Voices of the Foreign Legion: The History of the World's Most Famous Fighting Corps

Adrian D. Gilbert, Author . Skyhorse $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61608-032-7

Military historian Gilbert (Sniper: The Skills, the Weapons, and the Experiences ) focuses on the French Foreign Legion, beginning with its 1831 formation by royal decree as an infantry force for overseas service. Gilbert gained access to the Imperial War Museum sound archive along with permission to use material from that key source. The book consists of excerpts from these and other firsthand accounts skillfully linked to vivify his informative and insightful interpolations. He sets the scenes with a vivid backdrop, letting the first-person passages take center stage. The reader peruses the nightmarish horrors of the battlefields but also the daily life of barracks, barrooms, and brothels, such as the congaïs (“young girls”) in 1950s Indochina. One soldier wrote: “Cheerful and hardworking, they knew, biblically, very nearly everyone in the battalion and gave not one damn for rank.” The history traces the legion through colonial and postcolonial eras, through both world wars, Vietnam, Algeria, Bosnia, and the Congo. These vibrant legionnaire voices are agonized, bitter, brutal, fearful, and haunting, but some speak with pride and praise (“It's a soldier's dream”), recalling the legion as a “life-changing” experience. Maps. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
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Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-62873-738-7
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