Friday, May 28, 2010

In History: Genevieve de Galard, the "Angel of Dien Bien Phu"

This is the 27th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

I have to give you a little back story on this week's In History column. A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were at a big used book sale, and we purchased a couple of old Life magazines and old newspapers. One of the Life magazines is from June 2, 1958 (you can see the cover here). We didn't look through any of the magazines for a while, and when we did we found newspaper clippings in this one. And I have to say, they're pretty cool.

Most of the clippings are stories or photos of Genevieve de Galard, sometimes known by the name Geneviève de Galard-Terraube. You may also have heard of her by her nickname: "Angel of Dien Bien Phu." Galard was a flight nurse for the French Air Force. She was posted to French Indochina in May 1953, in the middle of the war between French forces and the Vietminh. She was born in 1925, and she is still alive. I'll let the news clippings tell the rest of the story. I couldn't capture the time period any better than they do. (I have scanned in the clippings and transcribed them, and provided links so you can see them in full; if you find errors, they're probably mine. Any emphasis is also mine.)

This first one was published in the Bethlehem Globe-Times, a now-defunct paper that was published from 1925 to 1977 in Bethlehem, Pa., on Tuesday, May 4, 1954. It was written by the United Press news service. (Here is the scan):
Lone Nurse Gets 'Legion of Honor' from Dien Bien Phu Commander
HANOI, Indochina (UP) -- An angel today watched over the wounded soldiers of Dien Bien Phu.

This angel does not wear wings or a halo, but borrowed army fatigues, a steel helmet and the Legion of Honor.

She is a French army nurse, the only woman among 12,000 battle-toughened soldiers fighting to the death in the surrounded fortress.


She is Lt. Genevieve de Galard. She is slim, dark-haired and has a gentle smile. Unlike most women all over the world Genevieve doesn't mind telling her age. She is 29.

Brig. Gen. Christian de Castries, hero of Dien Bien Phu and commander of the garrison, drew up his waery men at a ceremony outside his muddy dug-out command post yesterday.

While Communist guns fired, de Castries brough nurse Genevieve before the men and pinned on her breast one of France's highest awards, the Legion of Honor. Then he kissed her on both cheeks.

Genevieve was awarded the Legion of Honor for courage and devotion to duty.
But Genevieve is more than a nurse, although just a nurse would be welcome in the dingy underground dispensaries where hundreds of wounded men lie.

She has become a symbol of hope and home to the isolated soldiers who look forward with more certainty to death than to life.

Dien Bien Phu's "angel" became the only woman amoung 12,000 men by accident. But when she signed up as a French air force nurse, she knew she was risking her life for her country.

Genevieve was serving her second tour of duy in Indochina when an enemy shell put her helicopters out of action at Dien Bien Phu.

She had escorted 250 wounded soldiers out of the garrison in the first days of the all-out enemy attack. Night and day she had shuttled back and forth between the base hospital at Hanoi and the faraway French bastion.

One day in March the helicopter was hit but not damaged by the shell. Genevieve prepared to spend the night at Dien Bien Phu while mechanics tried to repair the chopper under fire.

During the night the Communists bombarded the field and at dawn is was obvious Genevieve's helicopter would never fly again.

So she went undergound to the dispensaries and offered her services to the head surgeon. That was 25 days ago. She has assisted in as many as 25 operations a day.


The next clipping (above) is just a photo and a caption. It's also from the Bethlehem Globe-Times, from June 8, 1954. The photo does not have a photographer's name or a news service listed, but it's possible there is a news service's initials in the bottom right of the photo. Here is the scan. The caption:
Genevieve de Galard-Terraube, wearing the French Air Medal and Silver Medal of Honor she had just received in Paris, is congratulated by Mme. Vitrone (right), who was decorated by the Government several years ago for work as a glider pilot. The awards were made at special ceremonies honoring the heroic "Angel of Dien Bien Phu."
The next article is by the United Press on July 3, accompanied by a photo by the Associated Press, but I don't have a newspaper name for the article. Here is the scan.
First invited by Congress
Dienbienphu Nurse Here on July 26 for Tour of U.S.
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, July 3 -- French nurse Genevienve de Galard-Terraube, "the angel of Dien Bien Phu," will arrive in New York July 26 for a three-week tour of the United States. Rep. Frances P. Bolton, R., Ohio, announced today. Mrs. Bolton is charman of a national welcome committee sponsoring the heroine's visit.

Miss de Galard is the first foreign citizen ever formally invited to the United States by an act of Congress. The House and Senate passed a unique invitation resolution, introduced by Mrs. Bolton, after the Frenchwoman won the admiration of the free world by her gallant work in nursing the wounded at the isolated French fortress in Indo-China.

Mrs. Bolton said Miss de Galard will visit New York, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She will travel in Defense Department transports planes and will be escorted by Miss Mary Vance Trent, a State Department foreign officer, and by Army, Navy and Air Force nurses. Mrs. Bolton will accompany the party in New York, Washington and Cleveland.

"We are delighted that on the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's historic nursing in the Crimean War we will honor a young woman whose devotion to duty has been unsurpassed in this century," said Rep. Bolton.

"Mlle. de Galard's visit will be a dramatic illustration of the daily sacrifices of nurses everywhere and of America's great need for more women in the nursing profession."

Accompanying caption: Lt. Genevieve de Galard-Terraube smiling after she received two medals in a ceremony in Paris. She is also wearing two decorations bestowed upon her in the field at Dienbienphu.
The next clipping is just a photo and a caption, credited to I.N.P. I don't know when it was published or what paper it was published in. Also, it's in French, which I don't speak. The photo appears to be President Eisenhower awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Galard. That took place on July 29, 1954. I believe the other people in the photo are French ambassador(?) Henri Bonnet and Rep. Frances Bolton. Here is a link to the scan of the clipping; if you know what it says, you're welcome to fill me in!

Two of these clippings were obviously posted somewhere with thumbtacks. You can see the holes in the clippings, and the paper is a lighter color where the thumbtacks were. I so want to know who it was who lovingly clipped these out in 1954, posted them somewhere and saved them in a Life magazine from 1958.

More reading:
  • Time: "Foreign News: Angel's Return," from May 31, 1954.
  • UNC TV: Military Nurses
  • (Also, if you read French, there are many, many articles on the Internet about Galard.)

2 comments:

Terence said...

Title of newsclipping translated from the french text:
After N.Y., Washington, Cleveland and Chicago welcome Mlle de Galard

Body of text from clipping translated from the french text:
In Washington President Eisenhower adds to the numerous decorations already received by Miss Genevieve de Galard-Terraube by pinning on the Medal of Liberty with Bronze Palms for her heroism on the battlefield of Dien Bien Phu. In the back row are Mr Henri Bonnet, French Ambassadeur and Mrs Frances Bolton, Deputy from Idaho and author of the resolution for Congress to invite Miss Galard to the United States.

Rosie said...

Thank you for the translation!

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