Legion Pulp: Suicide Patrol

Here is another fine story from Georges Surdez.  This one appeared in the August 1934 issue of Adventure and featured this glorious cover by John Newton Howitt.  At 34 pages it is pretty long and features plenty of action against the Rif in the hills of Morocco.  The reasons men join the Foreign Legion vary with each man and the secret backgrounds of certain American legionnaires play out through this story.  Eventually loyalty, honor and friendship win out over misplaced grudges and the best efforts of the hill tribes.

Suicide Patrol

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Monlegionnaire – 10 Year Anniversary!

My first post on this blog was made 10 years ago on 11 May 2010.  Since then I’ve made 535 total posts–roughly 4.4 posts a month or one post a week.  There have been 752 comments from readers and myself that Monlegionnaire has over 5GB of multi-media posted or available to download with an additional bunch of downloads available on Mediafire.  Total all time views are 741,277 — a 10-year average of 6,200 a month.  There are 138 folks who follow Monlegionnaire.  Not bad I guess for a hobby but not a great showing when compared to similar blogs.  I’ve not promoted this blog in anyway nor do I do what the experts say about driving up traffic.  I’ve kind of just let this page get discovered and hopefully bookmarked or followed.  Very old school I guess and I’m glad I’ve kept at it.

To celebrate this anniversary I upgraded my WordPress plan.  Now you won’t see those annoying banners and pop-ups bothering your reading experience or tempting you to buy something stupid like face masks or romance novels.

Why did I ever create this in the first place you might ask?  It’s a long and stupid story but it all started when I thought about developing a role playing game about the classic French Foreign Legion.  A role playing game (RPG) is a tabletop game in which several players take on the roles of imaginary characters who engage in adventures in a fictional setting with a plot that is partly overseen by a referee or game master with the rest left up to the rolls of odd shaped dice.  The most famous of these games is Dungeons and Dragons, a game I began playing in 1977.  My Foreign Legion game was going to integrate a Beau Geste type of setting for the role playing portion with tabletop war game rules involving miniatures and square cardboard unit counters (like Avalon Hill strategy games) to resolve skirmishes and pitched battles.  Needless to say I never got around to finishing the project and instead got caught up in the amazing history, stories, and general romance of this storied Corps.

What is the future of this blog?  I’m going to keep plugging along for another ten years at least.  I’m trying to increase my posting rate which admittedly has been slacking this past year.  I have many, many drafts of future posts and a veritable hoard of additional material to get to.  Right around the corner I’ll be: updating the library page with more downloadable books; book and movie reviews; some war game terrain tips; more monthly pulp fiction stories supplemented with adventures from various British story papers.  I’m also thinking of ways to generate some income from all this work so I can purchase more material such as pulps, books, magazines, photographs, period postcards and various other items to share.  I’m thinking of selling some eBooks with exclusive or original material but more to follow on that.  I’m also decided on selling some rare items in my collection so I will announce these eBay listings here as well.

Looking back.  I was very excited about my game project when I started it but like many other creative things I start it just didn’t happen.  When I was drafting the outline for my game I knew I needed a bunch of maps so I created one for Sidi Bel Abbes in Algeria, the garrison city I believed would be the primary base for your Legionnaire characters.  I then created another map for a barracks room typical of what you would find in the Quartier Vienot (the Legion base).  The Sidi Bel Abbes map was my second post to Monlegionnaire so today I thought I would follow up that thread by sharing the barracks maps and a book extract I found about the town.

 

To understand why Sidi Bel Abbes would be the logical and equivalent choice for the proverbial “Village Inn” setting normally found in Dungeons and Dragons here is a chapter from a 1934 book called Sinful Cities of the Western World by Hendrick DeLeeuw.  It is short but drips with potential plots and covers the illicit sex-trade of the Arab Quarter of that city pretty well.  So if one is inclined to move this information into the gaming mode all that is needed is to populate the map with your bars, hotels, shops, secret societies, villains and friendly contacts and non-player characters, and you have the start on a Foreign Legion adventure straight out of the pulps.

Sidi Bel Abbes Chapter

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Happy Camerone Day!

Happy Day to the Foreign Legionnaires.

Bonne fête!

Given the subdued way in which this great day is to be celebrated you might be interested in how it was done last year.  For your browsing pleasure here is the press release for Camerone 2019.  Along with this document is the 2019 review of the Foreign Legion which gives a great run down on the Legion’s organization, regiments, deployments and highlights the appropriate portions with organizational insignia badges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year the Legion selects a veteran to carry the hand of Captain D’Anjou at the official ceremony at Aubagne as well as his escorts.  This year it was completed in a very different manner with substitutes but these are the men selected.  You can read about their backgrounds here.

 

Here is the event as it transpired today.  Please check out the Legion’s Facebook page for more pictures and information.

