that the soul of the Legion resided in its infantry approach to warfare, but the young Turks, many newly returned from their first Indochina hitch with the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment (2nd REI), the 3rd REI, or the 13th Foreign Legion Demi-brigade (13th DBLE) thought otherwise. The French Army already had Metropolitan paratroops, whose methods and traditions reflected the American view of airborne warfare, and Colonial paratroops, whose World War II service gave them a decidedly British Special Air Service orientation. Veterans of both joined the Legion paratroopsas officers, as did a large number of German NCOs and enlisted men, some of whose first experience in paratroop combat had been with the Fallschirmjaegers. The first casualty suffered by the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1st BEP) on the Colonial Route 4 operation was Sergeant Kertzl, a Fallschirmjaeger veteran whose German style exit over That Khe fouled his static line and caused him to strangle while being towed.
The following Foreign Legion specialized combat, combat support, and service support units served in Indochina:
1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment (1st REC):
Raised in Tunisia in 1921 by merging volunteers from the 2nd REI and various French Cavalry Regiments with White Russian refugees, the 1st REC fought in Syria, Morocco, and Algeria prior to World War II, then as a divisional reconnaissance unit until disbanded in 1940. Resurrected in Tunisia after the Allied landings, the 1st REC became an armored unit within General Jean De Lattre’s First French Army, fighting from the Riviera up through eastern France, and then to the Danube. Following the 1946 Viet Minh offensive, the 1st REC was alerted for Indochina, where its tanks were initially thought to be of limited use.
The 1st Squadron landed at Da Nang on January 4, 1947 as part of two provisional infantry battalions. It took part in the liberation of Hue, then cleared Viet Minh forces from Marble Mountain, Quang Nam, and Fai Foo. As armored vehicles became available, follow-on elements landing in Saigon reassumed an armored role. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons became the Cochinchinese Squadron Group (GEC), while the 1st REC elements in Da Nang became the Central Vietnam Squadron Group (GE). At the time, the regiment’s vehicles consisted of H-39 tanks, motorcycles, light trucks, and armored jeeps. They received their first amphibious vehicles from the 13th DBLE in March 1948–U.S. M – 29 Weasels, which the French called Crabs.
Over the following year, the GEC, 1st REC became less of an armored cavalry squadron, and more of amphibious assault unit, developing into a combined task force with the permanent attachment of a platoon from the 13th DBLE. The unit mainly operated in the Plain of Junks, Go Cong and Vinh Long provinces, and along Colonial Route 16. By 1949 they were based at My Tho. Ferrying other units into combat, screening flanks, assaulting across canals and flooded paddies, relieving posts under assault, or clearing specific tracts of the delta, the GEC, now designated the 1st Squadron Group (1st GE), gradually built up into a battalion – sized task force numbering three line troops (squadrons in French).
On October 25, 1950 the unit received some LVT – 4 amphibious Alligators, which greatly increased its operational capacity. In early 1951 the 1st GE fought in Tra Vinh, Cai Lay, Sadec, and the Plain of Junks. On September 1, 1951, it was redesignated the 1st Independent Group, 1st REC, and continued to function as an independent regiment.
The Headquarters Company and 3rd, 4th, and 5th Squadrons (troops) of the 1st REC performed similar missions in Central Vietnam, as did the 7th (Amphibious) and 8th Squadrons in Tonkin. This fractionated existence of the 1st REC continued throughout the war. At one time there were different 18 squadrons under the 1st REC colors. Since any single squadron was half the size of a U.S. tank battalion (285 men versus 525), the 1st REC would have equaled a light amphibious armored division had it been assembled under a unitary command, and designations continued to change.
The Central Vietnam GE became the 1st Autonomous Group (1st GA) in June 1951, with three subordinate squadrons, each having a headquarters element, three Crab platoons of six vehicles, one infantry company and one Alligator platoon of eight vehicles. Strength for a single squadron was six Legion officers, 20 Legion NCOs, eight Vietnamese NCOs, 124 Legionnaires and 127 Vietnamese cavalrymen. In early 1952, the 1st GA was operating in the Mekong Delta. In July 1952 it was back in Central Vietnam, operating near Phu Vang and around Da Nang.
