Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rochambelles

"They're not women, they're ambulance drivers." - General Philippe Leclerc


According to the book Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the WWII Front the Rochambelles were "the only women's unit on the European front lines of WWII." The women formed an ambulance group and joined Leclerc's Second Armored Division. The book describes the formation of the Rochambelles, their journey to North Africa and eventually France where they were part of the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Paris and finally ended at Hitler's Berchtesgaden.

I have read many biographies about women in war and until now most of them were biographies of WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). I'm glad I branched out a bit and read about the Rochambelles. For women whose traditional role was to be wife and mother and not much else, what they did was simply amazing. They, like the WASPS, were able to step out of the expected role and take on a new role - that of driving ambulances, saving lives, sometimes living outside in freezing cold temperatures and being shot at or hit with shrapnel from mortars.

There are so many stories out there from WWII; still so much to learn...unfortunately there are not many left to tell the stories or to teach us. Books like Women of Valor, help tell their stories. I only wish I had been as interested in history when I was a child as I am now - maybe then I would have taken the opportunity to ask my grandparents for their stories and for the opportunity to learn from them. Instead, I will continue to read biographies such as this one and try to learn what I can about these great people who sacrificed everything for their country and for freedom.

2 comments:

  1. I swear I've seen a PBS documentary on the women of the Rochambelles, but I can't find it quickly online. Perhaps it was just a local WILL production that focused on two women from the Champaign, IL area who did that during WWII. I think that was it. One of the two women came to speak at our Rotary Club, and her experience was simply amazing!

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  2. That's awesome! I would have loved to have been there to hear her speak. I've always been interested in the WACS and this book made me realize women did a lot of different things to support the war effort, not just help fly planes (though I still think flying is the best)...pretty cool stuff.

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