Foreign Legion Recruitment Booklet

picture-000aA short post today to pass on an interesting little Foreign Legion recruitment booklet/pamphlet (in English).  Not sure of the date but it was published most likely between 1979 to 1982 (a clue is on the above illustration).  Back in the 1970’s you could probably walk into any one of the Legion’s recruitment offices and find this item in several languages.  It is a simple, well written work (minus certain typos) that entices potential recruits with phrases like:

• a name which cracks like gunshot
• a name which comes up so often in the press or in litterature
• a name which conceals a lot of mystery and makes one

the Legion represents a life of adventure…..

…they refuse to be middle of the road people.

The legionnaire is first and foremost a man of action, brave in combat, eager for change and effort; what he fears most is idleness and routine.


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Legion Pulp: Red-Headed Dancing Girl

redheadeddancgrl_2Sorry, I completely forgot to post this story last night.  Red-Headed Dancing Girl is another classic tall tale from the feverish imagination of Theodore Roscoe’s narrator Legionnaire Thibaut Corday.  It appeared in the 10 April, 1937 issue of Argosy.  With a well crafted phrase on the first page that reads “…a hippy dancing girl wearing little more than a smile, in the pose of a pirouette.” Roscoe guarantees the reader will be hooked and proceed to the rest of the story.   This story takes place in Senegal and features a common character of Foreign Legion fiction–the beautiful but tragic dancer/singer who finds herself in a seedy cafe/bar in Africa where she becomes the center of the intriguing plot and the love interest/femme fatale of various Legionnaires.  NOTE: Not my scan so thanks to the original scanner.  Also you can get all of the stories (in four volumes; eBook and/or hard copy) of Thibaut Corday from the publishers at Altus Press.


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The White Kepi by Walter Kanitz

img400The White Kepi: A Casual History of the French Foreign Legion by Walter Kanitz.  1956.  364 pages.

The White Kepi is an odd book.  It is not a fiction book yet it falls far short of any type of decent or accurate history of the French Foreign Legion.  It took me several tries to finish it but I finally pushed through to the the end of what is 350 pages of overblown sensational tripe.  In fact, about the only thing The White Kepi might have been good for is as a reference work for authors who wrote those lurid stories about the Foreign Legion found in post-war Men’s Adventure tabloids or the wilder pulp magazines.  While this might be excusable and you can easily ignore some the exaggerations, The White Kepi also comes across as a very anti-Legion screed with sweeping condemnations about all  Legionnaires being mentally deficient, alcoholics, and suicidal.

The first part of the book (Chapters 1-3) is devoted to telling the history of the Foreign Legion which the author feels is essential to understanding the rest of the book which I guess is the “casual’ part of the history.  His historical review boils down to “the Legion is composed of suicidal men and because of this they fight like devils.”  Chapters 4-10 are devoted to titillating subjects such as the the notorious punishing marches in the desert, atrocities and torture, desertion, Le Cafard, relations with women, homosexuality, and an armchair psychological assessment of the mind of the typical Legionnaire.   He frequently cites several negative books about the Legion to include Erwin Rosen’s  In the Foreign Legion, Ernst Lowehndorff’s Hell in the Foreign Legion, Memoirs of the Foreign Legion by Maurice Magnus and Les Mystères de la Légion Etrangère by Georges D’Esparbes.

Kanitz makes several errors in this book.  The one which really made me shake my head was his including a very inaccurate account by Erwin Rosen of the Battle of Camerone which says the arm of Captain Danjou was embalmed, after being found severed on that battlefield and that all 63 men were killed (even though Rosen’s book made note of wounded survivors).  Any Legionnaire should have known the true story of that battle and would not have used something so inaccurate.  He also paints the death rates of first term Legion recruits as over 70%.  His chapters about how “The Legion Relaxes” are not even to be bothered with because he prone to taking small incidents and applies them to the entire corps.  According to Kanitz, every legionnaire is a poor, lonely alcoholic with homosexual tendencies due to cafard and desert isolation.

