This web page will bring you an insight 
into the involvement 
of the Hre Nation with the GCMA 
and specially the "Forces Hre Libres" 
and his creator, GCMA Captain Pierre Hentic.

 


SDECE
The Service 
de 
Documentation Exterieure 
et de Contre-Espionnage 
(External Documentation 
and Counter-Espionage Service)
 was France's external intelligence agency from 1944 to 1982. 
It should not be confused with the 
"Deuxieme Bureau" which was purely for military intelligence.

*


*

"Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés"
(Mixed Airborne Commando Group)
commonly referred as GCMA,
was the "Action Service"
of the SDECE (Cold war French counter
intelligence service
).

*

 
*

Operation "Lea" 
took place during 
7 October and 22 December 1947.  
An airborne force tried to capture the Viet Minh leadership and three French columns did strike into the Viet Minh heartland.

The parachute assault surprised the Viet Minh, nearly capturing Ho Chi Minh and General Giap.

 The operation was a tactical success, inflicting severe casualties on the Viet Minh, but strategically indecisive, because it failed to capture the Viet Minh leadership or seriously crippling its military forces.

 *

  
*

Operation "Laterite"

The French Forces during the Laterite Operations were about 250 men strong and lead by Cpt Hentic, 
with Lt De Montauzan  leading one of the centaine and
 Lt Rouquette the other,  Lt Cardona and 20 French para were attached to the force as reinforcement.
 I believe some of the NCO on this operation where Sgt Dupuy, Isaac, Reisen.

*

*

*
"RR"

"Representation Regionale" were Operationnal  bases which had attached to them several  Operational Detachment  "Antennes" which were made of a variable numbers of Guerillas Companies "Centaines"

See the GCMA page for more details

*

 

Read about it

 
 
 
 
 

 



"In August 1945 due to the power vacuum left by the Japanese capitulation, the lack of French troops in Indochina and the truce achieved by Ho Chi Minh, the Viet-Minh gained control of  most of central Vietnam. 
The Binh-Dinh, Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces  were under Viet Minh control and the Hre were  "rallied " under duress to the Viet-Minh ideology. Two Viet-Minh Hre Regional Forces battalions were formed.
Only major towns like Tourane (DaNang) stayed under French control. 

By 1946  the under strength French Expeditionary Corps "Corps Expeditionnaire Francais en Extreme-Orient" CEFEO started its campaign  to regain control of the highlands with very limited effect due to lack of military  means.  They mainly controlled to the north: areas around Da Nang, Dong Hoi, Hue and to the south: area from Ninh Hoa down to Saigon as well as some of the Delta.  The rest of the Central Highlands had a few French outposts which controlled very small areas and were under constant threat of being overrun. 

By 1949, the Viet-Minh  had eliminated most of the rallied Hre chiefs,  en-rolled  most males as soldiers or coolies, distributed most of Hre cultivable ground  to Viet-Minh settlers.  These continuous actions sparked a Hre uprising, resulting in the death of several thousand of  military and civilians Viet-Minh.   In fear of the heavy reprisal to follow, most of the up-risers converged onto the French Outpost of Kon Plong to seek protection from the French. The garrison officers: Capitaine Pierre et Lieutenant Richard saw an opportunity of rallying all Hre tribes to France. As a direct result of their forward thinking, they created "The Jungle Mission" giving it in 1950  to one of their young Corporal: Rene Riesen. (see Jungle Mission page)  
This was an unconventional operation designed by the enterprising officers from Kon Plong outpost and was not backed up by the French High Command.  

