Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)

February 9, 2022 marks the first anniversary of the death of Zygmunt Jatczak, most likely the last-known Polish survivor of the First Indochina War (1946-54); he passed away at 97. To honor his memory, an English version of the book with his Legion story has been published.

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)
Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm:
I regret nothing (late 2021)

 
Born in Poland in 1924, Zygmunt Jatczak had spent some time during WWII in a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland before participating in the well-known 1944 Warsaw Uprising as a member of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, a resistance movement). In June 1947, young Zygmunt left Poland and joined the Foreign Legion. He was sent to Sidi Bel Abbes, then the Legion’s HQ in Algeria, North Africa. From there, he was assigned to the training center at Saida. Basic training lasted for two months. The best description of this period is given by Zygmunt Jatczak himself:

“That Sahara! Marches, marches and marches again! Legionnaire needs to be tough, it’s the old Legion saying – March or die!”

After the training in Algeria, Legionnaire Jatczak was sent to Indochina where he spent the next three years of his service. He was assigned to the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of the 13e DBLE. The company was stationed in Cochinchina (the then name for Southern Vietnam). A significant part of his memories is given to his French officers. As emphasized by Legionnaire Jatczak: each one of them was superb!

His stories describing the military operations against the Viet Minh, the battles and the prisoners are so colorful and vibrant that the reader can almost feel himself transferred to the rice fields of Indochina, and experience the legionnaire’s everyday life in the Indochina War. The stories also provide many details referring to training, weapons and the units’ organisation. At the end of his tour in Indochina, Zygmunt Jatczak was badly wounded and spent a few months of convalescence. He finished his five-year contract in mid-1952.

The best summary of his service in the Foreign Legion is given by the author himself:

“Remembering the time of war and my time in the Foreign Legion, I can say only one thing: I had a lot of luck, I experienced a lot, I escape death a few times and as it’s said in the Legion, I regret nothing.

Really! I REGRET NOTHING! JE NE REGRETTE RIEN!”

Several times wounded, Zygmunt Jatczak was awarded with many decorations, including a mention in dispatches in the order of the Army (the French highest mention), the Légion d’Honneur (the highest French order of merit), the Combatant’s Cross, as well as the Military Medal or the Colonial Medal.

Honorably discharged from the Legion in 1952, he settled in France where he would live and work until the mid-1960s.

After having left France, Zygmunt Jatczak settled in northern Poland. Later, he became an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion Veterans and Friends’ Association of Poland (A.A.A.L.E. en Pologne). He died in early February 2021. May he rest in peace…

The memories of Zygmunt Jatczak were written with the help of his close friend, Krzysztof Schramm, a history professor who also is an honorary member of the same veteran association and its official historian. Besides, Mr. Schramm is a private collector of old Foreign Legion documents, photos, and various artifacts, whose rare archive is gratefully used even by our website.

The awesome book is supplemented with more than 100 rare and unique pictures from operations, ordinary military life and parades. Part of them were provided by Mr. Jatczak, the others come from the private archive of K. Schramm. Here are some samples:

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing (English version)
Bottom left, Krzysztof Schramm and Zygmunt Jatczak.
Zygmunt Jatczak
Zygmunt Jatczak with his memories.

 
And here is an interesting extract from the book, one of the many small stories from the Indochina War. There was a captured Viet Minh officer who promised to cooperate with the Legion. As an interpreter, he had to interrogate Viet Minh prisoners, but started to raise suspicion instead. According to the author, the officer…
…beat up the other prisoners. They would start speaking, and he would punch them in the face. If they collapsed, he would start kicking. He said they lied like dogs and were hiding the truth. Something was not right, what was he, a sadist, a psychopath? After a few such violent performances (that never led to anything except for the prisoners’ suffering from the hands of another Viet Minh) one of our officers took a Vietnamese-speaking Legionnaire and asked him to find out what went on during these cruel hearings. We had a great Vietnamese Legionnaire named Tran Van Van. Unfortunately, he died in combat. An excellent soldier and great friend. More importantly, he was a true Legionnaire! So, Tran, our Vietnamese Legionnaire, listened in the room next door when the aggressive officer was interrogating a group of newly captured Vietnamese prisoners. And the Communist cat was out of the bag! The politruk would beat up the soldiers for telling the truth! He was trying to stop them from cooperating with us. He kept telling them that they would end up paying the Communists and that he would see to their being killed if they did not keep their mouths shut. Such was his way of performing sabotage! No sooner had Tran interpreted what the Viet Minh had been telling the prisoners, when it became clear to us that we were dealing with a real cunning bast*rd. Well, it could only go in one direction from there. He was executed. One evening a group of Legionnaires escorted him outside along with another Vietnamese who was accused of stealing ammunition. The politruk was told he would interrogate the thief before an execution outside of the camp. Yet out there, the hole had already been dug to fit them both. He did not realize his fate until the end. When they both stood by their place of burial, each was hit with a series of machine-gun shots. The fate of traitors could not be any different. It was the right of war…

 

For those interested in the English-written book of Zygmunt Jatczak‘s memories, you can get it in the links posted below, on Amazon or on Ebay.

— Amazon Kindle Edition : Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing

— Ebay book : Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: I regret nothing

 
Note that the link is NOT an affiliate link to receive money and that this site doesn’t provide any direct or hide cooperation with the publisher. Thank you.

 

Realated posts:
Knut Flovik Thoresen: Norwegians in the Foreign Legion from 1831 until 2017
Andrew J. Mitchell: The Tigers of Tonkin
Knut Flovik Thoresen: Narvik 1940