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Organisation of the Secret Army
Native name Organisation de l'armée secrète (French)
Dates of operation February 11, 1961 (1961-02-11)–1962 (1962)
Leader(s) Raoul Salan, Edmond Jouhaud, Yves Godard, Jean-Jacques Susini, Jean-Claude Perez
Motives Against Algerian Independence from France
Active region(s) France French Algeria
Flag of France.svg France
Ideology Anti-Independence
Notable attacks Battle of Bab El Oued
Status Inactive
Size 3,000 members

The Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS — or Organisation armée secrète, lit. "Organisation of the Secret Army" or "Secret Armed Organisation") was a short-lived, French dissident paramilitary organisation during the Algerian War (1954–62). The OAS used armed struggle in an attempt to prevent Algeria's independence from French colonial rule. Its motto was L’Algérie est française et le restera ("Algeria is French and will remain so").

The OAS was formed out of existing networks, calling themselves "counter-terrorists", "self-defence groups", or "resistance", which had carried out attacks on the FLN and their perceived supporters since early in the war. It was officially formed in Francoist Spain, in Madrid in January 1961, as a response by some French politicians and French military officers to the 8 January 1961 referendum on self-determination concerning Algeria, which had been organized by General de Gaulle.

After the March 1962 Evian agreements, which granted independence to Algeria and marked the beginning of the exodus of the pieds-noirs, the OAS tried by a campaign of assassinations and bombings to stop the on-going political process. This campaign culminated in Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry's 1962 assassination attempt against president Charles de Gaulle in the Paris suburb of Le Petit-Clamart. Another prominent target was the philosopher and public intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre, who supported the FLN.

The OAS still has followers among the nationalist movement. In July 2006, some OAS sympathisers attempted to relight the flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to commemorate the Oran massacre on 5 July 1962.[1]


The OAS was created in response to the January 1961 referendum on self-determination for Algeria. It was founded in Spain, on January 1961, by former officers, Pierre Lagaillarde (who led the 1960 Siege of Algiers), General Raoul Salan (who took part in the 1961 Algiers putsch or "Generals' Uprising") and Jean-Jacques Susini, along with other members of the French Army, including Yves Guérin-Sérac, and former members of the French Foreign Legion from the First Indochina War (1946–54). OAS-Métro, the branch in metropolitan France, was led by captain Pierre Sergent. These officers united earlier anti-FLN networks such as the Organisation de Résistance de L'Algérie Française.

There was resistance against Algerian independence in January 1960 by the settlers and by Algerian Jews, who again took up arms in April 1961, during the Generals' Uprising, with some of the Algerian Jews siding with the OAS after synagogues were attacked by the National Liberation Front (Front de libération nationale, FLN) in Algeria. Daniele Ganser of the ETH Parallel History Project claims that Gladio stay-behind networks, directed by NATO, were involved, but no definitive proof has been found.[2][3] Both of these insurrections were swiftly suppressed and many of the leaders who had created the OAS were imprisoned.

By acts of sabotage and assassination in both metropolitan France and French Algerian territories, the OAS attempted to prevent Algerian independence. The first victim was Pierre Popie, attorney and president of the People's Republican Movement (Mouvement Républicain Populaire, MRP), who stated on TV, "French Algeria is dead" (L’Algérie française est morte). Roger Gavoury, head of the French police in Algiers, was assassinated at the direction of Roger Degueldre, leader of the OAS Delta Commando, with the actual killing done by Claude Piegts and Albert Dovecar on 31 May 1961 (Piegts and Dovecar were executed by a firing-squad on 7 June 1962. Degueldre on 6 July). The OAS became notorious for stroungas, attacks using plastic explosives (stroungas comes from the Italian stroncare, to rip down; many pied-noirs were of southern Italian descent which influenced local French).

In October 1961 Pierre Lagaillarde, who had escaped to Francoist Spain following the 1960 barricades week, was arrested in Madrid, along with the Italian activist Guido Giannettini.[4] Franco then exiled him to the Canary Islands.

