You are not logged in.


Saturday, January 25th 2014, 5:17pm

From the August Issue of Le Spectateur Militaire

News and Rumors: August 1944
Article from Le Spectateur militaire.

Protée-class Submarines Receive Flapper Valves: The Marine Nationale announced today that all Protée-class submarines are receiving new valves designed to quickly close in order to prevent water from flooding into the main induction piping. The valves are designed to enhance safety of the boats when operating on the surface with their diesel engines. The Roland Morillot-class fleet submarines were fitted with this technology during their construction, and other French submarines will be fitted during their regular yard maintenance times.

Armee de l'Aire Displays VG.640 to Foreign Observers: Unsubstantiated rumors indicate that French Air Force chief Major-General Martial Valin was seen in the company of several Greek and Slavic air force officers at Orléans - Bricy Air Base, where the first half-squadron of VG.640 jet fighters are working up for activation.

Gnome-Rhone Promises Jet Engines to Armee de l'Aire: The Gnome-Rhone company reassured the French Air Force in a meeting on July 20th that the engine company would still be able to deliver at least one completed TRAC-1C Curtana turbojet engine per week through the end of October. Manufacture of these highly-sophisticated propulsion systems has proceeded much more slowly than was previously anticipated, due to the high manufacturing standards demanded for safe operation.

13th RDP Wins Inter-Regimental Triathlon: Soldiers representing the 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes beat teams from a hundred and fifteen other French Army regiments to claim triumph in the ninth annual Inter-Regimental Triathlon.


Sunday, January 26th 2014, 4:56am

From the September Issue of Le Spectateur Militaire

Literature Review: Marée haute
Article from Le Spectateur militaire. Literature Review is a monthly feature which reviews literary works of interest to military readers.

Marée haute (Eng. "Flood Tide"), the fourth and final book of wargaming umpire Pierre Michaux's quartet about a fictional war between the United States and the South African Empire, decisively closes off the account. In the previous three volumes, the combatants have fought a seesaw war through southern and central Brazil, and after a year and a half of conflict, American industrial production appears to be overcoming the skill and valour of South Africa's commanding general, Nicolaas Blomkamp. In a hard-fought campaign, Blomkamp successfully salvages his battered armies and retreats into Santa Catarina, where a narrower front and longer supply lines negate many of the advantages of the American and Brazilian armies. The situation on land becomes a stalemate; if Blomkamp can receive reinforcements and fuel from across the Atlantic quickly enough, then he believes he can successfully defend southern Brazil while the diplomats make peace.

At sea, Vice Admiral Michael 'Iron Mike' Phillips returns to the forefront of the story, tasked with halting the flow of supplies into Gran Uruguay. Phillips' use of submarines and cruisers to attack Dutch tankers transporting oil into South American ports results in the Netherlands abandoning their 'neutrality'. Nevertheless, Phillips' Task Force Seventeen successfully closes the Atlantic trade lanes for long enough that the defensive line in southern Brazil is broken, and Blomkamp finally convinces his political masters to negotiate terms. The book closes as the negotiating parties sit down to write a treaty to end the war.

The book also includes a short novella, L'hiver arrive ("Winter is Coming") about the diplomatic and intelligence games played between the two combatants in neutral Argentina.

As with the three prior volumes, Michaux exercises great care in dealing with the soldiers and politicians of both sides. Michaux acknowledges the assistance of several officers from both the Royal South African Army and the US Army who contributed to the completion of the final volume. This volume completes the character arcs established in previous books, and the pace continues building throughout the novel.

With the completion of the series, Michaux indicated that he would continue writing military fiction, and has a number of ideas he is currently developing.


Sunday, March 16th 2014, 11:01pm

From the October Issue of Le Spectateur Militaire

Table of Contents: October 1944 Issue

Letter from the Ministry
Page 01

Editor's Comments
Page 02

Military Unit Spotlight: "Brazilian Armoured Forces" by Staff.
Page 03

Special Article: "San Juan Earthquake: Overcoming Challenges in Airborne Logistics", by Francois Travemat.
Page 16

Special Article: "Maskirovka: Deception and Dissemination as a Tool of War Preparation", by Vladimir Lebedev.
Page 49

Special Article: "Chinese Amphibious Capability: Dragon From the Sea", by Contra-amiral Virgile Lapeyre.
Page 77

Literature Review:
- "The Bloody Somme" by Christopher Bianchi, Page 104
- "Spiderweb: British Radio Intelligence in the Great War" by Thomas White-Walker, Page 105
- "Senyavin in the Mediterranean" by Georges Lefèvre, Page 107

Revue d'action militaire: "Battle of the Azores, October 1769: Atlantean Invasion Repulsed by Iberia" by Rear Adm (Ret.) Juan de la Delgado López.
Page 109

News and Rumors: Page 132
- "DCNS proposes design for a 'Helicopter Cruiser'."
- "Two new armoured divisions slated for 1945, sources claim."
- "Deliveries of Dominator heavy bombers continue."
- "Indochina government: Chinese submarines tracked in Gulf of Tonkin."

Nouvelle Technologie: "A Proposal for Statoreactor Propulsion", by Jean-Baptiste Cassel.
Page 138


Thursday, May 15th 2014, 1:33am

From the November Issue of Le Spectateur Militaire

Military Unit Spotlight: The Czechoslovakian Fast Division
Article from Le Spectateur militaire. Military Unit Spotlight is a monthly feature which focuses on a unit or type of unit fielded by either the French military or another world army.

