Valérie André

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Valérie André
Médecin general Valérie André (cropped).jpg
Valérie André in 2015
Born (1922-04-21) 21 April 1922 (age 98)
Strasbourg, France
AllegianceFrance France
Service/branchFrench Army
Years of service1948 - 1981
RankMédecin Général Inspecteur
AwardsLégion d'honneur
ordre national du Mérite
Croix de guerre 1939-1945
Croix de guerre T.O.E
Croix de la Valeur Militaire
Médaille commémorative d'Indochine
Médaille de l'Aéronautique
Croix du Combattant Volontaire
Médaille de Vermeil du service de santé

Valérie André (French pronunciation: [valeʁi ɑ̃dʁe] (About this soundlisten); born 21 April 1922, in Strasbourg) is a veteran of the French resistance, a neurosurgeon, an aviator and the first female member of the military to achieve the rank of General Officer, in 1976, as Physician General. In 1981, she was promoted to Inspector General of Medicine. A helicopter pilot, she is the first woman to have piloted a helicopter in a combat zone. She is also a founding member of the Académie de l'air et de l'espace.[1]

As a member of the military, she is not addressed as "Madame la Générale" (a term reserved for spouses of generals) but as "General".[2]

She started as a Medical Captain in Indochina in 1948, already a qualified parachutist and pilot, in addition to being an army surgeon.[3][4] While in Indochina, she realized that the most difficult part of her duties was retrieving the wounded, who were often trapped in the jungle. She returned to France to learn how to pilot a helicopter, then flew one to Indochina. From 1952-1953, she piloted 129 helicopter missions into the jungle, rescuing 165 soldiers, and on two occasions completed parachute jumps to treat wounded soldiers who needed immediate surgery.[5][6]

One typical mission occurred on 11 December 1951, when casualties were in urgent need of evacuation from Tu Vu on the Black River. The only available helicopter, stationed near Saigon, was dismantled, flown to Hanoi by a Bristol Freighter and reassembled. Captain André then flew into Tu Vu despite heavy mist and anti-aircraft fire. There, she triaged the casualties, operated on the most pressing cases and then flew the urgent wounded back to Hanoi, two at a time. Later, she was put in command of a casualty evacuation flight.

She continued in Algeria as a Medical Commander in 1960, where she completed 365 war missions. She rose to the rank of Medical Lieutenant Colonel in 1965 then to Medical Colonel in 1970. She had a total of 3200 flight hours, and received 7 citations of the croix de guerre.

She has written two collections of memoirs : Ici, Ventilateur! Extraits d'un carnet de vol. (Calmann-Lévy, 1954) and Madame le général (Perrin, 1988).

She is one of eight women to hold the Grand-croix (Great Cross) rank in the Legion of Honour, with Germaine Tillion, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Jacqueline de Romilly, Simone Rozès, Christiane Desroches Noblecourt, Yvette Farnoux et Gilberte Champion. She is the aunt of politician André Santini.


Foreign decorations


  1. ^ "Valerie Andre". Société d'aviation de la Gruyère. Archived from the original on May 26, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ Le mamouth: Un brevet, 54 ans après
  4. ^ "''Ventilators'' : Helicopters in Indo-China (1950-54)". Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  5. ^ "Le médecin général inspecteur Valérie André à l'honneur". French Ministry of Defense. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  6. ^ "Captain Valerie Andre: First Woman to Pilot a Helicopter in a Combat Zone". Daytips. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2011.

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