Legion Pulp: A Soldier of the Legion

This story, with a well used cliché of a title, comes from the pages of  December 1933 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  The author, Captain Kerry McRoberts, was a house pseudonym often used by the better known pulp master Norman A. Daniels.  The story is set in the desert and involves an American Legionnaire, Jimmy Harker, who learns the hard way not to directly disobey a Foreign Legion officer while the officer learns the true mettle and dedication of his legionnaires.

A Soldier of the Legion

Here is the cover of this issue….

NOTE:  Sorry about being an AWOL blogger.  May and June are always busy for me as I usually have a “honey-do” list that I’ve put off all winter that needs to get done.  I do have multiple articles I’m working on so keep checking here. 

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Legion Pulp: Some Die Hard

This story from Robert Carse appeared in a 1931 issue of Argosy.  It is actually more of a Devil’s Island genre than a Foreign Legion tale although the two main protagonists are former Legionnaires, one an officer and the other an enlisted man whom the officer sentenced to a penal unit for insubordination in combat.   Two years later they find their fates once again linked in an epic revolt for freedom by escaping the prison colony of French Guiana.  Like many of Carse’s fiction this one racks up the bodies. 

Some Die Hard

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Men of the Legion

This comic was originally in Spanish and called Hombres De La Legion.  The illustrator was Alberto Salinas and story by Alfredo Grassi.  It was published by Ediciones Record and appeared in English by Eclipse Comics in two editions (#3 and #4) of their 1988 “Merchants of Death” series.  There is a digital version of the first part in Spanish here and the original cover is below.

The story is boilerplate.  Englishman joins the Legion to escape jail and scandal at home.  He has a rough time getting along with the brutal sergeant and a German legionnaire.  Combat however, forms unbreakable bonds and the nameless ones continue their eternal desert march.  The art work is incredible and makes this worth a look.

Men of the Legion

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Camerone 2021

Bonne fête legionnaires!

From what I’ve read the official celebration at Aubagne is going to be another closed, COVID influenced event, similar to last year, with “social distancing” (a term I’ve come to loath) and more masks.  If you are unfamiliar with this event you should check out some of the posts at the Legion’s Facebook page (from where I borrowed the above image), the Foreign Legion Museum and Kepi Blanc Magazine.  Here is a video of last year’s event.

The image above shows the legionnaires honored to carry and accompany the carrier of the Hand of Captain Danjou.  There are usually a mix of veterans and active serving legionnaires, both enlisted and officer.  The legionnaire selected to carry the hand is for Camerone 2021 the bearer of Captain Danjou’s hand will be retired General Vittorio Tresti who is a living example of a brilliant career in the Legion as an enlisted recruit, a non-commissioned officer, and then officer.  General Ende will be accompanied by Master Corporal Kevin Emeneya, Chief Warrant Officer Ende, Legionnaire Tepass, Battalion Leader Tanasoiu and Chief Warrant Officer Dektianikov.

