Western & Northern Africa Database
The conflict in Algeria erupted almost exactly 50 years ago. It was an ugly war that – regardless how hard it might sound in our times – dominated European media to almost the same extent as Vietnam War would only ten years later, or the war in Iraq does today. The Algerian War had many unusual features. It was a three- and eventually four-cornered contest between the French government, the European colonists and the Algerian nationalists, as well as General Charles de Gaulle, all pursuing different aims. It left Algeria and France deeply scarred, and the French Army at the breaking point: it destroyed the Fourth Republic and hundreds of thousands of lives and careers, and it brought the French military to the verge of coup d’etat.
Ever since the French troops landed at Sidi Ferruch, in 1830, Algeria was by all purposes a colony: the majority of population were native Moslems, mainly Arabs and Berbers, but they were dominated by slightly over one million European settlers, known as “colons” or – more graphically – “pied noirs”, mainly of Spanish, Italian, Corsican, and Alsatian stock. Only a tiny minority of the Moslem population held French citizenship rights or significant property: some 75% of Moslems were illiterate, they suffered from chronic unemployment, poor health, and hunger. The colons farmed the best land, enjoyed a virtual monopoly of political power and imposed their own educational, economic and administrative structures upon the domestic population. Nevertheless, Algeria was not even a French protectorate: in 1848 it was outright absorbed into metropolitan France, and thereafter regarded as an integral part of the parent state. This decision was to create enormous problems for all involved parties, then, constitutionally, there was no room for Algeria to gain independence from France.
Algerian nationalism before 1950s was fragmented: dissatisfied Moslems had a variety of parties from which to choose – including the Algerian Communist Party, the religious and pan-Islamic Association des Ulemas, the nationalistic Mouvement pur le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques (MTLD), or the liberal Islamist Union Démocratique du Manifesto Algéria (UDMA) – none of which was offering policies with universal appeal. In 1949 the MTLD split when Ben Bella created the more militant Organisation Spéciale (OS), a party dedicated to the use of violence. This did not attract widespread support either: although most of these parties attempted to participate in French political life, blatant electoral frauds by the colons prevented Moslem representation at all levels of government. The majority of pieds noirs, namely, were nothing less volatile, headstrong, violent and unforgiving than Moslems: they considered themselves as builders of Algeria and were fiercely determined to cling to what they had. Most of them considered any kind of compromise with Moslems as betrayal.
The MTLD was one of the first nationalist Algerian organizations that became active. During the WWII, when the French were searching for volunteers between the Algerian population to help fight against Germans, many Algerian nationalists were given the promise that, if they would help in the war Algeria would be given independence in return. When the war ended, on 8 May 1945, and the Algerians understood that the French were not about to keep their word, the MTLD organized demonstrations in Setif, Batna Sedrata and Souk Ahras. Shoots fell and the situation then escalated, ending in riots during which 103 colons were killed. The reaction of the French authorities, but also the pied noirs, was fierce: in the ensuing revenge several thousands of Moslems were killed. Settlements inaccessible to the French Army – including some 40 different villages - were bombed by French Air Force SBD-5 Dauntless dive-bombers of 3F, flying from Algiers-Maison Blance.
There was relative peace in the following years – but only on surface. Few French were aware of the hardships suffered by the indigenous population, about unemployment, rudimentary education (if at all), and poor medical facilities. To most of French people in Algeria it was fine to have Algerian Arabs working as menials on the farms or in the factories at wages none of them would consider on the mainland, or as domestic servants. But, any notion of integration on any other basis was not to be considered. In 1951, UDMA, MTLD, PCA, and Ulema leaders formed a common front, which was short-lived. In 1954 the MTLD-leader, Messali Hadj, formed the Mouvement Nationaliste Algérien (MNA): it was this organization that caused OS militants to create a force dedicated to armed revolt.
|Map of Algeria at the time of the war, with approximate borders of all six Wilayas, as well as most important French airfields. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)|
Outbreak of Insurgency
The war in Algeria erupted on the early morning of 1 November 1954, when armed bands of Algerian Moslems crept out of the night to attack a variety of targets throughout the country, including local gendarmeries, administrative buildings and public utilities. It was the even of the Christian festival of All Saints’ Day, and most of the devout French colonial pied noirs, it was assumed by the nationalist leaders, would be off their guard: after all, the settlers themselves assumed that the Moslems would surely respect the sanctity of a religious holiday. They did not.
The attack on the barracks at Batna went off roughly as planned, but not without problems: the occupants were alerted in time even if two of the guards were moved down because peace-time regimental orders required that their rifles should be un-loaded and their ammunition sewn up in their pouches. These were the first French military personnel to be killed in the war. The first French officer was killed by machine-gun fire as he emerged from his quarters in the small garrison at Khenchela: he was a Spahi, Lieutenant Gerard Darneau. Other attacks took place at the Ichmoul lead mine, where guerrillas intended to seize a quantity of explosives. Their plan failed. The attack at the gendarmerie post at T’kout and in the Tighanimine Gorge too.
There were five targets in Algiers as well: the radio station, a fuel depot, the telephone exchange, the gasworks and a warehouse belonging to a prominent French politician. All attacks were frustrated, largely because the attackers were ill-trained and badly equipped. Elsewhere, in Oran, none of the groups fulfilled their objectives: one of the attacks was launched prematurely while the authorities were on their guard and eight insurgents were killed.
These attacks were carried out by guerrilla groups of the Front de Libération Nationale (“National Liberation Front” – or FLN). FLN was created by nine Moslem nationalists, Hocine Ait Ahmed, Ahmed Ben Bella (former Sous-Officer of the French Army, who fought at Monte Cassino, in Italy), Mostafa Ben Boulaid, Larbi Ben M’hidi, Rabah Bitat, Mohamed Boudiaf, Mourad Didouche, Mohamed Khider, and Belkacem Krim. Most of FLN leadership was based inside Algeria, but Mohamed Khider, Ben Bella, Hocine Air Ahmed and some others were based in Cairo, and – later on – in Tunisia, as FLN-representants outside the country. Despite a French Army belief that this party was a Moscow-oriented communist organization, fighting the West as part of a world-wide strategy, the FLN was first and foremost firmly nationalistic. Surely enough, Ben Bella was to organize the coming war along the lines Ho Chi Minh organized the North Vietnamese resistance against the French; but, none of the FLN-leaders was ever a slavish follower of communist revolutionary theory. In fact, the organization and tactics of the Algerian guerrilla groups owed more to the French Resistance of the WWII, than to anything or anybody else.
According to official Algerian documents, the net results of these attacks were as follows:
- in Aurès, Commander Ben Boulaid’s forces of 400 fighters mounted 43 attacks, killing six and injuring six French soldiers and gendarmes;
- in the coastal sector, Commander Didouche Mourad’s forces of 150 launched two attacks, killing one French soldier;
- in Kabylie, Commander Krim Belkacem’s forces of 350 fighters mounted 14 attacks, killing one and injuring two French, and robbing 2 million of French Francs in cash;
- in central Algeria, Commander Rabah Bitat’s forces of 150 launched seven attacks, killing 12 French and robbing 25 million French Francs;
- finally, in West Oran, Commander Larbi Ben M’hidi’s forces of 150 launched 14 attacks, killing three and injuring two French.
Already that early into this conflict, the FLN leaders divided Algeria into six “autonomous zones”, the so-called “Wilayas”, each of which was responsible for mounting autonomous operations. The organization of Wilayas in 1954 was as follows:
- Wilaya 1: Aurès area, commander Mustapha Ben Boulaid
- Wilaya 2: North Constantine area, commander Rabah Bitat
- Wilaya 3: Kabylie area, commander Krim Belkacem
- Wilaya 4: City of Algiers and Algerois area, commander Didouche Mourad
- Wilaya 5: Oranie area, commander Larbi Ben M’hidi
- Wilaya 6: southern Algeria, without permanent commander
Sometimes later Didouche took place of Bitat (and vice versa), until the later was arrested in Algiers, in March 1955. In turn, Didouche was killed near Constantine, in February 1955.
Preference in manpower, equipment and operations was given to the Wilaya 1, in the Aurès mountains of eastern Algeria, ideal for creation of “safe bases”. These initial attacks, considered as “banditry” by colons, were not particularly successful and led to traditional “search and cordon” operations of the French military. Simultaneously with fighting French, the FLN also fought a merciless war against the rival MNA, while there was also fighting between various Moslem groups, and Moslems and Berbers.
|Belkacem Krim (left) and Ait Hamouda Amirouche (right), two important ALN commanders. Krim led Willaya 3, while Amirouche was a chief of the ALN and - although officially an Algerian national hero until today - a very cruel person. In Algeria, Amirouche is known to have probably killed more Algerians than French. He especially despised intellectuals, or anyone having any kind of educational level, which is the reaons why some compare him with Pol Pot. In fact, he became a victim of what the French called "bleuite" - an attempt of causing the ALN-fighters to turn against each other out of mistrust. Amirouch was killed on 28 March 1959 near Bou Saada, while underway to Tunisia where he should have joined the "Army of Border". (via M.A.)|
At the time the French had relatively few assets deployed in Algeria, which was France’s 10th Military Region, under command by General C. de Cherriere. Originally, the French had only 55.000 troops stationed in the country: only 4.000 of these were “usable combat troops” in the words of Cherriere himself. Even after the Army and Navy bases were reinforced, in early 1955, there were only some 74.000 soldiers stationed in Algeria. By July, however, the number jumped to 105.000: about 60.000 reservists were recalled from summer of the same year, and by 1956 there were 200.000 French soldiers, airmen and sailors stationed in the country.
