"For Our Freedom and Yours."Country A is at war with Country B. Even though Country C isn't involved in the war, many citizens of Country C support Country A. Some even go so far as to join in the fight on the Country A side, either as individuals enlisting in the Country A Armed Forces, or as free agents in units formed entirely of citizens of Country C that are affiliated with the Country A forces. These people aren't Hired Guns, although the money may be a motivation. They genuinely believe in the cause they're fighting for and may well bring their own military experience to the battle. Contrast Fighting for a Homeland. Compare the Legion of Lost Souls, which is a more specific sister trope based on a real life unit. Named after the American volunteer squadrons which served in the Royal Air Force during the first two years of World War Two. They were recalled when the US was forced into the war proper.
— 19th-Century Motto of Polish volunteers in service to nationalist causes
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Happens fairly often during The Five Star Stories, most notably during the Colus/Hagooda conflict of J.C. 2989 in Books II & III, which saw both sides recieving large amounts of support from foreign soldiers. While Hagooda initiall has the upper hand due to being secretly backed up by the governments of two major powers who have a beef with Colus, after the king is mortally wounded and his Fatima partner is killed by one of the "Mercenary" batallions serving Hagooda, Colus sees a massive influx of volunteers from allied nations coming in to join the fight. What makes this interesting is that some of said volunteers are actually members of foreign royalty or high officials, namely Emperor Amaterasu of Delta Belune and President Mission Routh of the Trun Union, who are participating due to a debt of honor they owe the king for his assistance during the events of Book I, but decline to directly involve their nations' military forces in the war, bringing only select members of their Imperial or Presidential Guards.
- The Steve Canyon comics (both comic books and newspaper strips) by Milton Caniff used this. The newspaper comics placed Steve in charge of "The Dragonflies" flying against a "puppet government" in China for an extended storyline starting here.
- Several strips from the British Commando comic book featured Czech or Polish pilots who flew for the British air force in the Second World War.
- One of Garth Ennis's War Stories is about these, when an Irish Greenshirt, a Condor Legion pilot, an English socialist and a Spanish Republican end up spending the night together in a shell-hole.
- DC's Blackhawk Squadron is a Multinational Team version of this, to an extent. Many of the Blackhawks were, however, citizens of countries at war with the Axis powers, or occupied by them.
- Chuck fits the trope most exactly, as an American who joined the RAF before becoming a Blackhawk.
- Atomic Robo Tesla flew for the American Volunteer Group (see Real Life).
- In Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero, a group of British pilots volunteer to fight the kaiju attacking San Francisco, with one mentioning they're looking to repay the Americans who fought in for Britain in World War II.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5 has a number of variations (but few straight examples).
- The Anla'Shok, also known as the Rangers, are a Minbari covert operations organization operated by the Religious Caste, who boost their numbers leading up to the Shadow War by recruiting large numbers of human volunteers, unbeknowest to the Earth government at the start. In the show's final season, the Rangers begin to recruit from the other races as they begin to take on the role of interstellar peace keepers.
- When the command staff is forced to purge large numbers of their security staff after the Nightwatch attempted to seize control, they are able to make up for it with large numbers of Narn volunteers.
- When Captain Jack Harkness first meets the Doctor in Doctor Who, he is in one of the trope-naming historical Eagle Squadrons, having taken a dead guy's identity according to the Torchwood episode "Captain Jack Harkness".
- Dark Blue World is a Czech-made film about pilots who enlisted in the British Royal Air Force after Czechoslovakia was conquered by Nazi Germany.
- Pearl Harbor has a scene with Ben Affleck flying a Spitfire for the RAF in the Battle of Britain.
- Flyboys about the Lafyette Escadrille in World War I.
- The Great Escape has Hendley, who's a still member of the Trope Namer since he was shot down before Pearl Harbor and so hasn't been transferred to the USAAF. Amusingly, as he's The Scrounger, his RAF uniform is in better condition than the actual British characters'.
- Sabaton's song "Aces In Exile" is about the foreign pilots who fought alongside the RAF during the Battle Of Britain. In particular, the three choruses talk about No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron, a Polish-crewed unit who had the highest kill-loss ratio of any Hurricane unit in the conflict, No. 310 Squadron, a Czechoslovak-crewed unit, and No. 401 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
- The Christy Moore song "Viva la Quinta Brigada" is about one of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War (see below). note
- In Blazing Angels, the player and their squadron start the game off as American RAF pilots flying missions in France, England, and Africa before transferring to the USAAF for the remainder of the game once America enters the war.