The White Kepi would have been a better book if Kanitz included more of his own experiences.  I’m sure he had some personal adventures in Algeria while he was in the Legion.  Instead he pieced together some of the more salacious bits from dozens of other books and accounts in order to paint a very negative and inaccurate account of the Legion.

Walter Kanitz was born in 1910 in Vienna, Austria. He was a writer at a young age with two children’s books published by the time he was 21 years old and would later train as a dentist.  In 1938 Kanitz fled to Switzerland just before Germany annexed Austria.  His anti-Nazi sentiments and family ties would have made him a target for the concentration camps.  He enlisted in the Foreign Legion at the beginning of the war and saw a couple years of service in North Africa before the Nazi’s found about about him and requested that he be extradited to the continent and or handed over to the local Gestapo authorities.  In 1942 he was able to escape from the Legion and flee to Spain where he was reunited with his wife and children.  In 1944 Kanitz and his family (including his mom) emigrated to Canada (Toronto) where he would have a successful career in radio, create a small toy making business–and, no surprise here, write for various men’s magazines.  He passed away February 7, 1986 in Toronto, Canada.

Here anther review of this book written by Geoffrey Bocca (who also wrote a history of the Foreign Legion called La Légion! in 1964) and appeared in the 02 June 1956 issue of The Saturday Review.


In addition to The White Kepi Walter Kanitz also wrote a hard to find book called Tales of the Foreign Legion.   (A review of this book is here).


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Hodgepodge for September 2016

Sorry for the lack of posts this past month–for some reason the older you get the less time you seem to have each day (and I thought it would be the other way around).  Here are some items I came across recently..

nordafrika1.  More Foreign Legion Photographs.  In addition to his fantastic photo album on Flickr Mr. Tappen has graciously shared several more photographs of various Foreign Legionnaires from his massive collection.  There is an additional album of 61x miscellaneous photographs called  “Légion Étrangère – Random Pictures”.  There are also several other pictures that were placed into another album called “Archiv 7”.  Most of these appear to be post-WWII depicting legionnaires in North Africa.  What wonderful pictures of long forgotten men in a lost time and place.

2. Here’s What You Should Know About the French Foreign Legion.  Here is a short video from the military themed website called We Are the Mighty.  Nothing much new here but I liked how they kept it simple and wove in clips from various Foreign Legion movies.  This is a video follow up to their earlier podcast here which took 58 minutes to cover the same ground in much more detail.

jeeplaos3.  Germain VanderCruyssen.  I noticed a link to this facebook page on Tom Savage’s page (French Foreign Legion: a Descriptive Bibliography).  It is another veteran Legionnaire’s remarkable collection photographs chronicling his service in the Foreign Legion during the early 1950’s and covering time spend in Algeria and Indochina (Laos and Vietnam).  There are many blurry images but also just as many great images showing life in a French support base (the heavy mortars suggest a dual role supporting local patrols) in Laos.  It is interesting to note the local girlfriends, the tropical “tiki” bar-like canteens,  the various assemblages of uniforms (nobody seems to be in the same outfit), and the seemingly relaxed approach to guerrilla warfare as fought from a fire base.


4. Novica Lukic (1919-1957).  Here is a short but very interesting biography of Serbian Legionnaire Novica Lukic.  It is a tragic story about the fate of a Serbian partisan who escapes the communists after the war only to be cut off from his wife and son he has never seen.  Like so many other displaced men he joins the Foreign Legion to survive and in this corps he thrives but never stops trying to reunite with his family.  He is killed in North Africa in 1957 without seeing his family.  (I hate fu**ing communists!)

5.  Sergeant X of the Foreign Legion.  Here is an oddity.  A trailer for the 1960 movie Sergeant X of the Foreign Legion.  Never saw this one.  This movie appears to be an ingenious splicing of studio film with clips and footage of real Legionnaires doing Civil Engineering work in North Africa.  It is a French made film that probably had a surplus 5-ton cargo truck as the biggest item in it’s budget.  Posters found at IMDB re-posted below–just because.

