Pierre Paul Jeanpierre was born on 14 March 1912 at Belfort.
His father, a captain in the 42nd Infantry Regiment that was garrisoned at Hatry, was killed at the front in 1916. In 1930, upon turning eighteen, Pierre Paul Jeanpierre joined the 131 Infantry Regiment as a rank and file soldier. A few years later, he entered Ecole de Saint-Maixant from where he graduated with flying colours in 1936 as a second lieutenant. The young officer immediately opted to join the Foreign Legion in French North Africa.
When the Second World War broke out, Lieutenant Jeanpierre fought in Syria where he distinguished himself within the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment. On his return to France, he volunteered to fight in the Resistance under the name Jardin, but was arrested and deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and later released in 1945. In 1946, after reintegrating himself into the Legion, he created the 1st Foreign Parachutists Battalion. Upon dropping at That Khé, this battalion was almost entirely crushed along the notorious Route Coloniale N°4. Jeanpierre was one of the 24 men who survived out of a thousand or so that took part in the operation.
Sun is dead...
In 1955, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeanpierre was in Algeria where he became commander of the 1st Foreign Parachutists Battalion. He fought in Algiers and along the Tunisian borders where rebel groups were persistently trying to cross barricades. On May 29, 1958, during an operation at Guelma, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeanpierre was flying his command helicopter Alouette at very low altitude in the Marmera djebel, to spot and report ALN positions to legionnaire units, when the machine was hit by a rebel shot. It went crashing, killing “Sun” (sun was his radio signal). “Sun is dead…”
Lieutenant-Colonel Jeanpierre’s remains were buried at the Puyloubier necropolis, at the foot of Mount Sainte Victoire, where the institution of registered disabled Foreign Legion ex-servicemen (Invalides de la Légion Etrangère) is based. His green beret is displayed in the Legion museum at Aubagne.
He was a respectable leader, dreaded by his enemies and loved by his legionnaires, who has become a legend. This Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour was injured twice in battle and received nine commendations, including six in the Army Order, and several awards. A batch of the École spéciale militaire de Saint Cyr Coëtquidan was named after him. At Nice, the Trachel square was christened "Square lieutenant colonel Jeanpierre". The city of Cagnes sur Mer also named one of its avenues after him. A commemorative plaque was mounted on the front wall of the house where he was born at Belfort.
The writer, André Maurois, paid him tribute with the following words :
" Un héros au cœur généreux et au caractère détestable, une assez bonne combinaison pour un chef ".
("A kind-hearted, yet appalling hero; quite a nice blend for a leader.”)