Spanish Legion

Spanish Legion

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Legión Española

caption=Emblem of Legion
motto="Novios de la muerte" ("Grooms of Death")
march="Canción Del Legionario",
"Tercios Heroicos"
dates=January 28, 1920 - present
allegiance=Christ, King, Fatherland
specialization=Shock combat
garrison= Ronda (Malaga), Viator (Almeria), Melilla, Ceuta.
battles=Rif War
Spanish Civil War
Ifni War
Yugoslav Wars
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
notable_commanders=José Millán Astray
Francisco Franco
anniversaries=September 20

The Spanish Legion (Spanish: "Legión Española" or simply "La Legión"), formerly Spanish Foreign Legion, is an elite unit of the Spanish Army. Founded as the "Tercio de Extranjeros" ("Foreigners Regiment"), it was originally intended as a Spanish equivalent of the French Foreign Legion, but in practice it recruited almost exclusively Spaniards.


The Spanish Foreign Legion was formed by royal decree of King Alfonso XIII on January 28, 1920 with the Minister of War José Villalba stating, "With the designation of Foreigners Regiment there will be created an armed military unit, whose recruits, uniform and regulations by which they should be governed will be set by the minister of war." In the 1920s the Spanish Foreign Legion's five battalions were filled primarily by native Spaniards (since foreigners were not easy to recruit) with most of its foreign members coming from the now independent Republic of Cuba.Historically there had been a Spanish Foreign Legion which preceded the modern Legion's formation in 1920. On 28 June 1835, the French government had decided to hand over to the Spanish government, lock, stock, and barrel, the French Foreign Legion in support of Queen Isabella's claim to the Spanish throne during the First Carlist War with around 4,000 men landed at Tarragona on 17 August. This being the First Spanish Legion until The Legion was dissolved on 8 December 1838, when it had dropped to only 500 men. The British Legion (La Legión Británica) of the Spanish Legion also fought during the First Carlist War. This Legion fought for the fortified bridge of Arrigorriaga on September 11,1835 The Spanish Foreign Legion was created along the lines of the French Foreign Legion as a corps of professional troops that could replace conscripts in colonial campaigns. There has been much confusion -- even today -- in the English speaking countries over the Spanish title for this military unit "La Legion Extranjera" which roughly translates in English as "The Legion of Foreigners". The misconception is over the Spanish word "extranjero" which has a triple meaning and can be translated as "foreigners," but also can mean "foreign" or "abroad". In this case the translation is "abroad". The Spanish title actually should be translated in English as "The Legion to serve abroad". And while the Spanish Foreign Legion did accept non-Spaniards when it was first recruited (e.g. the first unit recruited had one Chinese and one Japanese recruit), it was always intended that the majority of its members be Spaniards who were joining to fight outside of European Spain. And their first major campaign for which they are still famous was in their North African colony of Morocco. In 1920 Spain was facing a major rebellion in the Protectorate of Spanish Morocco, led by the able Rif leader Abdel Krim.

On September 2 of that same year, King Alfonso XIII conferred command of the new regiment on Lieutenant Colonel of Infantry José Millán Astray, chief proponent of its establishment. Millán Astray was an able soldier but an eccentric and extreme personality. His style and attitude would become part of the mystique of the Legion.

On September 20 the first recruit joined the new Legion; this date is celebrated yearly. The initial make-up of the regiment was that of a headquarters unit and three battalions (known as "Banderas", or "flags"). Each battalion was in turn made up of a headquarters company, two rifle companies and a machine gun company. The regiment's initial location was at the Cuartel del Rey en Ceuta on the Plaza de Colón. At its height, during the Spanish Civil War, the legion consisted of 18 "banderas", plus a tank "bandera", an assault engineer "bandera" and a Special Operations Group. "Banderas" 12 through 18 were considered independent units and never served as part of the "tercios".

Francisco Franco was one of the founding members of the Legion and the unit's second-in-command. The Legion fought in Morocco in the War of the Rif (to 1926). Together with the Regulares (Moorish colonial troops), the Legion made up the Spanish Army of Africa. In 1934 both units of the Legion and the Regulares were brought to Spain by the new Republican Government to help put down a workers revolt in Asturias.

Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Juan Yagüe the Army of Africa played an important part in the Spanish Civil War on the Nationalist side. The professionalism of both the Legion and the Regulares gave Franco's Nationalists a significant initial advantage over less trained Republican forces. The Army of Africa remained the elite spearhead of the Nationalist armies throughout the Civil War. Following the Nationalist victory in 1939, the Legion was reduced in size and returned to its bases in Spanish Morocco. When Morocco gained its independence in 1956 the Legion continued in existence as part of the garrison of the remaining Spanish enclaves and territories in North Africa. The Legion fought Arab irregulars in the Ifni War in 1957-58.

On June 17, 1970, legion units opened fire and killed eleven pro-independence demonstrators at the Zemla quarters of El-Aaiun in the Western Sahara, (then still the Spanish Sahara). The incident, which came to be called the Zemla Intifada, had a significant influence on pushing the Sahrawi anticolonial movement into embarking on an armed struggle which still goes on up to the present, though Spain has long since abandoned the territory and handed it over to Morocco.