In September 1952 the 1st and 6th Squadrons were sent back to My Tho in the Mekong Delta, while in November 1952 elements of the 1st GA were ordered to Nam Dinh at the southern edge of the Red River Delta. The continued need for amphibious cavalry effectively split the 1st REC into three independent commands by 1953, with the formation of the 1st and 2nd Amphibious Groups, based out of Da Nang and Haiphong. These regimental commands controlled two or more amphibious squadron groups, each controlling two or more squadrons.
The old 1st Squadron remained at My Tho, picking up the 11th Squadron to form the 1st Amphibious Squadron Group, assigned to the 2nd Amphibious Group at Haiphong, but attached to the 13th DBLE at My Tho. It rejoined the 2nd GA on July 27, 1954, as the peace accords went into effect, and performed security and police operations in North Vietnam, assisting in the evacuation of refugees. On December 15, 1954 the 1st Squadron departed Hanoi for Saigon, and on September 28, 1955 started redeployment by echelon to Morocco and Algeria.
1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1st BEP):
Raised in Algeria, the 1st BEP arrived in Haiphong on November 12, 1948, then moved to Hanoi, where it set up base at Gia Lam. The 2nd Company was detached for service as an airborne reaction force for Colonial Route 4, first based at Lang Son, then That Khe. On March 18, 1949 the battalion made its first operational jump northeast of Haiphong. On April 16, 1949 the 1st Platoon of the 3rd Company jumped into Cha Vai to reinforce a post under attack. On April 29, 1949 half the battalion jumped with an airborne task force near Phu Lo Xoc. A two company combat drop at Phu Doan followed this on May 7, 1949, followed by another single platoon drop at Ngoi Gion on May 21. On October 14, 1949, the entire battalion jumped into Lung Phai, on Colonial Route 4, to clear Viet Minh forces threatening a string of posts.
The battalion was then sent to the delta, where it took Thai Binh on February 8, 1950. A multi – company drop at Quang Nguyen on April 20, 1950 was then followed by a third battalion – sized drop at That Khe on September 17, 1950. This time, the mission was to reinforce Colonial Route 4 against an expected Viet Minh offensive. Dong Khe, the critical center of this route, had been overrun on September 18. The 1st BEP waited at That Khe while a Moroccan force assembled at Lang Son. With the arrival of the Moroccans at That Khe, the 1st BEP conducted an intelligence raid. Prisoners captured at Poma told of a massive Viet Minh offensive in the works.
On September 30 the task force set out from That Khe with the 1st BEP in the lead. Their mission now was to retake Dong Khe, and push a force beyond to link up with a column led by the 3rd Battalion, 3rd REI, moving south from Cao Bang. With nearly two weeks to invest the terrain around Dong Khe, the Viet Minh were waiting. Following the first serious engagement with Viet Minh forces, the task force pulled back to wait for air support. It renewed the attack on October 2, pushing west to bypass Dong Khe, as the 1st BEP covered the movement by fixing the enemy’s attention to Hill 615, where the Viet Minh numbers proved to be overwhelming. Over the course of a week, the Legionnaires and Moroccans were driven into the Coc Xa Gorge, where they were cut to pieces. A mere 23 survivors of the 1st BEP managed to reach French lines. Meanwhile, the 1st BEP Replacement Company, 120 men newly arrived from Algeria under Lieutenant Loth of the 3rd REI, merged with 280 men from the 3rd BCCP, just back from a difficult operation in Laos. This force dropped into That Khe, and also was annihilated. Thus the 1st BEP became the first French parachute battalion lost in combat, followed closely by the colonial paratroops of the 3rd BCCP.
