NYT article from 1990

Peter Lyderik

Hyper Active Member
#1
http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/09/w...at-an-end-for-the-foreign-legion.html?mcubz=0

Aubagne Journal; Are Glory Days at an End for the Foreign Legion?
By ALAN RIDING, Special to The New York Times
Published: May 9, 1990

AUBAGNE, France— Marching to the slow rhythm of their regimental song, their white kepis glistening almost boastfully in the sun, the legionnaires lined up before a monument proclaiming Honor and Loyalty to commemorate a moment of heroism and sacrifice more than a century ago.
Then, after the two-hour parade, as officers gathered around wine bottles and the men swilled beer, it was time to swap stories of combat and adventure - some true, some embellished, some invented - with bemedaled former legionnaires who never fail to show up for this annual occasion.
Almost 160 years after its creation, the Foreign Legion spends a lot of time in the past, remembering its part in wars in Algeria and Indochina, in two world wars in Europe, and even, during the ceremony here every April 30, the courage of 60 legionnaires killed in Mexico in 1863 fighting in support of the doomed Emperor Maximilian.
But with no wars to fight and no colonies to defend, the Foreign Legion is also at a crossroads today, struggling to find a role for itself that goes beyond just maintaining the tradition of recruiting foreigners of dubious repute to defend the French Republic.
'Peace Is Not Yet Won'
''The Foreign Legion exists because people want it to exist,'' Cpl. Pascal Maloigne, a 29-year-old Frenchman, said, acknowledging that an aura of romance still surrounds the corps. ''On the July 14 parade along the Champs-Elysees, it always gets the biggest applause.''
But for its commander, Gen. Raymond Le Corre, who like almost all the Legion's officers is French, there are better reasons for keeping 8,000 men of 120 different nationalities in arms. ''In Europe, peace is not yet won,'' he said, ''and outside Europe, there is much to be done.''
The Legion still has soldiers stationed in Chad, Djibouti and French Guiana, mixing guard duty with social action, although it is now 12 years since it last tasted glory when its paratroopers rescued 300 French and Belgian mine workers who were being attacked by rebels at Kolwezi, in Zaire.
But it is for just such an occasion that the Legion continues to prepare itself as a rapid-deployment force. ''There could be another Kolwezi tomorrow,'' General Le Corre said. ''That would be the sort of job for the Foreign Legion and it makes it more necessary than ever.''
More Foreigners Join
Even with the promise of action unfulfilled of late, the Legion has no trouble finding recruits. ''Since the Algerian war, the numbers have been around 55 percent foreigners to 45 percent French,'' General Le Corre said. ''But the share of foreigners has gone up to 60 percent in the last six months.''
Since the political upheaval in Eastern Europe, there has been an influx of Poles, Hungarians and Romanians, although Britons and Germans still represent the largest foreign contingents and almost every other nationality, from American to Chinese, South African to Peruvian, Yugoslav to Australian, is found.
The question of why they join is more sensitive. In the past, legionnaires were often fugitive criminals, and to this day recruits are automatically given new names - and, in the case of French citizens, new nationalities - to be kept for at least three years. Once inside, they feel safe from persecution.
But General Le Corre insisted that a long interrogation and a six-month trial period weeded out the unsuitable, with only one in four applicants accepted. ''We don't want violent criminals,'' he said.
Another officer elaborated: ''We don't take murderers. Someone who has stolen a car or committed a fraud, well, that's different.''
Stability Found in the Ranks
But many legionnaires seem to have other, less apparent, reasons for signing up. ''The majority are people who have broken with their family, society or political situations,'' General Le Corre said. ''They are generally people who are unstable who will remain unstable all their lives.''
In the Legion, though, they often find stability. Able to join between the ages of 17 and 40, their first contract is for five years. But many stay for 15 years to obtain a pension and a few remain legionnaires up to the age of 55, when, if they choose, they can move to the Legion's own retirement home. In the process, many also become French citizens.
Madeleine Lafargue, a social anthropologist who is studying the Legion, said legionnaires were often ''lost souls'' who found their identity in the common identity. ''They're looking for the 'I' and they find the 'we,' '' she said.
The Legion's tough regime of training and discipline helps to build an esprit de corps. ''If you don't have a family, the Legion becomes your family,'' a young Englishman from Birmingham said, recalling that he left after his first five-year stint but returned only months later. ''Things can be boring in civilian life.''
Some legionnaires offer more simple reasons. ''You learn a language, you meet different people and you get a pension after 15 years,'' said another Briton with a shaved head and impressive facial scars, which he said were a result of a car accident. ''You can't find a much better deal back home.''
Many Are Still Secretive
Distrust of outsiders, though, runs deep. Many legionnaires refuse to give even their pseudonym or explain why they joined. At the headquarters of the Legion at Aubagne, 10 miles east of Marseilles, or at its other posts, they also seem to prefer their own company. ''Most of us remain bachelors,'' a longtime legionnaire said.
They react sharply, though, to the suggestion that they are mercenaries. ''That's the French flag you see flying over there,'' Pierre Dufour, a former legionnaire, pointed out. ''This is part of the French Army. In any event, dating back to the Crusades, foreigners have always fought under different flags in Europe.''
Yet what seems to count most is their identity with the Legion itself. ''People who don't fit into society can belong to an elite,'' Miss Lafargue said. ''You always hear them saying, 'Once a legionnaire, always a legionnaire.' That's why glorification of the past is so important. It makes them feel important.''
After 10 years in the Legion, though, at least one French noncommissioned officer has not lost touch with reality. ''A lot of legionnaires begin to believe the popular image of themselves,'' Corporal Maloigne cautioned. ''After a few drinks, they begin to tell stories of things they have not done.''
 

Peter Lyderik

Hyper Active Member
#3
''Since the Algerian war, the numbers have been around 55 percent foreigners to 45 percent French,'' General Le Corre said. ''But the share of foreigners has gone up to 60 percent in the last six months.''

The article is from 1990, so how was it in the 80'es and 70'es, a lot of frenchmen in the Legion?
 

mark wake

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
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Premium Member
#4
''Since the Algerian war, the numbers have been around 55 percent foreigners to 45 percent French,'' General Le Corre said. ''But the share of foreigners has gone up to 60 percent in the last six months.''

The article is from 1990, so how was in the 80'es and 70'es, a lot of frenchmen in the Legion?
Not in the REP or the 13th there weren't! Can't speak for the other regiment's.
 
1

176607Mick

Unregistered
#5
Actually there are No Frenchmen in the legion. They all have their nationality changed to Swiss, French Canadians or Belgians. Officially.


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Joseph Cosgrove

Moderator
Legionnaire
#6
Actually there are No Frenchmen in the legion. They all have their nationality changed to Swiss, French Canadians or Belgians. Officially.


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Quite right Mick for the blacks an African speaking country or for the Arabs, a North African country. And usually the date of birth is changed. Protection of identity.
 

mark wake

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
Pro Member
Premium Member
#7
Actually there are No Frenchmen in the legion. They all have their nationality changed to Swiss, French Canadians or Belgians. Officially.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I think that goes without saying! I was referring to the actual count of French lads serving in each regiment.excluding sous officers. No matter.
 

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