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Légion étrangère (French Foreign Legion)

motto: Legio Patria Nostra / The Legion is our home

Légion étrangère, French Foreign Legion
An honor guard from the French army's 6th Battalion stands at attention as they await the arrival of Lt. Gen. Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, commander of Joint Forces in Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Shield. The soldier in front is holding a 5.56mm FAMAS rifle, equipped with a bayonet. (Source: Wikipedia.org.)
Légion étrangère insignia

Unit Profile

The Légion Etrangére (foreign Legion) is the French Army's specialists support unit.

It is an French elite Army unit established in 1831. Since then the Legion has fought in almost every conflict France was involved in. In earlier days everybody was allowed to join the Legion. Nowadays the past of every recruit is carefully checked.

Mission

  • Primary mission: Specialist support of the French Army

Raised and Disbanded

  • Raised: March 10th, 1831

Units

  • COMLE
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 3éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 4éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 5éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Genie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Genie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Cavalerie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 13éme Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangére
  • Detachement de Légion Etrangére Mayotte

Headquarters

  • Quartier Viénot, Aubagne, near Marseilles, France
Légion étrangère, French Foreign Legion
Tireur de précision du 2e Régiment étranger d'infanterie (France) en Afghanistan en 2005 avec un FR F2. (Source: Wikipedia.org.)

History

On March 10th, 1831, by Royal ordinance, the French Foreign Legion was created by King Louis-Philippe Louis. He had taken this step in the hope of strengthening his hold on the throne after becoming king by a coup in 1830. Besides that a colonial war was up hand in Algeria. Later that year the first seven battalions arrived in Algeria. These first battalions, composed exclusively of volunteers, were based on one or similar nationalities. The first fighting the legion was involved in, was in Algeria in 1832. During the Spanish campaign, in 1835, Colonel Bernelle changed the composition of the battalions. To strengthen the unity of the Legion the battalions became composed of all nationalities with French as the official language of command.

During the following years the regiment fought in the Crimean War (1854-56), Italy's fight for freedom from Austria in 1859 which resulted in the first march of the Legion in Paris. In 1863 The Legion was sent to Mexico to protect French interests. This campaign resulted in one of the most famous battles of the Legion. On April 30th 1863 seventy Legionnaires were killed at Camerone Hacienda near Puebla after resisting 2,000 Mexicans during a day of heroic fighting. The name of the battle adorns every Legion flag. Following the defeat of the French by Prussia in 1870, the Legion was then engaged at Tonkin and in North Africa. It suffered very heavy casualties in the First World War and the disbanded regiments were amalgamated into the Foreign Legion's Regiment de Marche.

In 1920's and 1930's, regiments were next involved in Morocco and the Middle East. The Legion was involved throughout the Second World War with the battalion-strength 13e Demi-Brigade Légion Etrangér (13th Foreign Half-Brigade/13DBLE) making a name in Norway and then, in 1942, at Bir-Hakeim in Libya. From 1945 to 1954, virtually the entire Legion was heavily involved in Indo-China until the surrender at Dien Bien Phu.

It then returned to Algeria and fought in a bitter war of independence that cost 2,500 Legionnaires killed. Generals from the Legion come into rebellion against the decision of General de Gaulle to give Algeria its independence. When Algeria was given its independence, de Gaulle took his revenge for the Army's objections to this by axing the parachute divisions and demanding that every Legionnaire should be vetted. On September 29th 1962 the Legion leaves Sidi-Bel-Abbes in Algeria after more than 100 years and moves into its new home in Aubagne, France.

During last ten years of the 20th century, units were involved in the Gulf War and the former Yugoslavia.

Légion étrangère, French Foreign Legion
Légion étrangère. (Source: uknown.)

Operations

1832 First fights against Abd El Kader, Algeria
1835 battle of Barbastro [1837], Spain
1844   Victory: M'Chounech (Aures) 2nd Etranger lead by the duc d'Aumale.
1854 - 1856 Sebastopol and the death of Colonel Viénot, Crimea
1859 Victories of Magenta and Solferino, Italy
1863 - 1867   Mexico April 30th 1863: Camerone
February 28th 1866: Santa-lsabel
March 1867: Return to Algeria
1870 - 1871 Victory of Coulmiers: First fights of the Legion in France, French German war
1883 - 1885
 
