At first loyal to Vichy following the defeat of French forces by the Germans in June 1940, Salan later rallied to the Free French Resistance in 1943 and, as a colonel in command of a regiment, took part in the liberation of metropolitan France. In 1945 he was posted to French Indochina, where he commanded French forces in northern Indochina, accompanying Vietnamese nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh to France and the July 1946 Fontainebleau Conference. In April 1952, Salan assumed command of all French forces in Indochina, holding that post until January 1953 when he became inspector general of land forces in France. He accompanied French Army commander General Paul Ely on a fact-finding tour to Indochina in June 1954 and then returned there with Ely when the latter was named high commissioner and commander in chief of French forces (July–October 1954). The French military defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 was a clarion call for Salan, who believed that there could be no defeats for the French colonial empire, a conviction shared by many of his fellow officers.
During January–May 1955, Salan commanded the reserve army in France and was a member of the Supreme War Council. In November 1956 he was dispatched to Algeria as commander in chief of French forces there with the rank of general of the army. At the time, France was heavily engaged in fighting anticolonial forces in Algeria. Salan initially supported General Charles de Gaulle's ascension to power in May 1958 and the establishment of the French Fifth Republic. That December, de Gaulle, who mistrusted Salan, removed him from command.
In 1959 Salan retired to Algeria. When he realized that de Gaulle was prepared to grant Algeria independence, he allied himself with the anti–Algerian independence movement Algérie française (French Algeria). On 22 April 1961, Salan was one of four French generals to foment a military coup attempt in Algeria. Known as the Generals' Putsch, it failed after three days, and Salan went underground to lead the Secret Army Organization (OAS) in a brutal campaign of terror against the French government in both Algeria and France. That July he was sentenced in absentia to death for treason.
Arrested in Spain in April 1962, Salan was returned to France and tried a month later. Found guilty, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in May 1968 under a governmental amnesty. In 1982, President François Mitterrand restored Salan's military rank along with his pension. Salan died in Paris on 3 July 1984.
Salan, Raoul. Le Sens d'un Engagement, 1899–1946. Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1970.; Salan, Raoul. Indochine Rouge: Le Message d'Ho Chi Minh. Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1975.; Salan, Raoul. Mémoires: Fin d'un Empire, "Le Viet-Minh Mon Adversaire" October 1946–October 1954. Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1954.