The story of Gia Vuc during French Indochina 
is directly linked to the story of the Hre Nation 
and the GCMA in the Central Highlands of Annam.

Through specialized French reading/research, 
help from the daughter of Capitaine Hentic (GCMA) 
and members of Gia Vuc USSF A-teams, 
I will try to retrace some of the fascinating 
but less-known part of the French Indochina history. 
I hope this will act as a living tribute to those who served  with the GCMA, 
 the Hre Nation and other Montagnards of the Central Highlands in Vietnam.

As you know, Gia Vuc at some stage during its pre American history had some involvement with the French. Many reports stated that French mine fields 
were around Gia Vuc A-camp and this used to be an old French Fort. 
The stone/brick building in the camp 
was a legacy from the French.  As far as I know the French mine fields 
and the building can only be explained by the assumption that 
a French outpost had been there in the late 1940 to early 1950's.  
I can not think of any other logical explanation.  

I have done some research via all the French Indochina books that I have but unfortunately 
Gia Vuc did not appear in any of them until 
I came across a book titled 

"Jungle Mission" 
written by René Riesen 

To be correct, the book was written in 1955 in French under the title of  
" Mission spéciale en forêt Moï " 
and was translated to English in 1957  
with "JUNGLE MISSION" as it's new title. 

The book is a poignant account of René  Riesen life and mission amongst the Montagnards and his ever growing love for these people. To use modern terminology, he went totally native, learning their language, their traditions, their rituals, their way of life. He became so much one of them and was so admired by his partisans that they offered him a wife to seal his alliance with them. On orders from his superiors and in the fear of offending his Montagnards and damaging all his good work, he accepted. Later on he was offered a second wife to secure alliance with another tribe as it was customary in the Montagnards way of life. He was loved so much that the Hre  called him
 "the Father with white hair". 
Never did he try to impose the European  ways, every thing he did was brought down to Montagnards level, so they would understand and accept what had to be done. Few Europeans have had the humility or the sympathy to enter so fully into a primitive way of life and to describe native men and women with such intimacy and even tenderness

Unfortunately the books was not written as an  historical account but more as a human narration of an extraordinary adventure. So the couple of hand drawn  maps in the book are not very accurate and very little military information is given.

Ilouhi and René Riesen

René Riesen
 was a  Colonial Infantry Corporal with the
 "Bataillon de Marche d’Extrême Orient" (BMEO)

This short history of Rene Riesen life 
has been compiled from  information read in 
"Jungle Mision",  
"Les heros oublies" 

"Les Bataillons des Reprouves"
In this, Raymond Muelle  misspelled  his name 
as Rene Rossen, but this is definably his story!

"Late in WWII, Rene did work briefly for the Vichy government. After the liberation, he received a twenty years prison sentence as his involvement was minor. During his sentence, he volunteer to serve in the "BILOM" Bataillion Leger d’Infantrie d’Outre Mer where the WWII political prisoners could redeemed themselves.  

R. Riesen arrived in Saigon in Mai 1950 as a Colonial Infantry " 2eme Classe" soldier affected to the BILOM ("Bataillon d'Infanterie Legere  d'Outre-Mer"), 
a unit  no longer in existence. 
Most of its soldiers had been assigned to the BMEO ("Bataillon de Marche Extreme Orient") which has been created in January 1950. The BMEO will also have a short existence as they were 
in turn converted into "Batallions Montagnard" in December 1950.

In fact Riesen was assigned to
 the 1st Company, 4th BMEO 
at the outpost of Kon Plong, an outpost controlling access to the costal plains of Son Ha and Ba To. 
The outpost is about a day away traveling by jeep from Kontum  and is position on a 1800  meter high peak were the rainy season lasted about 7 months 
with thick fog present almost every day. 

In December 1950 the 4th BMEO was renamed as the 4th Montagnard battalion, its HQ stayed at 
Ban Mé Thuot and its Battalions operated around Kontum. 

I understand that René Riesen served around 4 years in the Kontum area and joined the GCMA after its creation , he served under Cpt Hentic, creator of "L'action Hre".

