Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford

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Devil’s Guard Book Review for Teen Ink



Written in 1971, the novel “Devil’s Guard” by George Robert Elford tells the allegedly true story of the Foreign Legion’s Nazi Battalion. The novel starts off in the mountains of Czechoslovakia, where a battalion of 900 German soldiers face defeat, capture and humiliation. Rather than capitulate to the Soviets, the ex-Nazis, under Hans Josef Wagemueller make a run for the Swiss border. After seeing various atrocities committed by the Communists and Americans alike against their people, the ex-Nazis develop an “All for Broke” attitude and join the Legion. Seeing their ability to fight, the Legion, ignoring the fact that most Swiss had no combat experience, sends them to Indochina where they fight France’s bloody colonial war.

This is the point in the book where the fun begins. The Nazis have had ample experience fighting Communist partisans so the Viet Minh are nothing new to them. They are assigned to an all-German “Battalion of the Damned” which is comprised of men that have nothing more to lose. This attitude, the reader learns, is one of the most dangerous, as the Nazis go cruising around jungles in trucks with human shields mounted on their trucks and destroying anything that lays in their path to, well…destruction. During their adventures they also pick up a few Vietnamese “nurses” and towards the end of the book Wagemueller finds himself performing a wedding ceremony between one of his men and a nurse.

Even without the torture scenes (“this method is something I used in the Gestapo”) this book provides valuable insight into France’s colonial quagmire. The soldiers, French regulars and Foreign Legion alike, lament how they’re fighting a “bureaucrats war” with “a million red deputies sitting in parliament” referring to the French Communist Party. The generals, beside a select few, seem to be like the generals of the Great War that sent their men again and again into the jaws of death without learning anything new. The Nazis of the Battalion of the Damned, at least in this book, show the Viet Minh no pity. However, by using methods that would make the UN wince, such as driving POWs off of cliffs to save ammunition, using civilians as human shields, and forcing propagandists to eat their own words (literally) the Germans get the job done.

For the men that survive the jungles of Indochina, which is present day Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, a happy ending awaits them: French citizenship. This book is well written and action packed, and was one of the top ten books that US soldiers read in Iraq in 2006. There are still major inconsistencies within the book where a well-read reader can’t help but wonder if the story of redeemed Nazis is true or merely a figment of Mr. Elford’s imagination. This book takes place in 1953, and by 1953 there were very few WWII Germans within the Legion’s ranks, save for a few senior NCOs. From 1 to 10, I would give this book a 7. It never fails to entertain but the writer’s claim that it is non-fiction is about as true as the fact that German Nazis were mild-mannered, fun loving people.





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