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The Legion of the Damned: The Adventures of Bennett J. Doty in the French Foreign Legion as Told by Himself
by Bennett J. Doty
Westholme Publishing, 2020
Paper: 978-1-59416-339-5

The Riveting Memoir of an American Volunteer in the French Foreign Legion during the 1925 Revolt in Syria
 “You see there was down South a girl I liked. And she is now married . . . not to me.” So Bennett J. Doty confessed when he sailed for France and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1924. A World War I veteran and University of Virginia student, Doty first trained in Morocco and Algeria before being shipped off to the French-controlled State of Syria. There, he and his fellow “bleus,” who hailed from Belgium, Poland, Italy, Senegal, Spain, Germany, Russia, and other countries, found themselves at the spearhead of the attempt to quell the revolt against French rule in the area. The fighting, mostly against the Druze, was fierce, merciless, and unrelenting. Fought in villages and at isolated outposts, there was no quarter. Entire villages were razed, fields destroyed, and prisoners were not taken by either side. In the engagement where Doty and several other of his “copains”—“buddies”—earned the Croix de Guerre, his unit became isolated and withstood days of attacks which claimed more than half of the Legionnaires until they were finally relieved by a French colonial column. With the immediate fighting over, the Legion was put to heavy manual labor under the hot desert sun. Doty became disillusioned, and with four other soldiers, fled in an attempt to reach British-controlled Jordan. They were caught, tried, and Doty was sentenced to eight years in a French prison. When word reached the United States, diplomatic efforts ultimately gained Doty a pardon and honorable discharge from service. 
            Originally published in 1928, Legion of the Damned, Doty’s acclaimed account of his time in the Legion, is a remarkable memoir that requires no additional drama to allow the reader to experience the desperation, exhilaration, fear, and disgust of a colonial war. Here, Doty shows how drunken, unruly, vicious veterans would transform into capable, cool, and orderly soldiers as soon as a battle began—the élan that earned the French Foreign Legion its reputation as a legendary fighting unit.

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