The armed forces of many nations have, at one time or another, used foreign volunteers who are motivated by political, ideological or other considerations to join a foreign army. These may be formed into units of a given nationality or may be formed into mixed nationality foreign units. Sometimes foreign volunteers were or are incorporated into ordinary units. The practice has a long history, dating back at least as far as the Roman Empire, which recruited non-citizens into Auxiliary units on the promise of them receiving Roman citizenship for themselves and their descendents at the end of their service
- 1 Reasons for volunteering
- 2 Mixed nationality units
- 3 Units by nationality
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Reasons for volunteering
Three main reasons for volunteering can be identified:
- Ideology - the volunteer believes in a cause and volunteers to fight for it.
- Adventure - the volunteer joins a foreign army to see action.
- Long-term personal or family benefit - the volunteer serves in order to qualify for non-financial benefits, such as forgiveness of sins, citizenship or to acquire an education.
This is a simplistic analysis and, in many cases, a volunteer will be influenced by two or more of these reasons. It follows, therefore, that a unit of foreign volunteers may contain soldiers with different, or different combinations of, motivations.
Mixed nationality units
- 62nd (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. Composed of 'foreign Protestants'.
- French Foreign Legion
- Hohenlohe Regiment of France during the Bourbon Restoration.
- International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War
- Islamic Legion
- King's African Rifles
- Mahal - non-Israeli volunteers who fought for Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. There is to this day a Mahal program in the Israeli army.
- The SS (particularly the Waffen-SS) made extensive use of foreigners during World War II. For more information, see: Europäische Freiwillige, Foreign volunteers and conscripts in the Waffen-SS.
- Tercio de Extranjeros, or Tercio, or Spanish Legion - prior to 1987 and 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.
- Rhodesian Light Infantry (initially all-Rhodesian, this unit became the "Foreign Legion" of the Rhodesian Army)
- The United States Military has a long tradition of foreign volunteers taking up arms for the United States. Foreign born officers, such as the Marquis de Lafayette, Tadeusz Kościuszko, and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben provided vital contributions to the cause of independence. During the nineteenth century the US Army made extensive use of foreign soldiers, particularly Irish and German. German Jewish troops were common during World War II. Presently, many members of the US Marine Corps are of Latin American and not US nationality. However, many if not most non-American troops in the United States armed forces are usually seeking the expedited United States citizenship that comes with completion of a term of service, and can be seen as aspiring Americans rather than outright foreigners.
Units by nationality
During both world wars, American volunteers served on the allied side before the USA joined the war.
- The Lafayette Escadrille in the French Air Force, World War I
- The 7th Air Escadrille (also known as the Kościuszko Squadron) in the Polish Air Force, Polish-Soviet War
- The Eagle Squadrons in the Royal Air Force, World War II
- The Flying Tigers in the Chinese Air Force, World War II
- The Lincoln Brigade in the side of the Spanish Republican, Spanish Civil War
- Before the US entered the war, many Americans joined the Canadian Forces, especially the RCAF, and served in ordinary Canadian units.
- Rachel Cox in Into the Dust and Fire records the history of five Ivy Leaguers (Chuck Bolte, Jack Brister, Bill Durkee, Heyward Cutting, and Robert Cox) who enlisted in the British Army and became the first Americans to fight the Nazis
- Units from modern-day Belgium (then the Austrian Netherlands or United Kingdom of the Netherlands) served in the French armies of both the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
- The Belgian Legion during the Franco-Mexican War of 1864-6
- The Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia served in the Imperial Russian Army during the First World War
- The 6 Février Battalion, part of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War was made up of French and Belgians. Their citizenship rights were revoked as a result of their decision to serve in a foreign army.
- The Free Belgian Forces in the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy during the Second World War
- Two Belgian units fought in the Waffen SS during the Second World War
- Belgian United Nations Command during the Korean War was officially integrated into the American 3rd Infantry Division for much of the war.
- The Auxiliary Legion of the First Carlist War
- The British Legions in the South American Wars of Independence during the 19th century.
- The British Free Corps of the Waffen SS in World War II
- 4,000 British fought in the Spanish civil war on the side of the republicans.
- In the Paraguay Revolution of 1922, British pilots fought in the Escuela de Aviación Militar.
- Many Britons fought during the American Civil War for both the United States and Confederate States. 67 British soldiers in the Union Army received the Medal of Honor.
- The Chinese People's Volunteer Army that fought in the Korean War was nominally composed of volunteers sent by the People's Republic of China even though it was in fact composed of regular troops of the People's Liberation Army.