At the core of the Czechoslovakian Army are three elite divisions organized as the national strategic reserve forces. These three divisions, called "Fast Divisions" in the Western media, are sometimes regarded in foreign press as the Czech equivalent to the armoured forces used elsewhere in the world. This is in fact an oversimplification of the facts, the result of trying to impose familiar ideas and doctrines on unfamiliar concepts.

Defense on the Move
Ringed around by neighbors with powerful armies, Czechoslovakia's interests lie mainly in the defense of their borders against aggression. Throughout the 1930s, the Czechoslovak Army focused heavily on developing well-trained infantry divisions designed to hold the country's considerable border fortifications against a foreign invader. At that time, the Fast Divisions were nothing more than infantry divisions equipped with trucks, allowing them to quickly reinforce a collapsing section of the line. An accelerated adoption of mechanized and armoured warfare during the very late 1930s, as well as the rise of young officers to senior leadership positions, caused the Czech high command to call into question their strategy of fortified defense. In a simulated map exercise held in Prague in 1938, visiting French officers of the Military Mission to Czechoslovakia, led by Colonel Philippe Leclerc, demonstrated the potential risks of a static defense. According to summaries, Leclerc and his subordinates used a simulated armoured division to outflank the fortified defense line and annihilate four divisions of defenders using surprise and mobility. The Czechoslovakian Army took notice of this high-profile debacle, and after some discussion, re-created the Fast Divisions to undertake a more fluid and versatile role within the national defense planning.

The objective of the Fast Divisions is not merely to serve as an elite reserve to the army. In any prospective invasion scenario, the Czechoslovakian military leadership plans to use their infantry divisions to man the border fortifications. In response to the worries of armoured warfare causing the fortification to be outflanked and attacked from the vulnerable rear, changes have been made to re-design for "All Around Defense", or "Hedgehog". When attacked, the Czech infantry will organize in these fortified redoubts, which are sited in such a way as to channel attacking mechanized formations between them into compromising terrain, where mobility is made more difficult and the invader is trapped in an enfilade between the hedgehogs. In these circumstances, the Fast Divisions come into play. As attacking enemy formations lose their mobility and bog down, the Fast Divisions use their own mobility to move to obtain key defensive terrain, halt the enemy armoured thrusts, and then counterattack using their own armoured and mobile infantry forces.

In order to accomplish these goals, the Fast Divisions blend two brigades of motor infantry, an armoured brigade, and an artillery brigade, as well as supporting forces.

The two infantry brigades each are composed of three motorized infantry battalions and one battalion of self-propelled antitank guns. Although the Czechoslovakian Army's ideal is to transport the infantry using protected infantry carriers or halftracks, a lack of suitable vehicles in sufficient numbers means the infantry are generally mounted in thin-skinned trucks. Up until 1941, many of these units were in fact mounted on horses, but experience with the League of Nation's Afghanistan Field Force, as well as field exercises, showed that horsemen were simply unable to keep the same pace as armoured forces. In the anti-tank battalion, the Czechs employ the ST vz. 41 Tank Destroyer, a modification of the LT vz.38 light tank.

The armoured brigade follows more familiar lines, melding two motor infantry battalions with two tank battalions. Defying trends abroad, the Czechoslovakian Army maintains a high degree of interest in light tanks which emphasize firepower, mobility in mountainous terrain, and economy of operation. The associated infantry receives a high quantity of automatic weapons, particularly submachine guns, in order to increase their firepower.

Supporting the combat brigades is an artillery brigade, composed of three 105mm howitzer battalions and two anti-aircraft companies with 20mm and 40mm guns. In addition, supporting units, such as a radiotelegraph company, a supply company, and fuel and maintenance troops, are organized in their own Support Brigade. A major portion of this Support Brigade is an engineering battalion, which is extremely important to the division's combat branch through the construction of prepared fighting positions.


Tuesday, July 1st 2014, 2:51am

From the December Issue of Le Spectateur militaire

News and Reports: First Battalion of the Indochinese Marines Inaugurated into Service
Article from Le Spectateur militaire.

November 25 - The 1st Marine Battalion of the Indochinese Territorial Security Forces received its colours today in a ceremony at their newly-constructed caserne in Ha Long. The battalion's commander, Commandant Truong Khanh, accepted the colours from Governor-General Truong Van Bao, who was given the honour of announcing the battalion's nickname, "Wild Birds". The 1st Marine Battalion's activation is the first of a series of new marine infantry units funded and organized by the autonomous Indochinese state to improve their military capabilities. Previously, the Territorial Security Forces operated a number of independent riverine infantry companies throughout Indochina, operating in conjunction with the French Troupes Coloniale and Fusiliers Marins. Two of these companies have been merged in order to form the cadre of the 1st Marine Battalion. According to Viet-language newspapers in Hanoi and Saigon, the autonomous government intends to create two more marine infantry battalions and a marine artillery battalion by July of next year, with the eventual goal of creating a Marine Brigade.

For the last ten years, the Indochinese Territorial Security Forces and its precursor organizations have worked to create a professional and capable cadre of officers and NCOs. Indochinese citizens have been inducted into the French Army's colonial divisions, and throughout the years, high-performing soldiers were selected to undertake officer or NCO training, occasionally at the prestigious military academy of St. Cyr. Local instruction is taken on by the Centre d'Instruction de l'Infanterie (established in Saigon in 1934) and the more recently-founded Centre d'Instruction de l'Arme Blindée en E.O. (opened in 1941). A school of military medicine, the École de Médecine Militaire Viet-Namienne, was established last year in Hanoi in order to train military doctors. The men trained in these schools often served their first few months or years of service in the French Army, benefitting from the opportunities of promotion and training available in the larger force; but now the Indochinese officers and men are migrating back to the armed services of their native region.