 

Finally, for those who like their history a bit more visual, here is a short graphic story that appeared in issue 7 of Savage Tales (October, 1986).  Thanks to Jeremiah for spotting this one.

Camerone_Savage Tales

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Camerone Day -1

Well another year has passed and tomorrow, 30 April, Legionnaires past and present will celebrate the famous Bataille de Camerone which took place 157 years ago in Veracruz, Mexico.  It’s hard to imagine how this commemoration will be celebrated given this godforsaken Chinese curse that lays upon the land.  It’s probably for the best that the crowds are kept small and the old-timers stay at home and watch on the computer or tablet.  Indeed, the celebration has been officially curtailed with this announcement on 27 April…

This year, the crisis situation in which we find ourselves leads us to celebrate Camerone differently.  First on several fronts!  This Camerone 2020 will indeed be, for many legionaries, a Camerone “in operation”: in the Sahel, elsewhere in the world, on the national territory within the framework of the Sentinel and Resilience operations. Second, because the context requires us to be focused, vigilant, to preserve our full operational capacity over time; but also to save our worried families, our elders, our brothers in arms and our friends, from any health risk.

This is why the 157th commemoration of the fight of Camerone will be held without audience and in strict compliance with the barrier gestures: the great gathering of the Mother House, the regimental ceremonies, the tight order, the corps mess and the fairs won’t do.  In Aubagne, the bearer of the hand, the ex-Chief Warrant Officer Ende and the escorts, the ex-Sergeant Veress, the ex-Legionary Tepass, Major Deutschmann, and the Master Corporals Milinkovic and Rayapin will not be present.

But, we don’t want this Camerone 2020 to look like the one in 1961; the only year since 1947 when the hand was not presented to the Troops. We do not want our elders, confined to their homes, far from their comrades, to have the feeling of being forgotten, they who wrote the pages of glory of the Foreign Legion. Finally, we do not want our families, our friends, present with us for years, not to be able to attend this beautiful liturgy of courage and loyalty.

Also, we have ordered a sober commemoration, brief but full of dignity, so that the hand of Captain DANJOU is presented to the legionaries, as tradition dictates.

We wanted the gesture of this heroic fight, led by foreigners in the service of France, to be transmitted like a torch. That the legacy, forging the soul of the Legion be exalted despite the context, around the cardinal values ​​that define the Institution: the sacred nature of the mission, fidelity to the word given, the community of destiny chosen and accepted by all, and also solidarity.  Because, far beyond the grand military ceremonial, we have the strength of our virtues to offer.

Symbolically, on April 30, 2020, in the early session of the Viénot district, 03 officers, 05 non-commissioned officers and 57 legionaries will be present on the sacred way.  They will discuss the exact effective order of battle of the 3rd company of the foreign regiment, under the orders of Captain Danjou in 1863–the one who honored the mission until the supreme sacrifice, with fidelity.  Major Balanzat, president of the non-commissioned officers of the Foreign Legion, will present the hand of Captain Danjou to this very symbolic company. He will go up the sacred way with the rhythm of a drum which will recall the drum of Legionnaire Lai, left for dead during the fight of Camerone.  The story of the fight will be told by Lieutenant Vagner, in memory of Lieutenant Francois who read it for the first time in 1906, in the isolated post of Ta-Lung in Indochina.

We will broadcast the filmed account of this sober and very brief commemoration at noon: the hour at which Captain Danjou fell in the hacienda of Camarón de Tejeda, Mexico, on April 30, 1863.

Never forget this fight of a handful of brave men who freely took the oath to carry out a desperate mission to the end and who kept this word until death, heroically, in the service of France

We share with you this Camerone 2020 “otherwise” on our social networks, from April 28, through several publications.  You can, right now, write your comments on our Facebook page or our Facebook event and join us on Twitter at # Camerone2020.

NOTE:  Illustrations were borrowed from an old Kepi Blanc cover and a 1958 book commemorating Camerone published by the 1REI at Side Bel Abbes.

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Integration, Collective Identity, and Assimilation in the French Foreign Legion

Integration, Collective Identity, and Assimilation
in the French Foreign Legion

by Chef de Bataillion Thomas Philippe Riou
Légion Étrangère, Armée de Terre

I came across this article a couple of months ago while browsing the U.S. Marine Corps University site.  It runs 18 pages and appeared in the first issue (2016) of the The Breckinridge Papers which is a professional journal published annually and featuring the writing of students attending various military schools.   The author was a student at the Marine Corps University’s Command and Staff College.

