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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Modern Reality Of The French Foreign Legion

More than just a fixture in movies from the 30′s and 40′s, according to journalist William Langewiesche, the French Foreign Legion has seen more continuous fighting than any other military outfit in the world.

A Brief History

Founded in 1831 by King Louis-Philippe the Foreign Legion was originally a means to round up criminals and deserters in French territory after the Napoleonic Wars. Legionnaires come from all over the world and are commanded by French officers, as a branch of the French military. Currently 7,286 men (women are forbidden from joining) serve in the Foreign Legion. Records indicate that over 35,000 legionnaires have died in battle.

Allegiance: Pro Or Con?

Though part of the French military, William Langewiesche, says the French Foreign Legion is made up primarily of foreigners.

“Therefore [they] don’t necessarily have a constituency in France,” says Langewiesche, “and are somewhat easier to send off on very, very difficult missions.”

Langewiesche says lack of allegiance to France is “very much part of the Foreign Legion — for better or worse–and many people on the Legion would argue that it is a strength.”

“It’s more of a pure form of addressing the realities of combat and war to get beyond the political rhetoric, and the postering and the rhetoric and that sort of thing,” says Langeqiesche, “and deal with war and battle for what it really is more of a personal-less, grandiose thing than a public patriotism and that sort of thing.”

“Too Tough” For Normal People

Langewiesche points out that “normal” people don’t tend to join the French Foreign Legion. He says that typically something has gone wrong in your life — in many cases this could just mean where you were born.

“Normal people having normal little lives don’t tend to go join the Foreign Legion — it’s too tough.”
– William Langewiesche

“You were born somewhere in the remote corners of Mongolia and you want something better for your life. And you hear, somehow, either through an internet cafe or a friend, that there is some place called the Foreign Legion. And if you can only get to France, they will take you in if you’re tough enough.”

Former inmates and fugitives are also sometimes drawn to the Foreign Legion. Langewiesche “they tend to be people who have been driven by the circumstances of their lives into the legion.”

“Normal people having normal little lives don’t tend to go join the Foreign Legion — it’s too tough,” he says.


  • William Langewiesche, reporter for Vanity Fair

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5S74NTXY5ZRUJNZ6GEZDH264CI Paula

    Retitle this piece “The Modern Unreality of US Journalism”

    The French Foreign Legion is known the world over as a collection trained murderers, led by Neo-Fascist officers. It’s not a secret. Their record of atrocities is, well, “legion”.

    Robin Young is representative of the the type of “journalists” who have little historical understanding  of the role of the FFL in suppressing labor and independence movements in the 20th Century. Her interview with an apologist for this filthy organization is linked to the larger rehabilitation of the CIA – “Murder, Inc” – and other agents of repression.

    PRI needs to get a grip on “reality” and historical truth.

    • Vriendy

      I am a legionnaire and honestly it’s kind of stupid what you guys are responding. We are just soldiers but with an flag to hide behind. We are motivated by other means than patriotism but we are not trained killer, murderers or whatsoever. We are soldiers fighting for our own causes. So please stop with this nonsense…..

      • Rohan

        I want to ask Vriendy that glasses are allowed in french legion or not ? I am seriously considering FFL. my  eyesight  is     -1.5(L) and -1.25(R). Please do answer.

        • Abdultacos

           You’ll be OK.

      • Van Gelder A

        I’m joining in 3 months from now. And do it for the same reason.we all do it.
        I’m an ex belgian militia.
        We doe it cause we can make the diference, we do it cause we want,
        4 ourselves, our brothers, the world and for france.

        Who dres wins!

        A Van Gelder

        • Commando Valentin

          “who dares wins” special air service. my dad worked hear  SAS. he died in irak 1998.
          in the legion it is  ” legio patria nostra” (legion is our fatherland)
          or “marche ou creve” (march or die)
          good luck and see you in the legion

        • Guest

          you do realize is you mean who dares wins is the SAS motto, not FFL:

        • guest

          who dares wins is SAS, not FFL:

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/G5ZGDM5H75ZZ4FMXUM7CMGVJAM Walter Golden

        When I was in the service 1951/1954 we put into port in Oran Algiers.We had time to visit  Sidi Bel Abbes,a headquarters of the Legion.Met some great soldiers,and a few from England.Often wondered if the moved their headquarters?

      • Commando Valentin

        i am going to be a legionnaire in the end of MAY. i have seen the training and the decipline. i am french can i join the legion? and i am already a resevist in the french marine but i prefer the legion. if i go ther in MAY will they accept me? tell me what you do there and how did you get oonnnn.
        i need some info. can you help me

        • Amazingliving

          Ask the Legion recruiter!!!!

