Fighting for the French Foreign Legion

Americans who joined the First World War in 1914

Nils Elmark

This book provides important new material about the lives of David King, Alan Seeger and Eugene Bullard and their comrades in the French Foreign Legion during the Great War.
Date Published :
May 2023
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781399069151
Pages : 224
Dimensions : 9.2 X 6.1 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


On August 25th 1914, a group of young Americans joined the Foreign Legion and “with a cowboy swing” marched through Paris, wildly cheered by the crowd. They were the first Americans in the Great War, and this is the intimate story of three of those young men:

• David Wooster King - a 21-year-old dropout from Harvard and son of a rich businessman whose family can be traced back to Mayflower.

• Alan Seeger - a 26-year-old poet and a dreamer from New York and a family of highly educated intellectuals. His ancestors too, can be traced back to start of the American nation.

• Eugene James Bullard - a 19-year-old entertainer and boxer from Columbus, Georgia. His father was born a slave and his mother was Creek Indian.

King ended up as an officer in the US Army chasing German spies in Switzerland in 1918. Later, he became a modern global adventurer, met rulers across the world and was sent to Casablanca in 1941 as the very first OSS agent reporting to President Roosevelt. In Casablanca, as a real-world Rick Blaine, King paved the way for General Patton and the Allied invasion of North Africa.

Eugene Bullard too survived the war years. He was wounded at Verdun and invalided out of the French Army but despite all odds he became the world’s first black aviator. After the war, he married a young French woman and settled in Paris where he opened a bar. In the roaring 20s he was surrounded by every artist and intellectual of the day from Hemingway to Louis Armstrong. Bullard fought for the French again in 1940 before he was wounded and had to flee to New York with his two children. Here he was ignored except by the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The French never forgot him, and Bullard ignited the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1954 and was kissed on both cheeks by President Charles de Gaulle. The third legionnaire, Seeger, was not so lucky as his two comrades. He was killed during the Battle of the Somme on July 4, 1916. However, six weeks earlier, he wrote the famous poem, ‘I Have A Rendezvous with Death’ which was to become his legacy. President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline recited it for her father six weeks before his fateful trip to Dallas in November 1963, and the poem has since inspired a line of American presidents during the 20th century. It has become an indestructible poetic lifeline linking France and the United States of America.

The three young Americans, rooted in the nation, each has an amazing story to tell. But when their adventures are brought together we get a three-dimensional perspective on how America broke its isolation from the world and started to unite as a nation during the 20th century. The three men represent different pillars of the American soul, and their lives and dreams symbolize the story of how America became modern and remind us of the strong historic ties between France and America. Most of all, this book is a fantastic saga full of brave men, great adventures and terrific sacrifices that bring hope and a new direction in a time of human division.

About The Author

NILS ELMARK is a European journalist and non-fiction writer. He specializes in digging up near-forgotten stories, and delights in revealing their exciting, hidden connections in modern history. With four books under his belt, Fighting for the French Foreign Legion is his fifth book and second in English. Before becoming a reporter, he served in the Danish Royal Guards.

Nils shares his time equally between London and the small town of Elsinore on the strait between Denmark and Sweden and in his free time enjoys charging around the countryside on his beloved motorcycle.

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