Not much to post today in this month’s random collection of Foreign Legion related news, products, stories, pictures and what-nots.
1. Agony of War. Here’s a great story about Vietnam War veteran and former French Foreign Legion member Ruediger Richter. You have probably seen the famous black and white photograph of SP4 Richter watching a descending helicopter while his comrade looks over a body bag prepared for evacuation. Before this iconic picture was taken Richter had served in the Foreign Legion for five years in the early 1950’s.
I’ve read many books on the Vietnam War (and had a decades long subscription to Soldier of Fortune Magazine) and am always amazed when I come across stories of foreign born American soldiers who fought in that conflict. Rick Rescorla comes to mind as well as the many Canadians and scores of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. During my first assignment in the Army, in 1984, I knew a Sergeant Major Van Dam–a Dutch immigrant from Indonesia who (according to everyone I knew) had spent time in the Foreign Legion after WWII before moving to the United States, joining the U.S. Army and fighting in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division. Even to this day there is still a large percentage of foreign born soldiers in the U.S. armed forces. During the Iraq war, more than 30,000 non-citizens were serving in the U.S. military, accounting for close to 2% of the total 1.4 million active duty service members. Roughly a third of the non-citizens in the armed forces today are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many others are from Canada, China, Africa, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Turkey, Korea and the Philippines.
2. A Tale of the French Foreign Legion. History.net has a very good on-line article about the Foreign Legion during World War II written by by Edward L. Bimberg (and originally appearing in World War II Magazine in 1997). It relates the story of the 13th Demi Brigade (13e DBLE) during the early years of the war and also how the 6th Regiment of the Foreign Legion of the Vichy government fought against it’s Free French counterparts in Syria in 1941. Be sure to read the interesting comments that follow the article.
3. Sidi Bel-Abbes, March, 1940. The pictures below relate to the article above as they depict the assembly and departure of Legionnaires from Sidi Bel Abbes to France (and the “Metropolitan Front”). The newsreel where these pictures are taken from gives a wonderful view of the Caserne Viénot and the legionnaires in full battle-rattle as they say farewell to their Algerian home and in come cases their wives and children.
4. T-Shirts. Lastly, here are some links to web sites that sell Foreign Legion apparel such as t-shirts, sweat jackets, and polo shirts. The Red Rubble shirts support the fantastic web site Foreign Legion Info and the ProArt site supports the Institution des Invalides de la Légion étrangère (IILE). I have no commercial interest in any of these–I just keep seeing them pop up when I browse the web and thought many of the designs are pretty cool looking. I also promote free market capitalism and am pleased to see people making money in a niche that I’m so fond of. Now, if I could just get my cheapskate kids to buy me something for my birthday….