Americans at War in Foreign Forces

. . . by God, I know bloody well what I would do !


The American ambassador to France, Myron Herrick, was known and appreciated as a man who did not worry too much about the disciplines of his craft or what was appropriate vs. what was obvious. In 1914, it was his response to the influx of Americans in Paris who wished to fight with the French Foreign Legion that almost seemed to give an official seal to a policy that would touch tens of thousands of Americans and remain variously ambiguous through two world wars. 

A group of young men had come to him at the embassy to ask if, as Americans, they had the right to join the French Legion.

"They filed into my office with that timidity which frequently characterizes very courageous men, more afraid of seeming to show off than of any physical danger. They came to get my advice. They wanted to enlist in the French army. There were no protestations, no speeches; they merely wanted to fight, and they asked me if they had a right to do so, if it was legal. That moment remains impressed in my memory as though it had happened yesterday; it was one of the most trying in my whole official experience. I wanted to take those boys to my heart and cry, 'God bless you! Go!' But I was held back from doing so by the fact that I was an Ambassador. But I loved them, every one, as though they were my own.

"I got out the law on the duties of neutrals; I read it to them and explained its passages. I really tried not to do more, but it was no use. These young eyes were searching mine, seeking, I am sure, the encouragement they had come in hope of getting. It was more than flesh and blood could stand, and catching fire myself with their eagerness, I brought my fist down on the table saying, 'That is the law, boys; but if I was young and stood in your shoes, by God I know bloody well what I would do.'" 

His documentation, excellent bibliography, good index and well-chosen photographs are all assets and a lucid and terse writing style makes this an easy, enjoyable read. No other book covers this topic. Consequently, it will find a place in all graduate university libraries and colleges with strong history and political science programs.  Highly recommended. - The American Library Association

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