Home News Genevieve de Garard, France’s ‘Angel’ of Dien Bien Phu, dies at 99

Genevieve de Garard, France’s ‘Angel’ of Dien Bien Phu, dies at 99

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In the dark, filthy basement infirmary at the besieged French military base in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, Army nurse Geneviève de Galard spent nearly two months caring for the wounded — men with gaping holes in their backs, bullet wounds in their abdomens and shrapnel wounds everywhere.

On May 7, 1954, the Vietnam War ended with more than 10,000 soldiers captured by communist Viet Minh insurgents in one of the greatest military disasters in French history. Ms. Desgaard continued to change bandages for the wounded, refusing to leave their side. That’s when the legend of the “Angel of Dien Bien Phu,” as the American media later called her, was born.

Ms. Desgarral died in Paris on May 30 at the age of 99. comfirmed Released by the French Ministry of Defense. No other details were provided.

In the seven decades since the Dien Bien Phu battle ended nearly seven decades of French colonial rule, the modest aristocrat has insisted that whenever anyone asks her about it — questions that have become increasingly rare as France tries to forget its ignominious past — she was simply “I have done my duty.”

But the French are grateful to her. As Le Monde put it, she is “a legendary figure who can eliminate the trauma of failure and the fear of sacrifice.” About Ms. DeGarard 2005. Since 1954 cover story Published in Paris Match, In France, she received a hero’s welcome and was awarded numerous medals and decorations. The American people welcomed her with a standing ovation in Congress and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Eisenhower. Grand parade Along Broadway.

French Ambassador to the United States Henri Bonnet was “ecstatic” about the rare good publicity for a troubled France, as the reporter Ted Morgan In Death Valley (2010), His history Dien Bien Phu.

Even after her death, that spirit lives on. In honor of Ms. DeGalard, President Emmanuel Macron wrote: “For two months, as the only nurse in this tropical hell, where 15,000 soldiers fought and died, she worked day and night, braving extremely poor sanitary conditions, operating on the sick, comforting the sick, accompanying the sick. She healed not only the bodies of her patients, but also their souls.”

But these words – like Dispatching at the same time On May 17, 1954, The New York Times published a story that described Ms. DeGarard as the “only woman” at Dien Bien Phu, perpetuating a myth. Ms. DeGarard was neither the “only nurse” nor the “only woman” at the base, as some have claimed. Digging Benoît Hopquin, a journalist for Le Monde, made a similar point last year.

Like other French military bases, Dien Bien Phu housed two “field brothels,” or brothels run by the army, where dozens of Vietnamese and North African women took shelter. As artillery fire rained down on the city during the siege, the women “volunteered to become nurses’ assistants,” wrote Jean-Marie Madeleine, a military doctor, in a letter found by Le Monde. “They volunteered to undertake dangerous water transports, to clean up garbage, vomit, excrement, bandages dripping with blood and pus, to bring water to those who could no longer use their arms, to lend a hand to the dying. They were admirable.”

These women have had their traces erased by history and the French military establishment, which is in no hurry to remember them; Memoirs The author is Ms. Garrard.

The memoir, translated into English as The Angel of Dien Bien Phu, describes in a bland tone how she and others were trapped at the base 280 miles from Hanoi. In his own memoirs, Eisenhower considered the establishment of the base a strategic mistake by the French that made him “horrified.”

“I just said, ‘Gosh, you don’t put troops in forts, history shows they just get smashed to pieces,’ ” he wrote.

Indeed, the United States provided a lot of funding for the French war in Indochina, but they did not help save Dien Bien Phu.

In the months leading up to this final battle, General Vo Nguyen Giap The Viet Minh laid heavy artillery fire on the surrounding hills. By March 30, 1954, the base was surrounded, the airfield was unusable, Ms. Degarard’s plane was damaged, and there was no escape route from the base.

Ms. Degaral wrote that the 29-year-old was “responsible for the emergency care of the most seriously injured.”

“I worked under the electric light in the corridor, with one knee on the ground and the other on the edge of the stretcher,” she continued. “Every day, in this underground place full of suffering, I took care of the wounded, gave injections, changed bandages, and distributed medicines.”

Major Paul-Henri Grauwen, the attending physician, wrote in an article Memoirs: “As the shells fell, I watched her and was amazed by her calmness. She moved from one injured person to another, unfazed. She had the gestures, the gentleness, the precision that was needed.”

Ms. Degarard recalled that the face and hands of one of the wounded were “wrapped like a mummy.” “Soon, the blind young man, who was still in good spirits, began to try to play the harmonica, causing laughter around him.”

On April 29, as the Viet Minh approached, she was summoned to the underground bunker of the commander, General Christian Delacroix de Castries. Outside the bunker, the sound of shells exploding could be heard, and the general awarded Ms. Galarard with France’s highest civilian decoration, the Legion of Honor.

The citation reads: “To the soldiers of Dien Bien Phu, she will always be the purest embodiment of the heroic virtues of the French nurse.”

Geneviève Marie Anne Marthe de Garard Trabes was born on April 13, 1925 in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, the daughter of Henri-Marie Ogier de Garard Trabes, a reserve officer from an old aristocratic family in southwestern France, and Germaine Suzanne Louise Marie de Roussel de Prévert. Her father died when she was 9 years old.

Genevieve went to school in Paris and, at the beginning of World War II, near her family’s ancestral estate near Toulouse.

During and after the war, Ms. Desgarral studied English at the Sorbonne and received a diploma in nursing in 1950. After recuperating at a Benedictine monastery, she joined the French armed forces’ flight nurse corps, caring for wounded soldiers evacuated from battlefields by air.

With fighting raging in French Indochina in late 1946, she first travelled there in 1953, attached to Lanai San Hospital in Hanoi. By the time the Battle of Dien Bien Phu broke out, she had already flown many rescue missions there and elsewhere.

“I really wish things could have ended differently.” Tell Le Figaro in 2014.

The Viet Minh freed her on May 21, 1954, and she left Dien Bien Phu on the 24th, while thousands of other French prisoners died on the way to the camps. Later that year, France handed North Vietnam to the Communists led by Ho Chi Minh, precipitating the country’s ill-fated division and drawing the United States into a war it had vowed not to fight.

Ms. Desgarral was discharged from the army in 1955 and the following year married Captain Jean de Heaulme de Boutsocq, a paratrooper who was one of the first people to greet her upon her release.

Ms. Desgarard, whose married name was Geneviève de Heaulme de Boutsocq, is survived by her husband, a colonel; her sons, François and Christophe; her daughter, Véronique de Heaulme de Boutsocq; and three grandchildren.

Ms. Desgarral followed her husband to Madagascar and elsewhere. When she returned to Paris, she became a city councillor for the 17th arrondissement, continuing to live in the apartment where she had lived as a child. She held that position for 18 years.

She told the interviewer that the Dien Bien Phu experience had a profound impact on her life.

“Because I am a woman, my presence seems to make this hell less cruel,” she wrote. “In Dien Bien Phu, I am a mother, a sister, a friend in a way.”

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