The French Foreign Legion and its most famous US Legionnaires.
“But in the meantime it can be said that every Legionnaire, be he in the jungles of Tonkin, or on the boiling sand of the desert, should his time come, will be prepared to face death, either with a smile or a curse on his lips according to his own temperament, just as his predecessors have done in the past.” More Majorum. (Walter Kanitz, The White Képi).
This site aims to bring together people interested in the FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION with links to the USA. But … are there any links? Of course! Even more than you can imagine.
Let’s start with …
Ferdinand ´Cap` CAPDEVIELLE.
Sous-lieutenant Capdevielle was born in July 27th 1893 in New York. In October 1918, the Cap was leading his men in an attack when he was killed by bullet in the head. No other American volunteer of August 1914 participated in as many historic campaigns and hard-fought battles as Capdevielle. He was the last of the American volunteers to die on the battlefield. Five weeks later, the war ended.
Mister (Légionnaire) Alan SEEGER.
Seeger was an American poet born 1888 in New York City, USA. He served the French Foreign Legion in World War I. And he died in the Field of honour. To his memory and to the memory of his comrades, Americans who had volunteered fight for France, a statue was erected in the “Place des États-Unis” in France / Paris. Alan was contemporary with poet T.S. Eliot. Seegers poems are brilliant …
I have a rendezvous with Death.
At some disputed barricade.
When Spring comes back with rustling shade.
And apple-blossoms fill the air.
I have a rendezvous with Death.
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand.
And lead me into his dark land.
And close my eyes and quench my breath.
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death.
On some scarred slope of battered hill.
When Spring comes round again this year.
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ‘twere better to be deep.
Pillowed in silk and scented down.
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep.
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath.
Where hushed awakenings are dear.
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death.
At midnight in some flaming town.
When Spring trips north again this year.
And I to my pledged word am true.
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
John F. HASEY.
John Freeman ´Jack` Hasey, born 03. November 1916 in Brockton (Massachusetts), died on 09. May 2005. And yes! He was captain in the French Foreign Legion during World War II. In 1936, Hasey travelled to France studied at the famous “Sorbonne” in Paris. When the Soviet-Finnish war started in 1939, Hasey, like many other American volunteers joint the French Army. For his heroic actions in Finland he received „Liberty cross“ in the 1950s. Wounded in February 1940, he was repatriated to the United States. Returning to Europe in June, he moved to France to resume his employment with Cartier (Jewellery). As “The Battle of France” erupts suddenly he joined General de Gaulle’s Free French Forces in England. Assigned as a second lieutenant in the health service, he took part in the operation of Dakar in September and in Gabon October and November 1940. After this he was ordered to 13. Half- brigade of the Foreign Legion the famous 13. DBLE in January 1941. With this unit, he fought in Eritrea against the Italian forces. The 20. June 1941 during the campaign in Syria to face Vichys troops he is seriously injured by six machine gun bullets close to Damascus. One of the bullets took away a part of his face. Treated in Jerusalem and in the United States in January 1942, he undergoes several chirurgical operations. Promoted to Lieutenant in August 1941, John Hasey is the first American made honoured with the title “Compagnon de la Libération” by General de Gaulle. He then became liaison officer between deGaulle and Eisenhower. Starting 1950 Hasey worked for the CIA
William Augustus WELLMAN.
„Wild Bill“ William Augustus Wellman was a famous American film director. Although Wellman began his film career as an actor, he worked on a lot of films, (about 80), as director and producer but most often as a director, notable for his work in crime, adventure and action genre films. He was focusing on aviation themes, his particular passion. He joins the French Foreign Legion on December, 1917.
