Paris: General Marcel Bigeard, who led
France`s elite parachute forces in colonial wars in
independence-seeking Indochina and Algeria after serving in
the French Resistance in World War II, has died at age 94.
"He has been called the best paratrooper in the world,
and whatever the truth of that, he most certainly has a claim
as the most battle-proven," said Martin Windrow, a British
military historian and expert on France`s colonial wars.
Born February 14, 1916, in Toul in eastern France,
Bigeard went into German captivity as a warrant officer in
23rd Fortress Infantry Regiment in June 1940. He escaped on
November 11, 1942, made his way to Senegal, in what was then
French West Africa, and was commissioned into General Charles
de Gaulle`s Free French Forces.
Bigeard`s death came as France was marking the 70th
anniversary of de Gaulle`s defiant broadcast on BBC radio
urging the French people to resist the Nazi occupation.
Rapidly promoted to major, Bigeard made his first combat
jump in 1944, when he was dropped into occupied France to
organise local resistance fighters. He ended World War II with
many decorations and with the radio callsign that he retained
for the rest of his life, "Bruno."