Admin moved page Why was the French Foreign Legion Created? to Why was the French Foreign Legion Created
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200px| thumb|left|French Legionnaires in WWII]]One of the best-known fighting forces in the world is the French Foreign Legion. The unit is very distinctive and is regarded as an elite fighting force. It is also one of the last remaining mercenary forces in the world alongside the Gurkha regiments in the British army. The French Foreign Legion has been portrayed in countless movies and books , and as a result. The Legion has participated in every major conflict that France has fought since 1830, and its soldiers have always fought with distinction.
The Legion was well regarded by many military experts and served as a model for other nations, including Spain. Why was the French Foreign Legion created? Why did the French Empire need a unique mercenary fighting force? Why did France create a unique mercenary unit to fill this role?
====History of the French Foreign Legion====
King Louis Philippe created the French Foreign Legion in 1831 from the foreign regiments of the Kingdom of France. The first recruits came from a variety of countries, and it originally consisted of one regiment. The Royal Ordinance for the establishment of the new regiment stated that the regiment was to be composed only of foreigners and they should only serve outside of the Kingdom of France. This was only a temporary measure, but the French elite soon recognized the advantages of having a force of mercenaries in their army.<ref> Geraghty, Tony. March or Die: A New History of the French Foreign Legion (London, Putnam Press, 1987), p. 6</ref>
The first French Foreign Legion regiment was dispatched to Algeria. France had recently begun the conquest of Algeria, and the Legion was to play a pivotal role in the conquest of that country. The Legion later saw service in the Spanish civil war (Carlist War), and the legion proved very effective, but the regiment was nearly decimated. The French King re-established the Legion and added another regiment. From then on, the French Foreign Legion was used in every foreign conflict waged by France. The Legion fought in the Crimean War and were instrumental in the defeat of the Russians. In the 1860s, Emperor Napoleon III ordered the Legion to Mexico to add that Republic to his Empire. It was here that the Legion really established its reputation. The legionnaires fought to the last man at the Battle of Puebla, and this cemented the reputation of the Legion as an elite force.<ref>Geraghty, p. 15</ref>
From 1945-1954 the Legion fought in Indo-China. Its ranks were swelled by former German soldiers who had served in the army, many of whom were former SS men. The Legion was part of the French force that was defeated at Dien Bien Phu (1954) by the Communist Vietnamese, during which it suffered heavy casualties. After withdrawing from Indo-China, the Legion was next involved in a counter-insurgency in its base-Algeria. During the Algerian War, the Legion was a very effective counter-insurgency force, but it was also accused of gross human rights abuses. When De Gaulle began to consider Algeria's withdrawal, many French colonists and soldiers violently resisted his proposals. The Legion was on the verge of mutiny in Algeria, and it was also implicated in a proposed coup aimed at removing De Gaulle.
====The Foreign Regiments and the birth of the Legion====
Since the Middle Ages, the French monarchs had mercenaries from all over Europe to serve in their army. There were regiments of Swiss, Spanish, Irish, and Scots. These regiments or ‘foreign formations’ were a feature of the French army from 1300 until the French Revolution. Napoleon was wary of these regiments, and he disbanded the Irish regiments which had served in the French army since the seventeenth century.
However, the Emperor was later to rethink his opposition, and he created an entire
Legions composed of foreigners, especially Germans, Poles, and Italians. These Legions played a crucial role in Napoleon's campaigns and formed a large part of the Grand Armee that invaded Russia in 1812. After the fall of Napoleon, the restored Bourbon monarchy continued the tradition of hiring foreign soldiers. However, after the Revolution of 1830, the French left and liberals were unwilling to see mercenaries in the French army's ranks.<ref> Porch, Douglas. The French Foreign Legion: A complete history of the legendary fighting force. Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2010), p. 45 </ref>
The birth of the French Foreign Legion coincided with the birth of the French colonial Empire. The formation of the unit resulted from the need for the French King to reinforce his troops who were engaged in the pacification of Algeria. The campaign was faltering, and the French monarch was reluctant to send raw conscripts to fight
the deserts' warriors. The French Foreign Legion was formed to participate in the conquest of Algeria.
The regiment played a key role in the pacification of the Arab and Berber tribes. The French king and his successors were very much aware of this force's suitability for their colonial wars. The Legionnaires' valor had surprised many, and the French High Command saw the potential in a mercenary force for the various 'dirty wars' that would regularly flare up as the French Empire expanded.
The Legion was ideal for these colonial wars as it was made up of desperate men who had nothing to lose and unlike conscripts that had no objection to serving abroad. They often had no other home than the Legion, which is seen in their motto 'The Legion is our country.'<ref>Porch,p.11</ref> The men recruited by the Legion had the incentive to serve as they were being offered the chance to become a French
citizens, which allowed many of them to escape their often-criminal past.<ref>Evans, Martin. Empire and culture: the French experience, 1830-1940 (NY, Springer, 2004), p. 67</ref>
Therefore, they were often happy to be sent to remote postings in the deserts of the Sahara. The Legion was the ideal force for the French's many colonial wars from the period from 1831-1962. The Legionnaires proved to be one of the key reasons for the colonial French army's expansion and endurance.<ref> Evans, p. 78</ref> Indeed, the Legion still has a presence in the last remaining French overseas possession in French Guinea and Mayotte.
In Algeria, the French Foreign Legion proved to be immensely suited to pacification programs in remote areas. This persuaded the French government to make the legion a permanent part of the French armed forces. The legion men, who were not French, were an expendable force, and their deaths in battle did not lead to political repercussion or controversy in France. Indeed, the Legion allowed successive French governments to expand their imperial possessions while limiting the number of conscripts needed to fight in colonial wars.