In March 1951 a reconstituted 1st BEP was formed at Hanoi with volunteers from the 2nd BEP, Vietnamese paratroops, and a fresh contingent from North Africa. Organized with one European company, two mixed companies and a Vietnamese company, the battalion commenced operations on April 1, 1951. It fought throughout the Red River Delta, and along the Day River, before jumping into Cho Ben in November 1951 during the opening stages of the Hoa Binh campaign. By December 1951 it was a veteran unit, and moved up to the Black River sector, where it fought at Ap Da Chong, Rocher Notre Dame and Ba Vi Mountain. It then moved into the Colonial Route 6 sector, conducting road clearing operations and retaking Kem Hill, before moving back to the delta.
After multiple operations in the delta and highlands, the 1st BEP jumped into Phu Doan as part of a brigade – sized airborne raid in November 1952. Then it was airlifted into the besieged camp at Na San. On January 26, 1953, the 1st BEP moved south for the first time, engaging Viet Minh forces near Kontum, An Khe, Cuu Dao, Gia Hoi and Ban Me Thuot, before moving to Saigon and then back to Hanoi. Following two months of heavy operations in Tonkin, it performed an administrative jump into Laos and then moved to Da Nang for ground operations in Central Vietnam.
By October 1953 the 1st BEP was back at the Gia Lam Airfield, east of Hanoi. On November 21, 1953 it jumped into Dien Bien Phu as part of Operation Castor. Following a short operation with the 5th Vietnamese Parachute Battalion, the 1st BEP returned to Dien Bien Phu, where it engaged in increasingly harder fighting as part of the 2nd Airborne Battle Group. On April 24, 1954, the 1st BEP’s survivors were merged with those of the 2nd BEP to form the Provisional BEP, which subsequently was annihilated. Survivors of the 1st BEP were then merged with rear elements, volunteers from other Legion units, notably the 1st REC, and arriving replacements to form a third 1st BEP in June 1954. By July 1954 it was operating out of Haiphong. On January 30, 1955 the 1st BEP moved to Saigon, where it departed Indochina on February 8, 1955.
2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2nd BEP):
Formed at Setif, Algeria in October 1948, the 2nd BEP landed at Saigon on February 9, 1949, and was promptly rushed to Cambodia. It spent 1949 divided between Cambodia and South Vietnam, fighting both the Viet Minh and Khmer Issrak. The 2nd BEP’s 1st Company, based at Tan Son Nhut as a parachute strike force, conducted jumps at Lagray, Bao Cong, Ap Baa Cong, north of Vung Tau, and at Tra Vinh. Regrouped in January 1950, the 2nd BEP was airlifted into Central Vietnam, where it served at Dong Hoi, Pho Trac, Hue, the Cau Mai peninsula, Quang Nam and Da Nang, before returning to Saigon in late February 1950.
By May 1950, elements of the 2nd BEP were back in Central Vietnam. The 2nd Company jumped at My Trach to provide security for an airborne medical unit treating casualties. With the beginnings of Giap’s Colonial Route 4 campaign, two companies were rushed to North Vietnam on September 20, 1950, where three days later they jumped at Sin Ma Kay to allow a Moroccan battalion to withdraw. On October 24, 1950, the remainder of the 2nd BEP arrived in Tonkin to replace the destroyed 1st BEP. The 2nd BEP fought throughout Tonkin, and was at Dong Trieu to blunt Giap’s offensive in April 1951, as well as in the Day River battles of May 1951. In June and July 1951 the 2nd BEP was at Phat Diem, and on August 8 – 9, 1951 jumped into Kontum to blunt a Viet Minh threat to the Central Highlands. Following operations around Kontum, then Hue, the 2nd BEP returned to Hanoi for the October 4, 1951 drop at Gia Hoi in the Black River highlands, which forced the Viet Minh to abandon their attack on Nghia Lo. In November 1951 the 2nd BEP returned to South Vietnam, but was again called north in December 1951, when Giap accepted De Lattre’s challenge at Hoa Binh. After major engagements at Ba Vi, Yen Cu and Ap Da Chong along the lower Black River, the unit moved to Colonial Route 6 for road clearing operations.
