Legion Pulp: Blades of the Legion

This story by P. C. Wren, appeared in the October 1933 issue of Blue Book.  It is much like many of his other garrison tales you would find in one of his several short story collections.  The names are surely familiar.  We have McSnorrt and Spanish Maine, both lovers of a beautiful dancer known as Estella Margarita, and a mysterious murderer (her husband) who unfortunately escapes justice.  After reading this it struck me as a very familiar tale and I was sure that I read it elsewhere.  So I checked around and found that it is indeed a well traveled story originally titled McSnorrt’s Love Affair which first appeared in the UK magazine The Passing Show earlier the same year.  This is the first appearance of Spanish Main who would later be featured in the novel aptly named “Spanish Maine” (The Desert Heritage is the U.S. title).  It was also featured in Port O’Missing Men (1934) and again in Dead Men’s Boots (1949).

Blades of the Legion

Note: Thanks to “sas” for the scan and to John L. Espley for his four great volumes on P. C. Wren’s Collected Short Stories.

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A Destiny of Undying Greatness: Kiffin Rockwell and the Boys who Remembered Lafayette

A Destiny of Undying Greatness: Kiffin Rockwell and the Boys who Remembered Lafayette by Mark M. Trapp.  Published by System D Publishing Company, 2019.  560 pages.

This is a very comprehensive and wonderfully detailed biography of Kiffin Rockwell, the young American who sailed to France to fight the Germans just days after the First World War started.  It is one of several recent books written about the Americans who fought in the French Foreign Legion in the early years of the war and it is, by far, the best that I have read.  It is a hefty 560 pages (including forty-five photographs), has an  Introduction and Prelude and over 140 pages of an Afterward, Acknowledgements and a most enjoyable section of extensive notes and citations.  The book is available (via print on demand with Amazon Prime fulfillment) at Amazon.

What I found most enjoyable about reading this book was that it progresses chronologically and perfectly places many events and personalities into their proper place and time of occurrence.  What I mean by this is that I was aware of many of the events and names in this book beforehand.  I knew who Kiffen and his brother Paul were as well as many of the other names of the American volunteers and I also knew which of them died in the trenches and who went to fly for the Lafayette Escadrille.  However, the way this book flows is exceptional because the author ties all of these bits of detail, name, locations and personal accounts/letters together into a complete coherent narrative.  For example, you learn who the first American war casualty was and how he was killed as well as the tragic and unfortunate fate of the second American fatality.  You discover that while many of the Americans were in the trenches with the Legion there were several, at the same time, actively creating the embryonic All-American Flying Squadron.  I learned the real truth about Edward Morlae and why his fellow legionnaires despised him, how and why Kiffen’s brother Paul left the Legion and what happened to Alan Seeger.  The fighting by the Chateau Craonnelle where the Americans were on the line was always confusing to me–until now.  I most appreciate that the author tied all of these events into a well flowing account and how he utilized the various university collections (those of the Rockwell brothers but also Thaw, Hall and Seeger and others) to flesh out his narrative.

Of course, I was most interested in the parts about the Foreign Legion and found this book very informative and helpful in placing the two foreign marching regiments at their various cantonments and sectors on the front at specific dates.  I also enjoyed the author’s accounts of the often strained relationships between the hardcore legionnaire cadre from N. Africa (les Africains) and the international volunteers who enlisted “pour la durée de la guerre”.  The book also does a great job of including the stories and adventures of the other Americans who marched (and flew) alongside of Kiffin Rockwell such as Chapman, Kelly, Prince, Bowe, Scanlon, Weeks, Zinn and King.  Like all accounts of the early war American volunteers, the second half of the story is about flying and air combat with the Germans and again Mr. Trapp does a fantastic job of putting it all together in a compelling narrative full of details, anecdotes, places and dates and events. 