„Manhattan Madness,“ (with Douglas Fairbanks), „The Little Princess“, „Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley,“ „The Phantom of the Opera“, and so on, and so on. Norman Kerry was a famous US Silent-Movie Star. Born as Arnold Kaiser in 1894, he changed his name just before World War I and struggeld to avoid comparisons with German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kerry works as a salesman in his family’s leather goods business, than became a theatrical agent. Around 1916, Kerry met Rudolph Valentino and pursued him to work in films. Kerry went on to appear in two major films in 1923: „The Hunchback of Notre Dame,“ and „Merry-Go-Round,“ filmed by Austrian director Erich von Stroheim. By several accounts, Kerry survived the transition to sound film, but struggled with the medium and had limited success with it. Among other movies, he starred in the 1931 film „Bachelor Apartment.“ His last role was in 1941’s „Tanks a Million.“ Kerry joined the French Foreign Legion in 1939, was ordered to Sidi bel Abbès /Algeria (HQ of the Legion) where he learned to fight! Back in France he defended with his unit de Maginot Line, but contracted a serious pneumonia. He returned to the USA with not a Penny in his pocket (Friends paid his voyage!) and made his next movie in 1941: “Tanks a million!” (in the Role of the major). Nota Bene: Kerry married three times, also with actress Kay English.
Mister Cole PORTER.
Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics, as well as the music, for his songs. Porter enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and served in North Africa. He was transferred in 1917 to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau and was assigned to teach gunnery to American soldiers. He set up a luxury apartment in Paris and alternated between his officer duties and leading a playboy lifestyle.
Mister (Légionnaire ) Dominique VANDENBERG.
Actor (Gangs of New York) and stunt choreographer: Born in Belgium he works, lives and performs today in the USA. His movies? Gangs of New York – Mortal Combat – The Pit Fighter … Vandenberg is a stunning actor. And he is getting better with each film he does. At eighteen, he became the youngest man ever to win the champion title at The World Open in Bare Knuckle Karate (form of full contact fighting). But before going to Hollywood, he chose the more difficult way. And what is the most difficult way in the world? Your right! The French Foreign Legion or “Légion étrangère”. So Dominique Vandenberg hired in the elite paratrooper regiment, the 2. REP (2e Régiment étranger de parachutistes), and after more training, was sent to Africa. He spent five years in countries such as Chad, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic, fighting to control rebellions. During this time, he met his fiancée, Waruny, a freedom fighter. After their meeting, he returned to fulfil his last eight months of service to the Legion, but when he returned, she had been killed. An accident caused a leg injury and he endured a painful recovery period. After recovering, he went on to fight Kran, the legendary Northern Thai fighter. Vandenberg had become the best. Later on he left the Legion for good and travelled to Thailand to fight in their famed freestyle fighting rings, or „iron circles“. After winning several fights, he returned to Europe and from there to USA. He is an author also: “The Iron Circle: The True Life Story of Dominique Vandenberg” appeared in 2005. Vandenberg is living in California.
Mister (Légionnaire) Eugene Jacques BULLARD.
Eugene Jacques Bullard, an American volunteer in the French Foreign Legion, became the first black military pilot in history ever. This was in 1917. But more than this: He also has been the only black pilot in World War I. Born in Columbus, (Georgia) on 09. Oct. 1894, Eugene left home at the age of 11 to travel around the world, and by 1913 he settled in France as a prize-fighter. 1914, begin of WW1. Bullard enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and rose to the rank of corporal. For his bravery he received the “Croix de Guerre”. As the WW2 broke out, Bullard rejoined the French army. Again seriously wounded he escaped the Germans and made his way back to the United States. He stayed almost unknown in New York. In France he remained a hero. In 1954 he was one of the veterans chosen to light the „Everlasting Flame“ at the French “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” under the Arc de Triomphe, and in 1959 the French honoured him with the “Knight of the Legion of Honour.” Eugene Bullard died in 1961 and was buried with full military honours in his legionnaire’s uniform in the cemetery of the Federation of French War Veterans in Flushing, New York. The secretary of the Air Force posthumously appointed him 1994 a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. (Knight of the Legion of Honor) The first black military pilot and the only black pilot, WW1. Born in Columbus, Georgia USA. Within his friends: Josephine Baker and Satchmo, Louis Armstrong.
Not to forget Arthur Bluethenthal. He was a US All American Football player, playing for the Princeton University. He joined the Legion in 1916, fought in Verdun, was awarded with the “Croix de Guerre” for bravery, joined the French flying corps one year later … and died as hero 1918. Arthur Bluethenthal was the first North Carolinian killed in World War I.
Mister William MOLL.