Through the course of the Legion's history Spaniards (including natives of the colony of Spanish Guinea) have made up the majority of its members, with foreigners accounting for 25 percent or less. During the Riff War of the early 1920s most of the Foreigners serving with the Legion were Spanish speaking Latin Americans. After 1987 it stopped accepting foreigners altogether and changed its name to the Spanish Legion.

In the 2000s, after the abandonment of conscription, the Spanish Army is again accepting foreigners from select nationalities. The Legion today accepts male and female native Spanish speakers, mostly from Central American and South American states. Recruits are required to have a valid Spanish residence permit. Promotion prospects for foreigners are however reported to be limited.

In recent years the Spanish Legion was involved in Bosnia as part of the SFOR. It also took part in the Iraq War, deploying in Najaf alongside Salvadoran troops, until the new Spanish government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero fulfilled its electoral promises by withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq. The Legion units deployed in Iraq were involved in several combats against the insurgency. In 2005 the Legion was deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Stabilisation Force (ISAF). In 2006 the 10th Bandera was sent to Southern Lebanon as part of United Nations' Operation UNIFIL." [ La Legión asume el mando en Líbano tras culminar Infantería de Marina su misión] ", 31 October 2006, 20 Minutos.]

Esprit de corps

Millán Astray provided the Legion with a distinctive spirit and symbolism intended to evoke Spain's Imperial and Christian traditions. For instance, the Legion adopted a regimental unit called the "tercio" in memory of the sixteenth century Spanish infantry formations that had toppled nations and terrorized the battlefields of Europe in the days of Charles V. Millán-Astray also revived the Spaniard's ancient feud with the Moors and portrayed his men first as crusaders on an extended "Reconquista" against the Islamic civilization; and later as the saviours of Spain warding off the twin evils of Communism and democratic liberalism.

The Legion's customs and traditions include:
*Its members, regardless of rank, are titled "Caballero Legionario" ("Knight Legionnaire"). When women became admitted, they were titled "Dama Legionaria" ("Lady Legionnaire").
*Legionnaires consider themselves "novios de la muerte" ("bridegrooms of death").
*When in trouble, a legionnaire shouts "¡A mí la Legión!" ("To me the Legion!"). Those within earshot are bound to help him regardless of the circumstances. In practice, Legionnaires are never supposed to abandon a comrade on the battlefield; they must try to help him until all have perished, if necessary.
*Contrary to usual military practice, Legionnaires are allowed to sport beards and can wear their shirts open on the chest.
*From its establishment the Legion was noted for its plain and simple uniforms, in contrast to the colourful dress uniforms still worn by the Peninsular regiments of the Spanish Army until the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1932. This was part of the cult of austerity favoured by a unit that considered itself on more or less continual active service.
*The Legion's march step is faster than the Spanish military standard, 160-190 in contrast to the Army's 90 steps per minute.
*During the Holy Week processions, the "paso" carried by legionnaires is held not on the shoulders but on their extended arms to show their faith, toughness, strength, and endurance.
* The legion's motto was "¡Viva la muerte!" ("Long live death!") [ [ Special Units For the Spanish Civil War] ] It fell into disuse after the death of Francisco Franco.
* Although the legion had several mascots during his history such as monkeys, chickens, arruis, bears or parrots finally the goat took place as the mascot of the unit. It's usually displayed on the military parades dressed with a hat and accompanied by a Knight Legionnaire.

=Famous ex-Legionnaires=
* Francisco Franco - Dictator and head of state of Spain from 1939 to 1975.
* Sixto Enrique de Borbón, as "Enrique Aranjuez" in 1965. Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne.
* José Millán-Astray, founder of the Spanish Legion.
* Enrique San Francisco , Actor.
* Nacho Vidal Porn Star

Present day

The Spanish Legion nowadays is mostly used in NATO peacekeeping missions. It currently numbers 5,000 in a Brigade of two tercios (regiments). It is directly controlled by the Spanish General Staff.

The Spanish Legion is currently deployed mainly in the Spanish African enclaves, namely Ceuta, Melilla but also in Ronda and Almería in Andalusia.Although the detachment at Málaga was transferred away, every Holy Week a platoon of legionnaires disembarks to procession the "Christ of the Good Death", a figure of a cruficied Jesus, venerated by the Legion.

The Legion remains a harshly disciplined elite unit.

The Legion has a special operations unit known as the "Grupo de Operaciones Especiales "Maderal Oleaga" XIX" (Special Operations Group "Maderal Oleaga" XIX) which consists of about 500 men trained in various different areas:
*SCUBA/Maritime Warfare
*Arctic and Mountain Warfare
*Sabotage and Demolitions (BOEL Demo experts are very highly regarded)
*Parachute and HALO techniques
*Long Range Reconnaissance
*Counter-terrorism and CQB
*Vehicle insertion
*SERE ("Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion" - the training was received in Fort Bragg)


ee also

*Spanish Army
*Army of Africa
*Foreign Legion
*French Foreign Legion
*Israeli Machal program

External links

*es icon [ Official website]
*es icon [ Spanish Legion]
*es icon [ Unofficial website]
*en icon [ Specwarnet report] - dated information
*es icon [ Music by "la legión"]
* [ La Bandera - 1935 film on the Spanish Foreign Legion]

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