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Old 01-24-2009, 06:56 PM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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Several years ago I read the book Devil's Guard by George Elford and I have being wondering if it is true or if it is a myth that a significant amount of Legionaries post WWII were ex. Nazis? I heard an account that at Dien Bien Phu, one Legion unit counterattacked to recapture one of the strong points while singing the Horst Wessel Song.

This is also not the first time I have heard this about the post WWII FFL having large numbers of ex. SS ad other WWII German elites in their ranks.
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Old 01-25-2009, 01:49 AM
Status: "I've got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Turn right at the stop sign
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Ever since the book was published there has been a debate as to whether it is based in some part in fact or is completely a work of fiction. Very little is offered by the author that can provide a means of tracing whether anything described could have even taken place. Those with knowledge of the Foreign Legion and access to it's records claim that no unit comprised entirely of Germans fought in French Indochina.

Now, is it possible that former German soldiers or even SS men joined the Foreign Legion after the Second World War? Sure. Germans have always been well represented in the Legion. Also, until recent years, one could enlist in the Legion without providing your true name or actual nationality or any other type of vetting taking place to determine your suitability to become a member. So it makes sense that if a former Wehrmacht or Waffen SS soldier wanted to join up, he certainly could have done so without great difficulty. And were he still serving during the time period, he may well have fought in Indochina. Beyond that, I suspect the author took a probable fact and built a very vivid fiction around it to make for a more interesting novel.
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Old 01-25-2009, 09:01 AM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyT View Post
Ever since the book was published there has been a debate as to whether it is based in some part in fact or is completely a work of fiction. Very little is offered by the author that can provide a means of tracing whether anything described could have even taken place. Those with knowledge of the Foreign Legion and access to it's records claim that no unit comprised entirely of Germans fought in French Indochina.

Now, is it possible that former German soldiers or even SS men joined the Foreign Legion after the Second World War? Sure. Germans have always been well represented in the Legion. Also, until recent years, one could enlist in the Legion without providing your true name or actual nationality or any other type of vetting taking place to determine your suitability to become a member. So it makes sense that if a former Wehrmacht or Waffen SS soldier wanted to join up, he certainly could have done so without great difficulty. And were he still serving during the time period, he may well have fought in Indochina. Beyond that, I suspect the author took a probable fact and built a very vivid fiction around it to make for a more interesting novel.
Yeah, I have had several people tell me that the whole story is made up but it sure makes for one heck of a story.

Do you know of any factual accounts by Legionaries of their Indochina War experiences?
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Old 01-25-2009, 06:45 PM
 
Location: Central Illinois -
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Bernard Fall (killed in Vietnam in 1967) was a combat journalist of the first order, and French. He wrote the superb look at the French occupation "Street Without Joy", and I found the following about the FFL at Dien Bien Phu


Quote:
From Bernard Fall's 'Hell in a Very Small Place : the Siege of Dien Bien Phu'


from the chapter "Finale" p.439 :
...Contrary to the accepted myth that the Foreign Legion was made up largely of "former SS troopers," many of the Foreign Legionnaires came from the East European countries overrun by the Soviet armies in 1945. (since the average age of the Foreign Legionnaire was about 23 in 1954, most of them had been small boys in 1945.)

from the chapter "Epilogue" p. 451 :
...Lastly, there is the myth of Dien Bien Phu as a "German battle," in which the Germans were said to "indeed made up nearly half of the French forces."...On March 12, 1954 - the day before the battle began in earnest - there were a total of 2,969 Foreign Legionnaires in the fortress, out of a garrison of 10,814. Of the almost 4,300 parachuted reinforcements, a total of 962 belonged to the Foreign Legion. Even if one wrongly assumes (there were important Spanish and Eastern European elements among the Legionnaires at Dien Bien Phu) that 50% of the Legionnaires were German, then only 1,900 men out of more than 15,000 who participated in the battle could have been of German origin. But old myths, particularly when reinforced by prejudice, die hard.

It's likely that a handful of former Waffen-SS soldiers served in the Legion during the French-Indochina war. But despite the literary efforts of Robert Lewis Elford with his "Devils Guard" books in the 1970's and the speculation of SS veterans in the BILOM (Bataillion d'Infanterie Légère d'Outre Mer) unit (composed of former FRENCH Milice members, collaborators and several Waffen-SS from the French volunteers SS Charlemagne division), I haven't seen much evidence to indicate that there were a significant number of SS veterans fighting in Indochina, or that they played a disproportionate role in their units or had a disproportionate effect on the course of events. It's not like Jochen Peiper was chasing "Charlie" through the Plain of Jars in 1955.

Here's what historian (and author of the excellent book on the 13th SS, Himmler's Bosnian Division) had to say on the subject of SS in the FFL :
The "SS in Indochina" myth began even before the release of the novel The Devil's Guard. It originated from Soviet-bloc Communist sources and the PCF (French Communist Party) in France itself. In addition, several memoirs were published by Legion deserters in the DDR in the 1950s that further perpetuated the story. However, all of the serious historians of the Legion agree that it was false. Their analyses can be summed up as follows : The best book on the subject by far is Eckard Michels' Deutsche in der Fremdenlegion, 1871-1965: Mythen und Realitaeten. Although he was denied access to the Legion's own archive in Aubagne, Michels was able to view some great files in the SHAT at Chateau Vincennes. Michels studied the available data and concluded that a (very) small number of ex-Waffen-SS men were able to enter the Legion before 1947. This is when the French government caught wind of the story and demanded a crackdown. After that, Legion recruiters screened prospective volunteers very carefully. One French officer stated that the number of SS men accepted into the Legion shortly after the war was "not more than 60 or 70."