Withdrawn to Hanoi on February 26, the 2nd BEP continued to operate throughout Tonkin, and participated in the airborne raid on Phu Doan in November 1952, the only occasion that the two BEPs were on the same airborne operation. In late February 1953 the 2nd BEP was rushed to Na San, but within days it was back in the Hanoi area, trudging through the delta. During Giap’s Spring 1953 offensive into Laos, the 2nd BEP was airlifted to the Plain of Jars, where it cleared the road to Luang Prabang and fought at Ban Ban. On July 17, 1953, the 2nd BEP jumped into Loc Ninh (North Vietnam) to cover the withdrawal of the Lang Son raiding force.
After rest at Hanoi, the 2nd BEP was back in the delta on continuous operations, and missed the initial jump into Dien Bien Phu. On December 27, 1953, the unit was airlifted to Laos, where after two weeks of operations it moved to Saigon, and then Nha Trang, for an amphibious landing near Tuy Hoa. The 2nd BEP next moved into the Central Highlands to clear Viet Minh forces from west of Pleiku, and along Colonial Route 19 between An Khe and Dak Ayoun.
Following Giap’s 13 March attack at Dien Bien Phu, the 2nd BEP was rushed back to Hanoi. Between April 9 and 11, 1954, it dropped into the besieged camp. By 24 April the unit’s casualties had been so heavy that the survivors merged with those of the 1st BEP to form the Provisional BEP. In the two weeks fighting that followed, the Provisional BEP also was annihilated. On June 1, 1954, the rear base of the 2nd BEP merged with the newly arrived 3rd BEP to create a new 2nd BEP, which moved from Cat Bi to Tan Son Nhut on July 21, 1954.
The 2nd BEPs last combat action was fought at Thu Dau Mot on July 30, 1955. It continued to perform security duties in the area after the cease – fire. The 5th Company was stationed at Pleiku from January through May 1955. Following final airborne maneuvers in the Courtenay Plantation region in September 1955, the 2nd BEP departed Saigon for Algeria on November 1, 1955, leaving behind 19 officers, 45 NCOs and 707 Legionnaires killed in action.
1st Foreign Heavy Mortar Parachute Company (1st CEPML):
Formed on September 1, 1953 with elements from the 1st and 2nd BEPs, the company was attached to the 1st BEP. On November 21, 1953 it jumped into Dien Bien Phu with the 1st BEP, and provided fires in support of the entire garrison from positions at Strongpoint Eliane, where some of the hardest fighting took place. Officially inactivated on 1 June 1, 1954, the 1st CEPML’s Legion cadres were transferred to the 1st BEP.
3rd Foreign Aerial Resupply Company (3rd CERA):
Formed as a mixed aerial resupply company (CRA) in North Vietnam in October 1948, the 3rd CERA existed as a Legion unit from January 1, 1951 until September 1, 1951, after which it went back to being a mixed unit as the 3rd CRA. It both rigged and loaded equipment, and kicked the bundles out of aircraft, and participated in all major French airborne operations in North Vietnam and Laos, receiving three unit citations. The 3rd CERA was attached to the 1st BEP for administration, but operated under operational control of Airborne Base – North. It was inactivated in April 1954
Lang Son Aerial Resupply Company (CARA de Lang Son):
Raised at Lang Son by order of Colonel Constans, commander of the 3rd REI, the company was a mixed unit that included Legionnaires drawn from the 1st BEP and 3rd REI. Its mission was the aerial resupply of the Colonial Route 4 garrisons. In was inactivated with the loss of Lang Son in October 1950.
