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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Some Satire

Legion Etranger— La France sera fière de vous, caporal…votre nom?
— Chè nè gombrends bas.

— France will be proud of you, corporal … your name?
— I do not understand (with thick accent).

The French have a long tradition of satire.  Some would say it is part of the French DNA–a collective and individual impulse towards amusement by mocking and poking fun of authority figures, making dark commentary on current events  or simply making light of the human comedy/tragedy where we all exist.  Graphic and written satire certainly exists in many other countries but for volume and quality none do it as well as the French.  Charlie Hebdo immediately comes to mind.

This cartoon is a perfect example of French Satire.  It is a simple one panel cartoon depicting an exchange between a senior French Army officer and a lowly corporal in the Foreign Legion.  The officer is offering praise on behalf of France but the poor legionnaire does not understand French.  As good satire the subtle meaning of this graphic goes far beyond the immediate joke.  It could be taken as a critique that questions the very existence of the Foreign Legion and asks “do the foreigners of the Legion even realize why they are fighting for France?” and  “do they even care?” or “why do we have men who don’t understand French fighting on France’s behalf?”.  It may have been meant to be ironic, in that the heroic corporal can’t understand the very officer who has chosen to convey the gratitude of France in her own language.  It’s also tragic when words can’t convey the gratefulness of France to many of those foreigners who lay their lives on line on her behalf.  One can infer many different meanings into this picture.

…or maybe it’s just a semi-funny cartoon (a woodcut no less) by Felix Vallotton.

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Legion Pulp: Military Prisoner

MilitaryPrsnrThe pulp fiction story for July is from the 29 September 1934 of Argosy.  It is written by the master of French Foreign Legion stories–Georges Surdez. It involves a tragic case of a man, cursed by drink, who winds up in French military imprisonment and reappears years later in the Rif Campaign.

Military Prisoner

COMMENT:  My sympathies for the family, relatives and friends of the latest victims of terrorism.

Another terrorist attack, in beautiful Nice, France —-31 days after the Orlando massacre, 114 days after the attack in Brussels and 244 days after the Paris attacks.  The murders at Charlie Hebdo occurred only a year and a half ago yet it seems like ancient history.  The perpetrators of these crimes are animals–sick followers of a suicide cult and it is about time the world wakes up and realizes we are at war with them.  Why the western countries tolerate ISIS, a piss-ant gang of about 30,000 dead-end losers, for so long amazes me.  Who will lead the free world and amass a grand military coalition to wipe Daesh off the planet?  The socialist Hollande?  The socialists Obama or Clinton? The appeaser Frau Merkel?  The pajama boy Trudeau? Will it be the UK PM Teresa May alongside a President Trump?  Good Lord….we sure live in a crazy world.

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France’s Foreign Legion

Franced Foreign LegionHere is a short article found in the November 1931 issue of The U.S. Army Recruiting News (an obscure publication to say the least).  It was written by Captain R. Ernest Dupuy, of the U.S. Army Field Artillery, and is based on his recollections of a visit to the First Foreign Legion Regiment at Sidi Bel Abbes in 1928 and his more recent (1931) visits to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments in Morocco.  He touches on all the usual points writers make about the Foreign Legion and likewise attempts to debunk some myths in the process.

France’s Foreign Legion

The article is too short and I wondered if Dupuy might have written something longer about the Legion in another format or publication.  Sure enough, I remembered that he was also a fiction writer and penned a factoid about Camerone Day for Blue Book magazine in 1935 that I posted here.  I also found a letter written to Life Magazine in 1951 making a correction to a photo caption that misidentified colonial soldiers as Legionnaires.  Captain Dupuy was a retired Colonel by 1951.  He did write several books and among them was Perish By the Sword which was about the Czechoslovakian Legion in WWI, but nothing lengthy on the French Foreign Legion.  It should be noted that his son, Trevor, was also a career military officer and prolific author of military history.

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Taking a Break…

img395I’m going to step away from my keyboard for a bit.  My father passed away today after a recent struggle with congestive heart failure, a broken hip and other ailments.  He was 89 years old, a WWII U.S. Navy veteran and the most wonderful Dad one could ask for.  It’s a bit hard right now to carry on with blogging so I’m going to take a break….I’ll be back as soon as I’m able.  I’m sure you can understand.