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Legion Pulp: Mud

mudThis month’s pulp fiction story is “Mud” from J. D. Newsom which appeared in the 30 December 1925 issue of Adventure.  I reads like many of the popular stories and novels of this time period that depicted the brutal trench combat of the First World War.  This is an early J. D. Newsom work–about three years into his writing career.  He had already written a couple stories featuring the French Foreign Legion and would eventually make this sub-genre a specialty of his.   The story here, a “complete novelette” if you will, is about two English speaking members of the Legion who are at odds with their Germanic Sergeant who is only too happy to escort them to the rear for summary courts martial and perhaps the firing squad.  Of course, quite a few things happen during that walk back from the front.  (Note: Not my scan–thank “sas” & “jvh” for their superb work)


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Hodgepodge for August 2016

Another month of summer gone.  Before we know it there will be frost on the roofs, piles of leaves in the street, pumpkins on the porches and a delightful chill in the air.  Here are this month’s collected tidbits of Foreign Legion related news, videos, articles, and whatnot.

1. Pulp Magazine Replicas.  I’m starting to warm up to the various pulp reprints that are available–especially those with stories of the Foreign Legion.  I found a couple more publications from Adventure House that were available on Amazon.  They are not cheap but they are definitely cheaper than a brittle copy of the original pulp.  Here are two more that feature at least one Legion story.

2. In the Jungle with the French Foreign Legion.  Wide angle docu-video of the French Foreign Legion’s 3rd REI jungle training course (the C.E.F.E. or Centre d’entraînement à la forêt équatoriale) in French Guiana.  HereThe insignia for the center is pretty beautiful (imho).


3. French Foreign Legion Africa 2015. Here is a video featuring the Foreign Legion operations in northern Africa (Operation Berkhane).  Link.

4. Foreign Legion in Indochina.  Here is a cluster of photographs showing the Foreign Legion in Indochina.  These were posted by “manhhai” on Flickr and are captioned with credits to Robert Capa.  Capa was an incredible photojournalist who covered the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, Sicily and the D-Day Landing at Omaha Beach during WWII, 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and finally the French efforts in Indochina to defeat the communists there.  He died on a jungle trail on 24 May 1954 while on assignment for Life Magazine after stepping on a landmine.

5. Susan Travers.  Another article from LiveLeak.  This is an interview of the “Only Woman in the French Foreign Legion–Susan Travers.  Of course there is her book (picture below: Tomorrow to Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion) but this is an interesting interview that helps us get to know Travers just a bit more and maybe entice you to read the book.  Travers passed away in 2003.

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Vendetta in the Desert

IlluI was not sure if this story should be posted under fiction or fact.  It is a bit far fetched and was written by the imaginative Geoffrey Bocca (who also wrote a nonfiction work on the Foreign Legion titled La Legion! in 1964) so I was saving it for the monthly pulp fiction post.  But, since the story came from the April 1960 issue of True, The Man’s Magazine, I admitted that it must be 100% factual so here it is.  Another reason to like this story is the incredible artwork by the illustrator Tom Lovell.  I imagine the illustration budgets for these men’s adventure magazines was four times what they paid for the fiction.  (Lovell also did those incredible illustrations for National Geographic that featured Vikings and other historical people and events.  You can see more of his work here and then of course there is Google Images). 

Vendetta in the Desert


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Legion Pulp: The Missing Men

TheMissingMenHere is another Robert Carse Foreign Legion story that wound up in a mystery pulp instead of the usual fiction pulps like Argosy, Short Story or Adventure.  In this case, The Missing Men appeared in the March 1937 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly.  Carse frequently merges elements from American crime themes and plops them down into the North African desert.  In this case Sergeant Fields, a former New York homicide detective is sent on a special desert command and a secret mission to find the whereabouts of four missing legionnaires.