Airborne Forces Training Center – Indochina (CITAPI):
A small number of officers and NCOs from both BEPS were detached for duties with the Airborne Forces Training Center – Indochina, which was based at Hanoi between February 12, 1951 and December 31, 1953. Besides its instructional duties, which were tactical in nature and included combat patrols and raids, the CITAPI was responsible for the operational planning and employment of Army Forces North Vietnam (FTNV) Commandos, a number of which were cadred by Legionnaires. At the time of its inactivation, one officer and 34 enlisted men from the 1st BEP, plus 20 enlisted men from the 2nd BEP, were assigned to the unit.
1st Headquarters and Service Company, Foreign Legion Engineers (1st CEMSGLE):
This unit was formed in March 1946. Engineering has always been the Legion’s secondary specialty, as Legionnaires often built their own posts from the ground up, before going to work on the road network that connected them with other posts. Indochina required a small number of specialized engineer formations.
40th Dump Truck Company (40th CCB):
Authorized in Algeria, but formed in France on September 30, 1945, the 40th CCB initially had three officers, 14 NCOs and 175 Legionnaires. It arrived in South Vietnam on January 13, 1946 and established its base at Gia Dinh. Its platoons operated throughout South, Central and North Vietnam on convoy operations. In 1948 it received collapsible boats, and in 1953 it integrated Vietnamese into its structure. The 1st Platoon received three unit citations, while the company as a whole was cited once.
Collapsible Boat Platoon, 1st CEMSGLE:
Formed in Da Nang in March 1946, it was integrated into the 40th CCB on August 16, 1948, and served throughout the war at Da Nang. Inactivated in 1955, the Collapsible Boat Platoon received one unit citation.
16th Engineer Maintenance Company (16th CEG):
Arriving in Saigon on February 8, 1946, the 16th CEG provided port security for Saigon, functioning as mechanics, truck drivers, crane operators, barge crewmen and at times barge operators. As French presence expanded, 16th CEG operations did likewise, moving to ports in other parts of South Vietnam, Central Vietnam and Cambodia. In 1952 the 16th CEG was disbanded to form the 28th Engineer Battalion (Foreign Legion), which performed similar functions before being inactivated at Saigon on May 15, 1955.
15th Engineer Maintenance Company (15th CEG):
Organized at Haiphong on December 15, 1947 by merging the 42nd Engineer Depot Company with Legionnaires from the 16th CEG, this unit specialized in engine and vehicle maintenance and modification. It was inactivated on October 31, 1952 to form the 22nd Legion Engineer Battalion (22nd BGL), which consisted of a bridge company, an equipment repair company, a service company and a bridge transport company. It was inactivated in 1955.
38th Dump Truck Company (38th CCB):
Formed in Hanoi in 1947 by merging the 1st Bridge Equipment Company with a contingent of troops from the 40th CCB, the 38th CCB was assigned to the Hanoi Engineer District and operated throughout the Red River Delta. It received one unit citation before being inactivated in Vietnam in 1955.
1st Foreign Legion Engineer Services and Training Company (1st CISGLE):
Formed in Saigon on August 16, 1948, the 1st CISGLE consisted of a headquarters command element, which cadred the headquarters for Legion Engineers in Indochina. It also functioned as a training company for Legion engineers. It was inactivated in 1950.
21st Company, 61st Engineer Battalion:
Established on August 16, 1949 in Hanoi to replace a Colonial Engineer Company, it later became the headquarters company of the 61st Engineers. The company’s engineer platoons worked in the Red River sector, building the De Lattre line. It was inactivated on September 30, 1955.
21st Company, 71st Engineer Battalion:
Raised on August 16, 1949 at Saigon, the company functioned as the headquarters company of the 71st Engineers, operating throughout South and Central Vietnam. Personnel from the company formed the 4th Company, 71st Engineers, a collapsible boat unit based at My Tho. Both units were inactivated on September 30, 1955.
21st Company, 72nd Engineer Battalion:
Raised in August 1949, the company spent six years in Central Vietnam, before being inactivated in August 1955.
21st Company, 73rd Engineer Battalion:
Formed in August 1949 at Kien An, in North Vietnam, it was attached to Legion Engineer headquarters from 1951 on, providing technical services, including bridge construction and water purification. It was inactivated in August 1955.