Such is the case with Commandant Truong Khanh, who joined the 1er Régiment de Tirailleurs Tonkinois in 1932 as an enlisted rifleman, entering the service at the age of seventeen in order to help support the education of his two younger brothers. His French commanding officer noted Khanh's abilities and offered him the chance to win a spot in the premier class of the Centre d'Instruction de l'Infanterie in Dalat. Khahn remained with the French Army until 1942, rising in the ranks and gaining experience with the riverine troops, predominantly on the Red River Delta. In a private interview offered to Le Spectateur militaire, Khanh revealed that he wished to return to the Territorial Security Forces in order to help strengthen the forces of his homeland against the possibility of invasion by the Chinese Empire. "Someday they will come, as they have in past centuries," he said confidently, "And we shall destroy them as Tran Hung Dao and Ngo Quyen destroyed them at Bach Dang." Khahn also expounded on his theory of leadership. "My soldiers are my sons, and my officers are my brothers. Their blood now runs in my veins. As a father, I must teach them discipline, honor, and righteous devotion to our duty and country - but I shall make them strong men, and reward them with every good thing."

The new 1st Marine Battalion is organized along relatively conservative lines, being divided into three 'Dinassaut Commandos' and a headquarters company. The Dinassaut Commandos, each numbering a hundred and eighty-three men, are in turn composed of a company headquarters, three assault infantry platoons, and a support platoon with 60mm mortars, recoilless rifles, and demolition charges. The headquarters company includes intelligence, signals, supplies, and medical troops. Attached to the 1st Marine Battalion as a supporting unit - although not as an integral part of the battalion's table of organization - is a specialized transport company, equipped with Unic ACM-4 amphibious trucks, in quantities sufficient to transport the entire battalion and its combat equipment.


Wednesday, July 2nd 2014, 1:39am

From the January Issue of Le Spectateur militaire

Special Article: Low Countries Armour
Article from Le Spectateur militaire. This article is part of a continuing series on the armoured forces of the world.

Belgian Armour - Equipment
T-17 Tank: In a rare occasion, Belgium purchased seventy-five examples of these tanks from Germany, where they were known as the Panzer II. They were armed with a Belgian-made 47mm gun, and serve in the light tank roles in the Belgian Army.
T-20 Tank: These vehicles, developed by AB Landsverk of Nordmark for the FAMAE / Terrestre partnership in Chile, were constructed on order for Belgium between 1941 and 1942. They are known in Chile, the primary customer, as the M41 medium tank. The tank has few flaws, but the low-velocity 75mm main gun significantly lags the European standard. Despite this, the tanks are generally easy to maintain and well-liked by the Belgian tankers, being additionally equipped with a fuel-saving diesel engine.
T-21 Tank ("Cromwell"): Purchased as a replacement for older types. the T-21, manufactured in Great Britain as the "Cromwell" medium tank, is perhaps one of the most excellent recent examples of British armoured doctrine, matching a powerful engine, a 75mm/L54 main gun, and decent armour in a single relatively light-weight hull. They take a step backward in their use of an Orenda petrol V-12 engine, but in all other respects they represent a substantive advance on the Chilean-built M41s. Their long service life should be assured.

Belgian Armour - Formations
Belgian armour is focused primarily in two formations, chiefly the 1e Brigade Mécanisée, attached to Belgo-Dutch Mobile Corps and headquartered in Sint-Truden, and the 2e Brigade Mécanisée, headquartered in Liège as part of III Corps. The tanks in these formations are divided between two armoured regiments, each composed of three tank battalions with twenty-four tanks apiece. Each tank battalion is in turn composed of two companies of twelve tanks organized into platoons. This sort of organization with its small battalions contrasts sharply with the organization used elsewhere in Europe. Foreign observers should instead view Belgian tank battalions as reinforced companies, as they are viewed by Belgian commanders. French Army observers hypothesize that this unusual organization was selected in order to reduce the stress on battalion commanders (who lack dedicated command tanks), giving them only two elements that they need to keep track of during a developing action. Conversely, the more senior regimental commanders, who are presumed to have a greater level of command expertise, are permitted the freedom to wield three distinct maneuver elements. The tank regiment, with seventy-two tanks, is instead the primary maneuver unit. Viewed in this light, the regiments look more comparable to the formations used elsewhere in Europe, and represent a much more mature concept of doctrine than that used by the Dutch.

Backing the two armoured regiments is a three-battalion regiment of mechanized infantry, which incorporates both motorized infantry elements and cavalry elements (in the form of a motorcyclist squadron), an armoured reconnaissance battalion, and a three-battery artillery battalion. A quartermaster unit with thirty-two trucks rounds out the support forces. Altogether, the two units represent particularly sizable formations for their ostensible 'brigade' designation - in fact, each brigade equips more tanks than the Division Légère Blindée fielded by the French Army, or the Polish Army's three Armoured Divisions. Both of these units, however, maintain significantly larger infantry, artillery, and logistical components than their Belgian equivalent. With this in mind, the 'brigade' moniker may in fact be more apt, representing a unit weighted towards their armoured component, rather than a balanced formation like the French or Polish examples.

