‘Angel of Dien Bien Phu’ speaks at Annual Meeting 


The military nurse who became a worldwide hero during the French Indochina War brought her true-life story of bravery and dedication to the AUSA Book Forum Oct. 25 at Association of the United States Army’s 2010 Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Genevieve de Galard is the author of "Angel of Dien Bien Phu: The Lone French Woman at the Battle for Vietnam."

The book was originally published in her native France several years ago and it was then translated into English and published this month by the U.S. Naval Institute Press as an AUSA book.

Association member and author William Haponski contributed the introduction and a chronology of battles.

De Galard, now 85, was from a historically prominent French family. She became a nurse in 1953 and volunteered to go to French Indochina because she wanted to serve her country.

She worked as a flight nurse and cared for wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefields.

During one flight, in March 1954, the C-47 she was on board was damaged upon landing, and de Galard was stranded in the midst of battle. She cared for soldiers in the field hospital – the lone woman among thousands of men – and spent 17 days in communist captivity.

Stories of her courage and fortitude filtered out, and the American press bestowed upon her the nickname "Angel of Dien Bien Phu."

"Every day, I attended to the wounded, giving shots and changing bandages and distributing medicine," de Galard said in prepared remarks "Very soon I realized the importance of the presence of a woman in the middle of the battle. When wounded, the toughest man becomes as vulnerable as a child.

"I was, in a way, a mother, a sister, a friend. My mere presence…seemed to render this hell a little less inhuman."

During her talk, de Galard noted that this visit was her third to the United States. The first was in 1954, when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Eisenhower in a White House ceremony. De Galard is also the recipient of several other prestigious honors, including the Knight’s Cross of the Legion d’honneur.

Six other authors sponsored by AUSA spoke about their books during the forum.

They were D.K.R. Crosswell, author of  "Beetle: The Life of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith," (University Press of Kentucky, October); Ira Hunt, author of "Unparalleled and Unequaled: The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam" (University Press of Kentucky, October); and Timothy K. Nenninger, who served as editor for "The Way of Duty, Honor, Country: The Memoirs of Charles Pelot Summerall" (University Press of Kentucky, October).

Also on the program were: Lawrence Kaplan, author of "Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune" (University Press of Kentucky, September); Seth Folsom, author of "In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War" (U. S. Naval Institute Press, September); and Stephen M. Rusiecki, who wrote "In the Final Defense of the Reich" (U. S. Naval Institute Press, October).

AUSA has sponsored 35 books in the past 10 years, according to Roger Cirillo, director of the book program. "Most of the books were written by first-time authors," he said.