2nd Company, 74th Engineer Battalion:
Raised in September 1951 at the Bach Mai airfield, Hanoi, this unit constructed defensive works at Nam Dinh, served with Mobile Group 4, and built an airfield, before being transferred to the Vietnamese Army as Headquarters Company of the 3rd Engineer Battalion on December 31, 1952.
76th Legion Engineer Battalion:
Organized in June 1951 for airfield construction throughout Indochina, the battalion’s 1st Company consisted of Legion, Vietnamese, and Metropolitan French engineers. The 2nd Company operated in Central and South Vietnam. The 3rd Company built and repaired airfields in Saigon, Laos, Vientiane and Dien Bien Phu.
39th Engineer Boat Company (39th CEFG):
A mixed unit formed on September 1, 1951 at Haiphong, the Legionnaires, Metropolitan French and Vietnamese of the 39th Engineer Boat Company participated in all riverine operations in the Tonkin Delta. It received one unit citation.
Transportation, Material and Logistics Units:
In addition to purely Legion units, individual Legionnaire specialists could be found in such non – Legion units as the 171st, 253rd, 271st and 353rd Transportation Companies, the 71st and 73rd Traffic Control Companies, the 532nd Medical Transportation Company and the Far Eastern Provisional Brigade’s Colonial Service and Transportation Company. While operationally necessary, such assignments were repugnant to the Legion’s sense of solidarity and discipline. Thus the Legion took to organizing specific platoons and companies to accomplish such missions within mixed units, where a Legion chain of command could be maintained. The major difference was that such units existed in their own right and became Legion, or they dropped the title as troop composition justified.
65th Regimental Repair Company:
Served at rear base of 3rd Colonial Infantry Division from 1946 through 1947, when it was inactivated.
64th Foreign Legion Automobile Repair Company (64th CRALE):
Organized on 1 December 1, 1945 at Sidi – bel – Abbès, the company arrived in Indochina on February 6, 1946 and was stationed in Nha Trang, attached to the 2nd REI. On May 1, 1947 it became an independent unit, consisting of four mobile detachments based at Ben Me Thuot, Dalat, Phang Rang and Phan Thiet. On April 1, 1951 the company was redesignated the 2nd Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company (2nd CMRLE). In 1954 it reorganized into two detachments, one based at Hue and the other at Nha Trang. It was inactivated in December 1955.
65th Foreign Legion Automobile Repair Company (65th CRALE):
Raised on February 1, 1946 at Aubagne, the 65th CRALE was attached to the 3rd REI in Indochina. Arriving on April 25, 1946, the company was based at Gia Dinh. On April 1, 1947 it became an independent unit and was sent to Cambodia for two years. Upon its return, on August 1, 1949, it moved to Haiphong and was redesignated the 3rd Foreign Legion Repair Company (3rd CRLE). Its three mobile detachments were based at Hai Duong, Tien Yen and Sept Pagodes. In 1954 the unit regrouped at Hai Duong and then moved south to Bien Hoa, where it was inactivated on December 31, 1955.
723rd Foreign Legion Automotive Repair Company (723rd CRALE), 1st Material Services Battalion:
On May 1, 1947 the company was already operating throughout Vietnam. On January 1, 1949 it became an independent company, and it was then redesignated the 1st Foreign Legion Repair Company (1st CRLE) on August 1, 1949. On April 1, 1951 it became the 1st Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company (1st CMRLE). The unit was inactivated in North Africa in April 1956.
4th Foreign Legion Repair Company:
Formed on August 16, 1949 at Lang Son, the company moved to Hanoi in December 1950. Redesignated the 4th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company (4th CMRLE) on January 1, 1951, it was attached to the 2nd Provisional Division – Tonkin and maintained detachments at Hanoi and Nam Dinh. In 1954 the company withdrew to Saigon. It was inactivated on 15 May 1955.