Dutch Armour - Equipment
Lt-33: A hundred and seventy of these pathetic little tanks soldier on with Dutch armoured units in the DEI, Suriname, Africa, and Arabia, although a large number have been withdrawn from service for conversion to AA gun carriers.
T-35: These older tanks are heavily armoured in line with standing Dutch doctrine, but are particularly slow vehicles, with the fastest (and earliest) versions topping out at a mere thirty kilometers an hour. The last versions were constructed in the late 1930s and they are being phased out as new vehicles, such as the Czech-made ST vz.42/45s, enter service.
T-41: This series of heavy vehicles continues the Dutch tradition of heavily-armoured fortress tanks. Most versions weigh between forty and forty-five metric tons, making them some of the heaviest armoured vehicles in active service with any European nation. Their weight contributes to the poor top speed, although they use the potent 75mm/L54 gun.
CKD ST vz. 42/45: Ordered from Czechoslovakia in late 1944, these vehicles hover right between the current line between the light and medium categories. Czechoslovakia has exported a significant quantity of these tanks over the past three years to Ireland, Yugoslavia, and Switzerland (as the Panzer-44), but the new Dutch variants differ by being armed with a Belgian Cockerill 75mm/L54 gun in a French-manufactured oscillating turret. This gives the vz.42/45 similar firepower to the French Bruyere, albeit on a larger hull.
T-44: This prototype tank is under development, and will reportedly carry a 90mm/L60 Cockerill gun on a chassis between thirty-five and forty tons in weight. Observers report that the final vehicle will be both highly mobile and heavily-armoured, with a 180mm turret face and 120mm glacis, but this blend of mobility, protection, and firepower is almost certainly unobtainable on the vehicle's expected weight. A tank equivalent to the recently-seen Danish M44E1 should instead be anticipated.
GG-44: These self-propelled assault guns are built on the chassis of converted T-41 heavy tank hulls. The vehicle weighs an impressive forty-five tonnes, but features only a 75mm L/21 howitzer for armament. With only thirty examples produced and production unlikely to continue, it seems unlikely to ever be a major vehicle in the Dutch garage.
TJ-45: The Tankjaeger-45 is a casemated variant of the Czech-built vz. 42/45 tank. Weighing in at twenty-two tons, this vehicle is armed with a Cockerill 90mm/L50 gun. The tank destroyers undoubtedly represent one of the best vehicles currently in service with the Dutch armoured forces.
GG-45: Built on the hull of older vz.38 light tanks, this light assault gun built for the Dutch by the Czechs strongly resembles the Yugoslavian M44 infantry support vehicle. While some observers believe Czech manufacturer CKD consulted with Yugoslavia during design, others believe the similarities are merely a case of convergent evolution, as both designs started from the same basis.

Dutch Armour - Formations
The Dutch Army maintains five tank brigades (three in the Netherlands itself and two overseas), as well as six independent tank regiments, all overseas. Each tank brigade incorporates approximately one hundred and fifty armoured vehicles (not counting armoured cars), while the independent tank regiments field between sixty and sixty-seven vehicles.

Dutch tank brigades, particularly the three formations based in the Netherlands, are manned with well-experienced officers and men. Despite this, the formations mix a large number of vehicle types which complicates issues of maintainence and supply. The IV and V Brigades, deployed in Java and Sumatra, each have four distinct types of tracked armoured vehicles - generally a mix of T-35 series and T-41 series tanks, plus GG-45 assault guns and TJ-45 tankjagers. From a logical standpoint, it seems likely that the recently-ordered vz.42/45 tanks shall replace both the T-35 and T-41 series, particularly in overseas use, as soon as they are available in quantity.

The use of obsolete LT-33 light tanks continues in the independent Tank Regiments, all of which are posted in the Dutch Colonial Regions. While each regiment is currently being re-equipped with sixteen modern Tankjager-45 type vehicles, over half of the vehicle park is still composed of LT-33s, supported by T-35 and T-41 tanks. Armoured strength is additionally squandered by posting in geographic backwaters, such as XII Tank Regiment's posting to Ubangi-Shari, where the regiment's T-35C tanks are particularly out of their element, and the XIV Tank Regiment's deployment to Suriname. The XIV Regiment's employment in Suriname appears particularly pointless in light of the extremely limited transportation infrastructure in this virtually uninhabited holding, and the significant infantry forces deployed there.

The armoured forces of the Low Countries share many uniquely interesting features not found elsewhere in the world, both in terms of equipment and organization. The Belgian armoured forces, due to their dependence on superior foreign-designed armoured vehicles, represent a more mature level of thinking in terms of armoured doctrine. Recent indications have shown that the Dutch Army is starting to shed many of their backwards practices, but any possible change will likely be slow and painful before the Dutch armoured forces can attain a maturity comparable to that found elsewhere in Europe.


Wednesday, July 9th 2014, 2:47am

From the February Issue of Le Spectateur militaire

Special Article: With Groupement Scipion in the Inner Niger Delta
by Jean-Christophe Houdon
Article from Le Spectateur militaire.

Tough Legionnaires eye me with disdain as I disembark from the landing craft onto the muddy bank. A few dozen meters up the embankment, ringed by barbed wire and crowned with four guard towers, sits my objective, Fort Brazzaville, the headquarters of Groupement Scipion. Established three months ago and built by the 1er Régiment étranger de génie, Fort Brazzaville is home to nearly a third of the Groupement's three thousand men. The sun bakes its packed-earth embankments, and the tents and bunkers offer scant relief from the
African sun.

