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Historical Dictionary

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ROY, JULES (1907–2000)

Born in Algeria, Jules Roy praised Philippe Pétain for saving France following the debacle of 1940. However, he quickly changed positions and joined the Allied cause upon the liberation of North Africa in 1942. And he was soon an ardent support of Charles de Gaulle and his nationalist project. Roy joined the Royal Air Force in Great Britain and took part in bombing missions over the Ruhr Valley in Germany. After World War II, he transferred to the French Air Force and became a lieutenant colonel. He asked to serve in Indochina and his wish was granted in April 1952. However, he left the armed forces in Indochina in June 1953, citing his opposition to the army’s use of unacceptable methods including torture. He subsequently wrote of the army as “the Nazis of Indochina”. He began a new career as a novelist and essayist. His work reflects the themes of honor, heroism, and camaraderie, like Jean Lartéguy and Pierre Schoendoerffer; but Roy was one of the rare French intellectuals of the time to take up the themes of decolonization and nationalism. In 1960, back in Algiers, Roy publicly denounced the army’s use of torture in Algeria. In 1963, he published a famous account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu (La bataille de Dien Bien Phu). See also ALGERIAN WAR; PAUL MUS; PAUL RIVET.