The Missing Men

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Hodgepodge for July 2016

Well the month of July was pretty slow going for this blog–having skipped several weeks of posting for most of June as well.  I did find one article and several collections of photographs related to the Foreign Legion this month…

1. A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion.  An older article on the Foreign Legion found on the website VICE describing the misadventure of Dave from Ottawa.  After you read the article be sure to read the comments posted at the bottom that blow huge holes in the story.

DSC0100232. Flickr Albums.  I go to Flickr frequently–quite often just to browse and enjoy looking at pictures and graphics.  Using the German word “fremdenlegion” and the French “Légion Etrangère”, I was able to find some interesting pictures that had previously escaped my attention.  Here is a list of albums you might enjoy viewing.

Indochine – Juillet 1951 à Octobre 1954.  Link. 95 photos taken during the Indochina War, provided by Bernard Majza.  From the description: “Photos taken during the Indochina war, people being represented are for most of 76/3 regiment of the Foreign Legion. July 1951 to October 1954.”  This is quite a nice collection of pictures depicting legionnaires in their bush hats and odd mixes of American, British, and French uniforms and equipment.  I wish they were a bit higher resolution and without the watermark but, oh, well.

indochine---juillet-1951--octobre-1954_20071522583_oOlivier Falcoz – Albums.  From this page you can see the collected work of former legionnaire Olivier Falcoz.  Towards the bottom are four picture collections devoted to the Foreign Legion. Le Centre d’Entraînement en Forêt Equatoriale (CEFE), Ivory Coast, Former Yugoslavia, Djibouti 13 DBLE.


University of Caen.  A small album depicting some events related to a visit to North Africa (Algeria) by a certain M. Noullens whom I take to be an Ambassador or similar government official.  A couple of good pictures of the Foreign Legion and colonial troops in review.


Légion Etrangère en Algerie.  Here is another small album of Legionnaires in Algeria (and Djibouti) provided by Wulf Lammerer.


La Légion Etrangère 1936-1942.  This is the best photo album I found on Flickr since I came across that of Fremdenlegionär Leutener.  It was posted by Marc Bruyneel and shows 72 pictures of his father in the Foreign Legion.  His father was Belgian and served in the Legion from 1936 to 1942 when he left and joined those forces gathering to liberate Europe from the Germans.


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High Adventure #148: Adventure Fiction by F. Van Wyck Mason

img180“It’s not often I find a newly published book that I like–but when I do they are about the French Foreign Legion.”  This book is doubly exciting because if features the classic Foreign Legion as found in classic pulp fiction.  High Adventure is a long running bi-monthly publication of pulp reprints produced by the pulp fiction curators at Adventure House.   This book is issue #148 and it contains tree stories written by F. Van Wyck Mason that appeared in Adventure Trails and Wide World Adventures.  Both of those magazine titles are very hard to find in their original form and are expensive to purchase so it is well worth the $12.95 (plus shipping) for 117 pages of action-packed desert adventure.

The three titles selected for this issue star Yank and ‘Ector, two Foreign Legion pals that often find themselves caught between the Legion and their Bedouin enemies.  The picture below is the Introduction to this issue written by John Gunnison that tells you a bit more about the author and the pulps he wrote in.

The Jest of Caid MacGregor [Adventure Trails]
A story of Yank and ‘Ector, and of the death jest of a torture-thirsty Caid.
The Doubting of Legionnaire Terris [Adventure Trails]
Yank and ‘Ector, deserters, fight through to warn the Poste.
The Stone of Tanit-Astarte [Wide World Adventures]
Yank, ‘Ector and one “ex-gentleman” fight treachery and gold-lust to the bitter deathimg181NOTE:  I have no financial ties or affiliation with any publishing house or author.  If I like a book and feature it positively on this blog it is solely because it relates to the Foreign Legion theme and I like it and feel that I should share it with readers.

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