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German soldiers recruited into French Foreign Legion, to fight in Indochina

Discussion in 'Post War 1945-1955' started by AndyPants, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. AndyPants

    AndyPants Ace

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    I did a quick search, but could'nt find anything ... I may have searched for the wrong topic or 'word' - if so maybe just direct me in the right direction for any relevant information ;)

    Recently I was flicking through a school history book (often not the best historical source!), and came across an interesting paragraph, the information really caught my attention, so some points are quoted below:

    French in Vietnam -

    - French losses [in Vietnam] were about 90,000 men, with 20,000 of these being french soldiers [french nationals].

    - The rest were recruited into the French Foreign Leigion from other parts of Europe and the French Union.

    - Amoung them were 30,000 former German soldiers - some of these recruited directly from prisoner-of-war camps.

    - the French did not send conscripts to Vietnam, only volunteers, as a result, soldier's deaths had less impact on the french public as opposed to young conscripts.

    So, does anyone have any further information on these 30,000 German soldiers? I mean like were these guys from the Wehrmacht......SS?

    The following is from Wiki (I know...another trustworthy source ;))

    "Following the war, many former German soldiers joined the Legion to pursue a military career with an elite unit, an option that was no longer possible in Germany. To this day, Germans constitute a strong presence in the Legion"

    I know that when you join the legion you 'start off fresh' / have a new identity so did the French turn a blind eye to some of these guys and recruit all sorts .....i.e. SS, Wehrmacht.....potential war criminals even?

    I wonder how they got on / fitted in with other nationalities, whom they may have fought against only a few years earlier. .....Also what happened to these men?

    Any information would be helpful, or a point in the right direction as this has caught my attention and so would like to learn more.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    I think 'recruited' has a negative conotation; it was more like: provided them an oppurtunity, there were a lot of Brits in the Legion as well in the years following the war. There was also a great influx of Germans and Brits into the Legion after WW1 which created a tradition of German and British service in the Legion.
    It was only in the last 50 years that the Legion began accepting Frenchmen, before that it is believed that many French joined the Legion under assumed nationalities.

    The indoctrination process for the Legion requires that a Legionaire place loyalty to the Legion and France above all else.

    The thing to remember about the Legion is that France did not necessarily caore too much about these men as they were not "French", converesely the Legion allowed France to project it's influence abroad without jepordizing the integrity of the French Army.

    An interesting tid bit on the Legion is their involvement in the attempted assasination of Degaulle.

    Wiki has a very good article and if you 'Google' French Foreign Legion you will find a wealth of information.

    French Foreign Legion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION

    It's good reading and you can burn more than a few days reading about the Legion.
     
  3. boyne_water

    boyne_water recruit

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    I seem to remember a book called The Devils Brigade about an ex Waffen SS man who joined the Foreign Legion after ww2 and served in Indochina.
    It was supposed to be a true story but seemed to owe a lot to the Sven Hassell school of writing.Mind you i enjoyed it as just a story.
    The author was George Robert Elford(i just googled it seems like its still available)
     
  4. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    "Devil's Guard" is the name you're looking for......I don't think Cliff Roberts or William Holden were ever in the FFL...:rolleyes:
     
  5. boyne_water

    boyne_water recruit

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    Thanks it had been a while since i read it,but i should never have confused it wuth a classic.
     
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  6. Mark4

    Mark4 Ace

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    I always knew this they were SS men and others who where recrutied from pow camps many of them agreed irony is Germans fighting in the French army.........
     
  7. gst121

    gst121 Member

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    It was probably an easy way to recruit, because a lot of German soldiers weren't radical nazi's like hitler. The reason they fought for germany wasn't because they loved hitler, it was because they were drafted.
     
  8. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    I knew one of them and his story is so mad that it is hard to believe, but every single word is/was true. He had all the official papers as an evidence.
    To make it easier let me name him "Hans".
    Hans was a 18 year old guy and joined up to the SS in early 1945. He was sent to Berlin and after some days of fighting his unit tried to reach the US troops in the west. They did it but they were send to the French. For the reason that his unit did some bad things at France in the early days of war, they told him he has two options: to be executed or join up the FFL. So he joined the FFL later they sent him to the Indochina war where his platoon get into an ambush and were caught by the Vietcong. They executed any soldier except the German ones. The Germans were sent to the former DDR( East Germany) after several months the BRD(West Germany) payed for them and they were sent to us. After he reached West Germany, the FFL ordered him back to France and after some months he quitted his duty at there and came back to Germany. So he left Germany in 1945 and came back in 1957. What an Story!
     
  9. AndyPants

    AndyPants Ace

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    Thanks for the replys lads, I think your right Brad, probually a better understanding of the Legion and how it 'works' would be of benefit. I think I will read up on them in some more detail.

    But in relation to these 30,000 Germans, if many of them came directly from POW camps, there must have been some sort of recruitment drive on the Legions part ......"continue/advance your military career, comradeship, etc" .....and I still find it very interesting that these guys just "fitted-in" with all the rest. Its things like this that make me enjoy military history.