Moll was an American Legionnaire from Chicago. When he left the Legion after his five years of service and returned to the United States, he was filthy rich. After his death in 1937, at the reading of the will, the family is said to have been amazed (allegedly all were shocked and horrified) because William Moll had his immense fortune not left to them, but given all his fortune to the Foreign Legion. He also wanted that the legion manage all his belongings. He wanted to find in Sidi-Bel-Abbes his final resting place. The urn with his ashes now can be seen in a crypt in the museum in Aubagne.
Caporal d’honneur – General, Mister Norman SCHWARZKOPF (honoured by the Legion as caporal d’honneur) after the Gulf War in 1991.
Born August 22, 1934, Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf was a graduate of the WestPoint Military Academy, and engaged twice in Vietnam (1965 and again in 1970). After the Vietnam War, Schwarzkopf stayed in the military. He became a general in the late 1970s and served as the deputy commander of the U.S. forces during the 1983 invasion of Grenada. Just some years later, he was called to lead the U.S. Central Command / CENTCOM. He became one of the famous persons in the military response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait 1990. 1991, „Stormin‘ Norman“ led Operation “Desert Storm” and during the war, he became famous for his straightforward style. He received numerous honours including a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. But … The French Foreign Legion “Légion étrangère” honoured him as “caporal d’honneur”! And he received the “Kepi Blanc.” He retired in August 1991, a few months after the end of the war Gulf and died in Tampa, Florida (south) at the age of 78 years.
But what about… MOVIES?
MOROCCO, featuring Marlene Dietrich.
The 1930 Hollywood classic Morocco had Marlene Dietrich following her Legionnaire lover Gary Cooper through the Sahara.
BEAU GESTE, Version 1939 – starring Garry COOPER.
“Beau Geste” is the first movie that features as many as four Academy Award winners for Best Actor/Best Actress in a Leading Role (Cooper, Milland, Hayward, and Broderick Crawford) prior to any of them receiving the award.
And we have the Douglas Heyes version of Beau Geste (1966) starring Guy Stockwell, Doug McClure and Telly Savallas
LEGIONNAIRE, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Legionnaire is a 1998 American drama war film directed by Peter MacDonald and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a 1920s boxer who wins a fight after having been hired by gangsters to lose it, then flees to join the French Foreign Legion. The cast includes Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Steven Berkoff, Nicholas Farrell and Jim Carter. The film was filmed in Tangier and Ouarzazate, Morocco.
TEN TALL MEN, featuring Burt LANCASTER.
Ten Tall Men (1951), a western story by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck — a cavalry vs. Apaches tale to be produced by Norma Productions for release by Columbia Pictures. Norma was the name of the production company run by Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster, who was attached to star.
MARCH WITH THE DEVIL, starring Dominique VANDENBERG.
This movie is different. Why? Because Vandenberg is a former Legionnaire. And he knows all these little details about the Legion, more than the best actor ever will know. He don’t has to “play”. He had just to be himself! And I think Kevin LYNCH, Zalman KING and David GOLDING knew that.
By the way, did I say … American Legion?
Songs from ORAN / Sidi bel Abbès
Schwarze rose is a song of the French Foreign Legion. The song was created in Algeria by German Legionnaires.
„Schwarze Rose von Oran.
Küss’ noch einmal deinen Legionär’.
Schwarze Rose von Oran.
Vielleicht siehst du ihn nicht mehr.
Schwarze Rose, Schwarze Rose.
Küss’ noch einmal deinen Legionär’
Schwarze Rose, Schwarze Rose.
Vielleicht siehst du ihn nicht mehr.
The dépot of the Foreign Legion in Oran was mandatory passage of all Legionnaire- volunteers before then being transported by train to Sidi Bel Abbes to conduct their classes. On 08th of May, 1959, ORAN received the Gold Medal of Merit issued by the American legion.
Last but not least ….
Frank SINATRA and the Légion étrangère.
„If you turn me down once more, I’ll join the French Foreign Legion. Bet you, they would welcome me, with open arms. First you love me, yes; then you love me, no. I don’t know where I stand – Do we march together down the isle. Or do I march that desert sand. If you think I won’t find romance, in the French Foreign Legion. Think about that uniform with all its charm. Just one more time are you gonna be mine, or au revoir cheri. It’s the French Foreign Legion for me”
Foreign Legion Paratroppers (2. REP) in a German Trainingcamp ….