French Ground Force Organisation in the First Indochina War (1946 to 1954)

Jamie shared some great resources for the, the war in French Indochina (19 December 1946 to 20 July 1954). This has let me put together an outline of the French Ground Force Organisation in the First Indochina War (1946 to 1954). The main source is the thesis written by Major Peter Jackson on the “French Ground Force Organizational Development For Counterrevolutionary Warfare Between 1945 And 1962” and I’ve quote liberally from this book. At some point I’ll turn this organisation into a order of battle for Crossfire.

French soldiers mount an attack during the First Indochina War

French soldiers mount an attack during the First Indochina War


(Normal) Infantry

French Infantry organisation 1945 to late 1940s

The French began the war with two types of formal infantry organizations–the normal type battalion based upon the American organization of World War II and the Special Air Service pattern airborne battalions. The normal type battalions consisted of a headquarters, a weapons company with medium mortar, medium machine gun, and antitank platoons, and three rifle companies, each with a weapons platoon and three rifle platoons. The maneuver element was the squad, consisting of twelve soldiers with an automatic rifle and some combination of rifles and submachine guns. The enemy at the beginning of the war consisted of small guerrilla elements and the requirement for area presence dictated dismounted movement–and therefore a simultaneous reduction of heavy weapons and an increase in dismounted riflemen. (Jackson, 2005, p. 51)

an infantry platoon with three, later two, automatic rifles and up to six submachine guns. Up to three snipers and several rifle-grenade launchers were also provided (Jackson, 2005, p. 56)

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Infantry battalion (1945 to 1954)

  • 1 x Headquarters and support company
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Battalion staff
    • 1 x Medical platoon
    • 1 x Signals platoon
    • 1 x Reconnaissance platoon
    • 1 x Guard and escort platoon
  • 1 x Weapons company
    • 1 x Weapons company headquarters
    • 1 x Anti-aircraft platoon
    • 1 x Medium mortar platoon
      • 4 x 81mm mortars
    • 2 x Medium machine gun platoons
    • 1 x Anti-tank platoon
  • 3 x Rifle companies
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Support (Weapons) platoon
      • 1 x Machinegun squad
      • 1 x 60mm mortar squad
    • 3 x Rifle platoons
      • 3 (?) x Rifle Squads: 12 soldiers with one automatic rifle, up to two submachine guns, up to two rifle-grenade launchers, and the rest rifles

French Infantry organisation 1948 to 1950

Reorganizations in the late 1940s resulted in the Far East Pattern infantry battalion and the Parachute Commando battalion. The Far East Pattern infantry battalion would remain the standard French battalion organization until the end of the war, with mixed results on the battlefield. It was a modification of the normal type infantry battalion to permit greater foot mobility while relying on outside combined arms for any necessary firepower. Motor transport was consolidated at the battalion headquarters, and heavy weapons were greatly reduced. The battalion consisted of a headquarters which included a reduced medium mortar platoon and four rifle companies each of a reduced weapons platoon and three rifle platoons organized as before. The design permitted greater dismounted infantry presence, but its reliance on motorized logistics and motorized artillery support led to it being paradoxically tied to roads. (Jackson, 2005, p. 51-52)

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Far East Pattern infantry battalion (1948 to 1950)

  • 1 x Headquarters and support company
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Battalion staff
    • 1 x Medical platoon
    • 1 x Signals platoon
    • 1 x Pioneer platoon
    • 1 x Reduced medium mortar platoon
      • 2 x 81mm mortars1
    • 1 x Motor Transport Detachment
  • 4 x Rifle companies
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Reduced weapons platoon3
      • 1 x Machinegun teams
      • 1 x 60mm mortar teams
    • 3 x Rifle platoons
      • 3 (?) x Rifle Squads: 12 soldiers with one automatic rifle, up to two submachine guns, up to two rifle-grenade launchers, and the rest rifles
  • 0-1 x Auxiliary Company5

Notes:
(1) four 81mm mortars were issued but usually only two were taken on mobile operations
(3) The weapons platoon of the company had a paper strength of a machine-gun squad and a 60mm mortar squad. However the platoon was sacrificed to provide more riflemen so the platoon was often reduced to a single MG and 60mm mortar with large stocks of ammunition.
(4) As part of the reform the rifle companies were often re-organised so the men of the existing three platoons were formed into four smaller platoons. This was to allow greater flexibility but at the cost of combat ability. Platoons were often formed into “fire” and “shock” elements.
(5) A native auxiliary company was often added to provide a light force adapted to local conditions, plus guides/interpreters.