General Tresti was born on January 22, 1939 in Italy. He joined the Legion in 1958 and went to Sidi-Bel-Abbès before completing his initial training in Saïda. Assigned to the 1st Foreign Regiment, he was appointed corporal in 1960 before being transferred to the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment. Appointed sergeant in 1962, he was admitted to the preparatory platoon of the joint military school in 1965. He obtained his parachute qualification in the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment.  The same year, promoted to first sergeant in 1966, he passed the entrance exam for the EMIA (École militaire interarmes) where he completed his schooling and graduated as a second lieutenant in 1967.  Upon graduation, Second Lieutenant Tresti was assigned to the Foreign Legion Training Group in Corsica and then to the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3REI) based in Madagascar in 1969.  He was naturalized and promoted to the rank of lieutenant.  In 1970, he was seconded as chief of staff and aide-de-camp to Generals de Pazzis and then Bigeard, who commanded the French forces in the southern Indian Ocean.
Back in France, he was promoted to captain on July 1, 1974, and was given the post of intelligence officer in the 2nd Foreign Regiment/Operational Group of the Foreign Legion (GOLE) in Corsica. With the GOLE, he was deployed to Djibouti for the Loyada affair from February to June 1976. His unit also carried out a short mission in Mayotte from July 1976 to February 1977. In August 1977, he was posted to the No. 1 selection center in Vincennes, where he was successively appointed as a guidance officer and commander of a training brigade.
On September 1, 1980, he graduated with the 94th class of the École de guerre (War College).  In 1982, he was posted to the 3REI in French Guiana, where he served as head of the operations-instruction office. He returned to France in 1984 where he was assigned to the 6th Light Armored Division. As head of the operations section of the division’s employment office, he put his solid experience and great culture at the service of all. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on October 1, 1984. In 1987, he returned to 3REI in Kourou where he developed the close security system for the Guiana Space Center. Promoted to colonel in 1989, he joined the staff of the 3rd Military Region as head of the employment planning office. In 1991, Colonel Tresti was assigned to the Directorate of Higher Military Education of the French Army, where his teaching skills as a professor were noticed.  Appointed Brigadier General in 1996, he left active service at that time.
He is an Officer of the Legion of Honor and of the National Order of Merit and holds several military medals and is also a Knight of the Malagasy National Order.


The theme of this year’s celebration is the Legion’s motto Honneur et Fidelite which was adopted 100 years ago–changed from the Napoleonic Valor et Discipline.  The motto appears on regimental flags and other traditional motifs.

The commander of the Foreign Legion notes:

The impossible was done rightly. Understanding the inevitable outcome, measuring the importance of the time gained on this fixed enemy, the captain did what honor commanded him and laid the founding act of the Foreign Legion. He promised his legionnaires to defend themselves, all, until the end: ′′ We swore it” says Corporal Maine, they all did. Loyalty is the breath of honor.  It is understandable, in fact, that our motto ′′ honor and loyalty ′′ and the name of the Battle of Camerone be inscribed together on our flags and banners. It is also fair that Captain Danjou’s articulated hand is the venerable relic of this fight and the symbol of the Legion gesture: the sacred character of the mission, the faithfulness to the word given and the exemplary of the leader.  This year, to mark the hundred years of the motto “honor and fidelity”, Captain Danjou’s hand will rise up the sacred path like a flag, carried by an exceptional legionnaire, General Tresti.  Carrying the hand, he will be surrounded by a guard of legionnaires of all times, able-bodied or wounded, veterans in the first rank, active soldiers in the second, of all ranks, all nationalities and all regiments. All members of the order of the Legion of Honor, all chosen as an example of fidelity to one’s word, these six officers, non-commissioned officers and legionnaires are the same as those of Camerone, described by Captain Maine: “there were all kinds of nationalities there, Poles, Germans, Belgians, Italians, Spaniards … the proximity of danger had softened the characters, erased the distances, and one would have really looked for a more perfect understanding and cohesion between such disparate elements. With that, all brave, all former soldiers, disciplined, patient, sincerely devoted to their leaders and to their flag.   

Our six legionnaires are the living witnesses of the spirit of Camerone. On April 30, they will have the magnificent task of presenting our relic to the troops being honored this year: the 4th Etranger (4REI), which is 100 years old like our motto, the 1st Cavalry Etranger (1REC), which is also 100 years old, and finally, as honor and fidelity oblige, a group of representatives of our special force (those who work at the old legionnaires home), which is more than 100 years old: the cohort of honorary legionnaires.  If honor is definitely attached to their rank, it is to recognize their loyalty, definitely attached to the Foreign Legion. They are part of all special missions, from the enhancement of our vines to the defense of legionnaires’ rights, from the enhancement of our heritage to the operational use of our units, working without a backward glance. The centenary of the motto Honor and Fidelity is also their anniversary.

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D-1 Camerone Day

Camerone Day has come on pretty fast.  I usually post a bunch of odds and ends throughout the week that Camerone Day occurs but since I’ve been slow and distracted I’ll try to get caught up with this post.

