General Massu in 1958
|Born||5 May 1908
|Died||26 October 2002
Free French Forces
|Years of service||1928–1969|
|Commands held||10th Parachute Division
French forces in Germany
|Battles/wars||World War II
*Battle of Normandy
*Liberation of Paris
First Indochina War
|Awards||Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
Companion of the Liberation
Distinguished Service Order (UK)
Jacques Massu was born in Châlons-sur-Marne to a family of military officers; his father was an artillery officer. He studied successively at Saint-Louis de Gonzague in Paris, the Free College of Gien (1919–1925) and Prytanée National Militaire (1926–1928). He then entered Saint-Cyr and graduated in 1930 as a second lieutenant in the promotion class "Marshal Foch" and chose the Colonial Infantry.
Between October, 1930 and August, 1931, he served in the 16th Senegalese Tirailleur Regiment (16th RTS) in Cahors. He was sent to Morocco with the 5th RTS and took part in the fighting around Tafilalt where he earned his first citation. He was promoted to lieutenant in October 1932 and took part in the operations in High Atlas, earning a new citation.
In 1934 Massu was transferred to 12th RTS at Saintes, Charente-Maritime. He served in Togo from January 1935 to February 1937 performing military and civilian duties in Komkombas. Then he was stationed in Lorraine with the 41st RMIC until June 1938, when he was sent to Chad to command the subdivision of Tibesti with headquarters in Zouar.
World War II
He was serving in Africa when World War II broke out, and joined the Free French Forces. He took part in the battle of Fezzan with the armoured troops of General Leclerc. In 1941, he was in charge of the bataillon de marche du Tchad. He served as a lieutenant-colonel in the 2nd Armored Division (2e DB) until the end of the war.
A Brigadier General in June 1955, Massu commanded the groupe parachutiste d'intervention and from 1956 the 10e Division parachutiste. (Grando and Valynseele). France sent Massu and his division to Algeria in response to a wave of armed attacks and terrorist bombings coordinated by Algerian FLN. (Codevilla and Seabury). Massu ultimately won the Battle of Algiers in 1957, during which French forces were able to identify and arrest the leadership of the FLN in Algiers through the successful application of coercive methods of interrogation and outright torture on members of subordinate cells. In July 1958, he was promoted to Général de division and took the head of the army corps of Algiers, as well as functions of prefect for the region of Algiers.
It was said of Massu that he willingly admitted to the use of torture on suspected members of the FLN. However, he insisted that he would never subject anyone to any treatment that he had not first tried out on himself.
The Algier crisis of 1958, began when the current government suggested that it would negotiate with the Algerian nationalists, bringing the instability and ineffectiveness of the Fourth Republic to a head. Right-wing elements in the French Army, led by General Massu seized power in Algiers and threatened to conduct an assault on Paris, involving paratroopers and armoured forces based at Rambouillet, unless Charles de Gaulle was placed in charge of the Republic. De Gaulle did so under the precondition that a new constitution would be introduced creating a powerful presidency in which a sole executive, the first of which was to be De Gaulle, ruled for seven-year periods. These changes were introduced and the Fifth Republic was born. In July 1958 he became général de division (3 stars).
On 14 January 1960, Massu gave an interview in which he declared:
The Army has the power. It did not show it yet, because the opportunity did not arise. But the Army will use its power in one precise occasion (...) it encourages settlers to constitute paramilitary organisations and provides them weapons.
Massu was immediately relieved of command and sent back to the mainland.
After his criticism of the policy of de Gaulle in 1960, Massu was fired from his positions of military governor of Algiers. In 1962 he became military governor of Metz and of the Sixth military region in France. He was promoted to général de corps d'armée (4 stars) in 1963. In March 1966, he became général d'armée (5 stars) and was made chief of the French forces in Germany. On 29 May 1968, Charles de Gaulle came to visit him at his headquarters in Baden-Baden during the events of May 68. Massu assured de Gaulle of his support, but according to some sources conditioned it upon an amnesty for French military officers implicated in coup attempts during the Algerian War.
Massu retired from military duty in July 1969 and spent the rest of his life in his home at Conflans-sur-Loing writing his memoires. He died there on 26 October 2002.
- Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
- Companion of the Liberation (14 July 1941)
- Croix de guerre 1939-1945 (8 citations)
- Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures (3 citations)
- Croix de la Valeur Militaire (2 citations)
- Distinguished Service Order (UK)
- Grand Officer of the Ordre du Nichan El-Anouar
- Grand Officer of the Order of the Black Star
- Bundesverdienstkreuz (West Germany)
He received 13 citations during his career
- "Give me two divisions and tomorrow, you can take your breakfast on the boulevard Saint Germain" (to De Gaulle, about May '68)
- "I am a soldier, I obey"
- Charles de Gaulle : "So, Massu, still that stupid?"
- Jacques Massu's answer : "Still that gaullist, General!"
- Codevilla, Angelo and Seabury, Paul. War: Ends and Means, Second Edition. Virginia: Potomac Books, 2006.
- Grando, Denis and Valynseele, Joseph. À la découverte de leurs racines. Paris: L'Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux, 1988.
- Aussaresses, General Paul, The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria, 1955-1957. New York: Enigma Books, 2010. 978-1-929631-30-8.
- (French) Ordre de la Libération