[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: when and where?
The review pasted to this is from a later book than the one promised you earlier. I'm still looking. Note the comment by the author written after 9/11.
POUR LA FRANCE, SERVICES SPECIAUX 1942-1954
The criminal trial of the author of this work, General Paul Aussaresses, was held the week of 23 November 2001 in Paris. The decision of the judge will be made and delivered towards the end of January, 2002. The accusation against him was not for the tortures he had justified committing during the Algerian's war for independence from France. An amnesty declared long ago had made him immune from punishment for this behavior. He was tried for making this behavior public!
The book itself describes the first years of active military service by one of the more distinguished soldiers of France's modern history. He elected to stay on active military service after the armistice imposed by Hitler's victory in June, 1940 left only one third of France unoccupied. His first minor wound dated from that time. His posting at the beginning of 1941 was with a unit of Algerian light infantry while General de Gaulle was establishing Free France. His training to become a regular officer back in France introduced him to the men with whom he spent much of the rest of his military service. The American landing in Algeria in November of 1942 got him launched into the French equivalent of today's Special Forces.
The first of these operations for him began with the immediate German reaction to this first American phase of the European ground war by seizing the unoccupied portion of France. His first clandestine mission was liberating and escorting a French Air Force general imprisoned by Vichy that General de Gaulle wanted brought to England. Aussaresses was a subordinate (low level) man in a team led by a fellow who had parachuted into France from London for this purpose. It succeeded..
The Spanish kept Aussaresses himself in custody for eight months. He was diverted from a promised assignment in the Foreign Legion on to an assignment as a Jedburgh* to prepare to parachute back into France to a resistance unit in the Maquis sabotaging German defense maneuvers against the upcoming Allied invasions. His rigorous preparation for this is detailed in this work. It is easy to see why our Special Forces describe Jedburghs as the psychic parent of their service. Colonel Aaron Bank, another Jedburgh is credited with copying our own Special Force from a unit Aussaresses had developed two years after WWII after a visit to it.
His next Jedburgh assignment was to take a team to Germany towards the end of the war, on the other side of the Elbe River. He was to warn the French prisoners in the largest of the POW camps, that they must not take the road back their captors were putting them on for their release. This would have them being "used" to delay the Soviet's advance at the cost of their own lives! Aussaresses' observations of the Soviet's behavior-and his ability to speak Russian at this time-convinced him that WWIII was underway. Not incidentally, his extraordinary ability to learn every language where he was ever posted enabled him to cross into each of these cultures, and enhanced his unusual value almost beyond description.
His presenting himself for service in Indochina was delayed by a higher priority assignment, the formation of the 11e Choc, a battalion of special action forces with unique capabilities in acquiring usable intelligence and employing it. His description of this process has lessons applicable today. Sadly, again we are not using the attitudes and operational processes he and his fellows acquired at such intellectual rigor and cost.
The Japanese had provided the Viet Minh forces the French weapons they seized when they took control of their country in the spring of 1945. This made possible their seizure of Hanoi on December 19, 1946. Colonel Massu recovered this city against its ill-prepared captors in a brutal immediate reaction by his regiment from the 2nd French Armored Division which had also successfully fought the German Army. Massu as a general officer commanded the 10th Parachute Division to which Aussaresses was posted in 1955 in Algeria for his role in quelling the rebellion
Aussaresses arrival in country with his company from the 2nd Battalion of the Chasseurs Parachutistes was delayed until mid-1948. By then he found the situation quite defavorable for France. The early operations of their battalion confirmed this. They made their first combat parachute jump there in November 1948 in an operation to rescue captured positions. Holding these positions along Route Colonial 4 (RC 4) gave the Viet Minh continuing opportunities to ambush re-supply columns. The casualties from Aussaresses battalion from a series of very tough fights were severe enough that the unit was dissolved about one year after it arrived in country. The Red River delta was controlled by the Viet Minh. This made the war a continuation of WWII for Aussaresses and most of his comrades.
The Viet Minh's next large supply of weapons were indirectly from the United States. These were from those American weapons provided Chang Kai Shek's troops. Mao acquired and shared these after most of CKS forces collapsed in 1949. The Chinese artillery firing at French garrisons across the border was another extension of this. We had trained these forces; the French heard some of the commands given in the English we had used when making their fire direction centers proficient with these weapons. One upside to this, some of Chang's forces in the south of China were still functioning. Aussaresses visited them in February, 1950 and successful bargained with them to attack Viet Minh formations in exchange for products we had not provided them from our air delivery system from Tainan Island.
One male and one female French Senators, who were Communist Party members, visited Hanoi in the summer of 1949. They were also lovers. The trio of French officers who broke into their hotel room declared that she was too ugly to be useful sexually. The Senators did succeed in having a minor punishment imposed on these uncharming men. Aussaresses was fortunate not be involved in this incident, as he was taking part in one more operation.
The candid explanations by Aussaresses of his role in Algeria's capital city during that territory's struggle for independence are worse than depressing. His statements emphasize his authorized and required use of torture. Summary executions of his victims usually followed. He and his chiefs were convinced torture of captured insurgents was the only way to acquire enough information soon enough to stop the killing of innocent civilians. Incidentally, many (most?) captured rebel agents talked without being tortured.
Torture was the only way available for occupying soldiers to acquire information in time to stop terrorist actions before their innocent targets became victims. His total lack of guilt for this behavior stems from his and his superiors' conviction that there were no alternatives to his drastic actions, hence it was legitimate.
This book was published this November. His "Postface" adapts that classic French question to the Twin Towers tragedy. What would we have done with a captive who knew what was going to happen, but would not talk. Would we have accepted his remaining silent at the cost of 4000+ American lives?
My reaction to this book is quite personal, individual, and based on my appreciation of Aussaresses as a very effective soldier with a variety of complex and dangerous missions no one would want.
*The Jedburghs were very small (three men!) U.S. or British and French teams splendidly prepared to work with resistance elements in German occupied Europe. One of these Americans, much noted later was Bill Colby, then of the OSS who parachuted into both France and Norway. Other U.S. and French Jedburgh veterans were posted to China to fight the Japanese there. Retired Army Major General Jack Singlaub, then a 1st Lieutenant was one of these.