I must admit, I did skip some pages in the beginning of the book to get to where the war begins so remember, the first 70 pages cover Kiffin and Paul’s ancestry and early years.  I did go back back and finished reading what I skipped and completely understand why the author felt it important to include this lengthy portion.  Simply put–they don’t make men like Kiffin anymore and much of the ingredients of his character came from family, tradition and upbringing and you just can’t appreciate the motivations of Kiffin (and the others) unless you realize how important the concept of Honor and true manhood was to that generation.

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Legion Pulp: The Last Salute

This story is from the 15 August 1930 issue of Adventure.  J. D. Newsom is the author of this tale of what happens when Legionnaires are bored, use official stationary for personal letters and get into a shouting match with madame cantinière.  I really liked this one as it was one of Newsom’s more humorous tales.  The protagonists are a sad couple of Legion veterans, an Englishman and New Yorker, who thoughtlessly get themselves out of a hot situation into something potentially much worse. 

The Last Salute

 

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Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Today the King of Heaven in the middle of the night
Was born on Earth of the Virgin Mary
To save the human race, pull it from sin
Return the Lord’s lost children to him.
Noël, Noël, Noël, Noël

Merry Christmas to all Monlegionnaire followers, regular readers and random visitors and may your 2020 be a wonderful and productive new year.  Keep in your prayers those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Legionnaires who are currently deployed in foreign lands against the dark and evil forces of this earth.

Posted in Admin / Blogging / Stuff, Christmas | 3 Comments

Legion Pulp: The Legionnaire

Here is an older tale of the Foreign Legion that appeared in the 10 May 1923 issue of Adventure.  The setting is the trenches of WWI and what occurs is a distraction from the regular carnage and slaughter of the front.  Here is a duel to the death between artists of the bayonet…the Legion’s champion vs. the Saxon’s bayonet instructor.

The Legionnaire

The author is Gerald B. Breitigam (1899-1964), an author of screenplay novelizations, some poetry and folksy stories for the slicks, comic-strip adaptations, and at least three stories for the pulps.  Breitigam was also the editor-in-chief of the United Press International Syndicate in 1929 and wrote many bylines for that organization.  He also wrote “The Radio Boys” series under the pseudonym of “Gerald Breckenridge.”  His most famous work was Morvich: An Autobiography of a Horse (1922).

This page has some good pictures of the Lebel rifle and the “Rosalie” bayonet.  According to accounts the Lebel’s rifle-bayonet combination at 6 feet long was lethal in the right hands.  This épée bayonet was optimized for thrusting, designed to readily penetrate thick clothing and leather.  The bayonet however tended to bend and extraction from the enemy often presented problems.

NOTE:

 

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Legion Pulp: The Medal

November’s pulp story comes from the 15 December 1927 issue of Adventure.  Written by J. D. Newsom it takes place just after the Great War when American veteran Alexander Sutton discovers his French war bride he takes back home is a vindictive shrew with a slight mustache he never noticed before.  He takes her back to France and gladly leaves her with her family (and almost all of his money).  Down and out in the gutter he is almost robbed of his last 16 francs by another vagabond called Armand Cabillot, a former postal officer and embezzler who is on the run from the Gendarmes.  Together they decide that the Foreign Legion is the answer to all their problems.  For Sutton, enlisting in the Legion is merely something to do that would provide room and board but for Cabillot it is all about redeeming himself by fighting and sacrificing himself in battle for France.  Of course, this being a J. D. Newsom tale, there is plenty of action to make up for some weak characterization and slightly stereotypical accounts of the Legion and the French in general.

The Medal

NOTE:  Sorry again for not being as active on this blog as I used to be.  I feel guilty for not posting here–like I’m cheating on a long time girlfriend.  My Affaire d’amour this past month is actually submarines.  Yep, I’m guilty! I’ve been neglecting the Foreign Legion for a while as I have been reading and researching American WWII submarines in the Pacific for the past several weeks.  But I assure you this is only a passing fling and my attentions will soon return to the forlorn corps of foreigners fighting for France in far-flung desert fortresses.