In 1951, Cpt Hentic during his second tour in Indochina received command of some of the Central Highlands GCMA  forces.  (Représentation Régionale du GCMA  Plateaux Montagnards du Sud Indochinois a Ban Me-Thuot)   (see right hand side column)

 

July 1953, after Cpt Hentic medical evacuation, Lieutenant Thebault took over the Highlands GCMA. No more in depth lengthily operations were carried out and the Highlands GCMA limited itself to short raiding missions in the Viet-Minh controlled Hre country and coastal areas. A new concept was started were small combined teams of one or  two French NCO and several Hre partisans would go in after specific Viet-Minh targets.  These small teams were called  "Mosquitos" or "Wasp" teams and despite recruitment problems, they accomplish very daring raids with varying degree of success. They often carried out joint operations with the " Centre Annam centaines" specially the one from Cu-Lao-Reo. 
(page 81,  Services Speciaux book)

In 1953 the GCMA was renamed the GMI,  Groupement Mixtes D'Intervention  and by the end of the year, the RR Plateaux was dissolved and its assets and personnel transferred to the Tourane RR* (Da Nang) . 
After July 1954 and the cease fire, the "would be" Vietnamese special Forces  took over the GCMA mission and offered Hres to be integrated in the Vietnamese Army.

 





Force Hre Libres,
cast fob badge

Below is the story as written in
 
"Commandos de choc en Indochine/ Les heros oublies"
I have been unable to confirm some of the information especially on the Hre.
I understand that this novel is based on true facts and give the reader a fairly good insight
on the GCMA, but is certainly not fully accurate on some of the operations described. 
I have been advised by veterans that  "Erwan Bergot" has used his "writer license" to make the novel more appealing.

I am also under the impression  thanks to Vietnam USSF veterans that most Hre did not speak Vietnamese. The "Hre ancient History" may have been embellished for the book! 

But this is still worth reading!

As the book is written in French, here is an "extract translated by myself"

Looking to get in touch with Hres to learn more about their ancient History.

Cpt Hentic working for the SDECE in Saigon first heard of the Hre during one of Colonel Lecoq briefings in 1951.  Col Lecoq like Cpt Hentic, was a WWII Free French paratrooper and ex resistant and as the commander of the Central Highland, he saw the possibility of creating "Maquis" with the Hre population in Viet Minh contested area.

Cpt Hentic interest was immediately sparked 
as during his first tour, he carried out 
(with "Thos" indigenous partisans) very successful anti guerrilla operations in "North Vietnam" during operation "Lea". Unfortunately in 1947, Hanoi French HQ did not realise the potential of such actions.

After the briefing, Cpt Hentic approached General Lecoq to get more information on the possibility of Hre Maquis in the Central Highlands and this is what he was told:

"It all started a year ago in Jan 1950, when the Kon Plong commander saw about a 1000 Viet Minh soldiers with their wives, children, oldest, animals all of them peacefully assembled around his post. He discovered that these were a Hre Viet Minh battalions which wanted to rally to the French. 

The Hre were not the usual Montagnards, they lived in the mountains above Bin Dinh and Quang Ngai costal areas. For centuries every 3 or 4 years they organized raiding parties on the costal areas, killing Vietnamese, and pillaging villages, taking back rice, animal, women and children.  This created an interbreeding which made the Hre nation a lot more resilient that the other Montagnard, they had the courage and robustness of the yards as well as the ingenuity and open mind of the Vietnamese, this was also the only tribe who spoke Vietnamese. So they were well feared by neighbors Vietnamese from the costal plains. When Ho Chi Minh formed his government in 1946 he included two Hre ministers to gain their alliance in Viet Minh controlled "Central Annam" . For the next two years the Hre were left alone in their ancestral valley of the Song Hre until the Viet Minh decided to accelerate their indoctrination and allegiance and send military instructors, political commissars and settlers to take over. Their fighting instincts awoke and their chief dealt with the Viet Minh invasion in their ancestral way!

"Death to the Kloui"
(Death to the Vietnamesse).

After several days the Vietminh reacted and moved two Vietminh regiments the 108 and 803 from Quang Ngai towards the "Song Hre" Valley.  The Hre fought bravely but were not equipped or trained to fight and win against two regular VM regiments, so they decided to move south to Kon Plong post to rally to the French and ask for their protection.

At first they were integrated in the "Suppletifs" forces with the Vietnamese but unfortunately this was not successful, so some went back to their land with weapons to carry on their own fighting and  about 200 fighters stayed a Kontum."