The Army had three Corps commands, each of which was divided into operational zones, themselves organized into one or more light divisions. As of mid-1956 these were:
- Corps d’A d’Oran: 12e, 13e and 29 Infantry Divisions, 5 Armoured Division
- Corps d’A d’Alger: 9e, 20e, and 27 Infantry Divisions
- Corps d’A de Constantine: 2e Motorized Division, 14e and 19e Infantry Divisions, and the 25e Airborne Division
As reserve, the Army had the 7e Motorized Division and the 10th Airborne Division. Later on these units were to be reinforced by the 4e Motorized Division, while the 10e Division became a full Parachute Division. Majority of French troops in Algeria were conscripts: only 15% were career soldiers. There were only very few Moslem soldiers: only some 20.000 – most of them career regulars – served in “Tirailleur” infantry regiments and autonomous battalions; some other in Spahi mechanised cavalry regiments. Such units bore the suffix “Algérien” until 1958.
The Armée de l’Air, the French Air Force, also had few assets in situ. At earlier times some Bell P-63 Aircobras and Mistrals of the EC.6 were based at Oran; C-47s of the GT (later ET) 1.62 were in Blida, and at Lartigue there was a flight of Lockheed P2V-6 Neptunes of 22F. The Mistrals were supplemented by those of the EC.7 in Tunisia, and EC.8 in Morocco.
Also important to mention is a significant number of Piper Cubs, initially used for observation, but later as Forward Air Controllers (FAC) as well. Early during the war the reliable Pipers were equipped with different radios than ground troops, which made communication with ground troops extremely difficult: a former French Piper Cub pilot who flew in Algeria recalled a case where a French Army officer attempted to communicate with him by hand-signs, while in his back several privates were making other kinds of – not entirely “politically correct” – signs to the pilot and observer!
The Aéronavale – French Naval Aviation - also had land-based F4U-7 Corsairs from 12F in Algeria, subsequently reinforced by some PB4Y-2s, deployed also in Tunis. The Mistrals were used for flying some combat operations against the insurgents, but proved not very suitable: they were too fast, not sufficiently manoeuvrable, and delicate to operate.
|French SIPA 111A shot down early during the war. The crew apparently survived. The SIPA 111A was a French-built Arado 396, and was differently known as the S.10, S.11, S.111 or even S.12 in French service. Three squadrons saw service in Algeria during the mid-1950s. (via M.A.)|
While the FLN’s attacks were not overly successful, they drew a strong French military response, which almost destroyed the nationalist organization. The initial reaction was predictable: not so much because of pied noir mentality, but because the French administration was actually caught with its paints down, and reacted out of a habit under such circumstances. There followed mass indiscriminate round-ups of suspects - most of them innocent but converted into ardent militants by the fact of their imprisonment. Some settlers demanded the immediate execution of all captured members of the FLN: in the “Depeche Quotidienne”, a local senator demanded that, “the evil be pursued where it be found and the ringleaders rooted out…”.
The fierce and brutal response of Paris paid dividends: between 2 November 1954 and early February 1955, not a single pied noir was killed by insurgents. Terrorist attacks against the Algerian population continued unabated, nevertheless. In a typical pattern of coercion by violence the FLN made it perfectly clear to the Algerian people that any kind of association with French authority would result in brutal consequences. All Moslems were ordered to give up smoking and alcohol, on pain of mutilation and death. In response, the French institutionalised a policy of “collective responsibility” against the Moslems, with predictable results. Nevertheless, their initial ground operations were at least sufficiently successful: by February 1955 Didouche was dead, Boulaid and Bitat were imprisoned and the whole guerrilla network in ruin. The FLN was not completely destroyed, however: despite subsequent French attempts to integrate Moslem and European population (something colons viewed with immense mistrust), there were enough recruits to join the movement. Guerrilla gangs were gradually rebuilt and the war continued.
In fact, Ben Boulaid managed to get out of the jail within the shortest possible time. Being a hobby technician he met a sinister fate. In March 1956, the ALN guerrilla captured a package dropped from one of AdA transports for French troops in the Aurès area. The package contained a radio station: this was immediatley brought to Boulaid and he attempted to take it into service. As soon as Boulaid opened the set it exploded and killed him.
|This Sud-Est S.E.535 Mistral of the Escadre de Chasse 6 was used for air defence and close air support in Algeria until the unit was withdrawn, in December 1960. The Mistral was French-built DeHavilland Vampire VB.Mk.5, equipped with DeHavilland Goblin 2 turbojet engine. The SNCASE actually first built some 138 Mistrals that were a direct copy of the Vampire VB.Mk.5, and then developed two own versions, the S.E.532 (which lacked an ejection seat), and the S.E.535 (equipped with ejection seat). A total of 250 of the later were built. |
Appearance of Helicopters
During 1955 the French realised that to defeat the FLN they would have to improve the reaction capability of their forces by means of better intelligence, mobility and firepower. Obviously, air power could make the largest contribution to reduction of reaction times.
In June 1955 the first four Escadrilles d’Aviation Légère d’Appui (EALA) were formed, equipped with Moraine-Salunier MS.500s and MS.733 Alcyon. At the time, air units were operated within three Groupes Aériennes Tactiques (GATAC): GATAC 1 Constantine, covering Wilayas 1 and 2; GATAC 2 Oran, covering Wilaya 5; and GATAC 3 Algiers, covering Wilayas 3, 4 and 6.
Aside from aircraft the French also operated a few Bell 47Gs, bought in Italy, and Sikorsky H-19s (S-55s), borrowed from US forces in West Germany. On 1 April 1955 these were organized in the Escadrille d’Hélicoptères Légers 57 (57 Light Flight) of the French Air Force, consisting of ten 47Gs and eight H-19s. On the same day the ALAT followed the suit, establishing the Groupe d’Hélicoptères No 2 (Helicopter Group 2), with a flight of 47Gs and another of H-19s. On 22 June the first H-19s of the Aéronavale arrived in Algeria as well. H-19s were soon in action. On 4 May 1955 two helicopters deployed a handful of legionnaires on the summit of the Jebel Chélia, in the Aurès massif: a manoeuvre that would otherwise taken perhaps two days by conventional transportation means, was thus accomplished in 20 minutes.
The French were swift in recognizing the potentials of the “ventilos” (an abbreviation of ventilateur, fan) – as helicopters became known in their military parlance – for their purposes, especially their ability to transport troops and provide fire support. Consequently, the development of the helicopter units pursued on quite a high pace. On 1 August 1955 the EH.57 was re-designated Groupe Mixte d’Hélicoptèrs 57 (GMH.57). The GMH.57 was deployed in combat only days later, as already on 20 August 1955 the FLN attacked villages around the town of Philippeville (now called Skikda), deliberately massacring colon families. 123 settlers died under terrible circumstances. The French immediately dropped ideas about political reform, replacing these with revenge: while the colons retaliated with a ferocity that shocked the public opinion, killing over 12.000 Moslems, the Army ruthlessly restored order in the Philippeville area, driving an ever deeper wedge between the Moslems and colons.
It was not before 1956 that the French realized the seriousness of the situation in Algeria. In January the Governor-Geneeral Soustelle was recalled as colon riots forced Premier Mollet to rescind unpopular appointment of General Catroux. Early in the same year France started acquiring a large number – some 700 – of North American T-6G Texan trainers, no less but 300 of which were to be deployed in Algeria over the time. Many Texans were rushed to a number of additional EALA units were organized – now under control of a single Groupe d’Aviation Légère d’Appui (GALA), 70. The Texan proved a robust aircraft, capable of carrying two 7.5mm rocket-pods, a 100-litre napalm tank, four 10kg bombs, or six T.10 rockets. They were the mainstay of French operations until replaced in the early 1970. The GALA 70 was later split into three GALAS, one within each GATAC. Besides through T-6Gs, the Air Force was further strengthened by the addition of B-26 Invader light bombers, operated by EB.91, as well as F-47Ds of the EC.20.
The EC.20 was originally created in Algeria, specifically in Oran on 1 April 1956. It included two escadrons, the EC.1/20 Aurès-Nementha and EC.2/20 Ourasénis, each equipped with 18 F-47D Thunderbolts. Due to their age the Thunderbolts proved increasingly problematic to service, and in September 1957 the surviving 24 airframes were consolidated into Escadron 2/20, while 1/20 received 16 newly-built SNCASE Mistrals. The mission of the EC 20 was two-fold: air support for policing operations (the French stubbornly attempted to avoid the use of the word “war” in connection with Algeria), and operational training for young pilots, freshly graduated from Meknès Flying School, in Morocco.
|An F-47D Thunderbolt of the EC.20. The type was the heaviest fighter-bomber in French arsenal in the early stages of the Algerian War. The type was used for close-support duties until replaced by Skyraiders. (via M.A.)|
The helicopter arm continued growing and remained successful as ever greater demands were placed for carriage of commanders, transport of troops, re-supply of remote outposts and evacuation of the wounded. Their tactical benefits were demonstrated time and again. On 14 January 1956 a plan was drawn up to surprise an important meeting of guerrilla commanders in M’Doukal, some 30km south of Barika. Two H-19s – one from the Aéronavale and another from ALAT – were used to deploy commandos. These took the insurgents by surprise and captured six leaders. As the French force was dispersing an order was received to concentrate at Rhoufi where a rebel band had been reported by the pilot of a light observation aircraft. Having been refuelled, the two H-19s flew 120 commandos in a quick shuttle, deploying them in ambush positions despite some ground fire. This swift action resulted in 43 rebels killed or captured, and a large quantity of arms being recovered for the loss of four dead and eight wounded.
