Hodgepodge for October 2013

In no particular order here are the odds and ends related to the French Foreign Legion that I’ve come across this month.

1.  The Expendables.  In case someone missed last December’s issue of Vanity Fair, I bring to your attention a great piece entitled The Expendables written by William Langewiesche, the international correspondent for that magazine.  It covers the modern Foreign Legion and dwells a bit on their operations in French Guiana.   (I’ve cleaned up a print version below.)

The Expendables

2.  Here Comes the Foreign Legion.  In a similar vein, in case you missed it, you should check out the American Spectator article from Feb 2010 entitled Here Comes the Foreign Legion.  It’s another well written piece by Joseph A. Harris, the magazine’s Paris correspondent.  Harris has also written more recent, and very good, articles on the recent French involvement in North Africa.

Here Comes the Foreign Legion

3.  1er R.E.C.  I seem to find more and more Foreign Legion books to add to my running wish list.  Here are a couple of items about the modern Foreign Legion that look promising.  The first is the September/October issue of Uniformes magazine which is a French language publication devoted to military uniforms, insignias and other militaria.  It covers the uniforms and equipment of the Foreign Legion’s 1st Cavalry Regiment (1er R.E.C) in Indochina.  The second magazine is another French publication that covers the French special operations forces and it’s recent issue also is about the 1er R.E.C.


4.  The Compass of Naivety.  Yet another new book.  This one is written by Clive Chabrier who, in 1959, left England on a lark for France and was unwillingly shanghaied into the Foreign Legion.  He eventually wound up in the 1er R.E.P. before it was disbanded and fought for a time in war torn Algeria.   He eventually deserted and wound up on an English ship to Australia where he quickly disembarked for more adventurous travel in the Outback.  You can hear Mr. Chabrier recount his amazing tale at the ABC Kimberly website.

Compass of Naivety

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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2 Responses to Hodgepodge for October 2013

  1. Mr. Wagner;
    Why, in your opinion, would military men of the skill normally associated with the Legion allow themselves to be penned in like thy were at Dien Bien Phu?
    I can make no sense of their deployment, yes, it is necessary to control the road junction and the airfield, but why not hold the high ground surrounding the valley?


    • Jack Wagner says:

      Good question and very much debated over the decades. The Legion was not at fault for the horrible strategy proposed by the French Command in Indochina. They were just another unit in the French order of battle. This battle, in a nut shell is was another classic failure of Western Military thinking in understanding how to combat guerrilla warfare. The purpose of Dien Bien Phu was ultimately to force a confrontation with the Viet Minh main forces which they felt confident of winning decisively. They wanted a large conventional showdown but got slow strangulation of a siege that played out for almost two months. The French were seeking a pitched battle but the communists wouldn’t take the bait–at least not initially and only when there were able to mass forces on the high ground and control the entire valley. The French also seriously underestimated the ability of their enemy to mass artillery and anti-aircraft coverage.


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