The French Foreign Legion

An Illustrated History

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About the Book

This book gives the reader a straightforward and continuous survey of the history of the French Foreign Legion. By outlining the Legion’s vicissitudes, victorious campaigns, epic marches, heroic and sometimes hopeless stands, dirtiest combats and dramatic defeats, but also by briefly placing the Legion back in the historical background of France, and by describing its development, organization, uniforms, equipments and weapons, the author hopes to dispel myths, and try to give a true and accurate picture of what the French Foreign Legion has been from 1831 until today. There are well-researched, detailed line drawings throughout.

About the Author(s)

Historian, writer and illustrator Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage is the author of numerous books. His interests include World War II and medieval and French history. He lives in Groningen, Netherlands.

Bibliographic Details

Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 254
Bibliographic Info: 200 illustrations, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3239-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-6253-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      iv
Introduction      1

1. CREATION AND EARLY CAMPAIGNS OF THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION, 1831–1852
The Conquest of Algeria      5
Spain, 1835–1838      16
A New Legion in Algeria, 1835–1857      20

2. THE FOREIGN LEGION AT THE TIME OF NAPOLÉON III, 1852–1871
Napoléon III      31
Crimean War, 1854–1856      31
Kabylia, 1857      37
Italy, 1859      39
Mexico, 1862–1867      44
The Legion, 1867–1870      54
The Franco-Prussian War, 1870      56

3. COLONIAL CONQUESTS, 1872–1914
French Expansion      61
The Legion in Algeria, 1872–1884      62
Indochina, 1883–1918      67
Dahomey and Sudan, 1892–1894      76
Madagascar, 1895      80
The Legion at the Turn of the 20th Century      85

4. THE FOREIGN LEGION IN WORLD WAR I, 1914–1918
Historical Background      89
Composition of the Foreign Legion in 1914      99
First Battles, 1914–1915      102
Battles of the RMLE, 1916–1918      104
The Foreign Legion on Other World War I Fronts      111

5. THE FOREIGN LEGION BETWEEN WORLD WAR I AND WORLD WAR II, 1918–1939
France in the Interwar Period      114
Morocco      115
The Legion at the Time of Lyautey      118
The Rif War, 1925–1926      125
Syria, 1925      130
The Legion, 1926–1939      133

6. THE FOREIGN LEGION IN WORLD WAR II, 1939–1945
The Foreign Legion in 1939      137
The Norwegian Campaign      140
The Battle of France      142
The Foreign Legion and the Vichy Regime      144
The 13th DBLE in East Africa      145
Syria      146
Bir Hakeim      147
Tunisia      154
Italy      159
The End of the War      160
French Indochina in World War II      163

7. THE FOREIGN LEGION IN INDOCHINA, 1945–1954
Historical Background      164
Warfare in Indochina      165
The Foreign Legion in the Indochina War      170
Main Legion Battles in Indochina      174
De Lattre’s Pacification      185
Dien Bien Phu      187
Aftermath      193

8. THE FOREIGN LEGION IN THE ALGERIAN WAR, 1954–1962
Historical and Political Background      194
Military Aspects of the Algerian War      197
The Legion in Algeria      200
The Suez Crisis, 1956      202
The Battle of Algiers, 1957      204
Operations in the Sahara      206
The Battle of the Frontier, 1957–1958      207
Challe’s Plan      209
The Putsch of April 1961      211
The End of the Algerian War      216

9. THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION FROM 1962 UNTIL TODAY
The Legion After the War in Algeria      218
Legion Interventions      221
The Legion Today      225

Appendix 1. Ranks and Units      235
Appendix 2. The Legion’s Song: “Le Boudin”      237
Appendix 3. The Code of Honor      240
Appendix 4. If You Want to Join the French Foreign Legion      242

Bibliography      243
Index      245