Especially Lt.Col. Marcel Bigeard, commanding officer of the 3rd Colonial Parachute Regiment learned to appreciate what the helicopter could do for his men. In the first action that saw his unit being supported by helicopters, undertaken on 22 February 1956, 43 FLN members were killed, 96 arrested and another large cache of weapons captured. Such operations were possible foremost due to highly flexible organization. A considerable number of air command posts were established, all equipped with radios in order to be able to communicate between the ground units and aircraft, and thus bring air power to bear on short notice.
Through 1956, however, the development of the French helicopter units was actually going through a phase of testing. There was a lack of agreement as to which helicopter type was the most suitable for prevailing combat conditions. At the time the French helicopter industry was not able to meet the demands of the armed services. Eventually, a decision was taken to send Capt. Santini, a veteran from Indo-China, to the USA to carry out an investigation into available helicopters. Santini recommended two types: the Sikorsky S-58 (better known in US Army and USAF service as H-34), and the Vertol H-21. The former was selected by Armée de l’Air, and the later by ALAT and the Aéronavale. The disagreement over this decision was still present, and consequently another analysis was undertaken through July 1956, resulting in conclusion that the H-34 was considerably better suited to the demands of the war in Algeria.
Before this, however, considerable numbers of H-21 and H-34 were already ordered: the first three Aéronavale H-21s and two Air Force H-34s arrived in Algeria already in June 1956, with ALAT H-21s following in August. By the time an Escadron d’Hélicoptères Lourdes 1/57 (Heavy Helicopter Squadron) was established and attached to GMH.57. The H-21s for Aéronavale were attached to 31F, while the ALAT established the Helicopter Group 2 with its H-21s.
With an increased number of aircraft and helicopters available, the ALAT began forming aviation troops, adding fixed-wing aircraft to some, and helicopters to other Army units. At the end of 1956 the French Army Aviation possessed 19 light helicopters of three different types, 13 H-19s, seven Whirlwinds and 29 H-21s (no less but 108 H-21s were delivered to ALAT during the whole war). An additional order for H-21s and H-34s was issued despite funding difficulties and inter-service disagreements. Eventually, each French division in Algeria has got a troop of up to 12 aircraft and/or helicopters. If the flexibility of these units was one of the keys to the French military success in Algeria. Brutality of their operations was characteristic, however: dozens of villages in areas of FLN activity were flattened by bombardments – after their inhabitants were warned to leave.
|From 1956 onwards, the AdA began acquiring a large number of North American T-6G Texan training aircraft. Most of these were used for COIN operations in Algeria, organized in so-called "Escadrilles d'Aviation Légère d'Appui" (EALA). Most of these squadrons were "sponsored" by "regular" AdA units, flying fighter jets and other heavier aircraft. All of them developed very flamboyant insignia, as can be seen on this T-6G of the EALA 14-72, displaying "Pluto riding a machine-gun". EALAs were very flexible outfits, moved around the Algeria as required by current combat operations. |
Kidnapping of FLN Leaders
In March 1956 Morocco and Tunisia were granted independence, opening sanctuary areas for the FLN to west and east of Algeria, while forcing the French to divert their troops and efforts to border protection. The new situation enabled the FLN to create the "Army of Border" - a standing and well-equipped force (at least better equipped than the ALN-guerrilla inside Algeria) of 20.000, which was to become the backbone of the future Algerian Army. The "Army of Border" was initially led by Col. Houari Boumediène, and his two deputies, Commandant Manjli, and Commandant Slimane, but his real "man of trust" was Capitaine Abdelazziz Bouteflika. Both, Boumediène and Bouteflika, later became presidents of Algeria.
Before that time the FLN had been forced to create its “safe bases” within Algeria, but now its leaders fled over new borders and were soon joined by thousands of refugees, recruits and defeated guerrillas who formed the potential for a new army. At first neither Kind Mohammed V of Morocco nor President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia gave his full support to Algerians. Both were heavily dependent upon French economic aid. But, on 22 October 1956 Ben Bella and three other FLN leaders were kidnapped by the French while flying from Rabat to Tunis.
Namely, on 20 and 21 October 1956 a meeting was expected to take place in Morocco, between Ben Bella, Khider, Ait Ahmed, Boudiaf, and the Sultan of Morocco. This was to be followed by a meeting in Tunis. The FLN leaders were to be brought there by a Douglas DC-3 of AirMaroc. The French learned about this and the Chief of staff in Algiers, Gen. Lorillot, considered the situation a good opportunity to exercise "decapitation" of the FLN. The DC-3 took off at 12:14hr, and was initially underway to Palma de Majorca. Together with four FLN leaders on board were also Mostapha Lacheraf (teacher of history at the secondary school Lousi Legrand, who wanted to make a trip to Tunis with FLN leaders), Christine Darbar (journalist of the Moroccan newspaper Al Istiqlal), Eve Dechamps (journalsit of the French Observateur), Tom Brady (from New York Times), René Lery and six other journalists and photographers from Morocco.
Already before the aircraft started for Tunis, at 17:15hr, its pilot, Commandant Gellier, received an order to land in Algiers. At first he hesitated, but the French reminded him that while his aircraft was Moroccan property, its serial number was French, his registration was French and that the military authority has the right to force him to land and search the aircraft. Regardless how "right" or "wrong" these reasons were, Gellier - former Armée de l'Air officer - felt compelled to follow these orders. Without explaining anything to his passengers, he flew to Algiers, while one of the flight attendants drew attention of the passengers in order to prevent them from what is happening. The French Army and Gendarmerie immediately took the aircraft in their custody, and arrested the FLN leadership without any resistance.
In an attempt to avenge the capture of FLN leaders, but also show that the war would go on without them as well, on 23 October 1956 Si Azedine, the deputy commander of Wilaya 4, set up an ambush for a French convoy near Oum Zoubia, near Tablat. Their attack was successful and the French convoy decimated, the guerrilla capturing a considerable amount of weapons in the process.
The French reaction was swift - even if not lethal: the ALN fighters did not even manage to pull out from the scene of the battle when the first two T-6Gs appeared over them to strafe. The Texans missed their target, but the AdA then avenged on the nearest village: Diour was heavily hit from the air by numerous French aircraft and many civilians killed. As a result of this attack, the surviving young men from this village - previously hostile to the ALN - decided to join it. Learning about this, as well as bout the man behind the successful ambush, the French put Azedine as the "#1" on their "black list" of ALN commanders.
|In 1959 the Algerians organized the "Army of Border", a well-equipped and conventionally trained force, not to be mixed with the ALN-guerrilla. The Army of Border hardly participated in the war except for some minor artillery duels with the French. Instead, this force was later developed into the official Algerian National Army. The photograph hier was taken in Oued Mellègue, in Tunisia, in 1960 or 1960, and shows an artillery unit of the "Army of Border". (via M.A.)|
The Morice Line
Subsequently, both the Moroccan and Tunisian leaders modified their stance, and started providing money, training areas and arms to the FLN. In response to FLN’s strategy of using Tunisia and Morocco as a supply base and sanctuary, by early 1957 the French were forced to create an “impregnable” barrier from the Mediterranean to the Sahara, which was to prevent the flow of supplies and new fighters from Tunisia into Algeria. This barrier was to cause another disaster for FLN.
Named after the minister of defence in Guy Mollet’s government, this new Line was a “miracle” of modern technology. Its main feature was a 2.5m high electric fence, through which a charge of 5.000 volts was passed. There was minefield 45m wide on either side. Behind it, inside Algeria, were barbed wire entanglements and then a track, constantly patrolled night and day. The fence was designed to kill anyone foolish enough to touch it, and the fact that it was festooned with dead animals acted as a constant reminder. The electric charge was also an alarm: if anything did get electrocuted, a break would set off bells in the nearest command post. When this happened, fire from 105mm howitzers would be brought instantly to bear and mobile forces rushed to the spot. If, by any chance, guerrilla groups did manage to make it into Algeria, helicopters, tanks, infantry and parachute units were available to pin them down and destroy them before they could link up with other guerrilla gangs.
The Morice line was completed in September 1957 and involved the deployment of 80.000 French troops. These were now facing a rapidly expanding FLN, which by the end of the year could muster about 10.000 armed fighters.
There was also vivid airborne and naval activity along Algerian maritime borders, especially since the French imposed a naval blockade. Gun-running increase enormously: as the FLN hierarchy made headway in Algeria, so its influence spread beyond the borders. More money was contributed by friendly Arab states and more weapons made available for the fighters. Even if the revolutionaries never had enough modern weapons for every man (French settlers and soldiers were being beaten or knifed to death right to the end of the war), some large shipments were organized and there were attempts to bring them into Algeria. On 14 October 1956 an Aéronavale PB4Y-2 of 28F, based at Lartigue, spotted a blockade-running ship SS Athos, approaching the coast. Naval units were vectored to intercept and Athos was found carrying a massive arms shipment for the FLN. Later in the same month, a large number of French units stationed in Algeria participated in the expedition into Egypt, which was to led to the so-called Suez Crisis. The French were very enthusiastic about attacking Egypt because of the knowledge that Egypt was a key supporter of Algerian nationalists.
The Aéronavale PB4Y-2s, detached from Karouba, Tunisia, were also used for surveillance of the Morice Line, then their endurance and night attack capability were particularly valuable.
The New FLN
Through mid-1956 the FLN was reformed and developed into a militant organization, led by a five-man Comité de Coordination et d’Exécution. Moderate FLN leaders were ousted by a new generation of extremists who laid down the aims of the party in uncompromising terms, stressing the objective of complete Algerian independence. The scattered guerrilla gangs were reformed into an Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), which began a new campaign against French installations.