    Thanks for the story Ulrich, personal accounts can be so interesting......and fascinating that an individual or group of men could and did experience such and "adventure" ...and live to tell the tail.
     
  10. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Another thing to consider about the Germans who joined from the POW/DEF camps is that many had nothing to go back home to. Their homes and cities were bombed flat, their families dead or missing, their way of life and entire world gone. All they knew was soldiering. The Legion offered them a chance to get out from behind the fence and a new life.
     
  11. Paul Errass

    Paul Errass Member

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    Good point , certainly many Danish SS Veterans from Nordland and Wiking found themselves in this position and went on to serve in the Foreign Legion after the war, they quite often faced persecution and prison if they returned home , this was the situation faced by many Foreign Volunteers.
     
  12. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    In the last few pages of "The Forgotten Soldier" the author tells how he was "encouraged" to join the French Army to prove his allegiance to France; the author was Alsatian. I am sure that other German POW/DEF's were encouraged similarly to join the Legion as a sort reparation to France. I think it would be a no brainer if I was sitting in a POW/DEF camp and had an oppurtunity to lace up boots and pack a rifle.
     
  13. muscogeemike

    muscogeemike Member

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    Please understand that I’m not saying that there were ex-WWII Germans in the US Army - but in the early days of the Special Forces it was common to meet soldiers from “exotic” countries. I personally served with soldiers from (that I recall) Austria, Yugoslavia, Poland, Israel, Korea, and even Ireland. The Yugoslavian had been one of Tito’s partisans.

    Given the SF mission it was most reasonable for the US to use these men’s backgrounds and talents. Why wouldn't the French see it the same way?
     
  14. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    I don't think there is any secret that there were former German Soldiers that formed the neucleus of the US Special Forces. Looking at the early beeret flashes of the 3rd, 6th and 12th groups (in order below) there does appear to be some questionable influence. The 3rd Group flash is the pre 1963 version, subsequent versions of the flash have a solid black border.

    [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  15. AndyPants

    AndyPants Ace

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    Very interesting to note the influence of the flashes.

    It makes since I supose when you think about how the Allies raced to capture German weaponary, technology and scientists at the end of the war........why not recruit these experienced German soldiers into your armed forces as well.
     
  16. Pelekys

    Pelekys Member

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    I have also read in some books about the presense of ex Wermacht or SS soldiers in FFL. Many veterans were awarded with lower ranks because of the previous experience in WWII as surgeants etc.
    The irony of the situation was that Vietkong had same weapons with the Red Army as they got supplies from the soviets and the tactics of the Vietkongs were similar with the Red Army's. So the Germans faced again the same nightmare.
    Especially the use of the Katyousa rockets of the Vietkongs make them to live again what they suffered at the East Front.
     
  17. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Not to nit-pik your post, but back then they were up against the Viet Minh, not the Viet Cong. US GI's were facing the VC later on down in South Vietnam. The VC were South Vietnamese commies who were allied with the North Vietnamese.
     
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  18. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    The book was written by: George Robert Elford and was written about a "Hans-Josef Wagemuller" whose real first name is Hans-but the real last name shall remain a secret because im not posting it on this site. Oh and, I actually got the chance to talk with the man whom the book was written about. In fact, he got my phone number from a mutual friend of our-whose real first name was also Hans, but I CAN say this man's last name-which is Goebeler. On Hans Gs passing, it was his wish for his best friend Hans J.W" to call me up. This was back in 2009. I was about to leave for work when I got a phone call I never expected. The man on the other end told me about our friends wish that I be contacted by him upon his passing.

    Hans made me feel slightly better by saying a Monica Lewinsky joke, which did make me laugh. After the first few minutes, Hans asked me for my Address so he could send me something in the mail-which I still have. He sent me a letter saying that he also made me an honorary member of the French Foreign Legions all German Battalion Nr 505, to be exact) and also sent me two cards with that on it on one side, and the other was his real name and address. I had two cards ut, I mailed one to a Waffen SS Vet/RKT/friend of mine but kept the other card. Hans and I were hoping to get together later that same year but he passed away before we could set any plans in stone. I told him that I had a German Sniper Rifle that was made in 1935-with a 1936 stamped 25 round Ansteckmagazin that is permanently attached to the rifle. I told him that if he ever came to Texas, that I would like to see what he thought of my rifle and that we would go to the Starry range and ""clear its throat out a bit"" and Hans said he would enjoy that very much. I sure wish that he could have lived to be able to do so?

    Anyway, on Hans and his services to Germany and France and attempted service to his new Country--whats in the book is the truth. Also, as I do know where he lived and what his real name is, ill never divulge it because he asked me not to and that was because he has family still living here in the USA. You wouldnt believe how he made his living in retirement? nothing like one might expect ;-))
     
  19. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Hi Ul, we must talk more about this sometime ;-))
     
  20. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    many of them were former Ostlegion soldiers they had no way to return home and the legion became their second home.
    After they retired they were granted the French nationality and retirment money
     

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