Harrison Forman’s Pictures of the First Indochina War

The University of Milwaukee Libraries Digital Collections page has posted over 300 photos taken by Harrison Forman during a 1950 visit to French Indochina.  Forman (1904-1978) was an American explorer, aviator, photographer, journalist and author.  The collection at UWM comprises 62 diaries kept by Forman as well as over 50,000 photographs and other ephemera.  His observations include accounts of the Sino-Japanese conflict, the Chinese government under Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese bombardment of Shanghai in 1937, and the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.   During World War II he reported from China.

The photographs posted below were found under the category “indochinese war, 1946-1954”.  There were several themes to his photographs–he liked to take pictures of average soldiers from the various French forces.  These include Senegalese, Algerian and Moroccan as well as soldiers from the French Foreign Legion.  Other categories include air-drop staging, blockhouse building, and various other logistics being performed.  The details on these pictures are very sketchy as far has identifying the French units. Perhaps this was OPSEC.  I’ve not read the diary that Forman wrote during his visit but a quick scan of it does not seem to help identify any French units by name.  I believe there are pictures here of the early Foreign Legion airborne forces of the 1BEP (1st Foreign Parachute Battalion) and the 3REI (3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment) where many of the airborne volunteers were drawn from.  There may be French airborne troops from other units in these pictures but the metadata does not help identify them so sorting through these pictures I selected the best ones that depict what I believe are Legionnaires.

NOTE: I disabled the gallery function because it was not working right so I recommend using the old “right-click, open-in-new-window” function. I also cleaned up the duplicate pictures that somehow slipped by.


About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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