1. Histoire de la Legion Etrangere No. 1.  This comic (in French) is part of a three part series about the history of the Foreign Legion by Editions du Triomphe.  This company publishes some excellent graphic novels and comic-like books.  They have several series on historical battles, military unit and leader profiles and their histories.  Others in the series include Bir-Hakeim (1999-1945), Dien Bien Phu (1946-1962), and Kolwezi (1963-Present).  This book has a great part about Camerone.

La Legion 1831-1918_Camerone

2. Foreign Legion Origami.  These were a neat idea that showed up on the official Foreign Legion website last year.  I figure those with great finger dexterity and affinity for IKEA furniture instructions might find a challenge here.  The figures are Lego-Like and include a Legion engineer, an Caporal Chef and a Caporal.  I presume you should print out on card stock to make a more durable figure.

Origami-Legion-etrangere-Caporal-Cabe

Origami-Legion-etrangere-CCH

Origami-Legion-etrangere-Pionnier

3. Colonel Rollet in WWI.  Last year I came across some very nice pictures of the Father of the Foreign Legion, Colonel Paul-Frédéric Rollet, taken during the First World War.  “Rollet accumulated 41 years of military service out of which 33 were in the Legion and also planned the 100th anniversary of the legion on Cameron day of 30 April 1931. Consequently, he was responsible for creating many of the Legion’s current traditions.”  I’ve never seen these before but I have seen the famous photograph from L’Illustration (the one above) and I’m pretty sure that these were from the same awards presentation on 7 July 1917 in Lhéry, France.   Found in the Albums Valois collection.

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Legion Pulp: Gentlemen Pay

Here is another great story from Georges Surdez which appeared in the February 1938 issue of Adventure.  It starts out like other Surdez stories revolving around a young officer’s honor and courage or in this case a sudden and confusing lack of courage that concerns the senior sergeant in the section.  Why is Lieutenant d’Hervier suddenly faking an injury and lagging behind his troops when he is expected to lead from the front?  This mystery plays out amidst the backdrop of hard fighting against the mountain warriors of the Rif in the arid mountains of Morocco and ends in a gruesome if not unexpected end.

Gentlemen Pay

REMINDER:  Closing in on the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Camerone (30 April 2021).

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100 Foreign Legion Books

Here is a quick post for today…something I’ve been messing with for a long time.  I thought it would be a good idea to gather the covers of the books about the Foreign Legion into one large type of info-graphic or “graphic bibliography”.  I finally got around to finding pictures of 100 books to complete what I found to be a challenging exercise in web searching.  The picture above depicts 100 non-fiction books about the Foreign Legion.  They are not in any particular order and most all of them (95/100) are in English with the others in French included because the pictures by themselves were valuable even to English-only readers.  Some are very hard to find, some are really old and others are available only as eBooks. Also included were three English translations of older books originally only available in French (using the 10×10 grid as a left-to-right reference these are books #50, #86, and #87.   Once I reached 100 I realized that I had several books that I didn’t include so I promptly started on another graphic for then next 100 as well as an ongoing project for 100 Foreign Legion fiction books.  Then there are the French books, and other languages.

In case WordPress doesn’t allow for the full resolution you can download the hi-resolution graphic here.

One of these eBooks with an interesting history is Legionnaire by Milorad Ulemek who is better known as “Legija” (Legion) when he was a Serb paramilitary leader during the war in the Balkans.  Ulemek was in the 2REP for six years before he deserted while home on leave in 1992 to stay and fight in the subsequent Yugoslavian conflicts.  Some years ago, after his conviction of various war crimes and political assassinations, Amazon (the digital book burning scold) removed his digital book for sale and was even so bold as to reach out and remove it from my Kindle for PC contents (telling me the book is unavailable when I try to open it) which is odd because I still have it in my Kindle library on Amazon.

