The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force
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It played a decisive role in the capture of Constantine in and fought in numerous engagements as the conquest proceeded.
FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION RECRUITMENT
The legion helped check the insurrection of the Walad Sidi Shaykh in western Algeria in and , but much of its work in that country in the last quarter of the nineteenth century involved efforts to expand French influence into the Sahara as a prelude to linking North Africa with France's possessions south of the desert. Legionnaires participated in many of the military operations that resulted in the establishment of a French protectorate over Morocco.
They formed part of the forces that consolidated French power along the ill-defined southern Morocco — Algeria border during the first several years of the twentieth century and were involved in occupations of the Moroccan cities of Oujda and Casablanca in Thereafter, they helped maintain security in the areas around both cities. In , a company of the legion was among the troops that lifted a rebel siege of Fez , the sultan's capital, thus paving the way for the inauguration of the protectorate the following year.
During the pacification of Morocco's mountainous and desert regions in the s and s, French commanders relied heavily on the legion. Its men also took part in the fighting that ended the rebellion of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Karim alKhattabi in and After the war, legionnaires were dispatched to the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon. They saw action in the Druze uprising of and remained on garrison duty in the Levant in the s.
Subsequently attached to the British army in Egypt 's Western Desert, they fought in the battle of Bir Hakeim in and advanced westward with the British following the battle of al-Alamayn. After , the legion was heavily involved in French efforts to end the Algerian rebellion.
A legion paratroop battalion also formed part of the French expeditionary at Suez in O — Ballance, Edgar. The Story of the French Foreign Legion. London: Faber and Faber, Porch, Douglas. Porch mixes chapters on Legion history with chapters on Legion philosophy; both were interesting. The original idea behind the Legion was as sort of a loaner army to Spain during the Carlist Wars; it transitioned to a useful tool during the French colonial expansion.
France had to keep a large conscript army at home, and while the public would put up with conscription in defense of la patrie , they were not enthusiastic about sending their boys off to fight in for example Dahomey. Plus, similar public opinion limited conscript service to two years, while a Legion contract went for five, leading to more military professionalism.
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Porch hypothesizes about what the actual attraction might be; the Legion myth was certainly important, as was the tradition of anonymity. Porch also notes that much of the Legion mythos was, in fact, mythical. Anonymity did hold fairly well, except for two disgraces: the Vichy government handed over German legionnaires in and Russian ones in Although there were formal Legion regiments, when there was a campaign the typical Legion method was to take volunteers sometimes actual volunteers, sometimes not from several different units and organize them into a special temporary battalion.
It does, however, make it difficult to keep track of which Legion units are doing what where. Porch is of the opinion that the French had essentially won although with excruciating brutality but then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with incompetent diplomacy one of the fascinating things I learned here was that the French colonists in Algeria — the pied noirs — were almost uniformly Socialist or Communist, which discouraged the Soviet Union from intervening.
The account of the military coup attempted afterward was also something I had only vague knowledge of — apparently Legion generals were fully prepared to paradrop into Paris but were only thwarted by the last-minute removal of transport aircraft from Algeria. He argues that the paratroop effectiveness was highly overrated claiming that the only truly successful use of paratroops in history was the assault on Eben Emael in but the French became enamored of them, devoting resources to Legion and regular army paratroops that would have been better spent on conventional units one of his comments that might support this is the observation that when the French government feared a military coup by Algerian units, tanks had to be towed into position around Paris because they were not operational.
He argues that the French paratroop units became alienated from the rest of the army and vice versa , contributing to the Algerian coup.
History of the French Foreign Legion - Wikipedia
There are a couple errors of fact; Porch says the Vichy Army was limited to troops, and that the American rifles supplied to Free French troops were M Garands. There are extensive references and notes, and some relevant photographs and illustrations. As mentioned, the book could use a lot more maps; there are none at all for the complicated first Indochina campaign, for example. It's massive, though, so not exactly a beach read.
Probably best for the military buff in the family. It is a big book and was an effort to read, but it told me much about things I did not know. For instance, I never before had known anything about the French conquest of Madagascar or Dahomey.
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The chapters on Viet Nam are very good. I wondered if I had known of the record of the French in Vietnam would I have been leerier of our involvement there? It seems to me I should have been. This book is full of interesting things and I am glad I read it, though it maybe tells me more than I wanted to know. Algiers putsch of French Foreign Legion in popular culture.
The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force
History of the French Foreign Legion. Hohenlohe Regiment. Landing Craft Assault.
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Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms. Members Reviews Popularity Average rating Mentions 4 84, 3. Known for draconian discipline and shrouded in mystery, the secrets of the Legion are guarded by those who have gained admittance into its elite society.