Legion Pulp: One Night in Alsace

One Night in AlsaceThis month’s Foreign Legion pulp story comes from the November 1949 issue of Blue Book Magazine.  It was written by Georges Surdez and illustrated by Hamilton Green. This story would be one of the last ever written by Surdez as he passed away the same month that this story appeared in Blue Book.   The setting is December 1944 as the Allied forces slowly push the Germans out of France.  The French 5th Armored Division (including the First Foreign Legion Cavalry Regiment/1REC and a Motorized March Regiment composed of the 3rd Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment/3REI) of the Free French Forces finds itself along the front lines in Alsace.  (Thanks to “saskia” for the scan.)

One Night in Alsace

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The Road of Death

FranzBeigelHere is a short article written and illustrated by Howard Brodie for Collier’s, January 1951 issue.  It is illustrative of the French position in Indochina in 1950 as it became increasingly dangerous as small scale combat flared up along the essential lines of communications (LOCs) that linked the larger garrison towns throughout the country.  One road along Colonial Route #4 was nicknamed “The Road of Death” and security was effected by French blockhouses, forts and observation posts along the route.  These postes were magnets for Viet Minh attacks while unsecured lengths of other routes were routinely places of ambush.

I am curious about how these forts were constructed and I will follow up with pictures I have in a later post.  As Brodie describes in his article here these forts reminded him of American frontier forts of the old west.  The French also had relied on fortified blockhouses and highly secured LOC during their campaigns in Morocco as well as their forays further south into the Sahara.  So why wouldn’t this work just as well in Indochina?

The Road of Death

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Camerone 2015

“They were here less than sixty, opposed by an army.  Its mass crushed them.  Life, not honor, abandoned these French soldiers, April 30, 1863.”

Well, Camerone Day again…bonne fête!

Here are some related items presented in a hodgepodge manner.

1.  Le Boudin. One of the best YouTube videos on the Foreign Legion…

2.  The Wooden Hand of Captain Danjou.  Here is a timely release from Pulp Action Library…a set of war game rules for the Battle of Camerone.  You can get a copy from the Wargame Vault.

“”””On April 30, 1863, 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of the Legion Etrangere fought hordes of Mexican Regulars at the Battle of Camerone. They Lost. But in losing they created the legend of Camerone, of single-minded dedication to the cause, even in the face of insurmountable odds. Camerone Day is celebrated by the Legion every April 30.   In celebration of the 152nd anniversary, Pulp Action Library is bringing out The Wooden Hand of Captain Danjou, a game about grit, determination, and terrible accents. The players take on the personae of the French characters, and have all the odds stacked in their favor except one – there are too many Mexicans.  The idea is not to survive, but to die in the best way possible! Only $4.99.””””””

Hand of Danjou3. French Foreign Legion – An Adventure In The Desert!  Over at Jay’s Wargaming Madness they held a really awesome looking game involving a archeology expedition in peril and a Foreign Legion rescue.  This is really a nice set up and original scenario using some house rules.  (Note: when you see back corner of Jay’s garage you just just might weep a bit and kick the dog for no good reason.)

AdventDesert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Camerone Day Blog.  Don’t forget to check out their pictures from the 150th Anniversary game held in 2013.  I never get tired of looking at these in full screen mode.

CameroneDay

 

5.  The Day of the Legion.  From the pages of Blue Book Magazine of April 1935 comes a 2-page article about Camerone Day and it’s significance to the Foreign Legion.  It was written by Captain Richard Ernest Dupuy (1887-1975) a journalist and writer with a historical bent who wrote a couple dozen pulp stories in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  What is interesting about this article is that it was only four years previous that the Foreign Legion celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary.  Credit is due to Général Paul-Frédéric Rollet, the Legion’s first General-Inspector and Père de la Légion étrangère.  He organized the 100th Centennial celebration then and also did much to institutionalize the formal celebration of Camerone Day throughout the Legion.  There were scattered Legion traditions before Rollet and many exist today as unit celebrations, but he was the one who really breathed new life into the entire corps and what we see today on the parade grounds at Aubagne was established in the 1930’s. 

