A section from
‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II
The Day of the Jackal - Frederick Forsyth
The OAS (Organisation de l’Armee Secrete) were a group of extremists who came together in 1961 to oppose the French President - Charles De Gaulle’s policy of granting independence to Algeria, as a means to end the Algerian war. The majority of OAS membership constituted Algerian settlers of French origin, who considered Algeria to be sovereign French territory. They intended to keep Algeria under French control by assassinating De Gaulle.
‘Come, my dear, we are going home. They can’t shoot straight.’
The story begins in France in 1962 with the failed assassination attempt on De Gaulle at Petit-Clemart. The audacity of the attack draws the fury of the French security forces, and their retaliation leaves the OAS a destabilized organisation with demoralized ranks and no leader. Well, almost.
Despite the enormous demoralization this caused the OAS, they (French security) had paved the way for his shadowy deputy, the little known but equally astute Lieutenant-Colonel Marc Rodin, to assume command of operations aimed at assassinating De Gaulle.
In many ways it was a bad bargain.
Rodin was a self-made military career officer with a lifetime of experience in the battlefield. His disillusionment with the politicians was the same as that of the rank and file of the OAS, but his resolve and intellect were stronger. Rodin personally undertakes a mission to find an assassin who can successfully penetrate the forewarned French security establishment.
After finding some possible candidates for the job Rodin returns to his hideout in Austria and discusses his plan and reasoning with his top officers. The choice is clear and the man selected is an assassin by profession – a former mercenary, but unknown and difficult to trace.
‘Gentlemen, let us be frank. I operate for money, you for idealism. But when it comes to practical details we are all professionals at our jobs.’
The meeting between the OAS commander and the anonymous assassin identified only as The Englishman nevertheless takes place shortly afterword and the mission to assassinate De Gaulle begins. The code name adopted by the assassin for this mission is the Jackal.
The Jackal was perfectly aware that in 1963 General De Gaulle was not only the President of France; he was also the most closely and skillfully guarded figure in the western world. To assassinate him, as was later proved, was considerably more difficult than to kill President John F. Kennedy of the United States.
As a successful assassin the Jackal has an established method of going about his work. Common to all stages of operation is his obsession with anonymity. To that end he goes about procuring aliases for himself, but not before he has researched his mark thoroughly, reading every possible piece of information on De Gaulle. This in-depth research allows that Jackal to form a mental picture of his mark’s habits and routines, and it during this routine that the Jackal determines the finer points of the assassination.
Passports are stolen, papers are forged and false birth certificates are applied for. The Jackal uses these identities to scout the general area for an exact location from which to carry out the kill. He needs to enter France undetected to succeed and to stay alive afterwards to enjoy the fruits of his labour. The weapon required for the job will have to be customised to his exact needs, not just for the kill but also to be smuggled into the country; and he arranges to meet such a supplier through an old friend.
‘A one-off, a gun that will be tailor-made for one man and one job under one set of circumstances, never to be repeated. You have come to the right man. I sense a challenge, my dear monsieur. I am glad that you came.’
While the Jackal was making his arrangements, the proactive French security forces were suspecting the OAS of being up to no good. The events of the recent past had made them suspect something sinister. They lay bait for Rodin’s personal guard and once he is trapped and tortured, his incoherent confession is analysed.
Colonel Rolland of the French security service, another career military officer decodes the confession accurately, and his report of a foreign born assassin known only by a code name engaged for an attempt on the life of the president sends the entire French security establishment into overdrive.
Charles De Gaulle is informed of the threat by the Interior Minister – M. Frey, who treads cautiously knowing the President’s disdain for personal security measures. The meeting does not make the Minister’s job any easier.
‘The interest of France, my dear Frey, is that the President of France is not seen to be cowering before the menace of a miserable hireling, and of a foreigner.’
A high-level committee is formed to capture the Jackal before he can assassinate De Gaulle, and Commissaire Claude Lebel is appointed point-man. Claude Lebel who paints an unimpressive picture of a detective, is nevertheless an ace-sleuth with solid credentials.
Behind the mildness and the seeming simplicity was a combination of shrewd brain and a dogged refusal to be ruffled by anyone when he was carrying out a job. He had been threatened by some of the most vicious gang bosses of France . . . only later, from a prison cell, had they had the leisure to realise they had underestimated the soft brown eyes and the toothbrush moustache.
The OAS however has a spy in bed with one committee member, and news that the latest assassination plot is known to the French security races back to Rodin. Rodin tries to contact the Jackal to call off the operation but his call is too late.