My travelling companion, Adjudant-chef Alain d'Issoir, led me up to the fort, making sure the Senegalese tirailleurs posted as defensive troops understood that I was a member of the press, and authorized to move freely about the fort, except in restricted areas. After checking in with the duty officer, he then gave me a whirlwind briefing of the situation in the Inner Niger Delta. "We're here after Muslim bandits," d'Issoire explained. "About six months ago, a number of Arab Muslims came in from the north and started to stir up the local populace with talk of creating an independent Muslim state. After the colonial tirailleurs skirmished with them on a few occasions, they decided to contain their operations to the Inner Niger Delta. The tirailleurs can't get at them easily, particularly after the start of the wet season, and so the Muslims started pirating rice shipments on the rivers. Since the tirailleurs were having difficulty solving the problem, Governor Calvel requested regular forces. President Theisman sent the Légion étrangère."

In turn, the Legion dispatched Groupement Scipion, a mixed group composed one of its most elite units, the 1er Régiment étranger de parachutistes, and a group of supporting units, commanded by Colonel Joseph Levavasseur. Although the 1er REP is barely two years old, under Levavasseur's command it has established a reputation within the Legion as an extremely demanding, disciplined, and well-trained unit. Every Legionnaire has volunteered for the Regiment, and passed not only the Legion's grueling standard training, but also a highly selective eight-week parachutist school in Corsica, which graduates only one in three candidates. The 1er REP has a mostly friendly rivalry with its brother unit, the 13ere Régiment Dragons Parachutistes (13ere RDP), a metropolitan unit formed solely from French natives. Both units share the same selective recruiting, rigorous training, and elite status. The 13ere gained a feather in its cap during the Monaco Crisis, but the men of the 1er REP believe that their operations on the Inner Niger Delta will demonstrate their superiority over their rivals.

Late on the evening of my arrival, d'Issoir pulled me aside. "I've found an old comrade here in the regiment, and he offered to let you join his team on a patrol. It could be very dangerous, but you won't have many opportunities like this. Do you want to go?"

Groupement Scipion's bases in the Inner Niger Delta.

A Patrol in the Delta
At midnight I boarded the landing craft Mameluck, anchored in the river near Fort Brazzaville. The three-hundred ton landing craft was not designed for riverine work, but with its shallow draft, it serves quite well in the unexpected role of a riverine gunship. The Mameluck towed a half-dozen smaller gunboats, while several others of unusual design nested on her decks, ready to be swung over the side with the ship's crane. Tired from my journey, I found a corner to curl up, out of the way of the Legionnaires, and snatched five hours of sleep. d'Issoir's friend, Sous-Lieutenant Claude Jaccotet, prodded me awake with his foot just as the sun rose. "Come on, Houdon, we're wasting time. Get your kit and join us."

I joined Jaccotet and his team as they boarded one of the lighter landing craft Mameluck had towed into position. These smaller boats have a short overall range, but they can get to more of the waterways. Part of the challenge Groupement Scipion faces is covering a vast area of the delta with limited reasources, and this requires the Legionnaires to demonstrate a great deal of flexibility. After an hour in the landing craft, Jaccotet finally paused to explain the mission to me. "We have intelligence about enemy movements in this area. These are nasty guys. A bunch of them are Arabs who came into the area. They're the leaders and the tough guys - they call themselves the Frères de Mahomet, or FMs. They recruited few of the local Tuaregs, Bwa, and Fulani as guides to the terrain. Now they're expanding their organization and filling the ranks. The FMs will take over a small village, steal all of the rice, and kidnap all of the boys. Then they go back to their camps and force them to fight each other for their survival. The ones who live learn to kill without mercy, and they're starting to join the combat groups. If we run into them on patrol, don't think of them as kids any more. Sometimes they're more vicious than the adults." Jaccotet spits over the side. "Make sure you tell the people back in Paris that this is not about putting down rebels or maintaining order. When a dog is rabid, you don't reason with it. When a tumor starts to grow, you sedate the patient and cut it out."

Having warmed up to me, Jaccotet introduced his group. His men, thirty in all, composed the 1er REP's second trentaine, part of the Regiment's Groupement Franc. In an already highly-experienced unit, the men of the Groupes Franc identify themselves as even more elite. Each sizaine (also called a l'equip) is composed of six men skilled in fieldcraft, marksmanship, stealth, and a host of other skills. The sizaines go out on patrol, often for days at a time, conducting reconnaissance of enemy positions and snatching prisoners for interrogation. Although every division in the French Army has its own Groupe Franc, the unit is more informal and the men are volunteers from the division's component infantry regiments. In the 1er REP, however, the Groupe Franc is much larger, and a permanently established part of the Regiment's order of battle. Although he ranks as a sous-lieutenant, Jaccotet is in fact a soldier of ten years seniority, having joined the Legion during the Rif-Atlas Revolt, and he served in Morocco. On this patrol, Jaccotet has brought his six-man command team and a second sizaine, for a total of twelve men. The second team is led by a junior sergeant, Antonin Gravel. Also included in the patrol is a local boy who Jaccotet introduces as 'Danny'. Danny speaks workable French, but is also fluent in Arabic and Fulani. He serves as both a scout and a translator. Jaccotet explains to me, out of Danny's hearing, that the seventeen year old volunteered for the job in order to avenge his family, which was killed by the FMs during a raid on their village.