The ALN eventually took the form of a regular army, containing units ranging from a section to a battalion. In addition to the experiences from the French resistance against Germans in WWII or theories of the North Vietnamese General Giap, the Algerians also started studying the Partisan War against Germans in Yugoslavia during the WWII. Several ex-Partisans were infiltrated into Algeria, while the ALN started receiving arms shipments from Yugoslavia – in addition to the permanent flow of arms from Egypt.
The six Wilayas were meanwhile divided into several zones each, further divided into regions and sectors. The ALN standardised several different sizes of regular units, the largest of which was a battalion, with up to 350 fighters. Each battalion consisted of three katibas (companies), of between 80 and 110 men each. A katiba had three ferkas (platoons), of 25-35 men each and a ferka consisted of three fauj (sections) with about ten men each. The ALN was now mainly active laiding up ambushes for French troops. In May, 20 conscripts of 9e RIC were killed near Palestro. The loss caused a public outrage, that in turn encouraged hard line against the insurgents and the local population. The French fought the rural war in Algeria in the context of a system of “quadrillage”, where cities, towns and villages were protected by a static defence force in an attempt to deny support to the rebels. Nevertheless, the French had no mercy for civilians they suspected of supporting the guerrilla.
The ALN’s main task now was, ostensibly, to support rural guerrilla gangs and urban bombing teams. Their primary target was to become Algiers. ALN already had several networks in the city, centred upon the rabbit-warren of streets usually designated “Casbah”, reorganized by Saadi Yacef, a young revolutionary dedicated to terrorism. Yacef was busy creating an urban terrorist organization already since late 1955, and his campaign began with bombings and shootings, undertaken in the hope of producing repression against the Moslems.
Battle of Algiers
In June 1956, 49 pied noir civilians had been gunned down in the streets. In reprisal, on 10 August, colon extremists had killed 70 Moslems in a single bomb attack. As colons reacted in kind, the ALN bombing teams continued their campaign: on 30 September bombs had exploded in pier noir cafés, and on 28 December the extremist mayor of Boufarik had been assassinated. By the time Yacef controlled about 1.400 activists in Casbah of Algiers, capable of forming small gangs of gunmen or bomb-planters (the latter often women).
The local administrators then took the unprecedented step of handing over complete authority to the French Army. On 7 January 1957 Robert Lacoste, Governor-General of Algeria, met with his commander-in-chief, Raoul Salan, and the commander of the 10th Parachute Division, Jacques Massu, to discuss the detoriating security situation in Algiers. Lacoste and Salan agreed that troops would have to be deployed to maintain law and order and directed Massu to move in his four regiments: these were given complete freedom regarding methods, merely being told to root out the FLN networks. In mid-January 1957 General Jacques Massu’s 10th Parachute Division moved into Algiers with “carte blanche” so far as countermeasures were concerned. Colonel Marcel Bigeard’s 3rd Colonial Parachute Regiment received the Casbah: in an aggressive house-to-house search, foot patrols and checkpoints campaign, they isolated the “safe base” of the Casbah. The paras proved to be as ruthless as the ALN, rounding up all suspects and pushing patrols deep into Moslem areas. An attempted general strike was broken up by force, on 28 and 29 January, and arrested suspects subjected to systematic torture. Without an intimate knowledge of the FLN, however, this was at best only a short-term strategy: the French lacked good, reliable intelligence. Colonel Roger Trinquier set up a system whereby Algiers was divided into a number of sectors and sub-sectors. Within each sector there was at least one person – usually a Moslem who served in the French Army and was considered “loyal” – who reported all suspicious activities. Simultaneously, police files were used to compile a list of all suspected FLN sympathizers: these were – together with all other suspects – rounded up and then passed to the paras’ “Détachement Opérationnel de Protection” for interrogation. This was invariable brutal, involving the use of torture – but the results were catastrophic for the FLN.
By March 1957 Yacef’s organization had been broken up, his bomb-factory destroyed and the high command network forced to leave the city. Despite the military success, in political terms the paras’ actions were a disaster. As allegations of torture were substantiated, public opinion in France recoiled in horror, particularly when it was estimated that up to 3.000 Moslems, including the FLN leader Ben M’hidi, had died or “disappeared” under army interrogation. Moslem support for revived attempts at integration waned dramatically and world sympathy began to veer towards the nationalist cause. Under pressure, in late March 1957, Massu’s division had been withdrawn from Algiers.
This was a premature move: Yacef was still at large, together with a hard core of his best operatives and the majority of his female bomb-planters. Within the shortest period of time he was back in full command in Algiers and preparing a fresh offensive. The new campaign began on 3 June, with bombs planted in lamp standards through the city. It culminated six days later when a bomb exploded in the “Casino”, a popular colon night-spot. Nine young pied noirs were killed and 85 other mutilated. The inevitable colon reprisal, including mob attacks upon Moslem areas in Algiers, prompted Lacoste to recall the paras. Massu now concentrated on the FLN leaders in the city, building-up a very accurate picture of Yacef’s organization. Accordingly, the paras began operating deep in the Casbah, forcing Yacef and his colleagues underground. The net began to close: on 24 September Yacef was isolated and captured alive (but not before he demanded and received POW status from the French); two weeks later his remaining hard-core gunmen blew themselves up rather than face captivity. The battle of Algiers was over.
New French Weapons
Meanwhile, the French have recognized their increased needs for helicopters in addition to light attack aircraft. The early operational experience of EH.2/57, equipped with Bell 47Gs and H-19, provided positive results, particularly in the observation and troop transport roles. The first major use of helicopters occurred between 23 and 26 May 1957, at Agounnenda, south of the Blida-L’Arba road, where an important ALN battalion had been identified and ambushed. The ALN initially held its own until two companies of paras were flown in by H-21Cs: the insurgents then dropped to the valley bottom, where they came under attack of T-6s. Despite good organization and leadership of the involved French forces, some two thirds of the engaged ALN unit eventually escaped.
Through the rest of 1957 the Aéronavale underwent reorganization. This culminated on 1 November 1957, when the Groupe d’Hélicoptères de l’Aéroanutique Navale No.1 (GHAN.1) was established at the naval aviation base at Lartigue, near Oran. This unit eventually take control over three naval helicopter units, including Flottilles 31, 32, and 33. The first of them, 31F, had formed already in July 1956, and equipped with H-21Cs. The 33F had formed on 1 June 1957, and equipped with H-19s. The 32F formed only in January 1958 with the navalized version of the H-34 – the HSS-1. Early on these helicopters wore no classic French roundel as national insignia, but two crossed red anchors.
These helicopters operated almost exclusively within the Marine Commando Group in westernmost region of Oran. GHAN.1 only had four commanders during the entire war: Capitaine de Corvette Babot earned the greatest reputation for his style of leadership and innovations in the use of helicopters – the H-21 as a bomber being an example of one!
In total, by spring of 1958 the number of French helicopters in Algeria grew from the original 35 to over 250 of six different types. The Aéronavale now had 26 medium helicopters, ALAT 62 light- and 70 medium helicopters, and the Armée de l’Air 36 light-, 19 medium- and 44 heavy helicopters.
As indicated above, the French were not only using their helicopters for transport and utility, but increasingly started arming them. Time and again, namely, the weather prevented any use of fixed-wing aircraft, yet there was need for passive and active protection of helicopters, as well as for close air support. Consequently, a number of H-21s and H-34s were given seats encased in light armour plate as well as self-sealing fuel tanks. Their crews wore bullet-proof vests.
Colonel Félix Brunet from the Armée de l’Air was the driving force behind the concept of armed helicopters – apparently without approval of his superiors. Already in 1955 he experimented with Bell 47s, armed with FM.24/29 light machine-gun. This was carried by a soldier lying in a casualty pannier attached to the skids of the helicopter. The first helicopter to be properly armed in Algeria was an Armée de l’Air H-19, which was given a 20mm cannon and two rocket-launchers, mounted axially, as well as another 20mm cannon, two 12.7mm machine-guns and one 7.5mm machine-gun mounted in the cabin. Other combinations were tried – especially as all these weapons and their ammunition proved too hefty a load even for H-19s. Over the time, some of the helicopters were also armed with an eight-tube rocket-launcher below a quadruple bazooka mount, which could be swivelled to allow the crew chief to reload it!
Eventually, a single 20mm cannon and two 12.7mm machine-guns, mounted on shock-less, flexible mounts in the cabin door became something of a standard, while the H-19 was superseded by the more powerful H-34, the armed version of which was called the “Pirate”. This mounted a German MG-151 20mm cannon in the cabin door, and 7.5mm machine-guns in the windows. The first armed H-34, nick-named “Corsair”, became a formidable piece of flying artillery: forward-firing weapons included one 20mm cannon, four launchers with three tubes each of 73mm rockets, one launcher for 68mm rockets and 73mm bazookas, reloadable in flight. The more standard weapons load consisted of two window-mounted 12.7mm machine-guns on the port side of the fuselage, and one on the starboard side, and one 20mm cannon flexibly mounted in the cabin door. Over the time all H-34s were equipped with fixed fittings for weapons so that any of them could be armed in a matter of minutes.
Challenges on the Line
The major blow the French experienced in 1957 was a mutiny of a large number of Moslem soldiers based in the Great Western Erg in the Sahara, in October. They killed their French officers and went over to the ALN. Three weeks later they killed two oil-drilling teams and their military escort in the same area. The French were determined to punish the mutineers and deployed Bigeard’s 3rd Colonial Parachute Regiment, together with fixed-wing fighters, transport, reconnaissance aircraft and no less but 34 H-34s to Timimoun. After several weeks of searching, a reconnaissance aircraft noticed a bush that appeared out of place on a sand dune. Two platoons of parachutists were quickly deployed in the area by helicopters. They found dissident Moslem soldiers, buried in the sand and killed most of them. Two weeks later another group was found and killed, thanks to the rapid delivery of troops by helicopter and parachute. Intensive operations, but also the weather and sand reduced the helicopter force to only seven operational H-34s.
