The Rogue’s Army

Nov 26 2012 @ 10:48am


Having embedded with the French Foreign Legion, William Langewiesche describes life in their storied company:

I asked [a French officer] if there are national differences. Yes, he said. For instance, the Chinese make the worst legionnaires. Usually they angle for kitchen work—he didn’t know why. The Americans and British are almost as difficult, because they get upset about living conditions. They endure for a while, then run away. Not all, but most. You would think that the selection board by now would have figured this out. The French are flaky, the Serbs are tough, the Koreans are the best of the Asians, and the Brazilians are the best of all.

But whatever their attributes or faults, he felt like a father to every one them, he said, though the oldest were older than he. He told me that like other Legion commanders he spent every Christmas with the troops rather than with his own family because so many had no home to return to. He said this meant a lot to them. Frankly I doubted it, in part because legionnaires are not the type to care much about Christmas, and anyway do not usually like or trust their officers. But the officer’s conceit fit perfectly into the official paternalistic view.

(Photo: "Free French Foreign Legionnaires 'leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point', Bir Hacheim, 12 June 1942" via Wikimedia Commons)