The Delta commandos engaged in indiscriminate killing sprees, on 17 March 1962; against cleaning-ladies on 5 May; on 15 March 1962 against six inspectors of the National Education Ministry, who directed the "Educative Social Centres" (Centres sociaux éducatifs), including Mouloud Feraoun, an Algerian writer, etc.[5]

The OAS attempted several times to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle. The most prominent attempt was a 22 August 1962 ambush at Petit-Clamart, a Paris suburb, planned by a military engineer who was not an OAS member, Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry.[6] Bastien-Thiry was executed in March 1963 after de Gaulle refused to grant him amnesty. A fictionalised version of this attack was recreated in the 1971 book by Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal, and in the 1973 film of the same name.

The OAS use of extreme violence created strong opposition from some pieds-noirs (?) and in mainland France. As a result the OAS eventually found itself in violent clandestine conflict with not only the FLN but also French secret services and with a Gaullist paramilitary, the Mouvement pour la Communauté (the MPC). Originally a political movement in Algiers, the MPC eventually became a paramilitary force in response to OAS violence. The group obtained valuable information which was routinely passed on to the French secret services, but was eventually destroyed by OAS assassinations.

The March 1962 Evian agreements and the struggle of the OASEdit

The main hope of the OAS was to prove that the FLN was secretly restarting military action after a ceasefire was agreed in the Evian agreements of 19 March 1962 and the referendum of June 1962; So, during these three months, the OAS unleashed a new terrorist campaign to force the FLN to abandon the ceasefire. Over 100 bombs a day were detonated by the OAS in March in pursuit of this end. It was the most wanton carnage that Algeria had witnessed in eight years of savage warfare. OAS operatives set off an average of 120 bombs per day in March, with targets including hospitals and schools. Dozens of Arab residents were killed at Place du Gouvernement when 24 mortar rounds were fired from the European stronghold of Bab el-Oued.[7] On 21 March, the OAS issued a flyer where they proclaimed that the French military had become an "occupation force."[5] It organized car bombings: 25 killed in Oran on 28 February 1962 and 62 killed in Algiers on 2 May, among others.[5] On 22 March, they took control of Bab el-Oued and attacked French soldiers, killing six of them. The French military then surrounded them and stormed the neighbourhood. The battle killed 35 and injured 150.[5] On 26 March, the leaders of the OAS proclaimed a general strike in Algiers and called for the European settlers to come to Bab el-Oued in order to break the blockade by military forces loyal to de Gaulle and the Republic. A detachment of tirailleurs (Muslim troops in the French Army) fired on the demonstrators, killing 54, injuring 140, and traumatising the settlers' population in what is known as the "gunfight of the Rue d'Isly".[5] In coincidence with the uprising of Bab-el Oued, 200 OAS maquis marched from Algiers to Ouarsenis, a mountainous region between Oran and Algiers. They tried to overrun two French military outposts and gain support for local Muslim tribes loyal to France, but instead they were harassed and eventually defeated by Legion units led by Colonel Albert Brothier after several days of fighting.[8] Some clashes between the French army and the OAS involving grenades and mortar fire took place at Oran as late as 10 April.[9] At least one Lieutenant and one Sub-Lieutenant were killed by the OAS during the fighting.[10]

In April 1962 the OAS leader, Raoul Salan was captured. Despite the OAS bombing campaign, the FLN remained resolute in its agreement to the ceasefire and on 17 June 1962 the OAS also began a ceasefire. The Algerian authority officially guaranteed the security of the remaining Europeans, but in early July 1962 occurred the Oran massacre of 1962: hundreds of armed people came down to European areas of the city, attacking European civilians. The violence lasted several hours, including lynching and acts of torture in public places in all areas of Oran by civilians supported by the ALN—the armed wing of the FLN, at the time evolving into the Algerian Army— resulting in 3,000 missing people:[11]

By 1963, the main OAS operatives were either killed or in jail. Roger Degueldre, Claude Piegts and Albert Dovecar were executed by firing squad on 7 June 1962. Jean Bastien-Thiry, who had attempted the Petit-Clamart assassination on de Gaulle, but was not formally a member of the OAS, was also executed on 11 March 1963. All others' penal sentences were amnestied by a July 1968 act. With the arrest of Gilles Buscia in 1965, the organisation effectively ceased to exist.[12] Putschist generals still alive in November 1982 were reintegrated into the Army by another amnesty law: Raoul Salan, Edmond Jouhaud, and six other generals benefited from this law.


