Former French army Gen. Andre Zeller, 81, one of four French five-star generals who led an abortive movement in 1961 to prevent Algerian independence, died Tuesday in Paris. An Associated Press dispatch from Paris quoted a family spokesman as saying the general died following an illness, but did not give a cause of death.
Gen. Zeller, along with Generals Maurice Cahlle, Raoul Salan, and Edmon Jouhaud, briefly seized power in April 1961 from French colonial officials in Algeria. The rebellion was an attempt by some to "keep Algeria French" and prevent the government of President Charles de Gaulle from granting Algeria its independence.
It seemed for a time that France itself was on the brink of civil war, with officials in Paris worried that an invasion of France itself might be led from Algeria, in cooperation with French Army units inside France. But the revolt collapsed.
Although the generals did have some popular support, both in France and among Frenchmen in Algeria, they could not sway the army. All four of the generals were technically retired at the time of the revolt and their only real military arm was composed of units of the French Foreign Legion.
Following the collapse of the revolt and a stormy Paris trial, Gen. Zeller received a 15-year prison sentence for treason in June 1961. Five years later, as part of a Bastille Day amnesty, President De Gaulle pardoned Gen. Zeller.
Between 1969 and 1977, Gen. Zeller wrote five books about his military experiences.
A native of Besancon, France, Gen. Zeller was an artillery officer in World War I.
He escaped France in World War II and joined the Free French of Gen. De Gaulle, was in Tunisia at the time of the Allied invasion of North Africa, then joined the Free French forces led by French Marshal Alphonse Juin fighting alongside American and British armies in Italy.
Following the war, he rose to the post of Army Chief of Staff in 1955, and became Army Inspector-General a year later. He later resigned his army posts after a falling out with De Gaulle, he retired from active Army service in October 1959.
Gen. Zeller is survived by his wife and seven children.