French Infantry organisation 1951 to 1954

Jean de Lattre de Tassigny was the High Commissioner, commander-in-chief in Indochina and commander-in-chief of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps in 1951-52 (Wikipedia: Jean de Lattre de Tassigny). He won several battles against the Việt Minh before illness forced him to return to Paris where he died of cancer in 1952. Apparently he instituted some reform during his tenure.

Both of these types of battalions were refined again after de Lattre’s reforms. The Far East Pattern battalion changed in that 57-millimeter recoilless rifles were added, and the rifle companies changed from three to four platoons. However, this was done within the same personnel strength; the French moved the lowest level of tactical employment from the squad up to the platoon level as each squad was either an automatic rifle or a rifle-grenadier squad, with one of each per platoon. The interesting point about this final reorganization is that it was done to mitigate French losses in cadres, as well as accommodate the incorporation of indigenous personnel directly into all infantry units. By moving tactics from the squad to the platoon level, the number of leaders required was reduced from about six per platoon to two per platoon, or of eighteen per company down to eight. Other than the four recoilless rifles per battalion, overall battalion firepower remained unchanged with the ninth automatic rifle per company being used for company headquarters security. (Jackson, 2005, p. 52-53)

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Far East Pattern infantry battalion (1951-54)

  • 1 x Headquarters and support company
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Battalion staff
    • 1 x Medical platoon
    • 1 x Signals platoon
    • 1 x Pioneer platoon
    • 1 x Reduced medium mortar platoon:
      • 2 x 81mm mortars1
    • 1 x Anti-tank platoon:
      • 4 x 57mm Recoilless Rifles2
    • 1 x Motor Transport Detachment
  • 4 x Rifle companies
    • 1 x Headquarters including 1 x automatic rifle
    • 1 x Reduced weapons platoon3
      • 1 x Machinegun team
      • 1 x 60mm mortar team
    • 4 x Rifle platoons4
      • 1 x Automatic Rifle squad (Fire)
      • 1 x Rifle-grenadier squad (Shock)
  • 0-1 x Auxiliary Company5

Notes:
(1) four 81mm mortars were issued but usually only two were taken on mobile operations
(2) The four 57mm recoilless rifles were manned by the pioneer platoon and were often parcelled out the rifle companies
(3) The weapons platoon of the company had a paper strength of a machine-gun squad and a 60mm mortar squad. However the platoon was sacrificed to provide more riflemen so the platoon was often reduced to a single MG and 60mm mortar with large stocks of ammunition.
(4) As part of the reform the rifle companies were often re-organised so the men of the existing three platoons were formed into four smaller platoons. This was to allow greater flexibility but at the cost of combat ability. Platoons were often formed into “fire” and “shock” elements.
(5) A native auxiliary company was often added to provide a light force adapted to local conditions, plus guides/interpreters.


Airborne infantry

Airborne 1945 to 1947

The 5th Colonial Infantry Regiment possessed and used paratroops, and the Half-Brigade of Special Air Service Paratroopers was deployed in 1946. These troops were often used in company-sized raids to reestablish French authority at outlying areas or to reinforce tiny posts under attack. These Special Air Service paratroopers operated as conventional airborne infantry, unlike the British Special Air Service during World War II. Thus, the armed and armored jeeps of the battalions were relegated to security units while the Special Air Service paratroopers largely operated on foot. However, one benefit to their Special Air Service origins was that, organized as twelve-man sticks they could be deployed in small packages which was appropriate to the small scale of operations initially as well as the limited air transport available. The Special Air Service pattern of organization was found to be inappropriate and later the parachute units would be organized along light infantry patterns, but the stick organization would be retained (Jackson, 2005, p. 34).

The Special Air Service airborne battalions comprised three companies, each of two platoons, each of three sticks with twelve soldiers per stick. These sticks had more submachine guns and demolitions than their infantry counterparts, but the lack of heavy weapons, reliance on jeeps, and the small number of platoons soon called for a change in this organization. (Jackson, 2005, p. 51)

The French deployed eight parachute commando battalions by late 1950 as the vanguard of their mobile forces

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Special Air Service pattern airborne battalion

  • 1 x Headquarters
  • 3 x Rifle companies
    • 1 x Weapons platoon
    • 2 x Rifle platoons
      • 3 x sticks: 12 soldiers one automatic rifle, up to two submachine guns, up to two rifle-grenade launchers, and the rest rifles like the infantry; however, these sticks had more submachine guns and demolitions than their infantry counterparts