        • Impérialiste

           You’ll just need foreign passport.

          As the French race, we must continue to fight and kill all enemies of the French state across the galaxy.

          Vive La France

      • Philjr

        I am an american looking to join the FFL. Any advise on where to start.

    • ffl

      What do you know about the foreign legion ? Most legionnaires are just the same kids who join the army everywhere except that they chose to do it in the FFL because of the higher pay, the chance of going on operations abroad and a chance to become a French citizen after 5 years. Soldiers are trained murderers, by definition. It doesn’t mean they have to be torturers or brutes. The FFL did not torture any more than the regular French army in Algeria (or the independentists for that matter). Some did, some didn’t, but unfortunately every war has seen torture and atrocities.

      The officers are the same you find in the French army in general, conservatives and right-wing in vast majority but that’s hardly something extraordinary in any army in any country.

      The FFL was sent to fight the hardest fights in the farthest places, but that it was to supress independence movements in colonies didn’t matter, they followed orders just as they do when sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or Mali.

      If you want to criticize the FFL, do not use arguments that apply to any army or military organization in any country. Legionnaires are brave fighters with a code of honor, they stand out as being very fond of their traditions, the memory of their elders, and an idea of sacrifice.

  • http://twitter.com/codydamon Cody Damon

    I don’t see a year-end pledge in @yahoo-5S74NTXY5ZRUJNZ6GEZDH264CI:disqus ‘s future, yet she took the time to consume the content. 

    • cristian

      Hey….I will be joining the french legion next in almost teo weeks from today….is been a really tough decision and also I will convince myself if all this stories are true.Really excited about it and anxious as well…I will have to wait and see what is all about…Sonve I was a kid I wanted to join and now the time has arrived. .Wish me luck guys…

  • Wynne135

    Hi, Just like to say my grandson has joined up in FFL he isn’t a murderer but faced with kill or be killed well thats another story.Its been tough but hes made it.Bless you,love you Nan

  • Commando Valentin

    i will be soon one of them

    • Commando Valentin

      proud to be french and soon proud to be a legionare

      • mahendra chhetri

        i live in india, what should do to get enrolled in french foreign legion

    • Ibraheem Mahadi

      I am most certainly interested in joining the Legion. I would love to go with someone who knows more about where to go and the steps. If you read this, please contact me via email “ibraheem.mahadi@gmail.com”.  Title the email French Foreign Legion Friend. Thanks a million.

      • Joeb Bryson

        I am also intrested please contact me. My name is joseph bryson

  • 073199

    I live in the united States of America and want join the legion can I

  • http://www.facebook.com/sammy.boggs Sammy Boggs

    Try asking a moroccan  old enough to remember the French occupation and the 1950′s independence movement about the French Foreign Legion.

  • mahendra chhetri

    i live in india, want to join french foreign legion, what should i do to join it.

    • mahendra chhetri

      what document i should have to join french foreign legion

      • mahendra chhetri

        when i go to france, at that same day i will be enrolled or it will take time

        • mahendra chhetri

          when to come to join legion
          i love armed forces

  • zimelon

    I’m from the Caribbean and I need to join the FFL how long does the recruitment process take?
    Will I have to wait on there call after I’ve pass the recruitment process or ill get in right away?
    Someone who’s joined please help.
    contact me: zimelon@outlook.com

  • Waz

    I’m from the England and my name is Daryl Bayliss I need to join the FFL how long does the recruitment process take?
    Will I have to wait on there call after I’ve pass the recruitment process or ill get in right away?
    Someone who’s joined please help.
    contact me: ellamanen@outlook.com
    or call me on 07563112271

    • Luke

      It is separated in four stages:

      1 Arrival – 1 to 7 days in a Foreign Legion Information Center. Reception, information, and terms of contract. Afterwards transferred to Paris, Foreign Legion Recruitment Center.

      2 Pre-selection – 1 to 7 days in a Foreign Legion Recruitment Center (Paris). Confirmation of motivation, initial medical check-up, finalising enlistment papers and signing of 5-year service contract.

      3 Selection – 7 to 14 days in the Recruitment and Selection Center in Aubagne. Psychological and personality tests, logic tests (no education requirements), medical exam, physical condition tests, motivation and security interviews. And Confirmation or denial of selection.

      4 (If you were confirmed) Passed Selection – Signing and handing-over of the five-year service contract. Incorporation into the Foreign Legion as a trainee.

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