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Happy Birthday La Legion

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  • Happy Birthday La Legion

    Today is the 179th birthday of the French Foreign Legion, one of the more interesting and romanticized military units in history. And if anyone deserves to be romanticized, La Legion probably does. From its earliest days its ranks have included that strange blend of criminals, exiles, failures, and idealists who somehow manage to come together under a foreign flag and accomplish the near-impossible for their adopted country.

    The Legion’s current strength is 7,699 officers and men in eleven “regiments,” which is to say eleven separate commands each of about battalion strength. These include infantry engineers, paratroopers, light armor, and various training and support commands. Here’s a link to the Legion’s official page.

    The use of the term “men” as opposed to “enlisted personnel” is deliberate. The Legion is and always has been a male-only club, with one notable exception: Susan Travers.

    Travers was a*young British woman who drove an ambulance and then a staff car for the Free French in World War Two. She*became the lover and driver of General Pierre Koenig, commander of the 1st Free French Brigade, shared the siege of Bir Hachiem with the brigade, and drove the lead vehicle in the night break-out through the German lines. Once the column reached British lines, they counted eleven bullet holes in her car. She later drove a self-propelled tank destroyer in Italy and France and was wounded when her vehicle was disabled by a mine.

    After the war she submitted a formal application to join the Foreign Legion and listed her experience during ...


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