Many OAS members later took part in various anti-communist struggles around the world. Following the disbandment of the organisation, and the execution of several of its members, the OAS chaplain, Georges Grasset, organised the flight of OAS members, from a route going from Paris to Francoist Spain and finally to Argentina.[13][14] Grasset arrived in 1962 in Buenos Aires to take charge of the Argentine branch of the Cité Catholique, an integral Catholic group formed by Jean Ousset, the personal secretary of Charles Maurras, as an off-shoot of the monarchist Action Française. This anti-communist religious organisation was formed of many Algerian war veterans and close to the OAS. Charles Lacheroy, Colonel Trinquier, who theorised the systemic use of torture in counter-insurgency doctrine in Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency (1961), were members of it. Along with Colonel Jean Gardes, who had first theorised counter-insurgency tactics during the Indochina War (1947–1954), Jean Ousset developed the concept of "subversion" referring to an essential enemy threatening the existence of Occident itself. Gardes arrived in Argentina in 1963, a year after the end of the Algerian War. There, he delivered counter-insurgency courses at the ESMA, the Navy Mechanics Schools, which became infamous during the "Dirty War" in the 1970s for being used as an internment and torture center. Soon after Gardes met Federico Lucas Roussillon, an Argentine naval lieutenant commander, the cadets at the ESMA were shown the film The Battle of Algiers (1966) by Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, during which the fictional Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu and his paratroops make systematic use of torture, block warden system, and death flights (dubbed "Crevettes Bigeard", or "Bigeard's Shrimps").[13][14]

The Argentine admiral Luis María Mendía testified in January 2007 that a French intelligence agent, Bertrand de Perseval, had participated in the "disappearance" of the two French nuns, Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon. Perseval, who lives today in Thailand, denied any links with the abduction, but did admit being a former OAS member who escaped to Argentina after the Evian agreements.[15][16]

In popular cultureEdit

The OAS featured prominently in the novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, and its film adaptation. The story deals primarily with a fictional assassination plot against De Gaulle, where the organisation hires a British contract killer (the Jackal) to kill De Gaulle. Bastien-Thiry and the Petit-Clamart plot figure prominently in the early sections of the story.

Forsyth also mentions the OAS in The Dogs of War, with several of its protagonists having joined the movement. The fictional Colonel Rodin from Jackal is also alluded to.

The OAS is referenced in the Oliver Stone film JFK, as suspected conspirator Clay Shaw (played by Tommy Lee Jones) is alleged to have business connections with them. The plot to assassinate De Gaulle at the Paris suburb of Petit-Clamart[17] is also mentioned several times in the film.


Chain of commandEdit

The secret army was a three-part organisation, each segment having its own action commando squads.[18]

Section (Divisions) Role Director Squads
Mass Organisation
OAS recruitment Colonel Jean Gardes
Michel Leroy
Psychological Warfare & Propaganda
OAS propaganda Jean-Jacques Susini -Commandos Z
(Z for Jean-Marcel Zagamé, founder)
Organisation, Intelligence & Planning
-BCR Intelligence Central Bureau
-BAO Operational Action Bureau
OAS field ops planning Jean-Claude Perez
Jean Lalanne (BCR)
Roger Degueldre (BAO)
Albert Dovecar (Delta 1)
-Commandos Delta
(D for Roger Degueldre, founder)
Delta 1
Delta 2
Delta 3

French Algerian branchEdit

Oranie districtEdit

Commander Pierre Guillaume
  • Colonel Dufour
replacing Gen. Jouhaud
  • General Gardy
Capitaine Pierre Sergent
Revolutionary Directory member
Christian Léger
Revolutionary Directory member
Jean-Marie Curutchet
Revolutionary Directory member
Denis Baille
Revolutionary Directory member
Jean-René Souètre
Revolutionary Directory member

Algérois districtEdit

in charge of El-Biar, near Algiers

Constantinois districtEdit

aka the chouan de la Mitidja ("chouan of the Mitidja")

Metropolitan French branchEdit


Chief of Staff
ODM-Métropole Director

France-Mission IIIEdit

  1. André Canal
aka the Monocle

Spanish branchEdit


Short living dissident group claiming the organisation's direction. All members were arrested by the Guardia Civil military police.