Corporal R Riesen received, the French Croix de Guerre, the Croix des T.O.E (Théâtres d'opérations extérieures) and the Croix de la Vaillance Vietnamienne, with palm for is actions in French Indochina. 
Like many after his tour in Indochina, he was send 
to a much quieter operational Theatre: Algeria.  
In fact, this did not stay quiet for very long 
as this escalated quickly into full warfare.
 René Riesen and his wife would meet their death 
in an Arab ambush in December 1956.   
Unfortunately, I have not found any more information 
on René Riesen and do not know if his wife who died 
at his side was Ilouhi, his Hre wife. 

(If anybody has any information on René Riesen, please get in touch)





René Riesen was send north  and north east of Kontum  to try to rally all the Indigenous population and specifically the southern Hre 
of Mankra (Gia Vuc area) to fight the Viet Minh (VC).
All the high plateau of central Annam  were habited by  what was know to the French as the "Moi population" and the "Montagnards" to the American.  
These people were a mixture of  different tribes of  Malayo-Polynesian origins, the ones mentioned in Riesen book are the Bahnars, the Monoms, Djarais, Rhades, Sodangs and the Hres, they all shared a common factor:
 a very strong mistrust and hatred of the low land people: 
the Vietnamese. 
In effect for centuries the Vietnamese have been pushing these tribes out of the fertile costal area, into the mountains and had actually named them the  "Moi", which meant in Vietnamese Barbarian.  
The Vietnamese people regarded these primitive people as savages. During the French Indochina war, these  mountains became vital to the fighting Viet-Minh as the central highlands valleys became highways between  Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The Viet-Minh which were low land Vietnamese had no respect for these hill tribes and decided to convert them to communism by force and terror. 
The French soon realized that the hill tribes care very little for communism, the Viet-Minh or Vietnam in general. 
But, what they cared for was the little lands they had left and their way of life. The French also found that the Montagnards were prepared to fight against any invaders:  Viet-Minh or Vietnamese government forces.  
Generally they did not fear the French  as in the past, the few encounters with the white men were via  missionaries which always brought them peace and help.  
The French decided to help  these hill tribes to achieve a kind of Independence amongst the  "French Indochina Union" in exchange for their fight against the Viet-Minh.  
French Special Forces soldiers were send to these remote tribes to try to gain their allegiances and
 this where René Riesen adventure started.
Again the book does not give very specific dates but the Jungle Mission  took place during the later part of 1950. The 1949  Hre uprising is mentioned in his book and his Jungle Mission was an unconventional operation thought of by Kon Plong outpost officers: Capitaine Pierre et Lieutenant Richard, 
this was done before the creation of the GCMA. 

I believe, this was in 1950 that René Riesen was presented with the mission of rallying the various Montagnards, especially the Hres north east of Kontum.  As well as learning their language he was send on a first-aid course as medical aid would play a key roll in his success. He was briefed that his mission would not only be of a military nature, but that he would  have to act as a map maker and missionary as he was being sent deep into unexplored and contested Hre territory to rally its population.  Contrary to the Viet-Minh who converted Montagnards by force and looted villages, Renee and his partisan would pay their own way by exchanging "French counters" for food. (French counters could be exchanged at the nearest French outpost for fix amount of rice, dry fish, cloth etc".  After a while, the prestige of a white man going alone with indigenous partisan deep into contested area spread rapidly to far away villages. 

René Riessen, became know to the indigenous as  
father with white hair, 
and then  
father of the Moi. 

His fame grew so much that the Hre nation decided to give him 
a wife to strike an alliance with him. 
Ilouhi his first wife was a Hre from Vikli, a village a few miles
 away from Gia Vuc.


"According to R Riesen book, the Hre nation was divided into:
The Northern Hre who fomented the 1949 revolt and from which they were drawing their guerrillas and partisans. They came under the outposts of Mambuk,  Vimouk and Dakto  

The southern Hre of Gia Vuc and Mankra who did not take part in the rebellion. Their land  had not yet been occupied by the Viet-Minh who were mainly fighting in the Binh-Dinh province.  This obviously made them more open to French influence, but there alliance would only be achievable via the Northern Hre which were already fighting on the French side. 