Jaccotet also instructs me to change out my civilian clothes for 'the lizard', a camouflaged combat smock designed to help a man blend into the undergrowth. "The rebels won't care if you're a reporter or not, so we'd prefer for you to blend in like we do." He gave me a jacket and trousers that matched his own, but lacked any rank or unit badges. "You'll also want some of our boots," he said. "The FMs don't like to fight us, but they'll sometimes leave us traps, like poisoned spikes that will cut through rubber or leather boot soles. These boots are armoured. But still, watch carefully where you step."

Danny, riding in the front of the boat, abruptly signalled, and the landing craft's helmsman cut the engine. "I smell something," Danny announced in passable French. At once, all of the Legionnaires become very serious, preparing their weapons and gear. Jaccotet instructs the helmsman to bring the boat into the shallows, where the grasses grow in the water near the bank. Gravel's team plunges off the bow ramp into waist-deep water, accompanying Danny ashore; Jaccotet's machine gunner and rifle grenadier both ready themselves for action. Several tense minutes pass before Danny returns to the boat, and he speaks quietly with Jaccotet. The officer listens and then comes to a quick decision. "There's a group of FMs operating close by. We're going to find them and see what they're up to." He instructs me to follow and details one of his men, Legionnaire 2e Classe Drusynska, to keep tabs on me. I wade off the ramp of the landing barge, keeping at the rear of the formation and revelling in the cooling water. Tall grasses grow on the shallow bottom of the delta, and reach high overhead. In the midst of this verdant overgrowth, visibility is less than a meter.

Danny leads us out of the water onto a muddy island, and gestures for us to keep low. Several hundred meters on, we link up again with Jaccotet's second team in the tall grass, looking over a narrow channel. The team commander confers with Jaccotet at a whisper, and news is passed down the line quietly. From my position, I can see a pair of brightly-painted canoes pulled up on the opposite shore. Two men are unloading bags of rice from one of the canoes. Behind them stands a small mud-walled fort with an armed man on the makeshift rampart. An ingenious roof, constructed to look like a grass-covered hill from the air, shades the fort. Drusynska expresses himself with a raised eyebrow, and begins checking over his rifle with the expectation of combat.

Jaccotet gathers his twelve Legionnaires around and gives them instruction with rapid-fire sign language. Gravel signs back a few questions, and all men then signal their acknowledgement of the orders they have received. Drusynska and another man, who I remember introduced as Oliveira, remain with me, watching the front approaches; the rest of the team moves off through the grass. Drusynska tells me to stay out of the way when the shooting starts, and quietly unfolds the bipod on his Manurhin rifle. It seems like we wait for hours, and my arms and legs itch as small insects crawl inside my lizard combat smock.

The assault comes with vicious suddenness. A flare erupts from the grass like a homesick meteor, arching up overhead. A moment later, Drusynska's Manurhin spits fire and lead, downing the sentry on the wall of the fort. Oliveira fires a rifle grenade, which arcs through the air and lands squarely in the gate of the fort. High explosive tears the wooden portal from the walls. One of the men unloading the canoes is stricken by proximity, while the other tries to run for his rifle in the canoe. Drusynska shifts fire and effortlessly downs him in the same the moment the MF snatches up his gun. The remaining ten men of the team erupt from cover and charge into the gateway of the fort. The sharp staccato of rifle fire continues for thirty seconds, broken only by a few screams. Then it is over, and Jaccotet, wiping blood from his spike bayonet, emerges to beckon us inside.

Jaccotet is exultant. His men have emerged unscathed from the assault. The bodies of twelve FMs are gathered in the courtyard, while another five enemies lay wounded. The Legionnaires sweep the fort thoroughly and find three girls locked in a room. Jaccotet questions them while Danny translates, and we discover they are the wives of a Frères de Mahomet leader known to our Intelligence services as 'ABR'. None of the girls are older than Danny, and like him, their families have been destroyed by MF raids. The revelation dampens Jaccotet's mood, and he has the girls identify the Muslim chief, who was killed in the fighting. Jaccotet has Danny reassure the girls of their safety, and joins me in the courtyard. "I wish we could hang these scum," he says, frightening one of the prisoners with an evil look. Drusynska and I inspect the bags and crates in the fort's tiny courtyard, and find battered Mauser rifles and cases of ammunition, plus four tons of looted rice. Drusynska handles one of the rifles carefully. "We find these Chinese Mausers now and then. Maybe sold on the black market by corrupt generals, or lost to Chosen in the war. They're the best guns the rebels use. This place must have been a distribution point - there are two hundred here, and a case of ammo for each of them. This is our biggest haul ever." Jaccotet learns from one of the girls that one of the survivors of the assault was involved in running the arms to the delta; he pounces on the man and isolates him for the intelligence officers.

Mameluck creaps into the shallow channel an hour later, and a landing barge conveys a senior officer ashore. It is Colonel Levavasseur himself, distinguishable from his Legionnaires only by the colonel's rank on his shoulders. He playfully chides Jaccotet for trying to bite off too much. "You Groupes Francs will get in over your heads one day if you aren't more careful!" he laughs. The Colonel inspects the rifles and the ammunition and pronounces his satisfaction. It's the largest capture of arms since the arrival of Groupement Scipion. The wounded prisoners are treated by medics and then taken, hooded, aboard the Mameluke. So too are 'ABR's three widows; intelligence officers will try to find their families, or if that fails, will send them to a boarding school in Niamey run by British missionaries. "We've seen this before, unfortunately," Jaccotet says to me privately. "If we do nothing but free them, then what good is it to be free, with no family left and not a franc to their name? They shall end up worse than they started. The missionary school will give them an education and at least the possibility of a future less bleak than their present."