Elsewhere, during the winter 1957-1958 the ALN tried every conceivable means of breaching the Morice Line. The guerrilla tried using high-tension cutters, Bangalore torpedoes, tunnels and ramps, usually while a diversionary attack was staged to divert French attention elsewhere. The results were negligible, and in general the ALN continued to perform badly when it came to military operations. Even if some particularly large-scale operations were undertaken the French countermeasures proved to be decisive – even against units that tried to outflank the Line through the Sahara. The later were invariably destroyed by the Air Force.
A typical battle of this war developed on 7 January 1958, when a French warrant officer heard about an ALN party waiting in a nearby village of Kéberit to support an infiltration from Tunisia. When the French approached the village, they were counterattacked by a 150-strong unit, which had crossed from Tunisia the night before. When the warrant officer attempted to call up reinforcements, radio communications with 7e CIE proved impossible, but he managed to contact a regional relay station and called for air support. Only few minutes later the first two T-6 Texans arrived; on spotting multiple targets they called up reinforcements. These were not to arrive very soon: elements of an infantry regiment were pinned down while approaching. A helicopter was brought in to evacuate the casualties, while one of supporting T-6Gs was hit and driven off, with its pilot wounded. In the evening, the ALN withdrew and now the French prepared their counterattack, sending two companies to search for the enemy. By the morning, empty guerrilla positions were secured, together with bodies of 19 killed, several machine-guns, and a considerable amount of ammunition. For comparission, the French suffered only four wounded, a single M3 half-track destroyed, and a T-6 damaged.
The fighting continued only a few days later. On 11 January 1958 a French patrol was ambushed by an ALN battalion, which had crossed the Line near the Tunisian village of Sakiet. During the fighting in the area, several days later, a French reconnaissance aircraft was shot down. Another T-6 was damaged by ground fire from Sakiet on 30 January. Only a week later, on 8 February, another French aircraft - this time a MD-315 - was badly damaged while operating in the same area: it crash-landed in Tunisia. The French decided to respond in kind. Basing their intelligence on reconnaissance photographs taken by an RF-84F, only three hours later Sakiet was subjected to a heavy attack by eleven B-26s of EB.91, supported by six Aéronavale Corsairs, which suppressed the Tunisian anti-aircraft guns, and eight Mistrals that flew top cover. The bombers hit the military barracks and depots in the town, but also a school and hospital, killing some 80 civilians - including women and children - and presenting the FLN with a significant propaganda coup. Tunisian President Bourguiba immediately demanded the French to vacate their remaining bases in his country, while a public uproar in France and abroad was one of the reasons for the fall of the French government, on 15 April 1958.
Overall, however, the statistic of ALN losses was terrible: in January and February 1958 the French claimed to have killed 35% of all ALN infiltrators; by March this figure rose to 65%, and by Aprils it was at incredible 85%. The later figure resulted actually from a massed ALN attack on 27 April, through wooded hills in the east of Souk-Ahras. Seven groups – a total of some 800 ALN fighters – were thrown against the wire in this area. Part of them got through, but were almost immediately surrounded by French paras and subjected to heavy air strikes, some of which were flown against targets on Tunisian soil. The ensuing battle went on for almost a week, although the eventual outcome was never in doubt. Of the 820 men who came out of the Tunisian woods, well over 600 were killed or captured. It was a loss rate which the ALN could not sustain. There were no more serious attempts to cross the Morice Line – nor its counterpart on the Moroccan border.
With the French paras effectively neutralizing the insurgent network in Algiers, delivering a major blow, and with the defeat on the Line, the ALN was forced to realize that it could not deploy its army within Algeria any more. Instead, the guerrilla concentrated on building up its military as a regular force, based in Tunisia, which could be used to ensure FLN rule once independence had been gained. Guerrilla operations were to continue, but this was only a half-hearted military strategy which was gradually giving way to one of politics. The war was now to enter a new phase, which the French – flushed with military victory – were too slow to understand.
|B-26 Invaders were used in considerable numbers (at least 40) by Armée de l'Air in Algeria, even if all of them belonged to a completely different batch than that used in Indo China. Namely, starting in 1951 French authorities began purchasing B-26s from different sources in the USA: almost all were newly-built A-26Bs, stored after the USAAF had cancelled the contract. The first Invaders in Algeria were operated by the EB.77, but this flight was disbanded and a new unit, the CIE.B-26 created at Oran, in August 1956. Two additional units, GB.1/91 Gascogne and GB.2/92 Guyenne, followed in September of the same year, and were also based at Oran. Most if not all AdA B-26s deployed in Algeria retained fully armed dorsal gun turrets, while few also had ventral turrets left in place, usually without machine-guns. Most French Invaders were overall black, but many had their top fuselage painted in white. During the first year of their participation in the war most missions were flown in the Constantine region, in northeastern Algeria: the Invaders were mainly used for level bombing, but also for dive bombing and strafing - frequently in cooperation with FAC-aircraft, such like Cessna L-19 or Piper Cub. The AdA lost a total of 19 B-26s during the Algerian War, only few of which were indeed shot down by the enemy.|
Dissent in the Army
By spring of 1958 the French Army could, with quite some justification, claim that it was winning the war against the ALN. There was no evidence of an overall victory, however: instead, dissent spread within the military – especially as the para units – which had borne the brunt of action – blamed the weakness of domestic French politics, and began looking for a leader whose strength would ensure a preservation of the status quo.
An obvious choice was Charles de Gaulle, in political exile since 1946. He was called back to power with a mandate, inter alia, to keep Algeria French.
On 9 May 1958, following the execution of one of Yacef’s bomb-makers, the ALN killed three French Army prisoners, an action which inevitably produced a pied noir response. Four days later about 20.000 colons filled the streets of Algiers and took over government officers, drawing disgruntled army units with them. General Raoul Salan, Commander-in-Chief of Algeria, allowed himself to be appointed to an extemporized Committee of Public Safety, which demanded official support for “Algérie francaise” from Paris. French authorities were thrown into chaos, especially when Salan openly threatened “military incursions” into France, and by the end of the month de Gaulle had been persuaded to form a government. It marked the end of the Fourth Republic and the start of a new era in modern French history.
De Gaulle was no one’s puppet. From the start he did not put himself forward as a champion of “Algérie francaise”, preferring to get a better feeling for the situation before committing to any of involved parties. He showed little sympathy towards officers involved: Raoul Salan was replaced by Air Force General Maurice Challe, while politically active para officers were recalled to France. De Gaulle then began developing his own policy towards Algeria. In a major speech at Constantie, on 3 October 1958, he promised a five-year plan of industrialization for Algeria and a new military campaign to wipe out the ALN. The FLN responded by forming a Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria (GPRA), based in Tunis, and by appealing directly to the communist world for support. They even extended terrorism to France itself, in attempt to convince French public that Algeria was not worth fighting for.
Defeat of the ALN
Even if it might appear extremely problematic to describe the situation in a war like this, the ALN was actually defeated during 1958. In the first seven months of that year it had lost more than 25.000 men. In addition, its command structures had been disrupted severely by key losses. In November 1958 the deputy military chief of Wilaya 4 and one of most respected ALN's commanders, Si Azedine (his real name was Zerrari Rabah), had been captured (Azedine's real name was Zerrari Rabah; he survived captivity and is today working for the Ministry of Mujaheddin). This happened in the course of a days-long operation, in which Azedine’s group was first ambushed by Paras of 3 RPC, lead by Lt.Col. Bigeard, near Beni Misra, and then pursued and attacked by T-6s as the guerrilla attempted to escape. No less but 96 Algerian fighters were killed in the first clash, and additional in another clash, south of Palestro, on 17 November, which resulted from the Operation Courroie.
In this battle some 15.000 French troops – including 2°, 3°, and 6° RPIMA (Marine Paras), three battalions of “tiralleurs”, seven artillery batteries and some tanks were deployed to surprise Azedine as he was to meet another ALN Commander, Ali Khodja. This operation showed how well and swiftly such French operations could be mounted by the time. The guerrilla camp was detected by an AdA Piper Cub, around 10:00 hours in the morning, and immediately put under fierce artillery fire and air strikes from T-6s. After the bombing, Marines lead by Col. Trinquier were deployed into the area, starting a pursuit already around 10:30h. After a short firefight, Khodja was dead while Azedine was injured in left arm: he was found by two French paras. Two months later Azedine’s military commander, Si Rachid, was killed.
Bolstered by such success, General Challe now began preparing the promised offensive against remaining ALN strongholds in rural areas. Challe took as his major aim the destruction of ALN guerrilla gangs, rather than the physical occupation of territory. He reorganized his forces accordingly, organizing highly mobile groups of Foreign Legion infantry with paratroops, relying on aerial reconnaissance for assessments of local situations. Any ALN concentration was first surrounded and then bombed. Napalm was used sparingly where mountainous conditions reduced the effect of anti-personnel bombs or rockets. Heliborne troops were then brought in while the surrounding forces moved in and any escapers were picked up by patrolling aircraft. In an effort to isolate the gangs General Challe authorized the employment of pro-French Moslem units (so-called Harkas), who would move into an area of known ALN activity, living off the land and playing the guerrillas at their own game. Once ALN formations had been discovered, mobile Commandos de Chasse would step in, pursuing and eventually pinning down the enemy – preparatory to the kill. This would be carried out by forces from the Réserve Générale, comprising high-quality troops, equipped with the best available arms. The combination turned out to be very effective.