In 1949 the Hre serving under Viet-Minh  mutinied and using their weapons  massacred 5000 Viets including settlers. In fear of heavy reprisal to follow, the mutineers converged  to Kon Plong, Mambuk and Dakto asking the French for armed support. The Vietminh were quick in their reprisal and reoccupied momentary lost grounds while massacring the Hre population left behind.  The Rebel Hre either went into maquis with French help or enlisted into French partisans forces to free their country of the Viet Minh in a movement called the "DOC LAP HRE" , the "Hre independence movement" for which the Kon Plong officers where  devoted to."


Before his death René  
managed to write a second book  
"Le silence du ciel" - "The silence of the sky" 
This book retrace his adventure with the French Colonial paratroopers & the GCMA and was published in 1956 but was never translated to English. 

Jungle Mission
Author: René Riesen 
Publisher: Crowell (1957)
Language: English
ASIN: B0007ED6N2

More information about the "Jungle Mission":

KON-PLONG outpost, is about 60 miles north east of Kontum and was by 1946 the most advance French post in the plateau of Kontum. It was build at the  intersection of the  Kontum valleys and  mountain leading to Son Ha and BaTo, highways to Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam and coastal areas. 
In 1946 the post was manned by a Company of Hill riflemen, 
from 1946-1948 the outpost  started to harden while the Viet-Minh  tried to over run it, as it was an obstacle to their military and political activities.  
By 1948 the French military outlook changed from defensive to offensive tactics, with raids deep into Viet controlled areas. The garrison by 1948 had 3 officer, 15 NCO/European troops, 150 indigenous partisan commandos and 120 men regular native rifle company.  Liaison with Kontum was made once a month by a trucks convoy.  Cpt Pierre, the outpost Co, initiated civic actions and set up a market and a trading post where distant tribes from East and West met to exchange goods and food. 
This became a good source of intelligence for the outpost.

From his map you can see that René Riesen did go to Mankra (Mangia), which is a few mile south of Gia Vuc, and went up north following the Song Re valley, so he must have passed through Gia Vuc.  It is also interesting to note that a few of the names on his map are spelt a different way to the names used in the US 1960 maps. The only reasons I can think of, is as mentioned in his book: no maps existed of that area, he actually was recording and mapping places he was going through.  
He more than likely did spell the names as he was hearing them from a language different to his. 
I have also acquired a French Indochina silk map, again the names of some of the villages are spelt different from the 1960's maps!  


Names from the 
"Jungle Mission"  book

Names identified on 
US 1960's map


Plaine de Gravuc   

Plain of Gia Vuc

15° 43' N  -  108° 05'E   Camp






 Vic Klum





Kon Plong

Kon Plong

Mang Buk

Mang Buk




Map Room


R Riesen Jungle Mission hand drawn map (1950's)

With map study by Robert M Hensler
Cpt MAT 1-27,  Duc Pho District, 
Quang Ngai Province, 1970


This map is huge so be patient, worth the wait

SERIES 1501, ND49-5, EDITION 2, 

 Visit our other pages for more information on the Hre and the French and the GCMA 
I am  working on a new pages regarding 
the involvement of the Montagnards with the French Army.
If you have any information, please get in touch 


This page has been written by J-L Delauve (Gia Vuc webmaster) after reading the following books, 
this is a work in progress and the webpage can and will be updated if new information come to light.

Reference Materials:
Uniforms of the Indo-China War and Vietnam War,Leroy  Tomphson; Les 170 Jours de Dien Bien Phu,  Erwan Bergot; 
French Foreign Legion Paratroops and The French Indochina War 1946-54  Martin Windrow; 
Une Guerre sans Fin, Indochine  1945-54, Pierre Ferrari et Jaques M.Vernet; 
The Last Valley, Martin windrow; Commando et Forces Speciales en Indochine, Raymond Muelle; 
Services Speciaux, GCMA-Iindochine, Raymond Muelle - Eric Deroo; 
Jungle Mission, R Riesen; Le Silence du Ciel, R Riesen; Les Heros Oublies, Erwan Bergo.

Any information and photographs on this site should not be used without prior agreement from the owners.
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