Jean Gilles (French Army officer)

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Jean Gilles
Gilles en Indochine.png
Gilles in Indochina
Born 14 October 1904
Perpignan, France
Died 10 August 1961(1961-08-10) (aged 56)
Mont-Louis, France
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1924–1961
Rank Army corps general Général de corps d'armée
Commands held 1er DBCCP
25th Parachute Division
Corps d’Armée de Constantine
Battles/wars World War II
First Indochina War
Algerian War
Suez Crisis
Awards Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor

Jean Marcellin Joseph Calixte Gilles (14 October 1904 – 10 August 1961) was a French Army General. He was born in Perpignan, France on 14 October 1904. His father, Joseph Gilles, was killed in the First World War.[1]

Early life[edit]

At age 12, Jean enrolled in a military school and at age 18, entered the renowned Saint-Cyr Military Academy,[2] where he lost an eye in a training accident, replacing it with one made of glass.

On leaving school he was assigned to 24e régiment de tirailleurs sénégalais (24th Regiment Senegalese Infantry) and took part in the Rif War in northern Morocco, where he received his first citation, and the Medal of Alfonso XIII of Spain. He served as a Camel Corps officer until leaving Morocco with the rank of captain in 1938.

World War II[edit]

He was assigned to the 7e division d'infanterie coloniale (7th Division Colonial Infantry) from 1939 to 1940. Demobilized in France in 1942, he tried to reach North Africa to join the French resistance but was captured and imprisoned in Spain. Finally released for medical reasons, he enlisted in the 9e division d'infanterie coloniale (9th Colonial Infantry Division) and took command of 2e bataillon du 13e régiment de tirailleurs sénégalais (2nd Battalion,13th Regiment Senegalese Infantry).

Gilles took part in the capture of Elba in June 1944 and then landed in Provence and with 1re armée française (1st French Army), participated in the liberation of southern and eastern France and the 1945 campaign into Germany.


As deputy commanding officer of the 23e régiment d'infanterie coloniale (23rd Colonial Infantry Regiment), he was sent to Indochina in October 1945 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the landing at Haiphong March 6, 1946, he was promoted to colonel and named to the staff of General Philippe Leclerc.

He returned to Europe in 1947, where he held the positions of chief of police of the colonial armored cavalry regiment in Germany and, after a stint at the military school, became commander of 1re demi brigade de commandos parachutistes coloniaux (1st Colonial Airborne Demi- Brigade). Gilles earned his parachutist wings in 1949.[3]

In 1951, he returned to Indochina and took a prominent role in the Battle of Nà Sản (September–December 1952). He was promoted to brigadier general December 23, 1952 and became commander of TAPI (Airborne Troops in Indochina). He took part in Operation Castor, the early phase of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in November 1953.[4]


Gilles returned to France in March 1954 and was given command of the 25e division infanterie parachutiste (25th Airborne Infantry Division). During the Suez Canal crisis of late 1956, he commanded the elite 11e régiment parachutiste de choc (11th Shock Airborne Regiment) in the Suez Crisis.[5] In 1958 he became commander of the Army Corps of Constantine.

After Algeria[edit]

On his return from Algeria, Gilles took command of the 5th Military Region in Toulouse. His son, Michel Gilles, was killed in action in Algeria on 2 February 1961. Jean died of a heart attack in August that same year.[6]


Gilles Decorations
Gilles Monument in Mont-Louis


  1. ^ "Jean Gilles - History Wars Weapons". 
  2. ^ Promotion n° 109 "Metz-Strasbourg" - 1922-1924. La même promotion que Leclerc
  3. ^ In Dictionnaire de la guerre d'Indochine de J. Dalloz page 105
  4. ^ In Histoire des parachutistes français page 273
  5. ^ In Bigeard de Erwan Bergot page 259
  6. ^
  • Fall, Bernard (1994). Street Without Joy. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-1700-3. 
  • Fall, Bernard (1985). Hell in a Very Small Place. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80231-7. 
  • Roy, Jules (1963). The Battle of Dien Bien Phu. University of California: Pyramid Books. 
  • Simpson, Howard (2005). Dien Bien Phu: The Epic Battle America Forgot. Potomic Books. ISBN 1-57488-840-4. 

External links[edit]