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The Legion Marches

The Legion MarchesHere is a gripping article that appeared in the September, 1946 issue of the U.K. magazine The Wide World (The Magazine for Men).  The Wide World was an odd combination of pulp and slick.  It was printed on much better paper than the pulps and contained mainly true to life adventure articles and stories (travel, hunting, exploration, war, law enforcement, sports, etc.).  It was slightly smaller than pulps in size–both height, width and overall thickness yet had wonderful eye-catching covers that would look good on any adventure fiction pulp.  The magazine ran from 1898 to the end 1965.

This article was written by Leslie J. Smith who was one of three Englishmen serving with the 5th Regiment of the Foreign Legion in Indochina.  Smith provides a first hand account of the fighting between the Japanese occupation forces and the isolated French garrisons in early 1945.  He served in the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Regiment during that unit’s epic rear guard action and forced march on the tails of the French evacuation of personnel into China.   As Smith points out, this was a little known battlefield of WWII yet it involved incredible sacrifice and epic resistance to overwhelming odds.

The Legion Marches

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Hodgepodge for May 2016

A day late on this post but here are some of the random items I’ve found related to the French Foreign Legion.

  1.  Podcast: What We Learned About the French Foreign Legion.  This is an interesting, almost hour long, podcast by the guys at We Are The Mighty (a weekly show featuring awesome military stories, weird history, and entertaining guest appearances).  They discuss Camerone, the formation of the Legion, the Legion’s relationship with the Nazi’s during WWII, famous Legionnaires, and other interesting (and totally random) tidbits of the Legion.  The narrators wander a bit but seem to have done enough research to pull it off pretty well without ever coming across as complete uninformed-know-it-alls you often find on other podcast shows.  They are also former military members who bring a certain degree of expert insight to their military themed podcasts.

  2.  Former Chinese Legionnaire Seeks Wife Online.  Fu Chen, from Tianjin, joined the Foreign Legion after the death of his girlfriend.  He got out of the Legion as a corporal and now runs a security company.  This small page indicates that Mr. Chen is seeking, via the internet, a woman to marry.  I wish him luck but to use caution when meeting chicks on the web–as the comments below the article hint, the ChiComs might want to watch him more closely or gather more information on him.

Chen  3.  News from Mayotte.  It’s not often you hear about the Foreign Legion detachment in Mayott (Détachement de Légion étrangère de Mayotte, or DLEM).  This article sheds some light on the situation in the Indian Ocean.

DLEM  4.  Soldier of Fortune Magazine:  The Road to the French Foreign Legion.  Here is a twofer; an official Foreign Legion recruiting video and what appears to be an ancient article from the archives of Soldier of Fortune magazine describing one Brit’s journey into the Legion.  I subscribed to this magazine for many, many years when I was in the Army.  I loved it then and even nowadays I occasionally pick up a hard copy at the local PX.  SOF published many articles on the Foreign Legion over the years.  I have a near complete run of this magazine (issue #4 to the end of 2009) sitting in storage. I might see about reprinting some of the Legion articles if SOF is feeling generous. 

  5.  “Never Be Afraid” by Danilo Pagliaro.  Here is an interview with the (still serving) Italian Legionnaire who recently published a memoir entitled “Never Be Afraid” or Mai Avere Paura in Italian.  Danilo Pagliaro has served over 23 years in the Legion and will soon be retired.  From reading this short article he sounds like a really solid NCO and hopefully someday his book gets translated into English.

copertina-libro6.  An American Foreign Legion.  The Washington Post had this article that dominated the news feed for “Foreign Legion” this past month.  Here is the better written rebuttal found at Red State.  I just want to note that there are far more “foreigners” in the U.S. military (about 65,000) than there are in the entire French Foreign Legion.  This idea of an American Foreign Legion, as noted by the Red State article, often crops up in various forums and websites.  It makes no sense to me why some would actually think its a good idea.  A better idea (not too much better) might be to create penal units to empty out our prisons and make the prisoners pay back their debts to society.  Start with the street gang losers–make them earn their paroles via deployments to Afghanistan.

