Nirouet, Collette (Combatants/Military Personnel)


French volunteer soldier during World War II who died fighting in Alsace. Collette Nirouet, a young Parisian woman, joined the 6th company of the Auvergne Regiment of the French First Army on October 15, 1944. Nirouet was an eighteen-year-old student who initially served as a nurse, although there is no evidence that she had any formal medical training. Following her insistence, the captain of her regiment permitted her to fight as a soldier. For the next few months, she participated fully in the activities of the company, both offensive and defensive, in the line of fire in the forests of Oberwald. She wore a woman’s uniform of the U.S. army, not civilian clothing.

Nirouet’s family background and initial life experiences perhaps explain why she desired to fight for her country. Her father, a genealogist, had fought for France during World War I, earning the Croix de Guerre. Her brother, permanently injured from a bicycle accident, was unable to be a soldier. Collette felt it was her duty to replace her brother at the front. She also may have joined the army because of experiences at her grandmother’s home in Pont-de-Pany that served as a refuge for Allied soldiers. Nirouet not only witnessed the crash of an RAF plane, but also helped provide medical aid for the injured pilot.

Nirouet earned an affectionate nickname, Joan of Arc, from her brothers in arms during the course of her service. They so-named her because of her courage and patriotism. She was also known as Evelyne, a name that stuck with her even after her death. It is under the name of Evelyne Meunier that she appears on the list of those killed on November 26, 1944, in the Journal des Marches of the 152nd Regiment infan-terie, Campaign 1944-1945.

Nirouet was fatally wounded on November 12, 1944, in the battle of Oberwald. She was not, however, decorated by France until August 30, 1985. Her posthumously awarded decorations include the French commemorative war medal for World War II (with a barrette "liberation"). The delayed recognition of Nirouet stemmed from the fact that her body was never found. Apparently the Germans took her corpse along with their wounded as they retreated from the battlefield. Also because of her nom de guerre, she did not appear among the list of dead from that battle. On February 23, 1984, a fellow World War II veteran, Antonin Cabi-zolles, began a quest to recognize Collette Nirouet. Through a lengthy and difficult process, Cabizolles was able to piece together the story of her life and military service. He contacted his comrades, who knew Nirouet personally and fought alongside her. These men provided Cabizolles with the testimony required to write her biography.

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