Legion Pulp: Recall to Arms

This post marks my 100th post to this blog.  So in celebration I will post one of my favorite pulp fiction stories of the Foreign Legion.  This story is twenty two pages long, written by Robert Carse and appeared in Argosy (23 Mar 1940).  It is about a legion officer, Lt. Jean Hubert, fighting the Rif tribesmen in Morocco in the mid 1920’s.  After a tough battle, he is captured by the enemy but instead of dying a horrible death from slow torture as he might have expected, he is made prisoner of the tribe that captured him.  This is where one of the standard plot devices found in so many Foreign Legion stories and movies is used: the captive legionnaire is kept alive only to operate/teach the tribesmen how to use captured French machine guns.  Of course over time Lt. Hubert becomes accepted by the small tribe and gets romantic with the former chief’s widow and “acting chief”.  (Guess who killed her old man?).  He then becomes the leader of the village defenses when they are menaced by a more radical tribe.  This is a well written story, full of detail, and one particular character in this story stands out.  One of the village elders fought for the French in the trenches of the Western Front in WWI in a Colonial regiment.  He acts as a language instructor and ever helpful adviser to Lt. Hubert. How true this was in French North Africa that French soldiers and legionnaires would eventually fight against Moroccan and Algerian insurgents who themselves fought for France in both World Wars.  That was one of many tragedies that occurred when France’s colonial possessions disintegrated into rebellion during the 50’s and 60’s.  A great movie that touches on this is L’Ennemi intime.  I know this is just 22 pages of cheap pulp fiction but when these stories are written by smart writers like Robert Carse they become like history brought to life. Historical fiction if you will–made believable by the details of effective research into the subject matter by the writers.  (The Argosy cover art is awesome as well–do you think “I Dream of Jeannie” got some ideas from this?)

Recall to Arms

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About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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