5th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company (5th CMRLE):
Organized at Hanoi on July 1, 1951, the company was attached to the 3rd Provisional Division – Tonkin. In December 1953 several of its mobile detachments were sent to Dien Bien Phu. Cited for its service at Dien Bien Phu, the remaining elements of the unit moved to Da Nang in September 1954 and then to Saigon, where it was inactivated in September 1955.
2nd Foreign Legion Tank Repair Company (2nd CREBLE):
Organized on July 1, 1951 to replace an inactivated unit within the Colonial Infantry Regiment of Morocco, the 2nd CREBLE was based at Haiphong, where it performed depot maintenance and repaired tanks and amphibious vehicles. A mobile armored repair platoon was based at Hanoi. The majority of the unit’s personnel were German by 1953. An element of the company was airlifted into Dien Bien Phu to assemble the ten M – 24 tanks that had been flown in, dismantled in sections. The unit was inactivated in Saigon on December 31, 1955.
1st Transportation and Garrison Company (1st CTQG):
Organized at Hanoi on February 16, 1951 within the 1st Provisional Division-Tonkin by building up the 3rd Transportation Company of the 515th Transportation Battalion, the 1st CTQG included a garrison headquarters element, a headquarters platoon, a traffic control platoon and two transportation platoons. It remained in Hanoi until French troops withdrew to Saigon. It was inactivated on November 16, 1954.
2nd Transportation and Garrison Company (2nd CTQG):
Organized at Hanoi to perform transportation functions for the 2nd Provisional Division-Tonkin, the 2nd CTQG was composed of Legionnaires, colonial soldiers and logistics troops drawn from the 516th Transportation Battalion. It had an identical mission and structure as the 1st CTQG and was likewise inactivated on November 16, 1954.
3rd Foreign Legion Transportation Company, 516th Transportation Battalion:
Organized from elements of the 2nd CTLE, 503rd Transport Battalion on January 1, 1950 at Lang Son, the company was attached to the 3rd REI. It conducted the few convoys run up Colonial Route 4 during that period. With the abandonment of Lang Son in October 1950, the company moved to Haiphong, where it operated throughout the rest of the war. The company received a croix de guerre and a unit citation. In 1952 the 3rd CTLE conducted 384 convoys, carrying 538,000 men and 102,000 tons of supplies and equipment. On September 30, 1953 it ceased to be a Legion unit.
2nd Company, 519th Transportation Battalion:
The company became a Legion unit on August 1, 1949 at Saigon and was designated an independent company on December 1, 1952. It conducted highway transportation of munitions, supplies and mail, and received one unit citation. On August 1, 1953 the company was inactivated, and its Vietnamese elements transferred to the Vietnamese Army as a transportation company.
Foreign Legion Engineer and Material Unit – Far East (ULGMEO):
This was a headquarters responsible for overseeing Foreign Legion engineer and material support units in Indochina.
Foreign Legion Reception Company (CPLE):
Organized at Saigon May 1, 1947 with three officers, 18 NCOs and 56 Legionnaires, the CPLE functioned as the single reception station for all Legionnaires entering or departing Indochina throughout the war. It was inactivated on October 31, 1955.
Foreign Regiments Disciplinary Company – Far East (CDRE-EO):
Organized on May 1, 1947 in Vietnam, with its installations on an island in Cam Ranh Bay, the company was attached to the 2nd REI for administration. It was inactivated on August 11, 1954.
This article was written by Dr. Mireille Nicoud and Lt. Col. Shaun M. Darragh. The article originally appeared online as a supplement to the December 2003 issue of Vietnam Magazine.
Dr. Mireille Nicoud is a fellow at Paul Valery University, Montpellier, France. Lt. Col. Shaun M. Darragh is a retired Special Forces officer who served with Detachments A-502 and B-20 in Vietnam. For additional reading see Bernard B. Fall’s classic accounts of the French in Indochina, Street Without Joy, and Hell in a Very Small Place.
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