Tuesday, April 21, 2015

French Foreign Legion Museum

French Foreign Legion Parade Ground
Aubagne France

The French Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 by King Louis Phillipe of France.  It would take undesirables off the streets and put them on the frontline of the French colonial empire.  The Legion's Latin motto "Legio Patria Nostra" means (roughly) "the Legion is our home".  The French Foreign is still going strong to this day with a strength of around 8,000 men with bases in France and on Corsica.

Legio Patria Nostra
The Legion is our Home
The Legion celebrates Camerone day in honor of a desperate bayonet charge that was made in Mexico on April 30, 1863.  Napoleon III had sent the Legion in support of the doomed Emperor Maximilien, his puppet ruler of Mexico.  Maximilien would be shot twice; once by a Mexican firing squad and again by Edouard Manet.

Legionnaire in Mexico

The Legion suffered its highest casualty rate in the French Indochina war of the 1950s.  Legionnaires fell like flies at the trap of Dien Bien Phu.

Aubagne, FR
In our work, America Invades (www.amzn.com/1940598427), we noted that Americans have also served with honor in the French Foreign Legion...

"Americans had also volunteered for the French Foreign Legion, and it’s worth mentioning here some of the better-known names that have been linked to the legion over the decades:

John F. “Jack” Hasey, CIA
Peter Julien Ortiz , one of the most decorated US marines of WWII, OSS, actor in John Ford’s Rio Grande
William Wellman, director of the legion epic, Beau Geste, and many more
Alan Seeger, poet (see Rendezvous with Death below)
Arthur Bluethenthal, member of College Football All-American Team from Princeton, pilot killed in WWI
Eugene Bullard, first African American military pilot
Norman Kerry, actor

Cole Porter told many of his friends that he had joined the French Foreign Legion, though conclusive evidence is lacking. The lyrics for “War Song,” written for the London stage during World War I have been attributed to Cole Porter ...

And when they ask us, how dangerous it was,
Oh, we’ll never tell them, no, we’ll never tell them.
We spent our pay in some cafe,
And fought wild women night and day.
’Twas the cushiest job we ever had.
And when they ask us, and they’re certainly going to ask us, The reason why we didn’t win the Croix de Guerre,
Oh, we’ll never tell them, oh, we’ll never tell them,
There was a front, but damned if we know where.

(Source: A Fine Romance, Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, David Leahman, 2009, www.amzn.com/0805242503)

Legionnaires in Film

The French Foreign Legion has been celebrated in fiction and in film from Beau Geste to Laurel and Hardy comedies.

The most famous poem of this legendary unit was written by the American poet Alan Seeger...

Rendezvous with Death

I HAVE a rendezvous with Death  
At some disputed barricade,  
When Spring comes back with rustling shade  
And apple-blossoms fill the air—  
I have a rendezvous with Death          
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.  
It may be he shall take my hand  
And lead me into his dark land  
And close my eyes and quench my breath—  
It may be I shall pass him still.   
I have a rendezvous with Death  
On some scarred slope of battered hill,  
When Spring comes round again this year  
And the first meadow-flowers appear.  
God knows 'twere better to be deep   
Pillowed in silk and scented down,  
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,  
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,  
Where hushed awakenings are dear...  
But I've a rendezvous with Death   
At midnight in some flaming town,  
When Spring trips north again this year,  
And I to my pledged word am true,  
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

The Museum of the French Foreign Legion can be found in Aubagne -- a town in Provence near Marseilles.  Here is their web site...http://samle.legion-etrangere.com/modules/info_seul.php?id=58

Marco Kelly
French Foreign Legion Museum
If college and rugby plans don't work out for my son...there is always the Legion!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Many Italians also served in the French Foreign Legion.  You can learn more in Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World here...http://store.italyinvades.com/products/italy-invades
or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598729

Order the full Italy Invades Package here...http://store.italyinvades.com/products/italy-invades-gift-package

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

America and Malta in WWII

Malta in the Med.
Malta was definitely a British show in World War II.  The British had controlled Malta since 1800 and created a key naval base in the center of the Mediterranean.

The Axis siege of Malta lasted from Mussolini's declaration of war on June 10, 1940 until Italy surrendered and joined the allies in the summer of 1943.  During this time Malta was subjected to the most intense and prolonged bombing of any part of the world during the Second World War.  RAF pilots provided critical air defence of the island during countless bombing raids.  Royal navy submarines sank and harassed Axis convoys which were supplying Rommel's Africa Corps from Italian ports.  Malta was desperately short of essential supplies including food, ammunition and, most importantly aviation fuel.
USS Wasp, Malta Maritime Museum
America provided vital assistance to the defence of Malta during the war.  Even prior to Pearl Harbor, Churchill communicated to FDR Malta's desperate need for additional fighter aircraft and the recently commissioned aircraft carrier, USS Wasp, was dispatched by FDR to Glasgow to assist the beleaguered island.  In April and, again in May, of 1942 the USS Wasp ferried Spitfires and their pilots, including Denis Barnham, the author of Malta Spitfire Pilot, to Malta.  Winston Churchill himself rang up the captain of the USS Wasp* and said, "Many thanks to you all for your timely help.  Who said a Wasp couldn't sting twice?"

Art Roscoe, a 21-year old Californian, longed to fly, but had a slight astigmatism in one eye and was turned down by the US military.  Instead he joined one of the American Eagle squadron's of the RAF ands was trained as a Spitfire pilot in Essex.  Transferred to Malta, he became a decorated RAF ace.  He was shot down by cannon fire from an ME-109 in October 1942 but managed to survive the crash and the war.

Maltese kids waving US Flag
Arrival of Operation Pedestal Convoy
The USS Ohio was an American built (though English crewed) Liberty ship that was past of the critical convoy called Operation Pedestal.  Hit by numerous bombs and torpedoes, she barely managed to reach Valletta harbor delivering her precious cargo of airplane fuel.  Other American ships resupplying Malta, such as the Santa Elisa, did keep their American crew.

After the siege of Malta lifted in 1943 there was a flood of American troops and officers into Malta.  In June of 1943 General Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces North Africa, planned Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, from his headquarters in Lascaris (on the island of Malta).  Many British felt that the arrival of the better paid American troops drove up prices on the island.

FDR himself paid two visits to the plucky island once in December of 1943 and again for the Malta Conference with Churchill in February 1945.  On December 7, 1943, the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor, while in Malta, FDR declared as follows...

FDR quote, Valletta, Malta
"In the name of the people of the United States of America, I salute the Island of Malta, its people and defenders, who, in the cause of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world, have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty.

Under repeated fire from the skies, Malta stood alone, but unafraid in the center of the sea, one tiny bright flame in the darkness—a beacon of hope for the clearer days which have come.

Malta's bright story of human fortitude and courage will be read by posterity with wonder and with gratitude through all the ages.

What was done in this Island maintains the highest traditions of gallant men and women who from the beginning of time have lived and died to preserve civilization for all mankind."

FDR Statue
Grosvenor Square, London
Malta became independent on 21 September 1964 and the Royal Navy base was withdrawn in 1979.

* The USS Wasp was later sent to the Pacific theatre where she was sunk by a Japanese submarine at the battle of Guadalcanal.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427