Airborne 1948 to 1950

The Parachute Commando battalions consisted of a headquarters company similar to the Far East Pattern battalion headquarters company with a few mortars some motor transport and nine commandos of which six were comprised of French personnel and three were comprised of indigenous personnel. These commandos were grouped into one indigenous and three French companies–each of which also had a small weapons platoon similar to that found in the Far East Pattern battalions. The commandos comprised a small platoon headquarters and three fifteen-man sticks which now had a dedicated sniper and yet more submachine guns. These airborne battalions were very effective in their intended role of airborne assault and operations remote from French areas of control. They effectively utilized indigenous personnel, and they included within the sticks everything needed for fire and maneuver tactics. Their extra ration of automatic weapons also gave them a relative firepower advantage compared to other French infantry in the close fight (Jackson, 2005, p. 52)

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Parachute Commando battalion (1948 to 1950)

  • 1 x Headquarters and support company
    • 1 x Company headquarters
    • 1 x Battalion staff
    • 1 x Medical platoon
    • 1 x Signals platoon
    • 1 x Pioneer platoon
    • 1 x Reduced medium mortar platoon
      • 1 x 81mm Mortar squad
    • 1 x .30 Machinegun Squad
    • 1 x 57mm RCL Squad
  • 3 or 4 x Para companies (French)1
    • 1 x small headquarters (French)
    • 1 x Reduced weapons platoon2
      • 1 x Machinegun team
      • 1 x 60mm mortar team
    • 3 x commandos3 (French)
      • 3 x sticks: 15 soldiers with one automatic rifle, up to two submachine guns, up to two rifle-grenade launchers, and the rest rifles like the infantry; these sticks had more submachine guns and demolitions than their infantry counterparts; and now had a dedicated sniper and yet more submachine guns than previously
  • 0-1 x Indigenous company (as French companies but with indigenous personnel)

Notes:
(1) 1er Bataillon Étrangers de Parachutistes (1948-55) had four Para Companies but 2e Bataillon Étrangers de Parachutistes (1948-55) only had three.
(2) The weapons platoon was like those of the Far East Pattern infantry company. These had a paper strength of a machine-gun squad and a 60mm mortar squad. However the platoon was sacrificed to provide more riflemen so the platoon was often reduced to a single MG and 60mm mortar with large stocks of ammunition.
(3) The “commandos” were the equivalents of platoons.

Airborne 1951 to 1954

Only the parachute units and commandos were able to operate away from the road network–and that was more a function of their leadership and training than design.

The airborne battalions were also affected by the losses of late 1950, and were reorganized along the Far East Pattern albeit with an even greater authorization for indigenous personnel in that half the unit was authorized to be indigenous, and as they were more easily replaced actual percentages were often higher. The airborne battalions also had more personnel in their headquarters company to account for parachute packing and other facets of airborne operations. As these headquarters personnel were also trained parachute infantry, the airborne battalions had an advantage in maintaining field strength. The end result was that most battalions were organized along the lines of four rifle companies per battalion, four rifle platoons per company, and two squads per platoon. (Jackson, 2005, p. 53)

Along with some specifics from Indochine 54 that gives us:

Parachute Commando battalion (1951 to 1954)

  • 1 x Headquarters company including
    • 1 x Reduced medium mortar platoon
  • 4 x Para companies
    • 1 x small headquarters
    • 4 x Rifle platoons
      • 1 x Automatic Rifle squad
      • 1 x Rifle-grenadier squad
  • 0-1 x Indigenous company (as French companies but with indigenous personnel)1

(1) From April 1951 the 1er CIPLE (Vietnamese Coy) was attached to 1er Bataillon Étrangers de Parachutistes and 2e CIPLE attached to 2e Bataillon Étrangers de Parachutistes.


Mobile Group (1951-54)

Among General de Lattre’s reforms was the expansion of French mobile forces to respond to attacks on the de Lattre line, as well as to conduct offensive operations against Viet Minh base areas. By accelerating the formation of armies for the associated states, he increased total available troop strength with no increase in French military personnel. He could thus make good the losses from previous battles, and he built his parachute force up to a strength of six French, three Army of Vietnam, one Laotian, and one Cambodian battalions. (Jackson, 2005, p. 58-59)

