ALGERIA WAR (1955-1962)


Excerpt from "Histoire succincte de l'Aéronautique Navale (1910-1998)" written by VA Roger Vercken (ARDHAN)

On November 1st 1954, six months after the disaster of the Indochina War, several bomb attacks were made in Algeria against "pieds-noirs" ("black feet", French people born in France and living in Algeria). Those acts led the French Army to War against rebels (fellaghas, who wanted independence for their country. During the war 50 000 to 400 000 soldiers intervened in that conflict. The French Naval Aviation took part in various types of missions over North Africa, such as tactical transport and CAS. First S-55s of the French Navy were tested in 1955 at Sétif within the n° 2 (GH-2/ Helicopter Group). In 1956, the 31F squadron was created in Algeria and equipped with H-21C "flying bananas" which provided tactical transport missions of the French Army troops. The 33F squadron, armed with H-19D, was created in 1957. The 32F was born in 1958 with HSS-1s. The Groupe d'Hélicoptères Aéronautique Navale n° 1 (GHAN-1/ Naval Helicopter Group) was created at NAS Lartigue on November 1st 1957 in order to support the 31F, 32F and 33F squadrons. Those helicopters, operated over South of Oran, and close to Algerian and Moroccan borders. From 1958, they worked with French Special Naval Forces (four commando units ; De Penfentenyo, De Montfort, Trepel and Jaubert). The helicopters were equipped with several weapon systems such as guns and bombs.

From 1959, the GHAN was involved in many operations led by Colonel Bigeard whose commanded Saïda sector and appreciated sailors' work. They were called by him "véritables guerriers des djebels" (true Djebels' warriors). That's why, a great number of missions was carried on in mountainous regions, particularly in Ksour, Aurès and Nementcha mounts.

In 1962, the GHAN 1 totalled more than 49,000 flight hours, among which 39,400 in operation. In spite of those impressive results, seven helicopters crashed and thirteen crew members were killed. From 1956, Corsair's squadrons (12F, 14F, 15F and 17F) normally based at NAS Hyères and Karouba, moved to Telergma airfield. Led by the French Air Force, they provided CAS and helicopters' protection.

Between February and March 1958, several strikes and CAS missions started from CVL Bois-Belleau, which was the only carrier involved in the Algeria War. Aquilons of the 16F and 11F also intervened in 1958 from NAS Karouba and Alger-Maison Blanche, where a small naval air station was built.

P2V-6 Neptunes which belonged to the 21F, 22F and 23F, based at NAS Lartigue and Port-Lyautey (Morocco), provided maritime patrol against weapon convoy at sea. Privateers of the 28F, operating from Karouba ; kept watching on Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian borders. On May 21th 1957, the Privateer 28F.4 flown by EV1 Suret crashed to the mountain. Seven crew members were killed.

The 4S squadron, based at Lartigue, also intervened from 1957 to 1960 in Algeria. First, Equipped with Catalinas then with Lancasters which carried on same kind of mission as Neptunes. Général Charles de Gaulle suggested in November 1960, a referendum about Algeria' status. It was approved by a great number of French in January 1961. Evian agreements were signed in March 1962. Algeria became independent on July 5th 1962. Last Algeria-based French Naval Forces left Mers-El-Kébir in 1968.