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French Foreign Legion Recruitment chart

The following is a chart showing the national origin of the more than 600,000 Legionaries of the force from 1831 to 1961, which was compiled in 1963. It should be noted that, at a given moment, principal original nationalities of the foreign legion reflect the events in history at the time they join. The legion allows men to escape from the worries of war, especially if their native country has lost. The large numbers of Germans joining in the wake of WWII led to the misconception that the Legion was full of former Waffen SS and Wehrmacht personnel. It is not surprising to see that a large number of German enlistments in the period following WWII, but the figures do not show whether or not the post-WWI period had a similar boost. Bernard B. Fall, writing in the context of the First Indochina War, has called the notion that the Foreign Legion was mainly German at that time:

"a canard . . . with the sub variant that all those Germans were at least SS generals and other much wanted war criminals. As a rule, and in order to prevent any particular nation from making the Legion into a Praetorian guard, any particular national component is kept at about 25 percent of the total. Even supposing (and this was the case, of course) that the French recruiters, in the eagerness for candidates would sign up Germans enlisting as Swiss, Austrian, Scandinavian and other nationalities of related ethnic background, it is unlikely that the number of Germans in the Foreign Legion ever exceeded 35 percent. Thus, without making an allowance for losses, rotation, discharges, etc., the maximum number of Germans fighting in Indochina at any one time reached perhaps 7 000 out of 278 000. As to the ex-Nazis, the early arrivals contained a number of them, none of whom were known to be war criminals. French Intelligence saw to that. Since, in view of the rugged Indochinese climate, older men without previous tropical experience constituted more a liability than an asset, the average age of the Legion enlistees was about 23. At the time of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, any Legionnaire of that age group was at the worst, in his "Hitler Youth" shorts when the [Third] Reich collapsed.

When looking at the overall recruitment chart, one must keep in mind that the Legion accepts people enlisting under a nationality that is not their own. The large number of Swiss and Belgians are actually more likely than not Frenchmen who wish to avoid detection.

Rank   Country of origin   Total numbers  
1  Germany 210000
2  Italy 60000
3  Belgium 50000
4  France 50000
5  Spain 40000
6  Switzerland 30000
7  Poland 10000
8  Russia 6000
9  Austria 5000
10  Hungary 4000
11  Greece 4000
12  Czechoslovakia 4000
13  Netherlands 3000
14  Yugoslavia 3000
15  Luxembourg 2300
16  United Kingdom 1500
17  Romania 1500
18  Portugal 1300
19  Denmark 1000
20  Turkey 1000
21  United States 700
22  Bulgaria 500
23  Finland 500
24  Sweden 500
25  Algeria 500
26  Vietnam 200
27  Morocco 200
28  Tunisia 200
29  Argentina 100
30  Brazil 100
31  Japan 100
32  Canada 100
33  Lithuania 100
34  Latvia 100
35  Norway 100
36  Egypt 100

Regarding recruitment conditions within the Foreign Legion, please see the official page (in English) dedicated to the subject:. However, with regard to age limits, recruits can be accepted from ages ranging from 17 ½ (with parental consent) to 40 years old.

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