The Legion Is Our Fatherland

I was an a combat vet of the Vietnam War and when I returned to normal society I could not “fit” in… was difficult to go from intense situations of combat to the mundane crap of “normal” society.

I went through several jobs nothing was clicking for me and I then considered after talking to a friend to join the French Foreign Legion….luckily for me my wife was pregnant and I did not want to leave before my daughter was born.

The Legion is a fascinating history…..

The word “foreign” in the name French Foreign Legion does not refer to faraway battlegrounds. It refers to the Legion itself, which is a branch of the French Army commanded by French officers but built of volunteers from around the world. Last summer I came upon 20 of them on a grassy knoll on a farm in France near the Pyrenees. They were new recruits sitting back-to-back on two rows of steel chairs. They wore camouflage fatigues and face paint, and held French assault rifles. The chairs were meant to represent the benches in a helicopter flying into action—say, somewhere in Africa in the next few years to come. Two recruits who had been injured while running sat facing forward holding crutches. They were the pilots. Their job was to sit there and endure. The job of the others was to wait for the imaginary touchdown, then disembark from the imaginary helicopter and pretend to secure the imaginary landing zone. Those who charged into the imaginary tail rotor or committed some other blunder would have push-ups to do immediately, counting them off in phonetic French—uh, du, tra, katra, sank. If they ran out of vocabulary, they would have to start again. Eventually the recruits would stage a phased retreat back to their chairs, then take off, fly around for a while, and come in for another dangerous landing. The real lesson here was not about combat tactics. It was about do not ask questions, do not make suggestions, do not even think of that. Forget your civilian reflexes. War has its own logic. Be smart. For you the fighting does not require a purpose. It does not require your allegiance to France. The motto of the Legion is Legio Patria Nostra. The Legion is our fatherland. This means we will accept you. We will shelter you. We may send you out to die. Women are not admitted. Service to the Legion is about simplifying men’s lives.

The Legion can trace their history back to 1481 and the Swiss Hundred (cent suisse)…..a unit of 100 elite soldiers to King Louis XI….(but check out the history of this legendary unit)…

French Foreign Legion History

But the legion of today was the answer to a pressing problem for France…..

The legion was conceived as a provisional solution to a fleeting problem —the migration of undesirable persons into France in the wake of revolutions throughout Europe in 1830–31.

In retrospect, a military remedy to illegal immigration appears both contemporary and imaginative. The July Revolution of 1830 had resuscitated the French Revolutionary concept of a citizen army and led to disbandment of the Swiss Guards and other foreign formations that had enforced Bourbon mastery of such uprisings. To address the resulting coagulation of refugees in French cities, King Louis-Philippe on March 9, 1831, signed into law an act creating a ghetto foreign force within a citizen army. Recruiters quickly enlisted the undesirable aliens and packed them off to Algiers — et adieu, la Légion!

After reading this post (I presume that it was read) and you fancy yourself a Legionaire……I can help with that as well…..

This is a fascinating unit and their history of bravery and honor is storied…..

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

7 thoughts on “The Legion Is Our Fatherland

  1. I used to work in the Amublance Service with a guy who joined the FFL one day on a whim. He was travelling through France, and went into a recruiting office, in Marseille, I think. He srved the minimum 5 year contract, mostly posted to hot and dusty places in Africa, like Djibouti. He didn’t see any action at all, but talked a lot about the harsh conditions during training; beatings, bullying, and field punishments. Most of those in his company came from Eastern Europe, and he was the only Englishman. He left because he was ‘bored’, and came back to England instead of applying for French residency based on his FFL service.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. This appeared in the CBI Roundup newspaper…..
    When bugles sound their final notes
    And bombs explode no more
    And we return to what we did
    Before we went to war
    The sudden shift of status
    On the ladder of success
    Will make some worthy gentlemen
    Feel like an awful mess.
    Just think of some poor captain
    Minus all his silver bars
    Standing up behind some counter
    Selling peanuts and cigars
    And think of all the majors
    When their oak leaf’s far behind
    And the uniforms they’re wearing
    is the Western Union kind.

    Shed a tear for some poor colonel
    if he doesn’t feel himself
    Jerking sodas isn’t easy
    When the eagle’s on the shelf
    ‘Tis a bitter pill to swallow
    ‘Tis a matter for despair
    Being messengers and clerks again
    A mighty cross to bear.
    So be kind to working people
    That you meet where ‘er you go
    For the guy who’s washing dishes
    May have been your old CO.

    Author unknown. October 6, 1944 edition.


  3. In the year I was born, my grandparents on mother’s side, my mother and her sister were shocked that their son, their brother disappeared. He left his wife and children.
    Nobody knew where he was.

    Then they heard that he entered the Foreign Legion.

    In those days it was a great scandal.
    More so because his father, my grandfather, had been a member of the city council.
    So a public figure. The shame of it was to much for him.

    You could say it broke my grandfather’s heart and in July that year, one month after I was born, he died after being ill for some time.

    My grandmother, as you can understand, hoped to see her son again.
    Sometimes there was a possibility she could meet him, but that never happened.

    She died without ever seeing him again.
    He came to the funeral, that is to say he stayed at our home.

    He lost his citizenship entering the FFL, so that was a risk to enter the country

    I saw my uncle the first time at the funeral of my grandmother.

    1. That is why so many use false names…..I did not join because my wife was pregnant and I wanted to be there for the birth. chuq

      1. I would have most likely been in the Congo region….I am glad I stayed as well….be safe and be well chuq

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