19 June, 2012
Maurice Challe was a French general during the Algerian War, one of four generals who took part in the Algiers putsch.
A native of Le Pontet, Vaucluse, and a veteran of the Second World War, Challe transmitted the Luftwaffe order of battle to the British prior to D-Day and backed De Gaulle's return to power.
In July 1956, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of the Suez Canal, in violation of agreements he had signed with the British and French governments. On 14 October 1956, Challe visited British Prime Minister Anthony Eden at his home, accompanied by French Minister of Labor Albert Gazier. The French men told Eden about secret negotiations between Israel and France regarding a proposed Israeli attack on Egypt followed with military occupation by European powers, to control the Suez Canal. Eden backed the plan with UK resources including military forces, directly leading to the Suez Crisis.
Challe was a French Air Force general whose greatest military success was in the realm of counter-insurgency operations during the Algerian War. His offensive, begun in March 1959, succeeded in substantially weakening the ALN. Through the use of speed and concentration of force, Challe kept the ALN insurgents in constant retreat and disorder. His innovative tactics would be studied and emulated by others seeking to keep insurgency at bay and off-balance. The Challe Plan was only partially completed before he was reassigned to France.
A militarised line, the Challe Line, was named after him. It doubled another defence work, the Morice Line, which fortified the border and separated Algeria from Morocco and Tunisia.
He was Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Central Europe (CINCENT) from May 1960 to his deliberate resignation, February 1961.
Challe was one of the heads of the Algiers putsch of 1961, along with Raoul Salan, Edmond Jouhaud, and André Zeller. After the putsch failed, he and Zeller surrendered to the French Army (while Salan and Jouhaud created the OAS) and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was freed in December 1966 and received amnesty from President de Gaulle in 1968.
Challe died on 18 January 1979.