The Day of the Legion

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Double Dose of “Grit Gregson – Fighter in the Foreign Legion”

DoubleGritHere are two short tales of Grit Gregson from the U.K. comic “Lion”.  Both appeared in 1954–22 May for The Mascot They Didn’t Want (#118) and 12 June for He Arrested His Pal (#121)Of course these are a bit old fashioned and were written for the younger crowd of the day but Grit Gregson stories always contain essential elements of good Foreign Legion tales; the villainous Sergeant, a small cadre of the hero and his diverse buddies, seedy back alleys of the village negre“, and bands of marauding Bedouins that make Hollywood Indians seem authentic. 

He Arrested His Pal

The Mascot They Didn’t Want

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Some Desert Forts

Here is a random selection of North African desert forts…

Adam, a loyal reader of this blog, kindly provided me with pictures of his Foreign Legion desert outpost.  He says that “the basic structure is foamcore with a plaster skin; timber roofs and ladders are balsa…and it isn’t based on a particular historical fort (but would be located somewhere) in the Sud-Oranais in about 1908.  The rather lonely Legionnaire is a converted 1914 French infantryman from Great War Miniatures.”  It looks very solid with a nice basing job…the perfect display prop that would probably fit on a bookshelf for some extra finely painted miniatures or it can be the Rif objective number one for a table top miniatures game.

Another interesting Moroccan / Saharan building that I found somewhere on the web was noted as a granary.  It would be an interesting blockhouse as well and the pictures serve as a good scratch-building reference to the type of brick work, stucco, and colors one would see in the North African desert.

Lastly, I had these three pictures laying around in my collection; one of Fort Flatters, one of Fort Lallemand and a ground level shot of Fort Flatters.  Notice the wire obstacles around Flatters that probably went up right after the Great War.

 Camarón Day is this Thursday!

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Passion

PassionHere is a wonderfully drawn graphic tale of the French Foreign Legion that appeared in Vampirella #78 (May 1979), my favorite of all Warren Comic’s from the 1960’s and 70’s.  The artist was Jose Ortiz and the story was by Steve Englehart.  I was saving it for some special occasion but then I realized that Camarone 2015 is less than a week away.  You will be surprised, perplexed and maybe confounded at the ending and most likely re-read the entire story to figure out what in the heck just happened.  .pdf below….

Passion

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Legion Pulp: Murder Sands

MurderSandsApril’s pulp story comes from the December 1940 issue of Action Stories.  The author is John Starr which was a house pseudonym used by Fiction House from about 1933 to 1953.  Action Stories was a general “adventure” type of pulp magazine that featured mostly westerns and stories set in exotic locales.  Not as big or famous as Blue Book or Adventure it nonetheless was published for 29 years with 225 issues (a monthly for the first ten years but later a bi-monthly and then quarterly).   Looking over some of the content listed for this magazine during the late 1930’s I find dozens of stories featuring the term “Legion” used in ways that clearly indicate a Foreign Legion tale.  Murder Sands is only six pages but with a nice twist at the end that makes me think the real author was Theodore Roscoe (but I would be guessing).

Murder Sands

 

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Soldiers of the Legion

Soldiers of the LegionI recently found a treasure trove of digital reading material at the archives of The American Legion Magazine (link).  Here you can find 1,524 back issues (from 1919 to 2014) that are fully downloadable in .pdf format.  Many of the issues from the mid-1920’s to the mid-1950’s featured high quality short fiction as well as non-fictional first hand accounts of combat in WWI and WWII.  Of course I had to check for French Foreign Legion related articles and was pleased to discover the following two-part article written by Captain Leighton H. Blood that appeared in the February and March issues of 1928.

Soldiers of the Legion Part 1

Soldiers of the Legion Part 2

Both articles provide a unique look at the Foreign Legion by someone who was given rare access to their garrisons in North Africa around the 1927-early 1928 period.  This was a couple of years after the Rif War and the Great Syrian Revolt and the author makes several references to both locations.  Also interesting is that Blood was given a motor tour of the Atlas Mountain region by none other than Captain Edgar Hamilton (then commander of 10th Co. 3rd BN, 4REI).  Hamilton was one of the very rare Americans who became officers in the Foreign Legion.  In the second article Blood interviews a German legionnaire who narrowly escaped the death penalty for desertion in Syria, two American legionnaires and a Georgian prince using the Legion as a last refuge of honor.

