Courtesy Reuters

The French Army in Trouble

One morning early this summer a young French officer of the 1st Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment was asked why he had not participated, as had the rest of the unit, in the rebellion last April when strong elements of the French Army joined five retired generals in an abortive attempt to seize power in Algeria. "Because," he snapped, "I did not have the honor to be asked to join."

There you have an idea of the way the French Army has been closing ranks ever since the nerve-racking days last spring that shook it as it has never been shaken since it fell apart before a superior German force in 1940. For the officer was not speaking casually but in reply to a prosecutor's question at the trial of his superior, Major Elie Denoix de Saint-Marc, who had been taken to Paris to face military justice for his part in the uprising. The young officer was polite; he was firm, he was defiant, as were many other officers who testified in the post-rebellion trials that began in late May and ran into August. Other military witnesses, whether or not in the moment of crisis they had remained loyal to the state, were equally polite, equally firm, and, though not defiant, in almost every instance were sympathetic to the defense.

What kind of an army is this where the loyal and the disloyal stand shoulder to shoulder? Is it just closing ranks for its own protection, for its own survival, in the hope it can iron out its differences, in the conviction it can restore to the fold the sheep that have wandered? Or are there more dangerous implications here? Are the wandering sheep enticing the loyal?

During the trials that ended recently, long or short prison terms were handed down to General Louis Nicot, acting commander-in-chief of the entire French Air Force at the time of the plot; to General Pierre Bigot, commander of the air force in Algeria; to retired General

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