- Happens so often throughout the Fire Emblem series that a definitive list may not be possible.
- Happens on a routine basis in Mount & Blade. For one thing, the PC is from outside Calradia, and can become a noble member of any faction if he or she so likes; for another, villagers of any nationality will join up with a PC to get involved in the fighting, and will personally remain loyal to the PC if they switch sides (though fighting against their own nation in Warband will cause a morale penalty). This overlaps with Hired Guns to an extent, as their motivation is more a paycheck and a better life than any kind of ideology.
- In the Civilization games, this is represented by your gifting units to City-states that are at war with another major power. Militaristic City-states can also gift you units.
- The Trope Namer is the American volunteer squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the early (i.e. American neutrality) period of World War II.
- In fact, the first USAAF aircraft to fight on the Western Front after America's entry into the war were British Spitfires from the Eagle Squadrons which were repainted to have American insignia on them. They transitioned to American-made airframes as the American war effort got going.
- Another good example are the American Volunteer Group (AKA the "Flying Tigers") who flew P-40 Warhawks for The Guomindang against the Japanese. Contrary to legend the AVG were (technically) mercenariesnote (and well paid ones at that) and didn't actually fly their first mission until four days after Japan's Declaration of War upon Britain, The Netherlands, and the USA. Regardless, they did more than their bit ripping up the skies against the Japanese, which earned their famous nickname when a Chinese newspaper marveled at how those Yank pilots "fight like tigers." They were eventually incorporated into the USAAF.
- The Soviet Operation Zet was an earlier example in the same war.
- Yet earlier in the same war, there was the odd example of General von Falkenhayn and the cadre of German military advisers who basically conducted the early phase of the Second Sino-Japanese War for the Chinese Nationalists.
- Some 200 000 Irishmen fought for the UK in both World Wars. Granted, many of them were from British/Northern Ireland and in the First World War Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom - but then again, many of them weren't from Northern Ireland.
- This still happens today. Units like the Irish Guards, Royal Irish Regiment, and the Brigade of Gurkhas accept non-British nationals who are looking for adventure and/or better wages. Many citizens of smaller Commonwealth countries also join the British military for the same reasons.
- Here is the Wikipedia category on these. Some more notable ones from the list:
- The WWI French equiv. of the Eagle Squadron, the Lafayette Escadrille.
- Named after Lafayette of course who came and fought for the Americans while France wasn't sure whether to ally.
- The Mahal during the Israeli War for Independence, a combination of Jews fighting for a homeland and WWII Veterans looking for adventure. The very first Israeli Brigadier General had been a Colonel in the US Army, much of the early Israeli Air Force was made up of American and Canadians who had flown against the Luftwaffe.
- The French Foreign Legion, depending on what the French are doing at any given time.
- The WWI French equiv. of the Eagle Squadron, the Lafayette Escadrille.
- Swedish volunteers fought against the Soviets in Finland during the Winter War. The most famous such unit is probably Flygflottilj 19 (the greater Swedish Volunteer Corps, which Flygflottilj 19 was a part of, while Swedish-dominated and organized also incorporated Danish and Norwegian volunteers).
- The Yugoslav Wars saw foreign volunteers fighting on all sides. Arabs fought on the Bosnian Muslim side, while Greeks and Russians fought for the Serbs. There were cases of neo-Nazi volunteers fighting for the Serbs or Croats.
- Russian volunteers have a long history of showing up in the Balkans in support of Eastern Orthodox peoples—the Greeks, the Serbs, the Bulgarians, and the Romanians. Several pieces of music, especially by Tchaikovsky, such as the Marche Slave and the March of the Volunteer Fleet, commemorate these.
- A number of foreign volunteers served in the Rhodesian security forces during the 1970s.
- After Nazi Germany conquered their countries, many Polish and Czechoslovakian pilots traveled to the UK and decided to fly for the British Royal Air Force. The top-scoring RAF pilot of the Battle of Britain was Czech, and the pilots of the top-scoring RAF squadron were Polish.
- Poles wound up doing this a lot in the 19th and 20th centuries. Polish volunteers served in the French Revolutionary armies, and later Napoleonic armies. Polish volunteers showed up in Portugal in 1828, during the Liberal Wars in that country. Polish volunteers formed the best units of the Hungarian rebels in 1848. Polish volunteers also signed up to form Polish Legions, this time, to fight for Austria-Hungary against the Russians during World War I.