Don’t let the name of this article turn you off.  It is NOT another one of those convoluted and impenetrable sociological pieces one might come across from time to time that attempts to explain the inner workings of elite military units.  This one provides an amazing insight into the uniqueness of the integration and assimilation process of those who join the French Foreign Legion and does so in a clear and understandable way.  There are some necessary references to sociological terms, quotes and theories but these do not get in the way of the author’s personal telling of the how the Legion creates their remarkable espirit de corps and unit cohesion or what the author calls their “collective identity”.  The author served in the Foreign Legion for several years as an officer and has a very intimate view into the ways and the culture of this somewhat mysterious organization.  He explains the reasons for many of the unique (and strange to outsiders) customs and traditions found in the Legion such as the chants, the kepi, tattoos, and unit celebrations.  He touches on the reasons for frequent desertions from the Legion which he attributes to rash decisions to join in the first place and the simple fact that deserters are not really obliged to follow or concerned enough about French laws since they are not French.   The article is sprinkled liberally with observances from those (authors and Legionnaires) who have studied and written about the Legion but the most powerful testimonial is that of Lawrence J. Franks Jr.  Franks was the American West Point graduate, a 2nd Lieutenant, who did 5 years the Foreign Legion after deserting the U.S. Army in 2009.  Franks credits his tour in Legion and the discipline and comradeship for saving himself from suicide.  The author of this article was Franks’ company commander for two years.

This is a highly recommended read.  Camerone Day is right around the corner and this article will help one to better understand this ceremony and the observed traditions of the Legionnaires by better understanding the processes inherent in assimilating and training men from 150 nations into an elite and highly effective military corps.

Integration, Collective Identity, and Assimilation in the French Foreign Legion

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Legion Pulp: The Ghost in the Bastion

 

This Wu-Flu edition of Foreign Legion pulp comes to us by Adventure Magazine from 15 July 1930.  J. D. Newsom again crafts an enjoyable tale that takes place in French Tonkin (the northern portion of then French Indochina where the Legion frequently engaged Chinese bandits and pirates).  The story is about what grim things can happen when a bit of mischief making goes to far and creates a deadly instance of inter-service rivalry pitting the Legion against the French Colonial Infantry.

The Ghost in the Bastion

Note that this story was extracted from a pulp fiction magazine that has a dozen more items of fiction (to include a Nautical, Crime and a Western story among others).  Issues of Adventure Magazine at this time (1920’s to 1930’s) usually consisted of almost 200 pages.  You can get this magazine (and hundreds of others like it) from the Internet Archive and “The Pulp Magazine Archive“.  Click here for more Adventures.  You can also find many of the same issues available for download at “Pulp Covers“.  Some pulp titles are exceedingly rare and most original copies are slowly falling apart and unless digitally preserved the fiction contained within will be lost forever.  This specific issue was scanned exceptionally well by “sas” and has a wonderful Foreign Legion cover that is not quite related to this Tonkin tale.

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Single Panel Comics

Over the years of running this blog I’ve acquired an assortment of single panel comics related to the Foreign Legion.  Now that I’ve scanned the hard copies here is the collection beginning with one of my favorites with probably one of the most obscure joke references ever.  It was published in 1932 in a U.K. newspaper known as The Sketch.  The reference refers to the large number of former Foreign Legionnaires attempting to market their experiences to a literary agent–so many that there is a waiting room full of them.  This was apparently quite true at the time as there actually were many news articles and books being written about certain experiences these men have had in the Legion.  There were also former Legionnaires on speaking tours and appearances before and after the showing times of the Beau Geste movie and related stage plays where the veterans entertained the audience with “true” and horrid tales of life in the “Legion of the Damned”.

This one is from the great Bill Mauldin who was famous for his WWII cartoons featuring GI’s Willie and Joe.  In 1961 the future of the Foreign Legion was being questioned after the infamous Algiers putsch.

The rest of these cartoons mostly play on the notion of forgetting the past or forgetting a girl or in the case of the Gary Larson panel forgetting the Alamo.  (Also included are some Cartoon Stock watermarked images which I suppose are hoovered up by them in the same way as Getty Images claims rights over photographs they have no actual rights to.)  I’m trying to collect some Foreign Legion jokes as well but those are harder to find….”Did you hear about the guy who rejoined the Foreign Legion for another five years? He needed to try and forget what he went through the first five years.”

 

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Legion Pulp: By Way of Gratitude

The pulp fiction story for March comes from Adventure Magazine (15 March 1933) and was written again by Georges Surdez.  So it is roughly 87 years and a day old.  The story features plenty of action and a troublesome interpersonal rivalry between the Sergeant Lembacher, a potential officer candidate, and Captain Corleal.  The story begins in garrison, then proceeds to hard fighting in the hills of Morocco and ends in the infirmary–a typical Surdez story flow.

By Way of Gratitude

Sorry this story is published late.  It seems every time Microsoft pushes a Window update it causes things not to work on my PC.  Printer was offline, internet not accessible and my Adobe Acrobat stopped combining images into a document.  Not enough time or patience yesterday to sort it out.

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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.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 1 Comment

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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