|Syndey Morning Herald Obit 2010|
Bigeard's introduction to the Second World War shared the disapointment of many of his French compatriots, but he quickly rose to prominence. Captured in 1940 in the Maginot Line, he managed to escaped the next year to Senegal joining a colonial infantry unit in De Gaulle's Free French Forces. In 1944, he parachuted into France, and spent the postwar years in French Indo-China.
|Bigeard in Indo-China. Independent.|
Bigeard was subjected to three months of brainwashing, and this may have inspired his belief that the "subversive warfare" in Indo-China was the beginning of a world-wide attack of which Algeria was a part.
Alistair Horne doesn't pull his punches in describing the paras as, "on their way to becoming a crack force; one of the most effective in the Western world". (p. 168) An early construction of the Bigeard legend was the book The Centurions (1960) by Jean Lartéguy, which featured a character modelled after the commander.
|A film based on The Centurions.|
Imitators of the Bigeard command-style should, however, be wary. Horne notes that in later life, when Bigeard was approaching sixty, one such troop inspection went wrong. In Madagascar, Bigeard was dropped into shark-infected waters, breaking an arm. His unfortunate yet "faithful" staff, who parachuted into the water with him, managed to save the General from the waters.