The French Foreign Legion today -- its 150th birthday -- is not the way it was depicted with literary license in the film "Beau Geste."
The Legion's homes are now a handful of military camps in southern France and the island of Corsica, and some overseas outposts where, among other things, legionnaires spend time building roads. The last shooting situation was in 1978.
Gone are the long baggy red trousers, long blue coats with the wide green flannel belts and the five-foot rifles.
But the "kepi blanc," the spotless white pillbox hat, is still the badge of the Legion.
And so, more importantly, are the traditions of the Legion -- still do-or-die if need be, all pround men, fiercely loyal, eager to do whatever the mission on whatever foreign soil.
Legionnaires on active duty and veterans of the Legion all over the world will raise a toast in celebration of this day.
In the Arlington home of Jack Hasey the celebration will be much more reserved than in the cafes of Marseille and the foreign outposts of the Legion.
"I should say it will be," said Hasey, an American and former captain in the Foreign Legion, "but we will celebrate with a toast and a quiet dinner with my wife, Barbara, our son, Richard, and his friend, Rene, from Georgia."
Hasey, 64, retired from the CIA, is one of two Americans ever decorated with France's highest honor, Companion of the Order of the Liberation. The other was Gen. Eisenhower.
Sitting in a sunny room on a recent afternoon, Hasey looked back almost four decades to when he served six years.
"When I received France's highest honor it was from Gen. De Gaulle," he said. "Only a thousand have ever been given out."
Hasey was hesitant to talk about his other decorations but a search showed he was also honored with the croix de guerre with three palms and numerous silver and bronze stars.
His fighting days in the Foreign Legion during WW II took him through 12 countries, three continents and six colonies, covering 50,000 miles.
"I went through all that until outside of Damascus, Syria, when my jaw was shot away and my chest and arms sprayed by machine-gun fire," Hasey said.
Hasey looks trim at 5-feet-9, 150 pounds, and, after plastic surgery, only a slight scar shows.
A native of Brockton, Mass., he attended Worcester Academy, then Columbia University.
"It's funny," he said, "I always had trouble with French, always flunking it in school, and I was determined to master it.
"I had been to France on a visit with my parents, so when I graduated from Columbia, in the height of the Depression, I decided to go back to France and eventually found a job with Cartier."
The Finnish-Russian war broke out in 1939 and Hasey and several other Americans felt they should do something to help the cause of Finnish people.
"In Paris we used to hang around Harry's American Cafe, sip scotch and discuss world situations," Hasey said. "One day we decided to form an ambulance unit and go to Finland. It took a whole lot of doing but we finally raised the money for two ambulances, shipped them to Finland, and four of us went up there and worked for several months along the front until my arm was broken during an air raid."
When France fell, Hasey found that De Gaulle had a Free French Foreign Legion Corps outside of London, volunterred and was accepted as a second lieutenant.
Informed by the American Embassy that he would lose his citzenship fighting for a foreign power, Hasey switched to the medical transport section as an ambulance driver, then got accepted to train with the infantry of the Foreign Legion.
His first combat with the Legion was in Ethiopia against the Italians. The young second lieutenant had finally perfected his French to lead a 40-man platoon into combat.
He learned that stories about the Foreign Legion were not myth. When one man in his platoon had his foot shattered by shrapnel, Hasey cut it off above the ankle, and the platoon moved on, hoping the man would be found by an ambulance crew.
Quoted in a book writen by Joseph Dinneen, called "Yankee Fighter," Hasey said, "If you fall and can't take care of yourself -- if you can't get back under your own power or are not discovered in time -- you die where you fell."
The Legion now numbers about 8,000, one-fifth its size in bygone times. About 52 percent of the soldiers are Frenchmen, next come the Germans with 11 percent, many other nationalities in smaller numbers, and only one percent American, including a sergeant named Kilroy. Headquarters is Aubagne, a small town just outside of Marseille. A monument proclaims the motto: "The Legion is our Fatherland."
The Legion fought in Dien Bien Phu in 1954. A few years later when France was torn by an army rebellion that came close to civil war, it followed orders to leave its camp in Algeria for home.
Before leaving, the men blew up the camp and marched off singing the Edith Piaf song, "I Have No Regrets."
Basic training is still the toughest in the world and ends with a three-day forced march of 100 miles.
The Legion still gives every recruit a new name -- his real name is kept a secret.
Tales will be told by the legionnaires celebrating their day while drinking Pinard (a raw red Algerian wine), and singing their raucous marching song "Blood Sausage."
And the story will be told about Legionnaire Schantz, who would not disclose his identity for a million dollars.
A young Austrian had fallen heir to a huge fortune when his father passed away.
The executors of the estate knew he was hiding in the Legion.
They succeeded in tracing him to his regiment and his company but his assumed name confused any futher identification.
The man's real name was Schantz, and the sergeant-major in charge of the company where the executors thought the young Austrian belonged announced the bequest at the assembly.
All details were described so that there could be no mistake.
The sergeant-major ordered Schantz to step forward and receive his legacy.
He promised there would be no penalties, no questions.All Schantz had to do was sign a paper and he would have a million dollars to spend.
The sergeant-major pleaded, then threatened, then tried individual cross-examinations of every man in the company.
Half were quickly eliminated, not being Austrian, and most of the other half were ruled out.
Only four remained, but none would confess.
The more he bullied the men, the angrier he became, and the more stubborn they became.
The sergeant finally admitted defeat -- every attempt to seek out the man had been a failure.
A failure until two years later when Schantz himself appeared in Vienna to claim his fortune.
Schantz was the sergeant-major.