Most significantly, he expanded the mobile group concept by staffing first four, and ultimately eleven French and seven Vietnamese, of these formations and providing them between three and four infantry battalions plus an artillery battalion and occasional armor company each. The infantry battalions could conduct motorized movements of either one-third their total force, or their entire force in three relays. Some mobile groups secured additional motor transport to become entirely motorized, as the artillery and mobile group headquarters were completely motorized with organic assets. The motorization of the infantry provided immediate rapid movement capability, and since the infantry was tied to the roads anyways due to the motorization of the artillery, this was seen as an asset rather than a liability. Mechanized forces were consolidated into amphibious groups of various amphibious vehicles capable of traveling through swamps, and armored sub-groups of mixed light tank and motorized or mechanized infantry. Each delta region had an equivalent of a regiment of amphibious and armored units available for mobile operations.40 General de Lattre also provided for company-sized commando units which sometimes were attached to mobile groups or conducted limited raids on their own.

The main problem with de Lattre’s expanded mobile force was the same as the problem with the sector infantry, its ties to the road network. Even the armored units had most of their infantry on trucks or half-tracks (Jackson, 2005, p. 59)

That gives us:

Indochina Mobile Group (1951-54)

  • 1 x Mobile Group Headquarters including
    • 1 x Signals Platoon
    • 1 x Security Platoon
    • 0-1 x Engineer Platoon
  • 1-1 Armoured company
  • 3 x Far Eastern Pattern Infantry Battalion
  • 1 x Motorized Artillery Battalion (12 x 105mm towed)

Artillery Support

The French relied on fire support external to its infantry formations. The principal fire support agency for the French was their artillery (Jackson, 2005, p. 62)

The result of this firepower disparity at close range [with the Viet Minh] was that the French were even more tied to the roads, as they had to always keep within range of their motorized artillery. As the primary artillery support was provided by 105-millimeter pieces, this effectively tied French infantry to within ten kilometers of a road network or base (Jackson, 2005, p. 55)

the French would likely have not used their small number of mortars but rather relied on artillery support (Jackson, 2005, p. 56)

The French infantry brought few mortars to the battlefield as they relied on the 105-millimeter pieces for most of their support. (Jackson, 2005, p. 63)

The distribution of artillery was such that by the time of General de Lattre’s reforms, the French had 228 positional pieces and 240 field pieces in Indochina. Except for a single battery of 155-millimeter guns in Tonkin, these were mostly 105-millimeter howitzers and a few 155-millimeter howitzers. By the war’s end, these numbers had increased to 323 positional pieces and 370 field pieces. The field pieces were assigned to battalions containing twelve howitzers each on a ratio of one artillery battalion per mobile group and a few extra for general support. The positional artillery was spread, usually in two-weapon platoons, along the de Lattre Line and at similar posts in the other commands. Typically, they were spread so they would be mutually supporting, so by the end of the war 323 pieces could have occupied 160 positions covering a 3,200-kilometer front. This dissipation of artillery was done as a psychological support to the troops, whom the French believed needed to know that artillery support was always available, however sparse such support may have been, as well as a tactical requirement given the firepower advantage Viet Minh main force infantry had relative to French infantry units. (Jackson, 2005, p. 62)

That gives us:

Artillery motorised battalion

  • 12 x 105mm howitzers (towed)

Helicopters

the idea to utilize the newly introduced helicopter was discussed in mid-1953, and preparations were begun to field an ultimate total of 500 tactical helicopters to provide an extraction capability for the paratroopers as well as a technique to get some of the other mobile troops off the roads.42 However, the French had fewer than fifty helicopters fielded at war’s end. (Jackson, 2005, p. 60)


Airpower

The paucity of artillery coverage, plus the fact that the available artillery was not sufficient to destroy Viet Minh field works, implies a reliance on airpower for responsiveness and destructive power. While generally meeting the demand of responsiveness and devastating to troops caught in the open, the French air support assets were not sufficient to provide the power to destroy Viet Minh fortifications. The French estimated they would have needed 200 heavy bombers to affect the Viet Minh main force’s logistics and fortifications.54 In fact, as late as June 1953 the combined naval aviation and air force combat strength was 34 medium bombers and 125 fighter-bombers. None of these aircraft were jets and some were World War II vintage. These aircraft were, like the artillery, spread throughout the theater to provide support to all the territorial commands with northern, central, and southern air commands corresponding to the army’s territorial commands. A French historian has further posited, in reinforcement of French contemporary military analysis, that “The loss of Dien Bien Phu is largely explained by the lack of B26 and B29 bombers.” French air strength figures were inflated by the presence of an aircraft carrier–one of France’s two of the time– which could not be maintained continuously as ships require three to four ships in inventory for every one on station.57 Therefore, the combination of Viet Minh countermeasures and a paucity of means thwarted the French scheme of employing overwhelming airpower to achieve battlefield victory. (Jackson, 2005, p. 63-64)