BloodLeighton Blood was an infantry and armor veteran of WWI who attained the rank of Captain by the end of that conflict.  He eventually turned his career to journalism and wrote current affairs articles with a military perspective for The American Legion Weekly (and later Monthly).  This position as a magazine reporter (he was also an official member of the American Legion) undoubtedly opened up many doors that would have been closed to other reporters especially during the years after the war.  An avid traveler, Blood wrote several articles about far flung locales as North Africa, Cuba and the Philippines.  By the 1930’s Blood was writing fiction as well.  The Popular Magazine, a long running general fiction pulp, would feature many of his stories to include several Foreign Legion / North African tales with titles such as Son of a Legionnaire, Drums in the Atlas, Legionnaires Don’t Tell and A Berber Racket.

It is April and Camerone Day is fast approaching so I’m going to bump up the blogs posts here for a while.  Check back regularly or “follow” Monlegionnaire.

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Hodgepodge for March 2015

I’m back from my little break.  Here are some of the Foreign Legion related items I’ve collected up for the month of March.

LegionDisk1.  Traditions of the French Foreign Legion.  I found two articles on the Foreign Legion at the “expatnation” website.  The first one is a run down of the Legion’s traditions and customs.  The other article is more or less simple facts about the Foreign Legion entitled Things You Don’t Know About the Foreign Legion.  Nothing new here but I also found some other interesting articles at the web site written by folks living in France.

2.  Still Serving Legionnaire; will-answer-any-questions!  The forum at the Close Protection World website has a long running discussion thread where “Adam” from the U.K. answers questions about the modern Foreign Legion.  Lots of great information about preparations for joining, what to expect if you are accepted and also plenty of myths and misconceptions cleared up.  Adam was in the 2REG (Engineers) back when this thread started in 2010.  Several other legionnaires also chimed in on topics as well before posting petered out in mid-2014.  (You do have to register to see all the pages.  If you are not really interested in the current Foreign Legion this may not interest you.)

IndoChinaLegion3. Germans in the French Foreign Legion (First Indochina War).  Here are two amazing videos that explore the post-WWII surge of German nationals (almost all were ex-soldiers of the smashed Third Reich) that flooded the Foreign Legion with needed recruits just when France needed them most to hold on to their colonies in Indochina and North Africa.  Each runs about 30 minutes and are loaded with newsreel footage and interviews of elderly former Legionnaires who clearly relish recounting their experiences.  The videos also explore the amazing fact that hundreds of German legionnaires who deserted the Legion in Indo-China actually wound up serving with the Viet Minh against their former comrades.  Video 1.  Video 2.

4.  Thomas Gast.  Here is “Ecriture“, a very well done website run by Thomas Gast a former member of the 2REP from Germany.  Mostly in German but with lots of photographs and excellent leads on books.

Mounted-FFL

 5.  Unfeasibly Miniatures.  This company is producing a fine line of 28mm Foreign Legion miniatures at a phenomenal rate.  Their latest is a couple of mounted legionnaires with mules.  Really nice items here.  It looks like they are also working on an artillery crew for an 80mm mountain gun–check out their facebook page.

 

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Legion Pulp: Three Mad Sergeants

3 Mad SergeantsThis short story is from the February 1939 issue of Adventure and is written by Georges Surdez.  Forty-two men are assigned to the “special section” garrisoned in the Ras-el-Khaloua Blockhouse located on the sun blasted, south facing hills of the Middle Atlas.  For six months the privates will be at the mercy three notorious Sergeants and over time they WILL adapt to the discipline of the Legion.

Another fine work from Surdez that is full of small but colorful details of life in the Foreign Legion as well as his usual finely crafted and memorable characters.

Three Mad Sergeants

Admin Note:  I’m going to take another short two week break from posting here as I have several pressing appointments, trips and issues to take care of.  I also need to do some work finishing up several future posts that have been on hold for way too long.  Looking ahead my next post will be at the end of the month and on April 1st, a 15 April pulp fiction story and Camerone Day is coming up on 30 April.  The Windy City Pulp Convention on the 17th of April as well and I plan to attend if possible.  Thanks for visiting.

Updated 22 March–uploaded new .pdf with missing page “48”.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 2 Comments