Last edited by odanny; 01-25-2009 at 06:55 PM..
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:08 AM
 
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Ex-Nazis ended up in the USSR, the US, Canada, all over South America, Syria and ironically enough, in Germany in full view of the government and judiciary.

So it would not surprise me that there were some or many in the FFL.
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Old 01-29-2009, 06:28 PM
 
Location: occupied east coast
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I think that one should not overlook the fact that no all former SS troops were looking to escape a criminal past.

For some, the Legion was simply employment during difficult times that followed WW II. Remember, most of Europe, and virtually all of Germany was destroyed. The Foreign Legion offered food, lodging, money, and few questions.

In return, the French received a "disposable" force, that few inside of Metropolitan France cared about. After all, when the Foreign Legion fought and died, it wasn't exactly like the children of France were involved.

A closing thought, let me assure you that former SS troops found their way into the U.S. military following the war. This was a "fast track" for citizenship.
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Old 01-30-2009, 11:03 AM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by banger View Post
I think that one should not overlook the fact that no all former SS troops were looking to escape a criminal past.

For some, the Legion was simply employment during difficult times that followed WW II. Remember, most of Europe, and virtually all of Germany was destroyed. The Foreign Legion offered food, lodging, money, and few questions.

In return, the French received a "disposable" force, that few inside of Metropolitan France cared about. After all, when the Foreign Legion fought and died, it wasn't exactly like the children of France were involved.

A closing thought, let me assure you that former SS troops found their way into the U.S. military following the war. This was a "fast track" for citizenship.
I remember reading in Eric Haney's book (I believe it was him) that in the early 80's the operations leader of the US Army's Delta Force was a German immigrant who had earlier served in the Volkssturm Home Guard in the closing months of World War II and then immigrated the US where he joined the US Army in the mid 50s and eventually joined the Special Forces and later Delta Force.
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:45 AM
 
Location: occupied east coast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WIHS2006 View Post
I remember reading in Eric Haney's book (I believe it was him) that in the early 80's the operations leader of the US Army's Delta Force was a German immigrant who had earlier served in the Volkssturm Home Guard in the closing months of World War II and then immigrated the US where he joined the US Army in the mid 50s and eventually joined the Special Forces and later Delta Force.

I hesitate to answer, because knowing too much about this era of history frequently brands one as an admirer of the Nazi's.

BUT,,,, understand that the "Volkssrurm" WAS NOT an elite military force.

The Volkssturm was formed by those too old, too young, or too disabled to be effectively used in conventional military forces.

Basically, if one could hold a weapon, they were acceptable for the force.

When one thinks Volkssturm,,,think canon fodder.

To be blunt, the Volkssturm purpose was to erode Russian attacks by sacrificing their lives to kill a Russian or even delay an advance if only for minutes.

Many of the V.S. went to their deaths armed with no more than a single "Panzer Faust" weapon with a single round of ammunition. They were not expected to live long enough to need a second shot.

NOW... in the days immediately proceeding, and immediately following the surrender of Germany, there existed a group known as the "Werewolff battalions". THESE people were generally trained soldiers usually from the various Commando units that simply melted into the civilian back ground in the chaos, where they went on to commit the murder of allied troops and sabotage of infrastructure in an attempt to keep the war going.
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Old 01-31-2009, 07:33 AM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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AFAIK the Werwolf units turned out to be a dud and that only a few acts were carried out by them and none after 1946.

BTW: just because you know history does not mean you support the actions of the past. I know alot of WWII but I am definitely not a Nazi.
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Old 02-01-2009, 08:30 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by banger View Post
I hesitate to answer, because knowing too much about this era of history frequently brands one as an admirer of the Nazi's.

BUT,,,, understand that the "Volkssrurm" WAS NOT an elite military force.

The Volkssturm was formed by those too old, too young, or too disabled to be effectively used in conventional military forces.

Basically, if one could hold a weapon, they were acceptable for the force.

When one thinks Volkssturm,,,think canon fodder.

To be blunt, the Volkssturm purpose was to erode Russian attacks by sacrificing their lives to kill a Russian or even delay an advance if only for minutes.

Many of the V.S. went to their deaths armed with no more than a single "Panzer Faust" weapon with a single round of ammunition. They were not expected to live long enough to need a second shot.

NOW... in the days immediately proceeding, and immediately following the surrender of Germany, there existed a group known as the "Werewolff battalions". THESE people were generally trained soldiers usually from the various Commando units that simply melted into the civilian back ground in the chaos, where they went on to commit the murder of allied troops and sabotage of infrastructure in an attempt to keep the war going.
In all fairness the Panzerfaust is a single shot disposible weapon. You can only fire it once. But the VS were still mostly cannon fodder.
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