Georges Masselot was born on April 23, 1911, at Maktar, Tunisia.
His father, Ferdinand, born at Bougie (today’s Bejaia) in 1867, used to be the civil controller of this region. His mother, née Jeanne Choisnet saw the light of day at Dellys in 1875. His grandfather MASSELOT, a navy officer, was the founder of the port of Bône (Annaba). Georges attended school in Tunisia and, after four years as a boarding student, opted to attend the military children’s school at La Flèche. Three years later, he entered the Saint Cyr military academy.
From 1932 to 1936, he served as second lieutenant within the 25th Algerian colonial infantry regiment at Sarrebourg. In March 1936, at his request, he was transferred to the 1st infantry regiment at Geryville, South Oran. After spending sometime in Syria and Lebanon, he returned to France to take part in the Aisne-Marne offensive. He was seriously wounded as he tried to rescue one of his legionnaires.
In 1942, Captain Masselot participated in the Tunisian campaign and was again wounded during the Phas Bridge battles. Despite this handicap, he distinguished himself a bit later by capturing an enemy caterpillar car and taking 200 enemy troops prisoners into French territory. In 1944, the French campaign took place from Provence to Belfort.
Captain Masselot thereafter went to Indochina and stayed there for two years, during which time he had some “hassles” with General Monclar. The captain had already become famous, dreaded or appreciated for his straight talk and his firm character. In 1949, he joined the “4th foreign” regiment based at Fez and stationed at National Fort, Kabylia. After receiving his parachute certificate at Philippeville, he was appointed as commander of the 3rd foreign parachute battalion at Mascara. In 1951, he returned to Indochina as the commander of the 1st foreign battalion. He distinguished himself during the Viet attack of January 8, 1952, against the Hoa Binh entrenched camp. The enemy troops were defeated and a considerable part of their armament seized. Taking rear guard when they decided to evacuate the camp, Captain Masselot and his battalion had to face three Viet divisions commanded by Giap. This withdrawal operation was so efficiently conducted that Captain Masselot and his legionnaires were welcomed with champagne by Colonel Gilles. Though it was thought to be sacrificed, the battalion lost only two soldiers. Proposed for a higher rank by general de Linares, Masselot, who in the meantime, had contested some risky decisions endangering his men, had to wait one extra year to be promoted.
In July 1953, when he returned to his darling bloodstained Algeria, Major Masselot was appointed, three months later, the executive officer of the 3rd B.E.P. based at Setif.
The situation in Indochina had deteriorated and Dien Bien Phu was surrounded. Refusing to be dropped on the entrenched camp, Paul Dussert, commander of the battalion, was replaced by Masselot. That was too late anyway, as Dien Bien Phu fell on May 7, 1954. Masselot was then assigned to reconstitute the 2nd foreign battalion, which had been entirely wiped out during this battle. He participated alongside his men, in white caps, in the last march of July 14 at Hanoi.
July 13, 1955, the 2nd BEP receiving the red shoulder lanyard
from General Jacquot
The 2nd B.E.P. returned to Algeria late 1955. Upon settling at Philippeville, it became the 2nd R.E.P. and thus had to be lead by a colonel. It turned out that the latter, Alfred de Vismes, did not feel comfortable as a legionnaire, thus Major MASSELOT, with his approval, became the true boss for the two years that followed. They obtained exceptionally good results.
Linked to the 25th parachute division, the regiment was kept away from the Suez operation in 1956. It relentlessly fought in Constantine, at the Tunisian border. In 1957, Masselot was once more wounded during an engagement; a bullet, after perforating the radio post, his binoculars and pen, pierced him in the chest. These two last items are exhibited at the 2nd R.E.P. Museum, in Calvi. In January 1958, De Vismes was replaced by Colonel Lefort. Major Masselot was very under rewarded. He led his legionnaires for the last time during the Beni Sbihi operation, with an eloquent result: 217 fellaghas were killed and over a hundred weapons were seized. Upon returning to Philippeville, Masselot expressed his disappointment to Lefort and reminded him about his “absence” during those “tough” moments experienced in Indochina. Summoned to the military headquarters at Algiers the following day, he was transferred to Djelfa as assistant operations officer. He thus left his men after having scored one of the best victories of the Algerian war and with minimum losses. At Djelfa, Masselot, directly depending on General Salan, in fact had authority over the colonels of the sector. His first mission was to destroy the traitor “general” Bellounis. The mission was quickly accomplished. In April 1959, came the turns of “Colonels” Amirouche and Si Haoues; they were killed alongside their troops in the Koraa djebel.
Appointed lieutenant colonel early 1960, Masselot became the commander of the 18th parachute chasseur regiment, the successor of “Royal Auvergne”, and comprising mainly conscripts. Under his leadership, the unit became the spearhead of the division and the legionnaire paras dubbed it the “3rd R.E.P”.
In December 1960, Colonel Masselot and his men, sent to Algiers during the F.L.N. upheavals orchestrated by delegate general MORIN, rapidly quail down the fury of the strikers. Early 1961, contacted by General Jouhaud, the colonel engaged his regiment in the late putsch spurt. Checking an insurrection, for this elite soldier, was an obligation. When failure came his way, he assumed all the responsibilities so that his unit should not be dissolved, but in vain. Sentenced to an eight-year criminal prison term, Colonel Masselot spent 51 months in prison before being amnestied.
Still appreciated by his men, he celebrated, at Pau, his 90th birthday with about a hundred of them. He died on June 1st, 2002. Commander of the Legion of Honour, this great volunteer serviceman was wounded 3 times at the front, held 15 commendations including 10 in the army order. He was also holder of the Second World War cross, the overseas operations cross, the military valour cross and several other awards. He leaves behind the souvenir of a gentle great soldier, who used to be exigent towards his supervisors and generous towards his men.