Levavasseur's Legionnaires
I return to Fort Brazzaville aboard the Mameluck and collapse on a borrowed cot. I'm covered in insect bites and exhausted by the events of the day; worse, dinner sits poorly with me. I'm woken just after dawn and shown into a nissin hut at the request of Colonel Levavasseur. "I didn't recognize you yesterday at the fort, Houdon," he apologizes, and waves an old issue of Le Spectateur militaire for me to see. "I've followed your articles. When I learned you wanted to report on Groupement Scipion, I was happy to approve your request." We share a warrior's breakfast - camp rations that take me back to my days in the Chasseurs d'Afrique, bolstered by local rice and strong black coffee that settles my stomach at last. "I'm happy to see that you went out yesterday with Jaccotet. There's nothing quite like getting out there in the delta and seeing everything. It gives you a better appreciation for what we're trying to do here."

He shares a bit of his latest information. "We think the FMs number only a thousand men or less. They operate in bands of fifteen to twenty across the length and breadth of the delta, and it's a real challenge to sort them out from the innocents who live in these areas. About half of the bands are organized by and take orders from the Frères de Mahomet. It's a very emphemeral organization, incorporating Tuaregs, Bwa, Fulani, and Bambaras - a slice of every ethnicity in the region. The rest of the groups are either inspired by the Frères, or taking advantage of the confusion they're causing." Levavasseur shows me a map of the delta. "We've started by establishing an 'oil spot', so to speak, here around Fort Brazzaville. Also downstream and upstream. I've dispatched the river gunboats to escort native trading canoes on a few major channels. The Frères have taken a few cracks at the convoys in the last few months, but they don't appreciate the bloody nose we've given them every time. Now we're expanding our security zones."

I asked if the Frères had ever tried to confront the Legion head-on. "Now and then," Levavasseur grinned. "They've tried to ambush our patrols, and once tried to infiltrate Fort Brazzaville's outer works before we got them completed. We've taught them some bloody lessons, and it appears they've reconsidered that strategy." He gestures to his map again. "Now, I'm operating on a two-pronged plan of attack. First, we're actively patrolling for enemy activity and aggressively hunting rebels when we encounter them. But I'm also engaging with the local population in order to tie in their interests to our success." He expounded on that point. "The patrol you went on yesterday serves as a case in point. A local fisherman spotted suspicious strangers several days in a row. He was afraid to report it at first. But two days ago, his daughter-in-law was treated for fever by one of our mobile field hospitals, and he told us what he'd seen. We dispatched the Groupes Franc to scout the region, and you know the rest. Yesterday was an unusually big payoff for the information we've received. Normally, we get a lot of small tidbits like that and my intel chief has to piece them together to construct a picture."

After breakfast, Levavasseur showed me around the fort, pointing out a group of Tirailleurs who were training with the Legionnaires. "While part of our goal is to eliminate the bandits, our final objective is to hand off control to the Senegalese Tirailleurs. There are three regiments here in the Soudan, but they simply lacked the training, equipment, and expertise to deal with the problem correctly. I've assigned some of my best officers and sergeants to retrain a unit of troops as an elite battalion, which we're designating Rangers. When we're done training them, they'll be nearly as good as we are, our paratroop capability aside. The first company graduates next week. They'll start taking on patrol duties in the Akke region, where the FMs are trying to keep a firm grip. It's taking a bit of time and care, but we're ripping them out bit by bit."


Tuesday, July 29th 2014, 3:12am

From the March Issue of Le Spectateur militaire

Military Unit Spotlight: Indochinese Ground Forces Expand In Size and Scope
Article from Le Spectateur militaire. Military Unit Spotlight is a monthly feature which focuses on a unit or type of unit fielded by either the French military or another world army.

On February 2nd, the Indochinese Governing Council approved an expansion of the Indochinese Territorial Security Force, a locally-raised military force under the authority of the autonomous regional government. Government spokesmen have provided Le Spectateur Militaire with the details of the expansion.

History and Doctrine
The Indochinese Territorial Security Forces are part of a decade-long process of shifting increasing control and responsibility for government and self-defense to local control. The Territorial Forces originated in late 1937 as a paramilitary police and border guard organization (called the Internal Reserve Guard Force), numbering approximately twelve thousand men upon its creation. In 1941, the Territorial Forces were formally created and took on a more military role, with the creation of four formalized tirailleurs regiments, equipped with supporting arms. Soon after, an armoured brigade and a paratroop battalion was created. In 1944, the Territorial Forces requested that the French Army turn over responsibility for one of its three locally-raised infantry divisions. The French Army's Division de Cochinchine-Cambodge was thus transferred to the Territorial Security Forces, becoming the Indochinese 1st Division.

The stated goal of Hanoi's proposed expansion is to transition the Territorial Security Forces into a fully-equipped and modern army. Later this year, the Indochinese shall vote on the question of independence or continued association with the French Union as an autonomous state, and if Indochina votes for independence, then the Territorial Security Forces must be prepared to assume full responsibility for the defense of their new nation. In the event Indochina retains their current association with the French Union, then Hanoi's objective is still to field a potent defensive force supported by a core of French forces. (It seems likely in this situation that control of all ground forces in Indochina may eventually be transferred to the Indochinese GHQ, which is currently deemed too small and inexperienced to take on the role.)