- Just about any war fought by the USA but not Canada, or vice versa, lead to men from the non-participating country crossing the border to enlist. Most notably with the early years of WWI, WWII and Vietnam.
- The Texas Revolution featured American militia regiments joining the young Army of the Republic of Texas. Santa Anna (dictator of Mexico at the time) regarded them as pirates and mercenaries as they had no claim for fighting, and this led to the most notable massacres of the time aginst both the American volunteers and the white Texan settlers.
- The Czechoslovakian Legion (on White side) and the International Units of the Red Army (on Red side) during the Russian Civil War. Many of them were WWI ex-POWs, but all POWs were free to leave Russia after 1917. These guys stayed, so they qualify for this trope.
- Subverted for the most part on the Red side of the war, where experienced troops were in extremely short supply, so veteran international fighters often ended up taking up roles training and instilling discipline in far greener troops across the entire front rather than fighting in their own organizations. There were some exceptions to this though, like the Red Latvian Riflemen, one of the few veteran units from the First World War who volunteered to keep fighting for the Soviets rather than follow through with demobilization after the war. Notable in particular because they ended up siding against their homeland in the Civil War. Depending on who you ask they are either Les Collaborateurs or this.
- In the Polish-Soviet War, the Kościuszko Squadron was a squadron of American volunteers fighting for the Polish.
- ...and named after a Polish general who aided the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Recursion!
- On the Soviet side,
- Escuadrón 201, also known as the "Aztec Eagles", of the Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana. Mexico declared war on Germany after U-Boats began sinking Mexican oil tankers in the Gulf of Mexico. Lacking the resources to raise an expeditionary army, Mexico instead formed a squadron of volunteers who were sent to Texas to be trained and equipped as a unit attached to the US Army Air Forces. They served with distinction in the Philippines until the end of the war.
- In the Spanish Civil War, both sides saw many foreign volunteers, including the famous author George Orwell on the Republican side.
- The most famous volunteer forces are probably the German Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria (for the Nationalists) and the many International Brigades, including the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade (for the Republicans).
- And when the Spanish Civil War ended and World War II started, it was the Spanish's (both sides) turn to serve under other flags: the winning Nationalist sidenote sent the (technically) volunteer Blue Division to fight under German flag in Russia (as mentioned below), while exilees from the Republican (losing) side fought under Free Frenchnote , Soviet note , and British note flag. General Lister would go on to (sort of) fight alongside Fidel Castro after World War II ended, as Soviet Union's military liaison to Cuban revolutionaries.
- The Nazis had quite a few during World War II. The last troops defending Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin were French Waffen SS of the "Charlemagne" division.
- The Free French Normandie-Niemen fighter squadron, flying for the Soviet Union in World War II.
- Soviet Air force pilots flew for China and North Korea during the Korean War. Because proof of Soviet involvement could have escalated the conflict into World War III, Soviet airmen pretended to be Korean and the UN forces went along with the pretense. Pilots Pepelyaev and Sutyagin were the top scoring aces of all nations in the Korean War (and did so while struggling with Korean on their radios).
- Chinese People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War. That's right: officially, those three million Chinese were all volunteers in arms, spontaneously stepping in to defend the Communist cause.
It is a very well-dressed volunteer who turns up wearing a MiG fighter.
- As the British quipped:
- Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and other Islamic fighting groups typically have Muslim combatants that come from very far away place. During the war against the atheist Soviet, the Afghans had mujahideen hailing from place as far as Indonesia.
- One of the Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviets was known as "the American". He was a Muslim soldier in the US Army who requested - and recieved - administrative leave to "kill Soviets" (his words). He was later killed in Egypt as part of Ayman al-Zawahiri's organization prior to 9/11, preventing the Americans from looking extremely stupid.
- The American Revolution saw many individuals from around Europe coming to America to fight for the young nation's freedom, most famously the Marquis de Lafayette, who came to America to fight in direct defiance of orders from the King of France. Other famous ones include Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a former officer in Frederick The Great's old Prussian Army who went on to train the Continental Army and turn it into something resembling a professional force, and the aforementioned Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish nobleman.
