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Foreign Legion

Foreign Legion, French volunteer armed force composed chiefly, in its enlisted ranks, of foreigners. Its international character and the tradition of not revealing enlistees' backgrounds have helped to surround the Foreign Legion with an aura of mystery and romance. Although foreigners had served in French armies previously, King Louis Philippe created (1831) this specific foreign legion. Originally intended to pacify Algeria, the legion also was active in the pacification of Morocco and fought in other areas of the French colonial empire and in both world wars. It was later active in the French campaigns in Indochina and Algeria. One regiment of the legion supported Algerian insurgency against the French government (1961) and was rapidly disbanded. The legion was normally stationed in Algeria until 1962, when its headquarters were transferred to S France, near Marseilles. The army's regiments were scattered throughout the world. There have been many other foreign legions; e.g., a British legion participated in the Carlist Wars in Spain, and in the Spanish civil war (1936–39) the International Brigade fought on the Loyalist side.

See T. Geraghty, March or Die: A New History of the French Foreign Legion (1987); J. R. Young, The French Foreign Legion (2d ed. 1988); D. Porch, The French Foreign Legion (1991); A. D. Gilbert, Voices of the Foreign Legion (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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