Commanding officersEdit

aka Soleil ("Sun" surname for Louis XIV of France)
Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
Chief Aide
ORO Director
ORO Director, replacing Dr. Perez on 1 January 1962
ODM Director
APP Director

See alsoEdit


  1. Les nostalgiques de l'Algérie française ont la dent dure, in Le MatinDZ, 13 October 2007 (French)
  2. Chronology from The Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact, ETH Zurich Institute.
  3. Daniele Ganser, Operation Gladio. Terrorism in Western Europe, Franck Cass, London, 2005.
  4. René Monzat, Enquêtes sur la droite extrême, Le Monde-éditions, 1992, p.91. Monzat quotes François Duprat, L’Ascension du MSI, Edition les Sept Couleurs, Paris, 1972
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 26 mars 1962, la fusillade de la rue d’Isly à Alger, Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League), article based on sources from Benjamin Stora, Histoire de la guerre d'Algérie, La gangrène et l'oubli and Sylvie Thénault, Histoire de la guerre d'indépendance algérienne (French)
  6. Gordon, David C. (1966). The Passing of French Algeria. London: ?. 
  7. Harrison, Alexander (1989). Challenging De Gaulle: The OAS and the counterrevolution in Algeria (1954-1962). Greenwood press, p. 118. ISBN 0-275-92791-1
  8. Harrison (1989), p. 120
  9. Diamond, Robert (1970). France under De Gaulle. Facts on File, p. 50. ISBN 0871961792
  10. Fleury, G. (2002) Histoire secréte de L'OAS. Grasset, pp. 1020-1032. (French)
  11. Cinq Colonnes à La Une, rushes: interview Pied-Noir, ORTF, 1 July 1962, National Audiovisual Institute
  12. Duranton-Crabol, Anne-Marie (1995). Le temps de l'OAS. Editions Complexe, p. 232. ISBN 2-87027-542-0. (French)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Marie-Monique Robin, Escadrons de la mort, l'école française, 453 pages. La Découverte (15 September 2004). Collection: Cahiers libres. (ISBN 2707141631) Transl. Los Escuadrones De La Muerte/ the Death Squadron 539 pages. Sudamericana (October 2005). (ISBN 950072684X) (Presentation)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Horacio Verbitsky in The Silence, extract transl. in English made available by Open Democracy: Breaking the silence: the Catholic Church in Argentina and the "dirty war", 28 July 2005
  15. 15.0 15.1 Disparitions: un ancien agent français mis en cause, Le Figaro, 6 February 2007 (French)
  16. Impartí órdenes que fueron cumplidas, Página/12, 2 February 2007 (Spanish)
  17. "Objective: De Gaulle", TIME, 9 October 1973
  18. Au Nom De l'O.A.S., Gilles Buscia & Patrice Zehr (preface by Col. Argoud), Alain Lefeuvre Editions, 1980 (French)

Further readingEdit

  • Aussaresses, General Paul. The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria, 1955–1957. (New York: Enigma Books, 2010) ISBN 978-1-929631-30-8.
  • Harrison, Alexander. Challenging De Gaulle: The O.A.S and the Counter-Revolution in Algeria, 1954-1962. New York: Praeger, 1989 (English).
  • Horne, Alistair, A Savage War of Peace:Algeria 1954–1962, New York: New York Review Books, 1977
  • Robin, Marie-Monique, Escadrons de la mort, l'école française,La Découverte (15 September 2004). Collection: Cahiers libres. (ISBN 2707141631) (French) (transl. in Spanish)(Presentation)

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