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I Was a Legionnaire

TaliesHere is an article from the October 9, 1953, issue of The Outspan–a South African weekly publication that ran from 1927 to 1957.  It was sent to me a couple of years ago by a generous reader of this blog who painstakingly taped several photo copies together to make one large complete spread (thanks again Oliver).  I tried to scan it and reassemble it in some readable format but the results did not look too good so I grabbed the text and recreated the article in MS Word.   The .pdf is below.

I found the article an interesting take on the Foreign Legion and the conflict in Indo-China.  It repeats many of the common Legion legends of horror and brutality and tall tales of combat one usually finds in the American men’s adventure magazines.  This may be because the magazine, The Outspan, was a mostly fiction based magazine that included many adventure and war stories over it’s long run.

I Was a Legionnaire_Basil Talies

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Photo Album of Fremdenlegionär Leutener Part 2

Here are some random comments on these great pictures.  I’ve downloaded each photograph from these two albums and here is the breakdown.

Album 1 (Fremdenlegion in Algerien 1930er Übersicht und Postkarten).  This album has 82 images and provides and overview of the album by pages and individual scans of several postcards.

(3) Front and back covers with leather pouch.
(54) Album pages (containing 382 photographs)
(25) Postcards

Album 2 (Fremdenlegion in Algerien 1930er).  This album has 382 images.  Each is a high resolution scan of the individual photographs found on the 54 interior pages of the album.  I roughly organized the photographs into the following main categories.

(18) Aerial Views
(53) Aviation
(53) Casernes, Bases & Forts
(28) Locals
(33) Scenery
(157) Soldiers (Legion, Aviation, Meharistes, and others)
(22) Vehicles
(17) German Army & Afrikakorps

Some Observations:  It will take a long time and some serious detective skills to add more context to these pictures.  Questions that I’m working on include what unit was Leutener assigned to during his time in the Foreign Legion, what are the names of the forts, nomenclature of the vehicles and airplanes and what bases are depicted in the aerial photographs.

     1. German Army Service.  If you viewed all the pictures in the album you will notice a sudden transition from the uniform of the French Foreign Legion to the uniform of the early WWII era German Army.  There are 17 pictures depicting soldiers in what appears to be mountain troop smocks and the uniform of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK).  I suspect that Leutener left the Foreign Legion in late 1934 after his five years were up but was later drafted into the Wehrmacht for service in North Africa in 1940.  Perhaps he was selected for service in the 361st Reinforced Infantry Regiment which purposely selected former German legionnaires for their knowledge of the desert terrain of North Africa.  This regiment was part of the 90th Light Infantry Division which did have several specialized units trained for commando and mountain type operations.

   2. Unknown Insignia.  I noticed several pictures of men wearing a pocket insignia shaped in an upside down triangle.  I checked my references on Foreign Legion badges but could not find a match.  I suspect it might be a transportation company badge.


3. 1932 Train Crash.  There were two photographs related to the tragic train accident that occurred in 14 September 1932.  A train carrying 500 members of the 1st Regiment rolled down a hillside and killed 62 legionnaires.  The cause of the accident was heavy rains that weakened the track.

4.  Complete Mysteries.  There are some photographs that really need more explanation but unfortunately Legionnaire Leutener did not write much in the margins of the albums or on the photographs themselves.  The picture below stumps me completely.  It appears to be an assembly of prisoners of war but there are very few guards.  The uniform (greatcoat and garrison caps) does not look French but I think these men could be some of the survivors of the train crash noted above.  Also, 1934 is a bit early for the large Spanish influx of Legion recruits that occurred in 1939 so I don’t think these men are from that civil war.


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Legion Pulp: Night Brings Wisdom

NightBringsWisdomWith his lieutenant caught in the net of a vicious money-lender, it was up to gruff Legionnaire Porchot to find–or smash–a way out…

Here is this month’s pulp story from the imagination and typewriter of Georges Surdez.  This early work by Surdez appeared in the 7 November 1931 issue of Argosy.  The story is about justice served in the dark alleyways of the native quarter.

Night Brings Wisdom

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