These were going to be "Cpt Hentic's Hres"!

Above is the story as written in
 
"Commandos de choc en Indochine/ Les heros oublies"
I have been unable to confirm some of the information especially on the Hre.
I understand that this novel is based on true facts and give the reader a fairly good insight
on the GCMA, but is certainly not fully accurate on some of its operations described. 
I have been advised by veterans that  "Erwan Bergot" has used his writer license" to make the Novel more appealing.

I am also under the impression  thanks to Vietnam USSF veterans that most Hre did not speak Vietnamese. The "Hre ancient History" may have been embellished for the book! 

Looking to get in touch with Hres to learn more about their ancient History.

 

 

******************

Description of insignia:

A sword and Black Panther (famous around Pleiku and Kontum) symbolize the commando style jungle mission, this is over a white parachute and star is super imposed on the black mountains of the central Highlands in the V for Victory all placed on a Colonial anchor. 
The parachute and anchor denote 
the Colonial Airborne troops. 
In black letters are the words; 
"FORCE HRE LIBRE" Free Hre Forces.
This insignia is known to have been manufactured by Decat and Drago in France and locally made in Vietnam like this one.

Forces Hre Libres & Cpt Hentic study has been written with the help of 
Anne Alexandre, daughter of Colonel Hentic,
and many members of what I call 
the "Gia Vuc & Ha Thanh community"
A very special thank you to Maureen Robinson for her immense help on the Hre research 
and 
Robert Henzler MAT 1/27 for doing 
a lot of map work and locating these forgotten villages or outposts.

Information from the following books have been used:

"Commandos de Choc en Indochine
Les heros oublies", 
Erwan  Bergot

"Commandos et Forces Speciales en Indochine", 
Commandant Raymond Muelle

"Services Speciaux, GCMA - Indochine 1950/54", 
Commandant Raymond Muelle and Eric Deroo

"Les maquis d'Indochine", 
Colonel Trinquier 

Please note this page is "a work in progress", 
if you have any additional information or correction, please get in touch 
via the Gia Vuc contact page

 

 


Black and white photos are courtesy of 
www.maho-hentic.com  (Collection Hentic)

On the 18 April 1951, Cpt Hentic arrived in Saigon for his second  tour and was attached to the "Action Hre" in the Central Highlands of Central Annam. By the 26 April the GCMA was created and he received the command of the Central Highlands GCMA "Representation regionale" at Ban Me Thuot with the mission of re-organising military  the Hre tribes and integrating them as a fighting force in the GCMA. In fact they had revolted against the Viet Minh in late 1949 and had sought French protection. About 200 of its Hre warriors were still on the outskirt of Kontum with the by now famous Corporal Rene Riesen who had rallied them in 1950 and had been adopted by the Hre as one of them.
(See Jungle mission page).  
For this mission Cpt Hentic had a small team of 4 officers and about 10 NCO.  The first few months was spend training and assigning Hre NCO, they also carried out reconnaissance operations in the region of  Son Ha to Vi Muk.  During that period they discovered that the Vi Muk Hre chief was in fact a double agent working for the V-M.  The Mang Buk French outpost was also attacked. 
Mang Buk was the last French outpost in the Sedang territory and was about 12 hours march from Kontum. After that point they had to cut through the jungle for days to places like Dak Ninh, Kola, Viholac and Vi Muk. 

AA arriveeVimuk.jpg AA rueVimuk copy.jpg
AA 23TerrasseVimuk.jpg AA 25Viholak.jpg
AA mangbuk1 copy.jpg AA traverseedansleau.jpg
AA 31deux hres rocher crop.jpg

Photos are courtesy of 
(Collection Hentic) 
for more GCMA photos from Cpt Hentic, 
visit
www.maho-hentic.com

 

