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First-class soldier

March 9, 2017 19:43

Born in French Algeria, Norbert Beyrard, 1925-2017, headed the IDF’s first special forces unit after serving in World War II with a Free French battalion of the British Special Air Service.

Norbert Beyrard

Norbert Beyrard (third from right) poses with fellow Free French paratroopers behind German lines in France, in 1944. (photo credit:SAS-FFL)

HOW MANY people in Israel know that the Israel Defense Force’s first long-range reconnaissance unit was made up of about 40 foreign volunteers ‒ not all of them Jews ‒ and that when they carried out their first operations behind Syrian lines in the 1948- 1949 War of Independence, the only “real” Israelis among them were two liaison officers sent by army headquarters? Frenchman Norbert Beyrard, a key actor in of this largely forgotten episode, passed away on February 13 at the age of 91, in Divonne-les-Bains, an elegant spa town near the banks of Lake Geneva, on the border between France and Switzerland.

Beyrard, originally Norbert Benchemoul, was born in the once populous, but now extinct Jewish community of then-French Algeria, on June 16, 1925.


  • world war ii
  • soldiers
  • idf soldiers
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