- This overlaps with a phenomenon that was considered quite normal up until The Napoleonic Wars: When their country was (technically) at peace, it was usually possible for officers to join the army of a belligerent country as a volunteer. This could be an attractive career choice, especially if you belonged to an army that had not been in a war for a while (like e. g. the Polish army, which basically missed out on all important wars between the Great Northern War and the Wars of the French Revolution), because in peacetime promotion generally went by strict order of seniority, which was extremely frustrating for young, ambitious officers. Lafayette had a very personal motivation to fight against Britain though.
- The Battle of Yorktown featured several German regiments of the French Expeditionary Army, consisting of volunteers/mercenaries from the Rhineland, fighting against German regiments of the British Army, either Hannoverian (British king's German subjects) or Hessians (lent by their German sovereigns in return for British money), plus, of course, German immigrants to America in the Continental Army.
- Giuseppe Garibaldi did it a lot during his life. First, he led foreign volunteers in a number of South American revolutionary movements in Brazil and Uruguay in 1840s. After having been involved in revolutionary activities in his native Italy in 1850s, he volunteered himself to join the Union cause in the American Civil War, which was declined as Lincoln considered the conditions he demanded, such as immediate emancipation of slaves, impractical. After helping unify his homeland in 1860s instead of joining the Americans, he almost joined the Prussians against the French Empire, which still occupied Rome on behalf of the Pope, but changed his mind practically overnight after Napoleon III abdicated and the French Republic was declared, and brought a group of several hundred Italian volunteers to fight for the French Republic. These formed the core of the Army of Vosges that fought in the Rhone Valley during the Franco-Prussian War.
- Union Army actively recruited "immigrants" with military experience in Europe during the American Civil War.
- During The Napoleonic Wars a number of volunteer formations took part that were formed from nationals of countries that were at least technically neutral.
- In the Franco-Austrian war of 1809 (aka the War of the Fifth Coalition) the exiled Duke of Brunswick, who lived in neutral Prussia, formed a volunteer corps from all comers to fight against Napoleon. The "Black Brunswickers" fought their way through several states allied to France to the North Sea and then participated in the Peninsular War on the Allied side. Those who wanted to continue to serve were eventually absorbed into the army of the restored duchy of Brunswick in time to fight at Quatre Bras (where the Duke was mortally wounded) and Waterloo.
- After Prussia's defeat in 1806-1807, a number of active and former Prussian officers joined the forces of countries that countinued to wage war against Napoleonic Wars, enlisting e. g. in the British King's German Legion (which originated as a Hanoverian army in exile), Spanish, Austrian (in 1809) or Russian (in 1812) units. The most well-known instance of this was Carl von Clausewitz, who later wrote On War.
- In the early stages of the Wars of Liberation, in the spring of 1813, Major von Lützow and some other officers with the Prussian government's permission formed a free corps recruited from non-Prussians. This included e. g. some citizens of Saxony (which at that point was neutral), such as the poet and playwright Theodor Körner who wrote the corps' theme song Lützows wilde verwegene Jagd, which is still used a light infantry march in the British Army.
- The Indian National Army, composed of tens of thousands of volunteers that signed on to fight the British for liberation of their homeland alongside the Japanese during World War II.
- The current Syrian Civil War is seeing a lot of foreign fighters pouring into the country to assist the non-governmental factions, which include entities such as the Free Syrian Army and more alarmingly, designated terrorist organizations including the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of the Levant. What's most surprising is that a good chunk of these foreigners are coming from Western countries such as Finland and Australia.
- Continued from the above, the Islamic State terror group, which grew exponentially due to the above war, also has thousands of foreign fighters in its ranks, many of which are disillusioned Muslims and new Islamic converts from Western countries. On the flip side, the Kurdish militias opposing them also have volunteer foreign fighters helping them, such as a former U.S. Army soldier, an American Desert Storm veteran, ex-military Dutch and German biker gang members, a female Israeli soldier, and an Australian army reservist. Probably the most surprising is a Chinese volunteer, considering how strongly China is trying to avoid getting mired in this conflict.
- The Czechoslovak Legion was the only foreign unit fighting alongside the Polish army during the Defense War of 1939.
- Matched by the Slovak troops fighting alongside the invading Germans.
- Similar to the Korean War example above, there are a fair number of Russians fighting in the current Ukrainian Civil War on the side of the separatists. And like the Chinese volunteers, they tend to cross the border surprisingly well equipped.
- Nazi Germany had quite a few of its former officers doing this after its official end. German officers, often from the Waffen SS, were sighted in Arabian and South American countries all the way from 1945 well into the 70s as 'advisors' against both Jews and communists.