Books by Douglas Porch

Released: May 1, 2004

"Porch's analysis is sharp and to the point, and his skill as a storyteller will please readers of narrative history."
An illuminating study of the southern front in WWII Europe, an operational theater that many historians have dismissed as a sideshow. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1995

An authoritative analysis of the complex role of intelligence services in modern French history. With Porch's (History/Naval War College; The French Foreign Legion, 1991, etc.) book, it will no longer be possible to think of the defining moments of modern France without also considering the function and influence of the country's secret services. From the two world wars to the disastrous colonial policies in Indochina, Africa, and Algeria, the French intelligence services have had an enormous say in the country's politics, usually without the knowledge of French citizens. Porch takes us through the establishment of the modern French secret services, born out of the defeat of the Franco-Prussian War (187071), through their unheralded successes and sometimes spectacular failures. It is no accident that the French secret services are directly implicated in the two most devastating episodes in modern French history: the Dreyfus Affair and the fall of France in MayJune 1940. Yet Porch partially exonerates the intelligence community in arguingcontrary to the traditional view that politicians ignored intelligencethat they were obsessed with it to the point of paralysis. The secret services were to be the Achilles' heel of the Fourth Republic, and readers will be astonished to learn the extent of domestic spying in the Fifth Republic today. The author has had to overcome several obstacles in writing this book, and many of the questions raised cannot be answered until certain classified documents become available. In addition, there is a perpetual war in the bewildering underworld of espionage and intelligence between various offices and services. A major strength of the book is that it places the French secret services squarely in political context and insists on the necessary state-intelligence connection, which, unfortunately and sometimes tragically, breaks down. Those breakdowns have literally altered the course of French history. An absorbing and detailed critique of the French intelligence community. Read full book review >
Released: July 17, 1991

A thorough account of France's most famous military force, meticulously sifting legend from actual events, by the scholarly chronicler of the French colonial presence in Africa (The Conquest of the Sahara, 1984, etc.). Fittingly, in his analysis of primary materials and historical accounts Porch is able to verify that many legends of the Legion contain more than a grain of truth. From its establishment in 1831 it was intended as a catch basin for the malcontents and desperate men of Europe, many of whom were then swarming into France as political refugees. Assigned originally to the French conquest of Algeria, it began to establish a reputation for itself during a subsequent disastrous campaign in Spain in 1835. In the course of its long career, the Legion has served commendably in Russia and Mexico, in the Franco-Prussian and both World Wars, and in Indochina, where its brave but futile struggle to retain Dien Bien Phu against the Viet Minh in 1954 signaled an end to French colonialism in the region. It was to North Algeria, however, that it was most often returned, and in 1961 Algeria almost became its undoing when prevailing Legion sentiments against Algerian independence led to a crisis with the de Gaulle government and a quickly repressed coup d'Çtat. As a result of this colorful history, the Legion emerges here with a life of its own, complemented by assessments of the sociopolitical situation. Stimulating reading for adventurers and serious students alike—an informative, lively view of a unique military presence in modern times. (For a searing first-person account of service in the Legion, see Christian Jennings's A Mouthful of Rocks, 1989). (Thirty-two pages of halftones—not seen.) Read full book review >