Jean Gilles

Jean Marcellin Joseph Calixte Gilles (1904 – 1961) was a French Army general that commanded the French Airborne forces during the French Indochina War. He was born on October 14, 1904, in Perpignan, France, to Joseph Marius Gilles, a World War I hero who got killed in action. When he was 12 years old he enrolled at the Prytanée Military School in La Fleche. In 1922, Jean Gilles began his professional military career at Saint Cyr. During a military exercise, he lost an eye and had to be operated on, receiving a glass eye to replace the real one he had lost.

After he graduated from Saint Cyr, Gilles was transferred to the 24th Regiment of Senegalese, in Perpignan. He was affectionately called the "Cyclop" by his subordinates. In 1933, he married Suzanne Tivolle with whom he had four children. In 1940, Jean Gilles took part in the Battle of France and in 1942 he was demobilized. When he tried to join the Allied forces in North Africa, he was arrested in Spain and sent to prison where he remained until the end of the war.

In 1945, lieutenant colonel Gilles rejoined the French Army and was sent to Indochina as the commander of the 23rd Colonial Infantery Regiment, fighting at the Battle of Haiphong. In 1947, he returned to France and was appointed commander of the Anti-Tank Colonial Regiment deployed in Germany. In 1948, he was instructor at the War School (l’Ecole de Guerre). In 1949, he was transferred back to Indochina where he became commander of all the French airborne units deployed there. He particapted in most of the military operations of this war and fought at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

During the Suez Crisis, Gilles commanded the 11th Shock Airborne Demi-Brigade. After the Algerian independence war, he became commander of the 5th Military Region in Toulouse. Jean Gilles died of a heart attack on August 10, 1961, in France.

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