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Legion Pulp: Fools for Glory

Here is this month’s Pulp Fiction story straight from the pages of the 1935 April Fools Day issue of Adventure.  It’s a long one by Georges Surdez with lots of well developed characters, plenty of action in the hills of Morocco and infused throughout the story, his thorough understanding of just how to depict military men and combat.  I often marveled at how a non-military pulp author like Surdez could write so expertly about tactics, weapons, and other military related tidbits.  I guess it comes with research, taking good notes, interviewing those who served and perhaps reading first hand accounts of fighting in WWI.  This is one of Surdez’s better stories and I enjoyed every one of the 47 pages.

Anyways, the story concerns Lieutenant Fortane, a well to-do aristocrat with no combat experience, who finds himself assigned to a front-line Foreign Legion company but with all the wrong reasons for being there.  He is replacing a fallen officer who was deeply revered by the men and his assignment also bumped a more popular officer from getting his well deserved promotion.  It appears that it will be impossible for him to win over the loyalty of the Legionnaires he is expected to lead.  This situation leads to a calamitous nighttime raid and a change of fortune fortune for the Lieutenant that will allow him to leave the Army with his coveted award for valor.  But there is just one more final offensive scheduled before he can leave and Fortane makes a fateful decision.

Fools for Glory

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Hell in the Foreign Legion by Ernst F. Löhndorff

Hell in the Foreign Legion by Ernst F. Löhndorff.  Translated by Gerard Shelly. Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 40 Museum Street, London, Great Britain.  June, 1931.  349 pages.

I’ve had this book for several years but only got around to reading it recently.  What kept me away was the impression that this was just another sensationalized, non-factual screed against the evils of the French Foreign Legion from the typical anti-Legion viewpoint of the German press at the time.  Now I can pass on to you that Hell in the Foreign Legion is indeed anti-Legion and to a great degree non-factual story telling.  However, there were some redeeming portions that make this book a fairly decent memoir and an enjoyable read if you understand the perspective of the author.

Ernst Friedrich Löhndorff is listed on Wikipedia as a German sailor, adventurer, writer and painter.  He was born 13 March 1899 in Frankfurt am Main but later moved to Vienna.  There, in 1912, he was expelled from school due to “too frequent absences” and it is safe to say that at this time he began his life as a vagabond adventurer leaving home at age 14 to travel the world.  Löhndorff departed on a ship to Mexico at the end of September 1914 but upon arrival the ship and crew were impounded because of the outbreak of the First World War.  Bored with confinement, young Ernst absconded to shore and pursued various itinerant jobs and eventually falling in with some revolutionary troops of Pancho Villa who used him to translate English press reports.  Because of his involvement with the rebels responsible for murdering eighteen American engineers in 1916 the U.S. military put a bounty on his head but he was never captured.  He decided to flee Mexico and together with other deserted sailors captured the ship “Alexander Agassiz“.  They sailed under the German flag, but after about four weeks were captured in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy gunboat USS Vicksburg. “Löhndorff was arrested and imprisoned in Los Angeles in February 1918 and later confined in Utah as Prisoner of War No. 638.  At the end of the war, Löhndorff was allowed to leave the United States eventually arriving at Karlsruhe where his family had relocated in 1914.

After the war, Germany had fallen into chaos and revolution and many former German soldiers and unemployed young men felt the need to escape the violence and poverty.  They were easily enticed into joining the Foreign Legion by French authorities particularly along the Rhineland border.  In 1920 Löhndorff enlisted in the Foreign Legion.  What motivated him to do so is unknown; perhaps it was financial hardship, the situation in post-war Germany, or his urge for adventure–he never gives a reason in his book nor does he mention his previous adventures apart from time spent hunting orchids in the Amazon.  Also, noticeably absent in this book, is any lengthy mention of the Great War.  On November 13, 1920, he signed a five-year commitment in Saarbrücken as “Ernesto de Naca e Villaverde,” born in Veracruz on March 13, 1899 (according to the “Etat signaletique et des services” of the Foreign Legion.