Already in February 1959 Challe launched his first offensive, Operation code-named “Oranie”, against the western end of the lightly wooded Ouarsenis mountains, around Saida to the southeast of Oran, in ALN’s Wilaya 5. By the time, the condition of the guerrilla was very poor: up to 300 fighters on average were surrendering each month. Oranie was spearheaded by the 10th Parachute Division, supported by harkas and mobile forces from the Oran sector. It resulted in a remarkable success. By the end of April more than 1.600 guerrillas had been killed and the area effectively cleared.
A standard airborne assault of the time was based on the elements of surprise, concentration of force, flexibility, and speed. Once an ALN group was identified, no unusual reconnaissance activity was permitted: instead, the French would first take care to find a suitable landing zone from maps and aerial photographs. Then the French would concentrate their force: during the afternoon preceding the operation the helicopter crews were briefed, together with fighter pilots providing support. Well before dawn the commandos would arrive at helicopter pick-up point and then split up into helicopter loads. The first wave of the air assault would depart also before the dawn. The landing zone would then be bombed by B-26s and the surrounding area then strafed by F-47s and T-6s. Immediately after air strikes, H-34 Pirates would sweep in to rake the landing zone with cannon fire and then drop smoke-markers for the troop transport helicopters. These were ordered in immediately afterwards and all the time supported by Pirates, which continued firing at targets around the landing zone as the Commandos disembarked and, as they began to deploy, stood by for further opportunity targets. Having dropped their troops, the transport helicopters would fly back to their bases, some to get their weapons installed while others to bring in more troops. A combat air patrol of fixed-wing aircraft was maintained and called in whenever necessary by the command post – airborne in a helicopter. All the time the Pirates continued criss-crossing the area, searching for targets of opportunity in places fixed-wing aircraft could not reach. By the nightfall the French were usually in position to count the results.
At the time all three French flying services had no less but 221 heavy helicopters in use in Algeria. The Armée de l’Air’s H-34s remained the most important type, together with the twin-rotor H-21s, operated by the Aéronavale and the Aviation Légère de Terre (ALAT). The H-21C could transport 20 fully armed troops, and proved particularly valuable – as well as survivable to combat damage: an example is known where a single H-21 returned to base with over 60 bullet holes! No less but 98 were purchased by the French Army, while the Aéronavale operated ten with 31F, in support of Marines.
In addition to H-19s, H-21s, and H-34s, from 1960 onwards the French started deploying also a completely new type of a light helicopter: the Aérospatiale SE.313B Alouette II. The Alouette was turbine-powered, and about the same size as Bell 47G, but with greater lift and power. It was originally used for liaison and evacuation of wounded, but with the time it became the only helicopter to be (more or less) permanently armed. It was equipped with 37mm rocket launchers or four SS-10 guided missiles. Later on the AS-11s – an air-launched version of SS-11 wire-guided missiles - were added, with a maximum range of 3.000m. Guidance of AS-11 was manual command to line of sight (MACLOS), which mean that the gunner had to manoeuvre the missile on to his line of sight to the target – a technique that required considerable skill. Nevertheless, this weapon proved particularly effective and was frequently used against caves which, because of their positions in ravines, were either dangerous, difficult or even impossible to engage with shorter-ranged cannon- or machine-gun fire, or even with rockets or bombs.
The ALAT combined Alouettes in “Combat Cells” with H-21s. The Groupement ALAT 101, for example, was divided into two helicopter detachments of seven H-21s and one Alouette each. Typically, six H-21s and two Alouettes were used when this group went into action: the spare H-21 stood by in case one got lost. Such units were then assigned in ones or twos to variously dispersed Army garrisons and placed under their operational control: due to – generally – good relations between various French arms, the expression “air-mobility” quickly found its way into French terminology and it was defined in the earliest period as, “the ability of a unit in combat to free itself from the constraints imposed by physical obstacles such as rivers, mountains, desert and so on.” Air-mobility gradually became a generic term, used in reference to all airborne missions and operations.
|The French use of Napalm was widespread during the Algerian War, even if some of the aircraft - like the T-6G seen here - could carry only relatively small tanks. Nevertheless, the T-6Gs equipped no less but 38 of AdA squadrons at the peak of the war, of which 21 were active within the Groupe d'Aviation Légère d'Appui 72. (via M.A.)|
Battle of Djabel Me’zi
Thanks to new weapons and permanent development of tactics, the French military remained highly successful. Already in March 1959 the leaders of both, Wilaya 3, Si Haouès, and Wilaya 6, Ait Hamouda, lost their lives. On 18 April 1959 a follow-up operation, code-named “Courroie”, tackled the more difficult terrain at the eastern end of Uarsenis, north of Orléansville, in Wilaya 4. Although fewer guerrillas were killed, sufficient success was achieved to persuade the French that they had discovered a winning strategy. In fact, not all the battles were as easily won, and it was not always the ALN that suffered heavy losses. In early May 1959 a three-days battle developed between an ALN battalion and a sizeable French force in the area of Djebel Fortassa. The ALN battalion consisted of five companies, each with eight mortars and a radio station, which enabled them good communication to the command post. It was obviously this improved ability to communicate that made the difference.
On the evening of 5 May 1959 one of the ALN companies moved out for a 20km march from Zrine via Djebel Fortassa. The movement was detected by the French and already on the next morning the column was put under attacks by four B-26s and two "yellow planes" - T-6Gs. Air attacks lasted most of the morning, pinning the ALN force down until seven helicopters deposited Marine Commandos nearby. The guerrilla spent the day concealed in a well-camouflaged hideout and suffered hardly any losses: when the French troops advanced towards them, the insurgents ambushed the forward element, causing losses. The French reacted with artillery and even more air attacks while pulling ground troops out of the area: starting from 16:00h six B-26s and six T-6s bombed and strafed the ALN positions for two hours.
By the evening, the French surrounded the Djebel Me’zi, but the guerrilla reacted with a counterattack, supported by mortars, opening a breach to escape out of encirclement. Deploying paras the French closed the breach after fierce fighting, and on the morning of 7 May attacked again with aircraft, while using 30 helicopters to deploy additional troops in the area. Meanwhile a total of some 50 B-26s and T-6s were in action against different elements of the ALN battalion, using napalm excessively. Nevertheless, in the following night they broke through the enemy positions at Oum Larban plain and extricated themselves, evacuating also their injured. Splitting into several small groups the survivors then scattered in the hills: some of them even managed to return back to the battlefield and evacuate additional injured.
|The main reason that the ALN-fighters christened the T-6G the "Yellow Plane" was that many of French Texans were left in yellow colour - that of training planes, which was their orignal task - when sent to Algeria. This T-6G can be seen in combat turn, armed with gun-pods and unguided rockets. (via M.A.)|
Despite this limited success, it appeared to the French that the ALN – and thus the FLN – was so close to total defeat that the slightest pressure would cause collapse: Challe was expected to provide that final blow and complete the defeat of the FLN.
In July 1959, with a Réserve Générale of two good divisions, supported by armour, helicopters and ground-attack aircraft, Challe was ready to turn against the heart of ALN: Wilaya 3, in Kabylia, to the east of Algiers. Operation “Jumelles” was planned as a two-pronged attack against Little and Great Kabylia, involving 25.000 French troops. Its chances were enhanced when, just before the assault was due, a major ALN force was pin-pointed in the Hodna mountains, between Kabylia and the Aurès. Challe immediately shifted troops to that area, launching the Operation “Étincelle”, wiping out half the rebel band and cutting off any hopes of ALN retreat out of Wilaya 3. Jumelles began undisturbed and lasted until October 1959, and then March 1960: it resulted in a stunning military success , which fully vindicated the new strategy.
During “Étincelle”, the French paras, supported by harkas, took crest-line villages, cleared them of people (most of whom were “resettled”) and then fanned out into the surrounding valley. ALN units, deprived of protection and support from the local population, were gradually isolated and broke up, losing 3.746 men.
It must be mentioned, nevertheless, that the French flying services paid a high price for these successes, then the ALN was meanwhile well-armed with more sophisticated and heavier weapons. How heavy the French losses were, shows alone the fact that between January 1958 and August 1959, no less but 65 T-6G-pilots were killed and 31 injured! The majority of pilots were drawn from European-based combat units and were required to make the transition from modern jet fighters to what were in reality slow, piston-engined trainers.
The French had over 700 aircraft in Algeria by mid-1959. The powerful Douglas AD-4N Skyraiders entered service with EC.20, replacing old F-47D Thunderbolts, and the EALA T-6G-units were re-equipped with the French re-worked version of the Douglas T-28D Trojan, which in service with Armée de l’Air became known as Fennec. Furthermore, North American F-100D Super Sabres of EC.1/3 attacked pre-planned targets, flying from their home base at Rheims, refuelling at Istres on return flight.
|Typical scene of one of many small French airfields in Algeria: a row of T-6s from an unidentified EALA wait for the next task, together with a number of Piasecki (Vertol) H-21C helicopters of (probably) ALAT's GH.2. The later type was nick-named "Banana" in French service. (via M.A.)|
Later in 1959 the GALAs were disbanded, and the EALAs operated with an even higher degree of independence and flexibility. Organizational flexibility, as well as excellent cooperation between services, remained the most successful aspects of the French military involvement in this war. This was especially the case with flying services: the aircraft of regular, relatively fixed-base units, were available on short notice for deployment within GATAC, the lighter, more nimble aircraft of the EALA were generally ascribed to zones, while observation aircraft worked within sectors. The Army commands were advised daily of the assets available to them, depending on the location and scale of operations. In support of planned operations there were a number of Joint Operations Centres (JOC), while for spontaneous action widespread use was made of mobile command posts. A widespread network of VHF transmitters, receivers and repeaters enabled air support to be applied with the maximum speed and effectiveness.
