Historical Dictionary


TRINQUIER, ROGER (1908–1986)

Born into a rural family in southern France, Trinquier became one of France’s leading specialists in revolution-ary warfare during the Indochina War. In 1932, upon graduating from Saint-Cyr, he began his military career in the colonial infantry in Indochina as a second lieutenant assigned to a border post in northern Tonkin. During this time, he came to know and work with the then Captain Raoul Salan, his future commander during the latter part of the Indochina War. Between 1937 and 1938, Trinquier returned to France and was assigned to the Maginot Line facing Nazi Germany. In 1938, he assumed command of a company assigned to guard the French Embassy in China before transfering to Shanghai where he became the deputy to the commanding colonel of French Troops in Shanghai (under Vichy). He remained in Shanghai until the defeat of the Japanese in mid-1945.

On his way back to France, he stopped over in Saigon, where his long-time friend Raoul Salan, now a general, persuaded him to stay and help with the French reoccupation of Indochina. During this time, Trinquier joined the Commandos parachutistes d’Extrême-Orient led by Pierre Ponchardier and commanded the “sub Commando B4” in southern Vietnam. It was an initiation for Trinquier to commando and action operations and a turning point in his thinking and military career. He traveled to France in the summer of 1946 to recruit and train volunteers for the creation of a battalion of colonial paratroopers – the 2ème Bataillon Colonial de Commandos parachutistes. Upon returning to Indochina in November 1947, he became the second-in-command of this battalion as it went immediately into action against the forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in areas near Saigon as well as in Cambodia and Central Vietnam.

During this time, Trinquier became increasingly interested in “revolutionary warfare”. He read Mao Zedong’s political and military writings and took a keen interest in the communist reliance on guerrilla warfare and control of the masses for extending their military and political reach. In 1948, he suggested to General Boyer de la Tour that the French army turn these “revolutionary” techniques against the Viet Minh. With a green light, Trinquier began launching guerrilla operations by night and using ambushes instead of large-scale troop movements in order to break the adversary’s control over the populations.

In December 1949, after a brief stint back in France, Trinquier returned to Indochina to join the Groupement des commandos mixtes aéroportés and lead the Service Action’s operational antenna in northern Vietnam. In January 1952, he assumed command of the Regional Representation [Office] for North Vietnam (Commandement de la représentation régionale du Nord Vietnam). In this capacity, he went beyond simple guerrilla activities to creating autonomous maquis zones to harass the DRV from rear areas. From May 1953, he headed the Service Action for all of Indochina. He personally led combat missions far behind the enemy’s lines in northern Vietnam and relied on Tai populations to create hostile guerrilla zones and partisans to take the war to the DRV. At one point, he was allegedly in charge of some 30,000 partisans. He returned to France in January 1955 as a lieutenant colonel. Trinquier would go even further in developing his counter-insurgency ideas and actions during the Algerian War. See also ANTOINE SAVANI; PAYS MONTAGNARDS DU SUD; TAI FEDERATION.