This is where Hell in the Foreign Legion begins as Löhndorff is tossed into a mass of desperate German recruits.  His account of travels via Metz to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille lasts for the first 88 pages.  From Marseille, he boards the often referenced ship Sidi-Brahim to Oran, Algeria and then travels by train to Sidi bel Abbès.  Here he gives a wonderful account of the military barracks known as Caserne Vienot (the Legion’s training base, barracks and headquarters).  He very quickly lays into the ineptness of the Legion, the brutality of it’s cadre, the sadism of the medical doctor, and the various sicknesses of his fellow Legionnaires such as alcoholism, thievery, sodomy, and of course le cafard.   In real life, just two months after enlisting, the 22-year-old Löhndorff deserted and fled Algeria.  In his book however it takes until page 159 before his first escape attempt which fails and lands him in detention.  He tries three more times and fails each time.  Eventually he says he spent 60+ days in solitary nighttime confinement alternated with days spent running around the “quad” with sand bags on his back.

A conscientious commander takes pity on him and sends him to a mounted company of the 2nd Legion Regiment (2REI) at Saïda.  In the remainder of the book he recounts forced marches, more brutal punishments (Legionnaires buried in sand with their head exposed to the sun) and the hellish experience of occupying a lone desert outpost for months on end with nothing but the heat, an insane commanding officer called Captain Machinegun (Captain Mitrailleuse), locusts and lone visiting prostitutes who literally walk away into the desert after several days of work with every bit of cash that was in the fort.  After this brutal posting his unit shuffled between various camps and forts in western Algeria to include Aïn Séfra (real), Fort Jonnart (?) Hadshera-M’Guil (?), and Jenien-bou-Rezg (which I believe was to become the Legion’s Disciplinary Camp).

, Eventually he is moved north to fight the Rif near the base of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.  During a harried maneuver through rough canyon country his company is attacked repeatedly and he is presented with an opportunity to make good his desertion from the Legion by swapping his uniform with that of a dead Riffian. The last 20+ pages recount his flight from the battle and eventual salvation as a stowaway on an American freighter.

Keep in mind that most all of this book is fabricated (probably everything that occurs after Sidi Bel Abbes) and as one reviewer puts it “Here, too, as in almost all his adventure novels, real experiences were mixed with poetry. The autobiographical style repeatedly gives the impression that Löhndorff was writing down his own experiences. Although this was not true, his travels and adventures were inspiration for his works.”  Hell in the Foreign Legion was written in 1930 and was his third book.  There was plenty of material available at this time to use in his embellishments to include other Legion memoirs and accounts of real fighting against the Rif which didn’t begin in scale until April 1925.

Hell in in the Foreign Legion reminds me of books written by the Englishman Francis A. Waterhouse, also an actual Legionnaire, that were also part fact-but mostly fiction.  In fact, this is a tradition that goes back to Erwin Rosen, another German adventurer who kicked about the Americas before spending several months in the Foreign Legion, deserting and then writing a book about it in 1910.

The book was was released with the German Title “Afrika weintTagebuch eines Legionärs” or “Africa Cries – Diary of a Legionnaire”.  His travels in Mexico, South America and Africa (including his time in the Legion) inspired him to write thirty novels and books.  These appeared from 1927 to 1966 and were very successful at the time and to this day his books are collectable.  (He passed away in 1976).  NOTE: You can see a much older Ernst in this video.

 

Sources: 1, 2.

 

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Legion Pulp: Salute

This is an odd story written by two unfamiliar authors.  Kingsley Moses was incredibly prolific in the pulps and some slick magazines, writing in just about any genre–sports, westerns, romance and adventure from 1913 to 1949.  Curtis Thomas is not so well known and has only three stories listed under his name at the Fiction Mags Index.  This Foreign Legion tale appeared in the 01 October 1934 issue of Adventure.  The protagonist, a disgruntled American Legionnaire, just back in town from months of combat out on the parched bled, has 500 francs burning a hole in his pocket, a blistering wound on the right side of his face, a smoldering lust for a local barmaid and a red hot hatred for his Lieutenant…and a newly acquired pig.  What could go wrong?

Salute

This fairly short story (barely 10 pages) was actually the headliner for the cover illustration of this issue…

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