Under the current plan, the Territorial Forces shall expand by two divisions this year. According to an agreement reached last year, Hanoi has begun a process to take responsibility for the French Army's Division du Tonkin as the 2nd Division, repeating their acquisition of the Division de Cochinchine-Cambodge in 1944. This division is composed of troops raised in the Tonkin region of Indochina, with a levening of white French officers in senior roles, and a number of troops employed in highly skilled duties; these troops constitute approximately five percent of the division's manpower (approximately eight hundred men). The Indochinese military schools, however, have started to fill in the technical gaps. Beginning this month, Indochinese officers and graduates of the technical schools will begin an eight-month transitional process, slowly replacing their European counterparts. The European troops will be reformed into a training battalion, which shall serve in an advisory role. At the end of March, the Territorial Forces will receive financial responsibility for the division, and the division will receive its new colours.

In addition to acquiring the 2nd Division, the Territorial Forces shall begin a process to integrate the 2nd Régiment de Tirailleurs Montagnard du Sud-Annam and the 5th Régiment Mixte d'Infanterie, as well as a number of other smaller support forces, into the new 3rd Division. This division shall draw its manpower from Laos and Annam (central Vietnam). The division shall receive its colors in mid-May, although the process of reorganization shall take several months before the unit is fully up to strength. Amongst the necessities, a new infantry regiment must be organized on the basis of a battalion-sized cadre, and an artillery battalion must be expanded into a regiment.

In 1946, the expansion shall repeat, with Indochina taking on responsibility for the Division d'Annam-Laos, the sister-unit to the Division du Tonkin, as the 5th Division. [1] Similarly, the 1st and 3rd 3rd Régiment de Tirailleurs Tonkinois will be merged and re-organized into a new infantry division, tentatively designated the 6th or the 7th Division. By December of 1946, then, the main body of the Indochinese Territorial Security Forces shall number five infantry divisions strong.

Along with the regular infantry, the current force of trained amphibious and riverine troops will be expanded to brigade size. Currently, the Territorial Forces have one marine battalion, six riverine infantry companies, and one marine company (the latter of which serves as the garrison of the Paracel Islands). A slow buildup of these marine forces shall take place, with two riverine companies scheduled serving as the organizational cadre of a three-company battalion. Two more battalions and an associated artillery battalion shall be organized, coming into service by May, August, and October of this year, respectively, with the Indochinese Marine Brigade being activated in December of this year.

Airborne Forces
One battalion of parachutists, organized along the same lines as the French Army's Chasseurs Parachutiste battalions, has been organized using Indochinese volunteers. This unit, the 1st Bataillon de Parachutistes Vietnamiens, shall split off one of its three companies this June to serve as the cadre for a second battalion, and training of six more parachute companies shall begin. One of these companies, to graduate from training in August, shall be re-integrated into the 1st Battalion, while the next two companies shall reach active status in October and December to complete the 2nd Battalion. The remaining three companies shall undertake a slower training schedule, activating in 1946 to complete a full Parachute Brigade.


Divisions and Other Major Units as of December 1944:
- 1st Division
- 202nd Tank Brigade
- 1st Tonkin Tirailleurs Regiment
- 2nd Montagnard and South Annamese Tirailleurs Regiment
- 3rd Tonkin Tirailleurs Regiment
- 5th Mixed Tirailleurs Regiment
- Paratroop Battalions (1x)
- Assorted artillery and light infantry forces

Divisions and Other Major Units as of December 1945:
- 1st Division
- 2nd Division
- 3rd Division
- 202nd Tank Brigade
- 1st Marine Brigade
- 1st Tonkin Tirailleurs Regiment
- 3rd Tonkin Tirailleurs Regiment
- Paratroop Battalions (2x)

Divisions and Other Major Units as of December 1946:
- 1st Division
- 2nd Division
- 3rd Division
- 5th Division
- 7th Division
- 202nd Tank Brigade
- 1st Marine Brigade
- 1st Paratroop Brigade
- 1st Air Defense Brigade


Equipment of Indochina:
- Pistol: PAM35 in 7.65mm French Longue
- Rifle: MAS36 (semiauto) in 6.5x51mm
- Submachine Gun: MAS42 in 7.65mm French Longue
- Light Machine Gun: FM37 in 6.5x51mm
- Heavy Machine Gun: Hotchkiss 13.2mm
- Mortars: 60mm Mle 1937 Brandt, 81mm Mle 1931 Brandt, 120mm Mle 1935 Brandt
- AT Weapons: LPGR-41AC 40mm recoilless rifle, Mle 1943 CSR-81 81mm recoilless rifle.
- Towed AT Guns: Canon de 75mm L/53 TAZ Mle1939
- AA Guns: 25mm Hotchkiss, 40mm Schneider, 75mm Schneider
- Motorcycle: Gnome-Rhone AX III
- Light Car: Peugeot VLR
- Scout Car: Hotchkiss VLD
- Light Truck: Renault AHS, Delahaye 171, Citroen TAMH ambulance
- Medium Truck: Berliet GBC-4
- Heavy Truck: Various
- Staff Cars: Citroen 15CV "Traction Avant"
- Artillery Tractor: Berliet GBC-4 or Latil
- Tank: Char-6D Bruyere light tank and variants (SPG, AEVs, etc)
- Infantry Carrier: Panhard VCI mle1941
- Amphibious Truck: Unic ACM mle1941

- Note [1]: The Territorial Security Forces skip the designation "4th __" because the number four is considered unlucky in Asian culture.