Armenian Legion 1916 - 1920 : Legion d’Orient
The Armenian Legion was formed in 1916 and was disbanded in 1920, a four year period in which momentous changes were taking place for the Armenians and for the world. The Armenians passed though a Genocide, through the Russian revolution, to the formation of the first Armenian Republic in 1918, to the communist take over of Armenia, and its eventual absorption into the Soviet Union. The courageous volunteers of the Armenian legion risked their lives to secure a better future for the Armenians. The noted Boghos Nubar Pasha first formulated the idea of Armenians fighting alongside Allied troops in World War I. Boghos Nubar had traveled to Europe as head of the Armenian National Delegation, where he persuaded the Allies to allow the formation of an all-volunteer Armenian unit, with the sole purpose of “liberating Cilicia from Turkish rule.” The Legion d’Orient (a neutral name that was chosen for the Armenian unit so as not to antagonize the Turks and endanger the lives of Armenian deportees in Syria) was established, under French military supervision in November 26, 1916, with the formation of its first battalion. The training of Armenian volunteers began at Port Said, Egypt. It is likely Port Said was chosen because of its proximity to the Armenian refugee camp where thousands of exiles from Musa Dagh were relocated after being rescued by the French navy in September 1915. Later the Legion training camp was moved to Cyprus, where volunteers from the United States and Europe joined the ranks. Close to 5,000 men were being trained by early 1917.