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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Here is the next installment of Georges Surdez’s serial. This part takes the nine deserters from the Foreign Legion into the Spanish controlled area of Morocco where the leader of the small band expects to make contact with allies in the Spanish military. Things don’t go as planned and one by one the nine become eight and then the eight become seven and the seven…
Nine Picked Men Part 3
As promised, here is the second installment of this serial. If you read the first part you will remember that Legionnaire Brandon Maddock, after beating up a pesky corporal in a dive bar in the village négre , used some sportsmanlike moves to evade the Legion’s street patrol. Making his way back to the barracks he promptly told the guards to arrest him. Part 2 picks up from there and off to the penal company goes impetuous Brandon. He miraculously took a light sentence of only two months but his anger and a touch of cafard tacked on another several weeks. He eventually returns to Sidi Bel Abbes a much leaner and stronger man and much more in control of his emotions. He puts in for a transfer to Morocco and finds himself serving in an isolated block house just south of the Spanish line in the Rif Mountains. Again Maddock becomes restless and casts his lot with eight fellow deserters.
Nine Picked Men Part 2
I like the long stories, usually serials, written by Surdez. He seems to not hold back on the details as much as he would have when working on a 10-20 page short story. Here we get rich backgrounds of the Legionnaires in this story that make each one very unique. The lead character becomes someone we care for and is often fallible and endearing. Also the lore of the Foreign Legion that Surdez writes about becomes richer and much more a part of the story than in his shorter works.