My post about French mercenary Dominique Borella, who died in Lebanon during the civil war, stirred up some interesting responses. Fans, onlookers, and family members got in touch. Ultimately it all lead to Dominique’s son Gunther heading over to Beirut and meeting his father’s former comrades.
Gunther was 4-years-old when his father died but grew up knowing little about him. Dominique’s wife divorced her mercenary husband when he went to Lebanon to fight. She preferred her son not to know much about his adventurer of a father.
Later on, Gunther’s grandmother (Dominque’s mother) filled in the gaps.
“I remember that her house was like a museum dedicated to the memory of my father,” said Gunther. “Until the end of her life, she expected to see her son knock on the door and return home.”
Photographs and family legends kept Dominique’s memory alive until 2016 when Gunther went hunting on the internet for more information.
Tribute And Memory
Gunther and other Borella family members got in touch after seeing my page about Dominique. I passed on some leads but things didn’t look too promising until Gunther got in touch with Phalangist veterans of the Lebanese Civil War. They remembered Borella well and invited Gunther to visit them in Beirut.
Alexis François Dominique Borella was 38-years-old when he died on 29 September 1975. This blond, right-wing mercenary, who reminded acquaintances of Robert Redford, was well-liked by his Lebanese comrades.
“A good man, kind and generous,” remembered Jocelyne Khoueiry. “He stayed with us a few months. He trained us on the road to war.”
Borella instructed men at the Amaz camp set up by the Phalange at the beginning of the war. He went with them when they headed to the front line in Beirut’s hotel district. This hardened mercenary, outwardly confident, didn’t believe he would survive the war.
“A few days before his death, he gave me a poem he had typed and annotated,” said Jocelyne Khoueiry. “It was like a premonition, dedicated to men who died in combat, forgotten soldiers without tribute. I kept this poem in my wallet. I carried with me every day for forty years.”
It was eerily reminiscent of Borella’s last days in Marseilles when he handed out keepsakes and mementos from his life to friends, telling them he wouldn’t be coming back.
He was right.
Journey To The End
Borella was approaching the front line with a woman working with the unit when he was hit in the head by a sniper bullet and died instantly.
His comrades buried him in the Latin cemetery at Fanar, a brief catholic ceremony as mortar shells rained down around them. They kept his watch and a gold bracelet with the name Dominique in block letters. His body was disinterred in 1983 and transferred to a communal grave.
Gunther flew to Beirut in October 2016 and was presented with the watch and bracelet by a Phalangist veterans organisation.
“In my head, my father is a hero,” said Gunther, ” a pure and generous man who fiught for just causes.”
There are still gaps in the story. Little is know of Borella’s other adventures. Apart from Lebanon he fought in Cambodia against the Khmer Rouge and is believed to have been a mercenary in the Congo, Yemen, Biafra, and with American forces in Vietnam. His involvement with the right-wing scene in Marseilles also remains murky.
If you have any information about Alexis François Dominique Borella then leave it in the comments below or contact me directly.
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