- The 1st Croatian Provisional Infantry Regiment, fought on Napoleon's side in the Napoleonic Wars
- The 2nd Croatian Provisional Infantry Regiment, fought on Napoleon's side in the Napoleonic Wars
- The 3rd Croatian Provisional Infantry Regiment, fought on Napoleon's side in the Napoleonic Wars
- The 4th Croatian Provisional Infantry Regiment, fought on Napoleon's side in the Napoleonic Wars
- The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar, fought in World War II on the Axis' side
- The 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama, fought in World War II on the Axis' side
- The 369th (Croatian) Reinforced Infantry Regiment as part of German Wehrmacht, fought in World War II
- The 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division, as part of German Wehrmacht, fought in World War II
- The 373rd (Croatian) Infantry Division, as part of German Wehrmacht, fought in World War II
- The 392nd (Croatian) Infantry Division, as part of German Wehrmacht, fought in World War I
- The Croatian Air Force Legion, as part of German Luftwaffe fought in World War II on the Axis' side
- The Croatian Naval Legion, as part of the German Kriegsmarine, fought in World War II on the Black Sea
- About five thousand Filipinos served in a militia called the Makapili, which was under Japanese command. The unit was formed on 10 November 1944 and was issued around two thousand rifles by the Japanese. Its headquarters was located at the Christ the King compound in Quezon City. The organization was active in the Manila area, and in the nearby provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija. This militia made its last stand at Marikina in 1945.
- French Foreign Legion accepts foreigners
- 9,000 French fought in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War in the side of the Republicans.
- Some French emigres who fled to Britain fought in the British Army of the Napoleonic Wars
- Charlemagne Regiment of the SS fought for Germany in the Second World War
- Chasseurs Britanniques of the Napoleonic Wars
- Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism a collaborationist force of French who fought Soviet partisans for Nazi Germany
- King's German Legion in the Napoleonic Wars
- Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War
- During the American Civil War Germany was the place of birth for thousands of Union soldiers. Several German speaking regiments existed such as the 9th Ohio Infantry, or the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry.
See Also Irish Military Diaspora
- The Irish Brigade in the French Army from 1690 and through the eighteenth century.
- The Irish Legion fought for Imperial France during the Napoleonic Wars
- An Irish Legion was part of the British Legions fighting in the South American Wars of Independence
- St. Patrick's Battalion in the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War.
- The Irish Brigade which served on the Union side in the American Civil War in the 1860s
- Irish commandos in the Boer Army during the Boer War
- Connolly Column, fought for the Spanish republic in the Spanish civil war
- The Irish Brigade which fought for the Nationalist rebels in the Spanish Civil War
- The Redshirts of Giuseppe Garibaldi fought in Southern Italy and Uruguay.
- Corpo Truppe Volontarie in the Spanish Civil War.
- Division Garibaldi fought under Josip Broz Tito's command as a part of NOVJ in Dalmatia and Bosnia, during the Second World War 
- Gurkhas in the British Army.
- Gorkhas in the Indian Army.
- Gurkha Contingent in the Singapore Police Force
- Gurkha Reserve Unit - a similar type force in Brunei
- Fuerzas Regulares Indígenas in the Spanish Civil War
- Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.
- Polish Lancers and other Polish forces in the Army of Napoleon.
- Polish Volunteers in many wars and revolutions of the 19th century, including Spring of Nations, Crimean War (on Turkish side) and The Paris Commune.
- The Rhodesian Army accepted foreign volunteers, almost all of whom were required to speak English, as they were integrated into regular units (usually the Rhodesian Light Infantry) alongside locally-based soldiers. The exception was 7 Independent Company, a short-lived unit made up entirely of French-speaking personnel, led by francophone officers, which existed between 1977 and 1978.
- The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have since 2010 or so begun to recruit CIS volunteers. See Armed Forces of the Russian Federation#Personnel.
- Scots have a long history of service in the armies of Kings of France since at least the ninth century. The Scottish Guard was formally created by the French King Charles VII in 1422, and existed until the end of the Bourbon Restoration period in 1830.
- The Blue Division of World War II fighting with Germany against the USSR.
- The Blue Legion was formed late in the Second World War out of Blue Division soldiers who refused to leave after Franco required all Spaniards to leave Axis forces.
- The 9th Armoured Company of the Free French Forces.
- The Spanish Legion accepts foreign recruits.
- Swedish Voluntary Air Force fighting for the Finnish side in the Winter War
- Swedish Volunteer Corps fighting for the Finnish side in the Winter War
- Europäische Freiwillige of the Second World War
- Foreign legions
- Military volunteer
- Spanish Civil War and Foreign Involvement
- Foreign support in the Winter War
- White Tights, alleged Baltic female snipers in Chechnya