Another operation, this time in Wilaya 2, around Constantine, was equally successful in November 1959, followed by Challe’s last offensive, “Pierres Précieuses”, initiated in the same month and covering the area north of Constantine. It was again successful, although further similar enterprises were frustrated by the following political developments.
By the end of 1959 most of ALN networks within Algeria had been dispersed; its armed groups inside Algeria were in ruins, while continued Army operations prevented their reinforcement. As the military threat to French rule was virtually over, the French now made preparations to close in on the last stronghold in the Aurès mountains. This enterprise was planned as Operation Trident, to be undertaken in early 1960. Trident, however, was overtaken by the following events: it was now on the politicians to find the lasting solution.
|When in 1958 the French were looking for a replacement for their venerable T-6s, they selected the North American T-28 Trojan/Nomad. The US Navy, however, had rights to all the new T-28s that were in production at the time, and there was no chance for the AdA to acquire any T-28Ds. Nevertheless, the French found some 148 ex-US Air Force T-28As stored at Davis-Monthan, and decided to acquire these instead. Brought to France, the aircraft went through a complex overhaul at Sud Aviation, in 1959: the Wright R-1300 engine was replaced by much more powerful R-1820-76A, the throttle operation was reversed (forward “closed” and aft “open”), vulnerable parts of the lower fuselage and cockpit were armoured, and the aircraft have got hard points for machine-gun pods, rockets and bombs. These “new” T-28s, called “Fennec” in Armée de l’Air, entered service in 1960: too late to play a dominant role. They remained in active service with AdA until 1964. |
The Path to Independence
The politicians were following a course that was not to liking of either the colons or the French Army. In a broadcast on 16 September 1959 de Gaulle spoke of “self-determination” for Algeria, a policy which threatened the very basis of “Algérie francaise”. Pied noir “ultras” – extremists led by Jo Ortiz and ex-para Pierre Lagaillarde – organized themselves for action against de Gaulle and, when a renewed ALN bombing campaign hit Algiers, in late December 1959, tried to repeat the success of 1958.
The situation worsened on 18 January 1960, when General Jacques Massu, one of the few leaders of the 1958 revolt to remain in Algeria, was recalled to France after criticising de Gaulle’s politics in a newspaper interview. On 24 January 1960 the so-called French National Front (FNF), backed by 30.000 demonstrators and supported by dissident paras, threatened to take the reins of power in Algiers. But, de Gaulle was determined to prevent them, authorizing Challe to deploy police, gendarmerie and troops in response. The FNF retired behind elaborate barricades, defying the authorities for almost a week. They were not seriously opposed by the units of the 10e Parachute Division: in fact, some of the para officers – such as Colonels Argoud, Gardes and Godard – were providing practical advice on building of barricades to mutineers.
Still, there was never any serious danger of a spread of disaffection to other elements of the military. Indeed, when 25e Parachute Division was moved into Algiers, on 29 January, the barricades were soon destroyed and the revolt was crushed. An impassioned plea from de Gaulle for loyalty from the people of France destroyed all hope of outside support. Most of the demonstrators eventually dispersed: “Barricades Week” was the final blow to colons.
The crush of the revolt did not destroy the opposition: it merely made it more extreme. The extremists became convinced that de Gaulle was about to sell them out. On 25 June 1960 the French representatives met GPRA delegates at Melun. This implied a willingness to recognize the nationalists and showed the desire of de Gaulle for negotiation. At this point dissident elements within the French Army began openly to associate themselves with pied noir “ultras” to preserve “Algérie francaise”: they turned for leadership to Salan, who was in contact with a number of disaffected generals, including Challe, himself discredited by the fiasco of “Barricades Week”. The worst fears of pied noirs were reinforced when De Gaulle, shocked by the intransigence of pied noir extremists, recalled Challe, and began to explore the policy which was to lead eventually to Algerian “self-determination”. Such a policy played right into the political hands of the FLN, ensuring them of eventual victory regardless of the military situation; in turn, Challe was not able to implement the final phase of his anti-guerrilla offensive, the Operation Trident.
Commando Jaubert in Action
While the politicians continued their manoeuvring, the soldiers of both sides kept on fighting. On 5 May 1960 the AdA reconnaissance aircraft located a group of 270 insurgents from 2e battalion ALN attempting to penetrate the Line few kilometres away from control station at Daiet el-Ketch, near Air Séfra, on Moroccan border. A company from 2e REI was immediately deployed in an ambush position, but the French concluded that this force was insufficient to fend of an attack. Consequently, several AdA transports and GHAN.1 helicopters were prepared to embark not only additional Legionaries but also two sections of Marine Commando Jaubert. A third section of Commando Jaubert was swiftly flown in by additional transports to Ain Séfra, then transported by truck for 80km to Daiet, and then to Djabel Me’zi, from where it was deployed by helicopters to el-Mizab. Eventually, the French had two units ready in ambushing positions – one in front and the other behind the enemy – plus a third component ready for heliborne deployment where needed on short notice.
Meanwhile, Neptune patrol aircraft of the 28F were tracking the enemy advance the whole night. Early in the morning of 6 May the whole Commando Jaubert and the command post of the 2e REI were to be deployed to the top of Jabel Me’zi, but as the first helicopters were disgorging troops there they came under intensive fire. The first group of Legionaries that landed was immediately pinned down, suffered losses and could not be recovered. For the following several hours, the French troops were isolated and could be supported only from the air. Meanwhile, the remaining Legionaries, Commandos and the CP 2e REI were deployed to a mountain peak some three kilometres from the isolated group to launch an attack on enemy positions: the encircled troops were finally relieved only one hour later.
For four long hours the AdA T-6s were attacking enemy positions almost without interruption, before the ground troops launched their assault, supported by mortars. The ALN force suffered heavy casualties and was dispersed: the few scattered survivors were hunted down during the following day and on 8 May in a fierce battle through surrounding ravines and caves. Only a small group of insurgents was left to flee back to Morocco: 74 fighters of the 2e battalion ALN were killed and 23 captured during this battle. The French Marine Commandos suffered a loss of three killed and nine injured, whie the 2e REAI had nine killed and eight injured.
The Armée de l’Air was meanwhile facing increasing problem with serviceability of EC.20’s fighters. Both types utilised by this unit, F-47D Thunderbolt and Mistral, eventually proved unsuitable for the task at hand: the Thunderbolts were ageing fast while Mistrals lacked armament and endurance. The situation was clear already from earlier times, but it took some times until replacements were available.
France turned to the USA, who happened to have a large stock of surplus US Navy Douglas AD-4 Skyraiders, left behind after the end of the Korean War. A contract was placed for 113 Skyraiders of three different versions: 20 AD-4s, 88 AD-4Ns and five AD-4NAs. All were shipped from the USA to SFERMA workshops in Bordeaux, some arriving directly while others via Saint-Nazaire. The French removed the radar and ECM-equipment from the rear cabin of AD-4Ns, as well as the arrestor hook for carrier operations. Also, the large fuselage brakes on AD-4s were welded in locked position and all the aircraft received an overall aluminium protective paint and a new “serial” number, applied by SFERMA.
These “new” Skyraiders entered service with EC.20 in December 1959, even if the first AD-4 was not handed over to the unit until February 1960, and their transfer began only in April of the same year. The unit moved from Oran to Boufarik, in central Algeria, where conversion to the new type was completed, and the EC.2/20’s Skyraiders began flying combat operations in July 1960, followed by EC.1/20’s aircraft, in October. When additional aircraft became available from SFERMA a third escadro0n was added to EC.20: in September 1960 the former EC.1/6 Oranie, flying Mistrals, was disbanded and reformed as Escadron 3/20 Oranie, on AD-4s. From that time onwards the Skyraiders saw action on daily basis, providing close air support to ambushed troops and to heliborne operations.
French Skyraiders were usually armed with four 20mm cannons, and could carry 500kg and 125kg bombs, napalm tanks, HVAR or T-10 rockets. Large drop tanks were procured as well, in order to provide long loiter time over target area. Despite heavy loads carried, the type remained very manoeuvrable at low altitude and low speed, even if the Wright engine disliked the “hot and high” Algerian climates, sand and dust. Over the time the type proved very effective: by 1960 the cooperation between the French air force and ground troops was better than ever, resulting in clear and well-trained procedures for fire direction by ground troops and excellently trained pilots.
|Taken in Morocco, probably in 1960, this photograph shows Houari Boumediene (his real name was Mohamed Boukherouba), later the first Minister of Defence in Algeria, and later on the President. (via M.A.)|
The Growing Mutiny
To many army officers, foremost a better part of the French Army leadership, in the face of such successes, de Gaulle’s policy of Algerian self-determination was not understandable. On the contrary, it was the final straw, especially as it came at the time the ALN was all but defeated. It was also a development which the pieds noirs could not understand – and which was to have far-reaching ramifications. On 25 October 1960, Salan – retired prematurely and denied permission to settle in Algeria because of his known contacts with pied noir extremists, declared a “total war” on de Gaulle and his policies. A small clique of para officers, mostly from the 1st Régiment Etranger Parachutiste (1e REP) openly associated themselves with the Algérie francaise movement.
On 4 November de Gaulle announced a “new course”, which would eventually lead to an “Algerian Algeria”. He directed a referendum on the issue of “self-determination” to be held on 8 January 1961. Despite the appalling riots in Algiers, this went on and presented de Gaulle with an overwhelming vote of support from a war-weary French population.