Militia

French units had, at the battalion level, begun establishing local militias in their subsectors as early as 1947. Typically twenty men with some rifles, these militias were not supported extensively and were ably countered by the end of 1948 in contested areas by an influx of Viet Minh regional cadres.61 In 1952, the French returned to the idea of local militias as a possible part of the pacification solution, and reenergized their militia development program. Village chiefs were charged with recruiting and commanding local personnel, while the military would provide arms and the civil authorities would provide administrative control. The difference from previous efforts was that the militia would be semipermanent at the village level and that there would be a hierarchy of permanent units at higher political administrative levels. These higher level militias worked closely with the civil police organization which was a paramilitary formation known as the National Guard.62 The predictable Viet Minh reaction to this development was an offensive by their corresponding regional guerrilla infrastructure to assassinate militia leaders and steal their arms. The new militia organization suffered rom poor leadership and a significant shortage of weapons. One example was of sixteen militia men armed with eight outdated rifles.63 The solution to the militia organization was to essentially mimic the Viet Minh regional organization with a pro-French version. Beginning in January 1953, the revitalized militia program took the vulnerable village out of the organization and replaced all previous militias with company-sized units for every ten villages. Women were also incorporated into the system for counter-espionage, communication, training, and propaganda functions in further imitation of the Viet Minh.64 In a precursor to later French counterrevolutionary warfare doctrine, psychological warfare was recognized as a principal function of militias.65 By April 1954 a battalion-sized unit to reinforce the local company-sized elements was created in Tonkin called an “inter-district” unit but as an indication of the lateness of the concept, this first battalion would also be the last such unit formed. (Jackson, 2005, p. 66-67)


Auxiliaries

Auxiliaries formed a critical portion of the French forces. Recruited by battalions from local personnel, and even from Viet Minh prisoners, and loosely administered by the territorial command, auxiliary units were formed early in the war and retained to the end. The typical arrangement was for a small company of auxiliaries per infantry battalion of about four French cadre and one hundred auxiliaries per company, with additional companies organized by higher echelons. By the end of the war, almost 1,100 such companies existed in both the French and the Associated States’ armies.68 They were originally formed to assist in the performance of mundane tasks such as manning watch towers posted along lines of communication, but as the war intensified the use of auxiliaries increased. Aside from providing additional manpower, auxiliaries provided an advantage to the French in that they were lightly equipped and familiar with the environment–so therefore they were mobile and familiar with the enemy. They were not a panacea; they often brought their families to the military post and their lack of heavy equipment or training precluded an ability to withstand assaults or conduct other conventional infantry operations. The French lessons learned report indicates that the primary missions for auxiliaries ought to have been village searches, reconnaissance, infiltration, and other patrol-type operations. A missed opportunity the French realized too late was that auxiliaries would have been an excellent organization to establish human intelligence cells much as the Viet Minh did. (Jackson, 2005, p. 1967-68)

That gives us:

Auxiliary Company

  • 1 x Company headquarters
  • 3 x Rifle platoons
    • 2 x squads: 15 soldiers with an automatic rifle and some combination of rifles and submachine guns

Commandos

The capabilities of the parachute commandos were recognized, and an attempt to duplicate them was made by de Lattre’s organization of company-sized commandos throughout the theater. Comprised of hand-picked French cadre and indigenous personnel who were often Viet Minh prisoners, these units were organized with three platoons per commando, with two squads per platoon. These squads were organized as the previous parachute commando sticks had been, that is with fifteen personnel and the capability of independent tactical employment. These commandos were organized on the basis of one per Dinassaut, one per sector, and a few additional for each territorial command. Being independent companies with no heavy weapons and only six squads each, their capability in combat against Viet Minh main force units was limited to patrolling. (Jackson, 2005, p. 53-54)

