The Centurions


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4 out of 5

This is Jean Larteguy’s most famous book that garnered international acclaim and sold millions of copies. It was also the basis for the movie, The Lost Command, starring Anthony Quinn. In his autobiography, Larteguy writes that he got the name of the book from when he was traveling with the Foreign Legion in the Sahara and came across an old Roman column at an oasis. Inscribed on the column from 2000 years before was “Titus Caius Germanicus, centurion of the Xth Legion” and underneath it from a more recent time, “Friedrich Germanicus, of the 1st R.E.P. (French Paratroop Regiment).”

The story begins in May 1954 with the defeat of the French army at Dien Bien Phu. The Vietnamese victors march their French prisoners into communist re-education camps. During their time in captivity, the French paratroop officers who survive the ordeal to be repatriated, bond together and try to utilize communist “revolutionary war” tactics in order to win their next war in Algeria. The book ends with the French centurions fighting the Battle of Algiers with propaganda, torture, terror and any tactic in order to win so that the last remnants of their empire could survive.


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