January 1883: Sontay
February 1885: Langson, Tonkin (Indochina)
1885 Formosa
1892 Dahomey
1893 - 1894 Sudan
1895 - 1904 Madagascar
1900 - 1918 Morocco
1914 - 1918 World War I
1922 - 1923 Battle of Taza, Morocco
1925 Campaign against Abd El Krim, Rif
1933 End of war, Morocco
1939 - 1940 World War II Fights in France
1940 - 1945 13th DBLE
Narvik, Norway
May 1940: Rallying to the French Forces in Great Britain
1941 campaign of Eritrea
campaign of Syria
1942 February-June: Bir-Hakeim, Libya
El Himeimat
Death of Lieutenant Colonel Amilakvari
1943 Campaign of Tunisia
1944 Campaign of of Italy
1944 Operation Dragoon: Landing in the south of France
1944 - 1945 Campaign of France and Germany
1946 - 1954 Indochina 1948: Phu Tong Ha
1949 - 1954: Fights of the RC 4 (RC = Route Coloniale = Colonial Road)
September 1950: Dong Khe
October 1950: Cao Bang
October 6th-8th 1950: Tragic fights of Coc-Xa
1952: Hoah Binh. Fights of the RC 6 and Black River
1953: Na-San. November, installation of the Dien Bien Phu's Camp
1954 May 7th: After 5 months Dien Bien Phu falls
1954 - 1962 Algeria 1954 November 1st: beginning of the Algeria's War
1957 Battle of Algiers
1958 Battles at the borders of Algeria
Death of Colonel Jean-Pierre (1st R.E.P)
1961 Putsch of the Generals. Dissolution of the 1st R.E.P
1956 Suez' Expedition, Egypt
1969 - 1970 Chad
1978  The 2nd R.E.P parachutes into Kolwezi to protect and save 2,000 Europeans after the Katanga rebellion, Kolwezi, (Zaire)
1978 - 1980 Chad
1982 Protecting the retreat of the PLO, Bayreuth Lebanon
1983 Bayreuth, south of Lebanon
1983 Chad
1986 - 1994 Chad
1990 - 1991 Rwanda (Zaire)
1991 Operation Desert Storm The Legion captures the town and airport of As-Salman, Gulf War
1992 UN Mission, Cambodia
1992 - 1993 Humanitarian mission, Somalia
1993 UN Mission, Bosnia
1994 Humanitarian mission, Rwanda
Légion étrangère, French Foreign Legion
Légion étrangère. (Source: uknown.)

Organization

1831

  • 1st (Swiss) Battalion
  • 2nd (Swiss and German) Battalion
  • 3rd (Swiss and German) Battalion
  • 4th (Spanish) Battalion
  • 5th (Italian) Battalion
  • 6th (Belgian and Dutch) Battalion
  • 7th (Polish) Battalion

1962

  • 1er Régiment Etrangér
  • 4éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 5éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 3éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Cavalerie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 13éme Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangére

1977

  • 1er Régiment Etrangér
  • 4éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 5éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 3éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Cavalerie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 13éme Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangére
  • Detachement de Légion Etrangére Mayotte

1984

  • 1er Régiment Etrangér
  • 4éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 5éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 3éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 6éme Régiment Etrangér de Genie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Cavalerie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 13éme Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangére
  • Detachement de Légion Etrangére Mayotte

1999

  • 1er Régiment Etrangér
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 3éme Régiment Etrangér d’Infanterie
  • 4éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 5éme Régiment Etrangér
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Genie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Genie
  • 1er Régiment Etrangér de Cavalerie
  • 2éme Régiment Etrangér de Parachutistes
  • 13éme Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangére
  • Detachement de Légion Etrangére Mayotte

Training - selection

The selection policy was changed after the exploits of the German Battalion in former French Indochina. This battalion consisting of men who escaped possible war crimes trials in Europe after World War II, they joined the French Foreign Legion and shot, bombed, tortured and bayoneted their way into the Viet Minh. Theirs was a war of reprisals and vicious counter-reprisals, of criminal violence on both sides, of outrages against humanity, of war at its rawest, cruellest and most gruesome. Stumped by veterans who gave even more than they received, the treacherous Viet Minh embarked on a systematic campaign of denigration, using the Communist press and some Western media.

The French were rebuked for using their erstwhile enemies to further their "imperialistic designs" and henceforth the German Battalion ceased to exist. The "Battalion of the Damned" as they preferred to call themselves had lived exactly 1,243 days. during which it destroyed 7,466 guerrillas by body count, 221 Viet Minh bases, supply dumps, and camps; it liberated 311 military and civilian prisoners from terrorist captivity and covered roughly 11,000 kilometres on foot. They lost 515 men - to them a very heavy loss indeed.

Légion étrangère, French Foreign Legion
Légion étrangère. (Source: uknown.)

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