An offshoot of the auxiliaries was the commandos. The French used the term commando loosely in Indochina, and it referred to all manner of units (to include war dog units).72 The term came to the French from British support of Free-French units organized along British Commando lines in World War II, while the British had taken the term from the Boer militias of the Boer War. However, the primary commando force for the French in Indochina was that composed of select auxiliaries cadred by select French officers and sergeants and administratively controlled by the Territorial Commands. These commandos were developed by local initiative early in the war, but the prime impetus for their development was General de Lattre’s reforms in 1951.73 These commandos came in four variations, three of which are pertinent to this discussion: most were “normal” or sector commandos which typically support a sector command with local reconnaissance and other patrol operations, the amphibious commandos, also called accompanying commandos, which provided a limited organic infantry element to the Dinassauts, and the reserve or shock commandos which conducted deep-penetration missions. All of these units were organized with six to nine French cadre personnel and 120 indigenous personnel. They formed a headquarters and three platoons each of two squads organized along the lines of the 1940s parachute commandos. Sixteen sector commandos, five amphibious commandos, and six shock commandos were formed in Tonkin alone.75 Operating lightly, often disguised as Viet Minh, and utilizing daring patrol tactics, the Commandos enjoyed many successes. However, the profusion of such units created the classic problems of coordination difficulties with local units, scrounging of quality personnel, and inappropriate employment. As the Viet Minh recognized the danger these units posed, their French cadre were often the target of assassination. The interesting French lesson from this experience was that some number of commandos were needed, but in a more controlled fashion. The recommendation was for a limited number of shock commandos for raiding, and intelligence commandos to mimic the successful Viet Minh version known as Trinh Sats which would conduct human intelligence, reconnaissance, and other covert activities. (Jackson, 2005, p. 68)

That gives us:

Independent commandos

  • 1 x Company headquarters
  • 3 x Rifle platoons
    • 2 x squads: 15 soldiers with an automatic rifle and some combination of rifles and submachine guns

Yellowing

Beyond the formation of auxiliaries, the French recruited indigenous personnel into the French colonial army. This was generally done at the battalion level, and by the end of the war over half of many ostensibly French units were composed of native personnel. Initially, this was done as a by-product of hiring back former members of the Tonkinese Rifles. After de Lattre’s reforms, the process was greatly accelerated. The impolite term used by the French was “yellowing.” The exact process varied from each unit, but the typical method was to form an Indochinese battalion in each regiment or sector, an Indochinese company in each battalion, and sometimes an Indochinese platoon in each remaining company. The benefits of this system were in greatly enlarging the size of the army, adding personnel with intimate local knowledge to units, and in denying the personnel gained to the Viet Minh. The problems were in the thinning of French cadres, in the adoption of the Indochinese’s soldiers’ families, and the fact that the Viet Minh established an organization known as Dich Van cells that enlisted in the French army for intelligence and sabotage. (Jackson, 2005, p. 69-70)


Viet Minh

And a short note about the opposition, the Viet Minh.

the Viet Minh had greater firepower since they equipped their main force infantry with more automatic weapons compared to French units. The Viet Minh also retained the three rifle to one heavy weapons structure of their infantry, so Viet Minh infantry units had greater amounts of mortars and shaped charge projectors than the French, too. (Jackson, 2005, p. 55)

The would have had two or three light machine guns, that is belt fed vice box fed automatic rifles, and six to nine submachine guns. Some units may also have had early designed rocket-propelled grenade launchers. To add to the disparity, the Viet Minh would have had close support from company and battalion mortars (Jackson, 2005, p. 56)

the Viet Minh had one heavy division which contained all their traditional artillery; and their infantry used recoilless rifles, mortars, and light artillery pieces (typically 75-millimeter) to obtain fire support that could be maintained in the close fight. The advantage of this organization was that equipment and ammunition could be packed by animal or bicycle and brought directly to the fight with direct lay employment. (Jackson, 2005, p. 63)


References

Indochine 54. (n.d.) “Au Rapport”: CEFEO Unit Organisation notes. (author)

Jackson, P. D. (2005). French Ground Force Organizational Development For Counterrevolutionary Warfare Between 1945 And 1962. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Wikipedia: Jean de Lattre de Tassigny

3 comments to French Ground Force Organisation in the First Indochina War (1946 to 1954)

  • Steven Whitesell

    A tempting post to be sure, Steven. Are you thinking of some SE Asia Crossfire games with the French and VM? The French Para jacket from the mid 50’s to 60’s fame has one of my all time favorite camouflage patterns. Looking forward to future posts on the subject.

    Steve

  • Steven Whitesell

    Disregard that last question – I just noticed the “categories” : Crossfire and the First Indo China War!

    • Steven Thomas

      Yeah, I reckon it lends itself to Crossfire quite well. Drawing on elements of my Portuguese Colonial War project. But unless I can convince myself that this fits in my (admittedly wide and flexible) remit, then I’ll probably pass.

      I am, however, keen to encourage Jamie to dive in. He organises the kit and I’ll play. 😉

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