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Légion des Volontaires Français

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Title: Légion des Volontaires Français  
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Subject: LVF, Pierre Laval, Military history of France during World War II, Tino Rossi, Günther von Kluge, Jacques Doriot, Marcel Déat, French Popular Party, Simon Sabiani, 1 SS Infantry Brigade
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Légion des Volontaires Français

The Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (French: Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme, or simply Légion des volontaires français, LVF) was a collaborationist French militia founded on July 8, 1941. It gathered various collaborationist parties, including Marcel Bucard's Mouvement Franciste, Marcel Déat's National Popular Rally, Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party, Eugène Deloncle's Social Revolutionary Movement, Pierre Clémenti's French National-Collectivist Party and Pierre Costantini's French League. It had no formal link with the Vichy regime, even though it was recognized as an "association of public usefulness" by Pierre Laval's government in February 1943.[1] Philippe Pétain, head of state of Vichy France, personally disapproved of Frenchmen wearing German uniforms and never went beyond individual and informal words of support to some specific officers.[2]

It volunteered to fight against the USSR on the Eastern Front. It was officially known to the Germans as Infantry Regiment (Infanterieregiment) 638.

Composition

The Legion of French Volunteers was mainly made up of right-wing Frenchmen and French prisoners of war who preferred fighting to forced labor in Germany. Many Russians who fled the Bolshevik Revolution (1917–1922) and who were enrolled in the Légion étrangère joined the LVF. Created in 1941, the LVF was shortly transformed in the summer of 1942 in the Tricolor Regiment (La légion tricolore) before becoming again the LVF in the same summer.

Action

In October 1941, a French infantry regiment (638th), 2,452 men strong, crossed the frontier of the Soviet Union as part of the foreign contingent of the German invasion force. They were sent to combat in December 1941 around Moscow. They suffered heavy losses and were soon retired from the front, while a third battalion was created in France to compensate for the losses.

During the spring of 1942, the Legion of French Volunteers was reorganized with only the 1st and 3rd battalions and spent the rest of its tour of duty on the Eastern Front fighting partisans in the rear areas.

In June 1943, the two independent battalions were again united in a single regiment and continued fighting partisans in Ukraine.

On 1 September 1944, the Legion of French Volunteers was officially disbanded. It merged with the Milice to create the SS Charlemagne Division.

Though the French civil authority handed out many death sentences and prison terms to collaborators after the war, some Frenchmen who had fought for the Germans were given the option to redeem themselves by serving in the Foreign Legion in French Indochina. Some of the higher ranking officers, however, were still executed, while rank-and-file members were given prison terms.

Uniform

French volunteers wore German uniforms. But, like other foreign volunteers, the French were allowed to wear their national colors on the right sleeve of their German uniform and on the Stahlhelm. Both German and French decorations were worn.

References

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