On the 8th August 1951 the outpost of Kon Plong was overrun and an Airborne operation with the 2e BEP was launched to regain the outpost and stabilize the situation.  Cpt Hentic and his newly trained 3 "centaines"  were asked to assist and after an undetected 3 days march, they attacked V-M forces in their rear. 
Encouraged by their success they carried on guerrilla action 
in Viet Minh controlled  area for the next few months.
I autumn 1951, Cpt Hentic with 2 to 3 French cadres and Hre forces of 150-200 men carried out more raids deep into Viet Minh controlled  territory. These raids lasted from three weeks to six weeks reaching places like Vidzen, Vibliang and Gi Lang and rallied more troops and population through the lower valleys of the Son Hre.   
By the winter of 1951, Cpt Hentic and his Hre were becoming a real threat for the Viet Minh and they moved their 108 and 803 Regiments to try to crush Hre forces and regain control of the Quang Ngai valleys. In fear of V-M reprisal, the hills Hre population moved down to Kontum were Cpt Hentic ended up having to cope with about 700 partisans and their families. They settled down in and around the Training Camp.

In the spring of 1952, a long awaited French re-enforcement arrived with the addition of one officer and six NCO. The French high command in the military region decided to re-established the Hre 
in their native land, the Quang Ngai province and launched the operation "Laterite".  It is to be noted that Cpt Hentic and his team not only reorganized the Hre Military but carried out Civic Actions helping them greatly on a social level. This was not part of his mission but was done benevolently and was a key factor to his success with the Hres.

Cpt Hentic with less than three Hre "centaines"  left Gia Vuc
on 26 April 1952,  they crossed the Song Re on the 27th and attacked and took Ba To in the morning of the 2nd of May, destroying all V-M installations and ammunitions depots as well as the VM 108 Regiment headquarters.
Then they disappeared in the jungle before the Viet Minh  reacted.


On 5 May, they were back to the Song Hre to a pre arranged crossing point where a French regular Montagnard battalion was supposed to cover them during the crossing, but no sign of their support was found. With over 3000 men of the 108 VM regiments on their tale, Cpt Hentic decided not to wait for their elusive support but to cross the Song Hre in three separate groups giving each other mutual fire support. While crossing, the Viet Minh sprung the attack resulting in high casualties on the French/Hre side with the lost of two French officers (Lieutenant Montauzan and Lieutenant Cardona) and about forty Hres. Cpt Hentic and his Hres managed to get back to Kontum with their dead officers.

 By late 1952, approximately 1500 Hre guerillas generated by the GCMA were fighting the Viet-Minh forces in the central Higlands, relieving pressure around Tourane (Da Nang). The French High Command instructed the GCMA to conduct operations in the Viet- Minh infested Binh Dingh province where they carried out ambushes, prisoner snatch, destruction of  food depots, road and rail network. 
They also made contact with other local ethnic minorities in view of rallying them.

 

33radeau WEB.jpg
Cpt Hentic(right) and Lt Rouquette (left) crossing 
the Dak Hre during an operation in the region 
south of Gia Vuc .


In December 1952 after the fall of the Vimuk outpost, the Hre population was  regrouped around  Kontum then moved to Ankhe. The overall supervision of the Central  Highlands GCMA operations was transferred to  the Vietnamese Army and local administration  which did not facilitate Cpt Hentic task. 

By the fall of 1952 with a Vietnamese Commando and a Hre platoon (approx 100 men),  Cpt Hentic achieved a two months deep reconnaissance via Dak To into Laos leading to Attopeu.  In its path, they destroyed Viet-Minh bases and laid booby traps on the Viet-Minh trails. During this reconnaissance mission they discovered in Laos a well camouflaged large tails network, Viet Minh staging and rest areas, food dumps etc. This was the first sighting of the famous Vietnam Ho Chi Minh trail! 
They also capture a V-M officers party coming back from Thailand which provided valuable intelligence. 
Unfortunately prolonged operations outside Hre territory started to affect the Hre moral and effectiveness. The idea laid by Cpt Hentic of  "Free Hre Forces" created to free and retain the Hre country was of course misunderstood by the French High command and more commando raids outside Hre territories were asked of them !  

By July 1953, Cpt Hentic was medically evacuated due to illness created by two years non-stop jungle operations.

