Simone Segouin: A Young Woman Resistance Fighter Who Helped Liberate Paris

 

Imagine being a young woman of almost 14 when the Third Reich invaded your province in France during the summer of 1940.

Simone Segouin was such a person when the German Blitzkrieg descended on her area.

Segouin was a native of Chartres, France. She grew up in a household that included three brothers. Her father had been a decorated soldier throughout World War I. She attended school till the age of 14 when she was needed to help out on the household farm.

She spoke German fluently, a skill that would prove helpful in a few short  years time, aiding her in her ability to combat the Nazis.

Once she decided to not simply sit back silently hoping to survive the atrocities that the German occupation was creating,  she defied the Third Reich in an act of brazen rebellion. She went over to the local German military administration, stole a bicycle that she desired and then sliced up the tires of all of the other bikes and motorcycles. That way no German patrols could pursue her.

When a few local Resistance members heard of her determination, she was invited to become a member. Once she joined this fight, she used the stolen bike to deliver messages between Resistance groups.

Due to the Allies victorious landing in Normandy in June 1944, and also the work of Resistance members, many parts of France were freed from the Third Reich during August of that year.

The German occupation of Chartres ended on August 16th, 1944. The young Seguoin had played a role in this battle, as she had assisted in the capture of 25 German prisoners. As far as her war torn city, its gorgeous cathedral was spared by American aircraft: The Chartres Cathedral was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the High Command’s order to destroy it. {1}

By the time that the battle for the liberation of Paris was to occur a mere few days later, on August 25th 1944, the woman  was already an important and highly trusted resistance warrior. In a conversation with Jack Belden, published in Life magazine in 1944 under the heading ‘The Girl Partisan of Chartres, Segouin & ‘Lieutenant Roland’,  Roland said that Segouin’s involvement with the French Resistance rose after the two met when she was just 17.

The lieutenant also revealed to Life on how he had taught her to use a sub machine gun and had  introduced Segouin to other members of his organization. To join the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, Segouin had to acquire false identity documents, which confirmed her as Nicole Minet.

These papers classified her as being from the port of Dunkirk, which had been bombed to smithereens early in the war, making it hard for Germans to prove the documents’ authenticity. Then during her stint as a member of the Francs-Tireurs et Patisans, a combat alliance made up of militant communists and French nationalists, she saw her abilities to be effective against the Germans increase.

As she was an extremely fast learner her fellow resistance fighters taught her to  become an expert at tactics and explosives. She led teams of Resistance fighters to capture German troops, set traps, and sabotage German equipment. As the war dragged on, her deeds escalated to derailing German trains, blocking roads, blowing up bridges and in general, helping to create a German-free path that was part of the reason  that  the Allied forces could retake France from the inside. She was never caught.

After Paris was liberated, one of the most famous photographs that quickly went viral across newsreels and newspapers around the world was the image of this young female fighter standing outside a building where German soldiers were hiding.

Due to this photo she would become a symbol of the women’s involvement in the Resistance.

Among the many French media outlets that offered her accolades was the the French newspaper “The Independent Eure-et-Loir.” In its August 26, 1944 issue this newspaper  described her as “one of the purest fighters of heroic French Resistance who prepared the way for the Liberation”.

After Paris was liberated, she herself was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and awarded several medals, including the Croix de Guerre. Then a street in Courville-sur-Eure was named for her.

After the war, she studied medicine and became a pediatric nurse. She passed away on February 21st, 2023 at the age of 97.

Simone Segouin (Wikimedia Commons)

Citation regarding the survival of the Chartres cathedral:
[1] On 16 August 1944, Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the necessity of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the Germans were using it as an observation post. With his driver, Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and, after searching it all the way up its bell tower, confirmed to Headquarters that it was empty of Germans. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn.

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  1. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Judging by the photo of the outfit which she was wearing during the battle to liberate Paris, Seguoin was also a pioneer of the fashion statement known as the  mini-skirt.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    A great story, CarolJoy! Thanks. 

    • #2
  3. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Judging by the photo of the outfit which she was wearing during the battle to liberate Paris, Seguoin was also a pioneer of the fashion statement known as the mini-skirt.

    I thought those were shorts

    • #3
  4. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Judging by the photo of the outfit which she was wearing during the battle to liberate Paris, Seguoin was also a pioneer of the fashion statement known as the mini-skirt.

    I thought those were shorts

    In the original color photo which  I used to illustrate her demeanor and attire after the battle of Paris, the clothing appeared to be a mini skirt. I think mods changed the photo that  I had posted due to its not being in the public sphere as far as copyrights go.

    • #4
  5. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Judging by the photo of the outfit which she was wearing during the battle to liberate Paris, Seguoin was also a pioneer of the fashion statement known as the mini-skirt.

    I thought those were shorts

    In the original color photo which I used to illustrate her demeanor and attire after the battle of Paris, the clothing appeared to be a mini skirt. I think mods changed the photo that I had posted due to its not being in the public sphere as far as copyrights go.

    Well, congrats for the promotion to Main Feed, but the other photo was better for the discussion of mini skirt or shorts. I still say shorts, but in the new photo…check out the pockets!

    • #5
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