The Legion of the Damned Diorama

Something different today.

A month ago the Middle School gave my son an assignment to create a 3D-type display of a non-fiction work that he recently read.  He asked me what book he should read and since he likes military subjects (especially weapons) I gave him some suggestions–Blackhawk Down, Killing Lincoln, and some others.  I also gave him my copy of “The Legion of the Damned” because it is a terrific biographic adventure story and best of all–it was a short read at only 240+ pages of large type.  He finally finished the book 5 days before the assignment was due so I then had to help him with putting together the 3D display at the last minute.  We worked together on this over the weekend before the due date.  It was fun for both of us.  Of course, I initially wanted to go “whole-hog” on this (plastic Legion figures, painted middle eastern buildings, etc.) but it had to be something that my son could do.  So I helped him with techniques and ideas and he did the rest.  (O.K. I also helped paint a bit.)  He scored 98%!

For those not familiar with the book “The Legion of the Damned”, it was written by Bennett J. Doty, an American who joined the Foreign Legion shortly after WWI.  It describes his time upon joining–training in Sidi Bel Abbes, fighting in Syria, his desertion and capture and his subsequent imprisonment and ultimate release when enough public attention was brought to bear on his situation (he was originally sentenced to death).  Bennett Doty who joined the Legion as Gilbert Clare deserted when the fighting in Syria had ended and he became disillusioned at being used for endless days of menial labor.  Doty’s story is really incredible.  He was highly decorated for his actions against the Druse rebels.  His account of the fighting at Mousseifre and Soueida is some of the best edge-of-your-seat writing I’ve read in a long time.  I have several articles about Doty as well as a full review of his book coming up in future blog posts.

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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2 Responses to The Legion of the Damned Diorama

  1. Dean says:

    Fantastic! I was just searching the topic (actually trying to find out when they went from red to white trousers). Outstanding work and great to hear your son likes miltary history. I’ve had similar experience helping out school projects at the last minute with my two sons – one graduating HS this year and joining the Air Guard. Regards, Dean


    • Jack Wagner says:

      Thanks Dean,

      Good luck to your future “zooomie”.

      The small cut out figure came from an Osprey book. I scanned it, printed it on card stock and used it in the dio. I believe the Legion used both colors (red and white) for their trousers in N. Africa until they went to the tropical khaki around 1910-1912. The whites were lighter and would be worn in hot weather or work details. The Red trousers often appeared in their more formal walking out dress. Of course the French army and the Legion work red pants in the early part of WWI. As the war progressed the metro army went to sky blue and the colonial army troops switched to the mustard brown.


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