Women's History Month Spotlight: Susan Travers

Published: Feb. 29, 2016 at 1:05 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2016 at 9:00 AM CST
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(KFVS) - March is National Women's History Month, and in the spotlight for March 4, 2016 is Susan Travers, the only woman to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion.

Travers was born in England, and moved with her family to the south of France when she was young.

When World War II broke out, Travers joined the French Red Cross as a nurse, and later became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. When the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway, she escaped by ship, eventually landing in England where she joined General Charles De Gaulle's Free French Forces.

As part of her service Travers was a driver for several French Foreign Legion officers in Syria, North Africa.

In May of 1942, she led a convoy retreating from German attacks in Libya. Travers later reported her commander told her to get in front of the column and drive as fast as she could so the rest would follow. By the time Travers crossed British lines, her car had at least 11 bullet holes and no brakes.

Travers went on to serve in Italy, France and Germany driving ambulances, trucks and even a self-propelled anti-tank gun.

After the war, Travers applied to become a an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She did not specify her sex on the application, and it was accepted, essentially rubber-stamped by an officer who knew and admired her.

Travers was given the rank Chief Adjutant, the equivalent to a U.S. Sergeant Major and was posted to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War.

Travers waited until she was 91-years-old to publish her autobiography in 2000. By then both her husband, whom she met after WWII, and her lovers during the war had passed away. It is titled Tomorrow to be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion.

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