Later on, large raiding operations were abandoned in favor of guerrilla tactics and smaller intelligence-gathering raids in which the Hre Forces were the equal to any of the best V-M troops

 

 

Photo courtesy of Anne Alexandre,
daughter of Colonel Hentic
 

Pierre Hentic

Pierre Hentic was born on the 2 April 1917
in Paris, France.

He joined the French Army and was  assigned to the 
"27eme Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins". 
(Mountains Troops)

A great lover of sport, he was a civilian rowing athlete and became a  military skiing champion. He also qualified as a Medic NCO and in 1940 was shipped to Norway to fight at Narvik with the French Expeditionary Corps.

After France defeat, he was demobilize and  joined the French Resistance in January 1941. He served as 
a "Liaison Agent" with Jade-Fitzroy Resistance network 
and was arrested in 1942 by the Vichy Government in "Zone South". Luckily he  managed to escape and early 1943 he joined the Free French Forces in England and trained as paratrooper and as "Head of an escape network".

He was parachuted in France and organized 
with the French resistance a Maritime/Airborne escape network for agents and downed Allied pilots.

In January 1944, he was once more arrested, this time by the Germans in Paris and was jailed in Fresnes prison.  In June 1944 he was deported to "Dachau" concentration camp. 
Liberated in 1945,  he was integrated to the French Regular Army with the rank of Lieutenant due to his exceptional services during WWII.

Lieutenant Hentic was send to Indochina and arrived on the 10th of March 1947 in Saigon here he served with the "1er Bataillon de Choc" as a "Commando" Commanding Officer, as the battalion intelligence Officer and then was assigned to the SDECE.   
( 1er Choc was the First French Special Forces Parachute battalion).

In 1951, he did his second tour in Indochina as a Captain assigned to the newly created  GCMA.
He commanded the "Representation Regional" 
at Ban Me Thuot and created the Forces Hre Libres
in the central highlands of Annam.

In 1953 he was medically evacuated out of Indochina 
and then send to Algeria were he was given the command  
of a 300 "Harkis" indigenous local force. 
Later on, he was posted on the Tunisian border before returning to France.  
Colonel Pierre Hentic finished his Military career 
as 2nd in Command of the 1er RCP 
(regiment de Chasseur Parachutiste).

Colonel Pierre Hentic, one of France Resistance heroes is Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur, with thirteen citations. He was also awarded  
la Médaille de la Résistance, 
la Croix de guerre 1939-1945, 
la Croix de Guerre des T.O.E., 
la Croix de la Valeur Militaire, 
Member of the British Empire
Medal of Freedom with Silver Palms 
and many other decorations. 

Colonel Hentic passed away on 19 March 2004

******************

The Legion d'Honneur  
(National Order of the Legion of Honor) 
is the highest decoration in France and  was established by Napoleon Bonaparte
 on the 19 May 1802. 
This world-renowned Order is divided into five various degrees: 
Chevalier (Knight), 
Officier (Officer), 
Commandeur (Commander), 
Grand Officier (Grand Officer) 
and Grand-Croix (Grand Cross)

******************


Pierre Hentic did write his "memoirs" in two books
 (written in French)

"TANT QU'IL Y AURA DES ETOILES"
Volume one
 "RESISTANTS" 
which received 
"le Prix Littéraire de la Résistance"

This book is his WWII memoirs as Resistant and a Free French Paratrooper head of an Escape network in occupied France.

Please click on the photo to purchase the book

"TANT QU'IL Y AURA DES ETOILES"
Volume two
"PARTISANS"

This book  is about his two Indochina tours one with the Ier Choc (elite Paratrooper batalion) and his second one as a Cpt with the GCMA in the Central Highland of South Vietnam. This book also cover the Algerian war.

Please click on the photo to purchase the book

 


This webpage is dedicated to 
Cpt Hentic and his beloved Hre 
and I hope will act 
as a tribute in memory of their achievements and suffering 
during this often forgotten part of the French Indochina war.

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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