From then on the story becomes a game of cat-and-mouse between the Jackal who continues his mission despite being made aware of the newly alerted authorities, and detective Lebel who must decipher the subtle clues and blind allies that the Jackal has left behind. Despite starting off with just a code name, Lebel detective work brilliantly draws the noose tight around the Jackal, who deftly maneuvers himself into the very vantage point that selected during the planning stages of the operation. The climax of the story takes place at that very vantage point and at the appointed moment of assassination as the Jackal and Lebel face off.
FACT BEHIND FICTION
As a reporter for Reuters covering Paris in 1962-63, Frederick Forsyth realised what the main shortcomings of the OAS’ assassination attempts were. Analysing the situation for himself, he based the premise of the story on what he considered the best chances of success for the OAS.
The Jackal’s method to obtain a false identity took advantage of an actual flaw in the British system for passport applications. Frederick Forsyth’s research led him to uncover this flaw, which was a well kept trade secret among mercenaries and illegal immigrants. The loophole was eventually plugged in 2003.
Arthur Hailey antagonist in the book – The Evening News, used the same method to procure a false identity (since then known as the ‘day of the jackal fraud’).
The Book as an Inspiration
The Day of the Jackal is Frederick Forsyth’s most celebrated work and also what he is most associated with. Forsyth wrote only after thoroughly researching the topics involved in his stories because of his own disappointment with the authors’ lack of knowledge in books he himself read. However the depth of research in The Day of the Jackal inspired at least one assassin and one would-be assassin:
A Hebrew translation of the novel was found in possession of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Police speculated that the book may have been used as a guide for the assassination by Amir.
Vladimir Arutinian, who attempted to assassinate President George W. Bush in Georgia in 2005 was an obsessive reader of the book.
Illich Ramirez Sanchez aka Carlos the Jackal
If the Jackal was a real person he’d turn in his grave at being associated with Illich Ramirez Sanchez.
The nickname only stuck to the Illich because the book was found in a bag which was assumed to belong to him. The fictional Jackal is a meticulous planner, probably had real combat credentials and appreciated the benefits of anonymity. Carlos the Jackal on the other hand was a clumsy but extremely lucky playboy who got involved in terrorism after dabbling in communism. His personal insecurities drove him to attract attention to himself but his incredible good fortune kept him out of prison for long. Carlos was eventually apprehended in Sudan in 1994.
Also at FactBehindFiction.com
The Way of the Jackal: Only a few people really know. Not even the real hero of the thriller finds out. But we are provided with a few sketchy details about him. He was a mercenary in Katanga (the Congo), and his skills and contacts obtained in that war enable him to become an ice-cold assassin. The Jackal came to choose his profession because of the adrenaline junkie within and love for the good life that money can buy. He quits a mundane day-job and dives into a life of cloak-and-daggers and sniper rifles. He is physically fit and a deadly killer even with his bare hands, and attractive enough to seduce at will in a kind of dark James Bond way. A thorough professional and conscious-less killer, he doesn't digress from the unspoken rules he has established.
The Cobra: The Cobra - Paul Deveraux is properly described on the back cover but a more fitting description can be found while reading the main text: “He loathed political correctness, preferring courtly good manners to all, save those who were clearly the enemies of the one true God and / or the United States.” Devereux is physically present in precious few scenes but his influence permeates the meticulous plotting and actions that populate the pages.
Avenger: Cal Dexter is a troubled man who addresses pain with pain. He channels the agony of his losses through his vocation. Not in the guise of a lawyer but as a former special forces veteran who has evolved in skill to address the problems that cannot be helped by governments. Dexter’s grounded approach as a soldier and as a lawyer has made him many friends of questionable repute but undeniable skill. And this is where Dexter (the dinosaur) mixes tech with old-school espionage.
The Dogs of War: Sir James Manson, Knight of the British Empire, chairman and managing director of Manson Consolidated Mining Company has all the money he’ll ever need. What he doesn’t have is the patience to deal with long and winding political methods to get what he wants. Not when he sees a potential ten billion dollars up for grabs. He has the resources and the methods and he intends to make full use of both. Firmly grounded in the realities of business and politics he knows ‘there was only one commandment, the eleventh, “Thou shall not be found out.’
References and further reading
-Assassinology.org The Study of Assassination by the author of ‘How to Kill’
-Encyclopedia of Assassination – Carl Sifakis
All Copyrights reserved by the Author/Publisher of the book.
Best of the Site
Charles De Gaulle
The Jackal used an Alfa Romeo sports car to enter France undetected with his rifle hidden in the modified chassis.
Alfa Romeo 2600 Touring (1961)
Miscellaneous film posters. (Images: impawards.com)
Illich Ramirez Sanchez AKA Carlos the Jackal.
‘I do not have the kind of imagination to spin a character out of the air,’ Forsyth admitted. ‘I met the Jackal, although he did not have the smoothness and style of my Jackal. He was simply a professional killer.’ - Frederick Forsyth