France at War: French Military Victories and Defeats

12 May

Here is some  information on the wars and military conflicts of France from World War I in 1914  to the present. Since 1945, France has engaged in several large wars (Indochina, Korea, Algeria, Suez, the First Gulf War) and numerous small colonial conflicts and post-colonial interventions in African nations. To access specific wars or conflicts, click on the red/maroon colored links.

Despite recent jokes concerning French military defeats and victories in French military history, France has a fair share of victories in the Third World, and as a valuable member of NATO and the Western allies in the Cold War and beyond.

World War One (1914-1918)

Intervention in the Russian Civil War (1918-1921)

Rif War (aka-Abd el-Krim Revolt) (1919-1926)

French Conquest of Syria (1919-1920)

Memel Insurrection (1923)–Following World War I, the French military controlled and administered the city of Memel on behalf of the wartime Allies, in the Baltic Region. Lithuanian residents rebelled against the French army on January 11, 1923. Troops from Lithuania joined the rebels and seized control of the city. The Allies accepted this takeover, and Memel in effect became part of Lithuania.

The Ruhr Invasion (1923-1924)

Syrian Druze Revolt (1925-1927)

France/Syria/Lebanon Druze Revolt 1925-1927

The Nghe-Tinh Revolt (1930-1931) A Vietnamese peasant revolt with backing and support from the underground Vietnamese Communist Party. French forces suppressed the local soviets (A soviet is a council of peasants, workers or soldiers in a socialist or revolutionary form of government) which formed in local villages. Many of these revolutionaries were arrested and at least 80 were executed by the colonial government. . See also The Wars of Vietnam.

Yen Bai uprising (Feb. 9, 1930) A rebellion launched by the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang, (VNQDD — Vietnamese Nationalist Party–See external link) began as a planned mutiny of native Vietnamese troops in the Yen and Bai garrisons. Other attacks on Son Tay and Lam Thu failed. The French suppressed the uprising, arresting executing many VNQDD leaders. Several villages were bombed and shelled by French forces. . See also The Wars of Vietnam.

Syrian Revolt (1936)

World War Two (1939-1945)–France was conquered by Germany in 1940, and liberated by the Allies in 1944.

Franco-Japanese Border War  (Sept. 22, 1940-Sept. 24, 1940)–Soon after France fell to Germany, Japan sought passage through French Indochina in order to attack Nationalist Chinese forces near the border. French authorities in Hanoi refused, prompting Japan to launch a ground attack on the French border forts at Long-Son and Dong-Dang. Two days later, Japanese aircraft bombed the port city of Haiphong and the Japanese navy landed troops at the port. During the two days of fighting, nearly 800 French troops were killed. (Part of World War Two for France)

Franco-Thai Border War (Jan. 9, 1941-Jan. 28, 1941)–Thailand, then an ally of Japan, initiated an invasion of French Indochina after early border skirmishes from November 1940. After early successes, the Thai forces were forced back by French reinforcements. At sea, the French navy, in the form of one cruiser, wiped out nearly one third of the Thai navy off the island of Kho Chang on Jan. 17. Japan arranged a cease-fire on Jan. 28. Per a written agreement signed on March 11, France gave portions of Laos and Cambodia to Thailand.
Franco-Syrian War (May, 1945)–At the conclusion of the Second World War, French troops put down a rebellion in the French-controlled Arab nation of Syria.

The First Indochina War (1945-1954)–A French colony since the late 1880s, Indochina was made up of the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia,and Laos. Communist insurgents led by Ho Chi Minh defeated French forces, causing the independence of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. As a result of the peace agreement, Vietnam became divided into Communist North Vietnam and the pro-Western South Vietnam. This conflict was a precursor to the American-Vietnam War.

The Cold War (1945-1991)–France participated in the Cold War as a member of the Western alliance, NATO, and also through its own policies in Africa and elsewhere promoting  pro-French and pro-Western attitudes and alliances.

The Madagascar Revolt (1947-1948)–The French military put down a rebellion in the colony of Madagascar.
The Korean War (1950-1953)–France contributed military forces to the UN Army fighting the Communist North Koreans and Chinese.

Tunisian War of Independence (1952-1955)–Guerrilla war of independence against the French began in Tunisia, led by Habib Bourguiba.

Moroccan War of Independence (1953-1956)

Franco-Tunisian Border Conflict (1957)

The Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962)–A French colony since the 1830s, Algeria gained independence in 1962 after a long and violent war against France.

Suez War (1956)–France, Britain, and Israel invaded Egypt.

Basque Separatist Campaign (1958-Present)–The Basque region is divided between Spain and France. The Basque liberation front, ETA, has carried out a campaign of urban terrorism in an attempt to gain independence/autonomy. As most Basque territory is in Spain, the bulk of the campaign has been directed at the Spanish, though French targets have been hit. France and Spain largely cooperate in suppressing ETA.

Second Franco-Tunisian War [The Bizerte Incident] (1961)

Gabon Intervention (1964)

First Katangan War (1977)

Second Katangan War (1978)

Shaba II: The French and Belgian Intervention in Zaire in 1978

Central African Republic Intervention (September, 1979)–France organized and aided a coup to overthrow Emperor Jean-Bodel Bokassa. French troops were flown in from Europe and installed former President David Dacko.

Intervention in Lebanese Civil War (1982-1984)–France, along with the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy, sent troops to act as peacekeepers in the Lebanese Civil War and the Invasion of Lebanon by Israel.

New Caledonian Uprising (1984-1985)

Gabon Intervention (May, 1990)

Second Persian Gulf War (1991)–France contributed military forces to the UN force to liberate Kuwait from the invading Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein.

Intervention in Somalia (1991-1992)–France contributed military forces to the UN peacekeeping force in Somalia.

Central African Republic Intervention (April, 1996)–French troops put down a C.A.R. army mutiny.

Central African Republic Intervention (May, 1996)–French troops put down another C.A.R. army mutiny.

Central African Republic Intervention (Nov. 1996-Jan. 1997)–French troops put down yet another C.A.R. army mutiny.

Kosovo War (1999)-France contributed military forces to the NATO effort to protect the Kosovo Albanians from the persecution by the Serbian military and militias.

Afghanistan War (2001-Present)-France contributed military forces to the Allied/NATO effort to overthrow the Taliban following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. France continues to supply troops and aircraft to operations supporting the new Afghan government against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents.

Ivory Coast (Cote de Ivorie) Intervention (2003-Present)-France intervened to bring a halt to the civil war in its former colony. During one clash, the French military avenged the death of several troops by destroying the small Ivory Coast air force as it sat on the ground.

Central African Republic Intervention (2006)–French troops and aircraft aid the government against rebels.


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  1. Bill

    June 28, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Very interesting summary.