We had been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were
Going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many
Of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence
So many benefits brought by us to populations in need
Of our assistance and our civilization.
We were able to verify that all this was true, and because it
Was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to
Sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but
Whereas we over here are inspired by this frame of mind, I am
Told that in Rome factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery
Flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and
Confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment
And vilify our action.
I cannot believe that all this is true and yet recent wars have
Shown how pernicious such a state of mind could be and to where
It could lead.
Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow
Citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we ourselves
Are protecting the glory of the Empire.
If it should be otherwise, if we should have to leave our bleached
Bones on these desert sands in vain, than beware of the anger of the
Centurion in the 2nd Cohort of the Augusta Legion
To his cousin Tertullus in Rome
This frontispiece is written at the beginning of Jean Larteguy’s novel The Centurions. The author was himself a member of the marquis, French resistance in WWII , a soldier in the French Foreign Legion , a participant in the First Indo-China war and then a war correspondent.
The book starts at the collapse of the French army at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. 10,000 French soldiers and their allies have been defeated by bare-foot guerrilla’s led by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh.
The Viet Minh forces disassembled artillery and carried it piece by piece up the mountain passes, bombed daily by the vaunted air power of France and the United States. They pounded the French positions and overran them capturing 4.000 officers and enlisted men of the French paratroopers and infantry. For 4 years they languished in re-education prison camps giving self critiques on the crimes of colonialism and capitalism. They survived by learning how the methods of Viet Minh had been successful. The French called the Viet Minh, les myrmidons, the termites (ants).
On their release after the 1958 Geneva Accords, many of them went to war in Algeria, as the 10th Parachute Regiment. They saw the same methods being used to wage a war of independence. The Algerian Moslem rebels catchword was Istiqlal, independence. On May 13th 1958, officers of the French paratroop regiment enacted a popular movement to recognize a Franco-Algerian independence accord that would require removal of all French troops. Istiqlal.
I read these books little realizing that MY WAR in Viet Nam was born long before I was. I walked the same kliks (kilometers) that the French walked. I fought the same men the French fought. We have learned nothing.
Today my brothers in arms are fighting the same war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans are coming home and bringing the wars with them. IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) has been enacting street theater viewed on YouTube as Operation First Casualty. Resistance among active duty troops is rising, as it should. We are being sacrificed and that sacrifice is being purposely hidden by the media.
Who reports daily on the KIA and WIA? NO ONE. Who will tell the tale of 48 dead last month in Afghanistan and 7 dead in Iraq? NO ONE. If no one will talk or listen to us, the veterans, we will talk and listen to each other. Time will come when we will act, as the legions come home.
Veteran for Peace and Viet Nam Veteran against the Wars