This month’s Legion short story was written by J. D. Newsom and arrived via a late issue (full of reprints) of Short Stories (May 1953). It was originally published in the 10 February 1932 issue of the same magazine and featured the original front cover painting by William Reusswig. It’s 30 pages long so set aside enough time for reading it; turn off the TV, put away the cell phone, mix a nice drink and enjoy.
The setting for this tale is an isolated kingdom, Pnom Tao, located in hills of northern Tonkin (the northern part of French Indochina). The 3rd Company of the Legion is besieged in the capital by a violent crowd of protesting locals. They were to escort a French diplomatic mission to the King of Pnom Tao and were strictly forbidden from using force as to not antagonize the population. The company commander, Captain Rombillac, is hard pressed with things getting out of hand with the rioters and having to deal with the sinister machinations of the French diplomats. To make his day even worse Rombillac has to deal with the American Legionnaire Frank Dawson who just discovered his contractual commitment to the Legion ended fifteen days ago and is demanding that since he is now a civilian he wants to go home. Needless to say, Dawson doesn’t get too far from the Legion.
This is one of Newsom’s best Legion stories I think. It’s full of action with good rough characters and boilerplate plotting. As I read this I could imagine the same frustrations of Captain Rombillac were experienced in real life by American ground commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq who also had their hands tied by diplomatic considerations. You can download the entire issue of this magazine in .cbr format here or other formats via the Internet Archive. Below are links to the normal black and white .pdf file and a colored file if you find the text too faded.