Challe, shabbily treated since his return to France, saw this as a betrayal of all he had fought to achieve in Algeria, and resigned from the service. Even more so: when de Gaulle announced the decision to negotiate with the FLN, he offered his leadership to the military plotters. A speech by de Gaulle on 11 April 1961, in which he referred to “decolonisation” in Algeria, acted as the spark for revolt. On the same day Challe – accompanied by General André Zeller (erstwhile Inspector-General of Ground Forces) - flew secretly to Algeria, made contact with an ex-air force general, Edmond Jouhaud, and prepared a mutiny by many senior officers, based on the headquarters of the 1e REP, at Zeralda. Their plan was for the 1e REP to seize key centres in Algiers and for the generals – soon to be joined by Salan – to take power. They would then rule Algeria until the ALN had been defeated, after which a pied noir government would be appointed.
The storm broke on 21 April 1961, when four generals – Salan, Challe, Edmond Jouhard and André Zeller – instigated a military coup in Algiers, which was seen as a first step in the overthrow of the Paris government. Supported by dissident paras, they held the city for five days, but to no avail: the plan did not work.
Tanks rolled on the streets of Paris as precaution against a possible airborne coup from Algeria: indeed, two groups of paras, totalling 2.400, were waiting in woods outside Paris, but, deprived of their leaders and reinforcement from Algeria, they disbanded. Most of the 45 Noratlas transports in Algeria flew empty to airfields in southern France, but combat air patrols were flown by Super Mystére fighters along the Rhone valley to force down any aircraft making for the capital. The French public rallied to de Gaulle in an amazing display of national solidarity, forcing the generals to abandon their plans. Without support in France itself the revolt was unsuccessful and the leaders had to flee: by 25 April Challe and Zeller were forced to surrender, while Salan, Jouhard and most of the other officers involved went underground. The 1e REP was disbanded and never re-established. In the aftermath of the failed coup five generals and 200 other officers were arrested and hastily trialled.
Although defeated, the surviving “ultras” were determined to maintain the pressure. They created their own terrorist group, the Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS), and began a ruthless anti-Moslem campaign designed initially to prevent negotiations, or destroy as much of Algeria as possible before independence. The OAS also launched several attempts at de Gaulle’s life, and on 26 April 1962, the anniversary of the collapse of the revolt, Air France Constellation F-BAZE was blown up at Algiers airport.
|Relatively poor, but highly interesting photograph of a T-28 Fennec of the EALA 03/09 over Algeria, in 1962. (via M.A.)|
The war now swiftly degenerated into a bloodbath as Moslem liberals and intellectuals were assassinated and Moslem areas bombed by OAS and pied noirs. The ALN, of course, retaliated in kind. The AdA, Aéronavale and ALAT continued operations of all kind, with - more or less - the same success as before. The fighting was fierce, and additional French aircraft and helicopters were hit and damaged - sometimes also shot down, then the ALN meanwhile began deploying units of a completely new type on the battlefied. Already on 20 August 1960 the first of ALN's "Compagnie DCA" (défense countre avions) - anti-aircraft companies, equipped with 30mm anti-aircraft cannons - was formed. These units were to cause considerable losses to the French aircraft and helicopters by the end of the war and later formed the basis of the Algerian Air Defence Force.
In return, according to unconfirmed sources, during the whole war the French fighters should have intercepted 38 and shot down nine aircraft while guarding the Morice Line, most of these in 1961. Many of these are known to have been transports of different origin: the oil exploitation in Sahara begun in the late 1950s, and a number of companies were active in Algeria and Libya, some of which operated aircraft on own behalf. Some of their pilots got disoriented over the featurless terrain, and ended over Algeria where they would be intercepted by AdA fighters. As already mentioned, the Morice Line was patrolled day and night by French aircraft of all possible types. Given that an increasing number of Soviet and other transport aircraft begun smuggling weapons into Algeria by the time, the French were especially sensitive to such incursions. A Soviet Il-14 was already intercepted by Mistral fighters over Algeria on 23 September 1960, and forced to land or shot down. Barely two months later, on 20 December, a Lebanon-registered DC-4 was intercepted at night by AdA Vautour interceptor from Normandie-Niemen Group, near Oran, and forced to land. The French found five tons of weapons on board, including bazookas and ammunition.
On 9 February 1961, another Soviet Il-14 – with Leonid Brezhnev, the future Soviet leader, on board – was intercepted off the Algerian coast, by French Mistral fighters. The aircraft was hit by gunfire but successfully evaded and later landed safely.
The aerial activity finally became so intensive, that the French decided to deploy a detachment from AdA’s ER.33 – at the time equipped with Republic RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance fighters – to Boufarik airfield. These fighters were used for high-altitude reconnaissance, foremost along the border to Libya. In the frame of the Operation “Gaston”, however, they also flew over Tunisia, mainly reconnoitring disused German airfields left from the times of the World War II, searching for signs that any of these were re-activated by groups involved in smuggling weapons into Algeria. As there was no agreement with Tunisia about such overflights, they were illegal and therefore kept secret: pilots were advised to operate under complete radio-silence. When, on 15 June 1961 one of the RF-84Fs – flown by Lieutenant Frederique Gaillard – was shot down by ALN flak while underway between Sakiet Sidi Youssef and Le Kef, in Tunisia, the French unable to request the pilot to be released even if six days later he was handed over to Tunisian authorities (this came on order from local ALN commander, Krim Belkacem, who was fiercely criticised for this decision). Gaillard remained incarcerated in Tunisia until September 1961.
Except RF-84Fs, the AdA also deployed RB-26s of the EB.1/91 for secret reconnaissance operations deep over Libya. These were all undertaken at a very low altitude, usually at 50m or less – in order the aircraft to remain undetected by local US and British radars – and could last for as long as seven hours: the crews were therefore exposed to severe stress. The aim of such missions was to find convoys moving supplies for ALN from deep inside the Libyan deserts to Algeria. Lieutenant Saint-Martin flew one such reconnaissance flight on 24 November 1961, penetrating over 200km into Libya. Initially, he found nothing, but then traces were seen leading in direction towards the Algerian border. Returning into the Algerian airspace, Saint-Martin and his crew followed this trace for 80km, until a small strip was detected, apparently used by some kind of light transport for smuggling arms to ALN.
The final Bloodbath
Despite clandestine operations De Gaulle was meanwhile free to pursue his policy of disengagement, which culminated in an Agreement at Evian, in March 1962, giving Algeria complete independence under the GPRA, with no special status for the colons, who now began to leave the country in droves. This led to the official declaration of Algerian independence, in July 1962.
The French military, recovering from defeat in Indo-China, and humiliation despite success at Suez, performed superbly in Algeria. Its strategy and tactics were sound, and the extensive operational use of helicopters especially remarkable.
The ALAT was formed at the beginning of the war, when it included only a handful of aircraft, but it rapidly grew to a service operating over 1.000 aircraft and helicopters.
Although completely defeated in military sense, the situation thus eventually represented total nationalist victory. This was achieved at an awesome cost in life: according to different estimates, between 50.000 and 100.000 Moslem civilians were killed before the end of the war, and even more after the vengeful post-ceasefire bloodbath; between 141.000 and 155.000 FLN and 16.000 other insurgents were either killed outright or declared missing, while many more died of wounds. Some sources indicate that it is possible that up to one million of Algerians were killed during the war. Depending on source, the French Army should have lost between 17.456 and 25.000 dead. The Armée de l'Air is known to have suffered a loss of 97 aircraft shot down or crashed due to non-combat related reasons between 1955 and 1962; no less but 139 aircraft and helicopters were lost or damaged in 1958 alone (including five T-6Gs, one Mistral and two Pipers shot down).
Also killed were 2.788 colons (other sources state as many as between 3.200 and 3.600). Much worse for the later, however, was the humiliating defeat and usually a ruinous exile.
The French flying services slowly decreased their activity in Algeria through 1962, as many units were either disbanded or pulled back to France. For example, the EC.20 ceased flying combat sorties on 19 March 1962, but remained in country until September, deployed on three airfields: Boufarik, Bone and Oran. Even if AD-4s remained operational with AdA, subsequently, all of its three Escadrons were disbanded, the last in 1964. Only the EC.1/20 survived: re-named Escadron d’Appui Aérien 1/21 “Aures Nemenchas”, it was re-deployed to Djibouti, from March 1963 until 1968, when it was sent to Fort Lamy (today N’Djamena), in Chad. Other AD-4s were reorganized into EC.1/22 “Ain”, which was also deployed to Chad, in September 1969, and remained there until October 1975.
- THE ALGERIAN WAR 1954-62, Martin Windrow, illustrated by Mike Chappell, Osprey Men-at-Arms series, No. 312 (ISBN: 1-85532-658-2)
- HELICOPTERS IN COMBAT, The First Fifty Years, by John Everett-Heath, Arms and Armour Press, 1992 (ISBN: 185409-066-8)
- WAR IN PEACE, An Analysis of Warfare since 1945, Consultant Editor Sir Robert Thompson KBE, CMG, DSO, MC (author of chapter on The Algerian Revolution was Jon Pimlott); Orbis Publishing, London, 1981 (ISBN 0-85613-341-8)
- "AIR WARS AND AIRCRAFT; A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present", by Victor Flintham, Arms and Armour Press, 1989
- "FOREIGN INVADERS; the Douglas Invader in foreign military and US clandestine service", by Dan Hagedorn and Leif Hellström, Midland Publishing Ltd., 1994, (ISBN: 1-85780-013-3)
- “LES HOMMES DUE CIEL VENUS DU JET”, by P. Lebrun, article in French, from an unknown French magazine
- “AA 20e EC Algerie”, by Alain Crosnier, Air Fan magazine, February 1979
© Copyright 2002-3 by ACIG.org
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