Author’s Note: The concept of the French Foreign Legion was invented by Napoleon Bonaparte to ‘save the lives of Frenchmen’ during warfare. As a consequence, ordinary Frenchmen are not allowed to join the Legion, although French Officers are sometimes transferred from the regular French Army to the Legion ‘as a punishment’! Only Foreign men can join the Legion and the best they can hope for is a quick death – a ‘slow’ promotion up through the ranks. Any foreign man who attains a high-Officer rank in the Legion is often rewarded with a ‘promotion’ to the regular French Army! The French government places the Legion into all kinds of terrible and difficult military situations – as the Legion is ‘expendable’. This is why the Legion is loyal only to its own Command Structure and traditions – and has occasionally defied the French government – sometimes taking the side of oppressed groups, etc. In the early 1990s I met an ex-Foreign Legionnaire from the UK who told me that in the mid-1980s – there was still older men fighting in the Legion who had been members of the Nazi German SS! No questions were asked when they joined as 18-years-olds around 1946 to escape allegations of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity by the Western Allies! One such man had murdered people during WWII using only an axe – an axe he still carried in the Legion! The Legion takes the scum of the earth (with no questions asked) – and through hard-training and brutal discipline – turns these men into worthwhile human-beings. As far as I am concerned – the French Foreign Legion is a ‘proletariat’ force that has every potential to evolve into a European ‘Red Army’! In the late 1940s, however, the right-leaning post-WWII government of France pursued a policy of allowing German SS War Criminals to choose between a trial and possible execution – or a ‘no questions asked’ period of service in the French Foreign Legion fighting Communist Forces in Vietnam. This German SS Units were kept ‘separate’ from the usual multicultural units of the Legion and were expected to fight and kill the enemy as the SS did in the USSR (and elsewhere) during WWII! In other words, these German SS Units were expected to ‘deploy’ their usual ‘racist’ ideology whilst killing innocent Vietnamese people. Alexander Werth inspired me in my writing and journalistic style and below is an extract detailing with these facts taken from one of his excellent history books! ACW (6.1.2021)
German SS-Men Fighting for France in Indo-China
‘Already in April 1949 there were some violent debates at the National Assembly over the incorporation of Cochin-China in Vietnam, which was the condition laid down by Bai Dai before signing his agreement with President Auriol. Not only the Communists, but even the Socialists challenged the Government’s assumption that Bao Dai – who had abdicated several years before – represented anything more than himself. Two months later, on June 10, a debate of exceptional violence, the Communists raised the awkward question of who exactly, on the French side, was doing the fighting in Indo-China, It was known that the Foreign Legion, with many Germans among them, was fighting in Indo-China; but it was Mme Marie Lambert, a Communist Deputy who proceeded to dot the I’s. Addressing the Queuille Government, she exclaimed:
“You are now trying to justify the war in Indo-China by talking of murders allegedly committed by the Vietnamese armies. But when you started this war for the benefit of a handful of bankers and rubber-planters, and in defiance of the agreements you had agreed with President Ho Chi Minh at Fontainebleau, you had none of these pretexts… But you are not going to deceive French mothers any longer. They know that you have sent there not only German SS-men, but the French SS-men, bandits specially let out of prison… You have sent to Vietnam all this scum and riff-raff to loot and rape and murder… Worse than that; these SS-men are trying to turn our own boys into criminals like themselves.”
And M Pierre Villon, another Communist, referred to a Government circular authorizing the Army to recruit volunteers for Indo-China among the miliciens in prison camps and among German war prisoners, including the SS.
Then another Communist, Yves Peron intervened:
“Can the Secretary of State for War say yes or no to the following question: Is it true that at least two of the butchers of Oradour-sur-Glane are now serving in Indo-China?”
The Secretary of State said he had no knowledge of this; on the contrary, he knew that the military justice of the country was looking for these murderers everywhere.
Charles Tilson: “But you are not denying that you’ve been recruiting murderers.”
Yves Peron: “Forty of the murderers of Oradour are known, eleven are in prison at Bordeaux; are two are in Indo-China.”
Cries from the Centre: “What are their names?”
Yves Peron: “These are the people you are defending with your howls.”
The Communists failed to produce any names; but they did not give up.
Andre Tourne: “Would the Minister confirm that a milicien, a traitor who murdered the eighty-year-old Victor Basch (President of the Light des Droits de l‘Homme] is now serving in Indo-China?”
There was no reply. But instead, M Teitgen (MRP) tried to embarrass the Communists by recalling that the military measures taken against Vietminh after the December Insurrection had been signed by Thorez, as one of the members of the Ramadier Government. Tillon, finally replying after the uproar had subsided, merely said that “there was no holding back of Bidault – he just wouldn’t listen to any counsels of moderation” – a remark suggesting that the Communists could not go against Bidault in a Coalition Government without breaking it up.
Tillon: “And, what is more, in that government we opposed this war, which you have now turned into your sale guerre… and now you find nothing better to do than to defend the murderers of Oradour-sur-Glane.”
Jean Masson: “And where were you at that time, Monsieur Tillon?”
Masson: “At the time of the Oradour massacre.”
Tillon:”I shall give you a very simple answer. Vous etes un imbecile.”
The answer was no doubt justified, considering that Tillon had been the chief of the French Francs-Tireurs-Partisans guerrillas; but all this did not heighten the tone of the debate. The Communists had nevertheless, scored a point in drawing attention of the presence of SS-men and former miliciens in Indo-China, which went counter to the official tricolour propaganda. The savagery and bestiality of the Indo-China war was a theme that was to recur over and over again in the years that followed. A whole literature grew up round this theme, such as the unforgettable Operation gachis by an ex-soldier in Vietnam, Arnoux de Piret, which Teemps Modernes published in 1953.
Alexander Werth: France 1940-1955, Robert Hale, (19560, Pages 457-458