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Legion Pulp: The Cure

This story by J. D. Newsom was published in Adventure Magazine on 01 January 1930,  appearing four years before Newsom’s other Foreign Legion story called “The Rest Cure” which appeared in the April 1934 issue.  They are two different stories but yet this is a similar “fish out of water” Newsom tale where the least likely specimen, in this case a self identified poet, finds himself in the roughest of military and social organizations.  Monte Fisher fancies himself a poet but a poet of the rough and tumble Robert Service type and has arrived in Paris determined to shock the local literary effete with his He-Man prose. I’m not sure if Newsom had in mind Allan Seeger or not or, more likley, if he was merely taking a shot at the highbrow class who, in this story, are very relieved to see the irritating Monte Fisher remove himself from their close circle and head off to the Legion.  Almost immediately Fisher runs afoul of the honestly rough legionnaires and the rif-raf they recruit and quickly is convinced that desertion is the next best option.  Of course, there are some life lessons in every Newsom story and the first one is: Never enlist into military servitude while you are still intoxicated…and of course there is nothing like combat to sort out any bad life decision.

The Cure

NOTE:  This issue has a great cover and I have a copy.  Somewhere.  For now, here is a place holder until I can scan and post a higher resolution image.  Thanks to Eric, the original scanner.  Also, is it just me or does this cover show a very close resemblance to Gary Cooper?

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Legion Pulp: Under Contract

I hope nobody is getting tired of Georges Surdez because the pulp story for September is yet another Surdez tale that appeared in Adventure Magazine (October 1938).  It is not that long at 11 pages but is a good one nonetheless.  It is told by an narrator who relates the time in the Foreign Legion when German legionnaires in North Africa were suspected of having split loyalties during World War I.  They were kept from joining the Legion units fighting in France and had little option but to stay in the African Legion and give their best because they were “under contract”.  Surdez takes it a bit further and introduces a French officer fresh from the trenches who is not very fond of the boche in his command which is just about all of them.

Under Contract

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 2 Comments

Combat and Survival

Combat and Survival was a military, firearms and survival magazine that appeared in the late 1980’s from the United Kingdom.  You might recognize this older logo.  It was a slim publication but one that actually lasted 30 years or so only to be eliminated through various buy-outs and eventual liquidation in 2018.  The version that I’m familiar with is the 28 volume set published by Stuttman that was released in the United States through a  subscription. Back then, I was a sucker for things like this when I was in the Army and gladly shelled out God-only-knows how much good money for what I thought was a fantastic addition to my library.  I liked it at the time but like so many things it has tarnished with age and has become something that only takes up space.  In fact, I have tried selling the entire set during my annual garage sale.  I put dirt-cheap $10.00 on the whole box and people never even looked at them.  Luckily, and since the set didn’t sell, I remembered to scan all the articles that pertain to the Foreign Legion.  These appeared in volumes 1, 6, 14 and 17.  Here are the individual pages that cover action of modern Legionnaires in Chad, Mayotte, Djibouti, and Corsica.  A compiled .pdf can be downloaded here.

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Legion Pulp: Nine Picked Men Part 4

Here is the last installment of this grand serial.  The story left off with the small band of deserters caught between vengeful Spanish patrols and their own fears of returning to French Morocco and facing eight years in a punishment company.  The remaining few of the original nine men eventually are rounded up by Legion patrols but circumstances”well above their pay grade” determine their eventual fate.  A really good story here–enough for a movie (if Hollywood will ever make good movies any more, instead of insipid politically correct Super Hero flicks).

Nine Picked Men Part 4

I think Georges Surdez had a real understanding of soldiers even though he never wear a uniform.  Toward the end of the story the veteran Lieutenant says to Brandon Maddock…..”Even if you decide to leave when your enlistment expires–you will not believe it now, but is it true–your years with us will stand out in your entire life“.  This struck a chord with me because I believe it to be very true–that a veteran will look upon his years of service with much pride and a certain wistfulness for past camaraderie and adventure.

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