Lucette & Odette Lecoq

In April of 2015 I received an e-mail from Severine Lecoq, who lives Marseilles, France. Severine has been researching the life and times of her grandmother Lucette Lecoq, a nurse attached to the Free French Army, and her great-aunt, Odette Lecoq, who fought with the Resistance prior to D-Day, then served side by side with her sister as an ambulance driver after the invasion. Sadly, both were killed in action a few days before the war ended.

Severine wrote to me because among the papers of her mother that were handed down was an address book, and in that book was the serial number, name, unit, and mailing address of my father, PFC Leon B. Cohen, Co. A, 110th Medical Battalion.

Getting the story straight was something of  process, because I do not speak French and Severine does not speak English. Thank God for Google Translate! Apparently my father met Lucette or possibly both sisters when his unit liberated their hometown of Joigny, about 40 miles to the east of Montargis, on August 24, 1944. After this action, units of the 35th Infantry Division remained in place until going back into action on September 10. During this time my father, who spoke French... and at the age of 23 was quite interested in meeting French women, most likely met the Lucette. It is the only time where their paths would have crossed.  

Lucette Lecoq Odette Lecoq

The purpose of this page is two-fold. One is two honor these courageous women who gave their lives not only in defense of their nation, but in the process of trying to preserve the lives of wounded soldiers.

The second part is more personal. Lucette Lecoq gave birth to a son while stationed in North Africa in 1943. The father is thought to have been an American officer. His name is not known for certain, as the subject, for reasons explained below, was taboo in the Lecoq family. There are two American officers, whose names also appear in the address book. Although that is hardly proof of paternity, it does show that they, like my father, knew Lucette. The two officers, Captain H. Arthur Nillen and Lieutenant Robert G. Mainzer, have both passed on, however, it is hoped that photos can be obtained of them, as well as those of two Australian officers, Captain A. Lang, Royal Australian Medical Corps, and Captain Shimmin, Royal Australian Service Corps. Although 70 years have passed since they were killed in action, Severine would like to contact anyone who may have known her grandmother or great-aunt directly or indirectly.

Below you will find a letter from Severine with her story and two other documents concerning her grandmother Lucette and her great-aunt Odette, images from the address book, and photographs of them, some taken days before they were lost.

Phil Cohen
Severine Lecoq


On April 26, 2014 I received the following e-mail. I was in transit from New Jersey to my home in North Dakota at the time, but was very interested in its contents. The e-mail, however, was in French, and I do not have a gift for language. Thank Goodness for Google Translate. I have cleaned the Google version up a bit for clarity's sake. 


I'm French and I live in Marseille, Do you speak French? I am doing  research on my grandfather. I am the granddaughter of Lucette Lecoq, a nurse attached to the Red Cross at the beginning of the Second World War, and eventually for the Free French Army. That is my story, or rather that of my father, his was mother was that nurse in the army of the Red Cross, and his father was a member of the American military. My grandmother died April 24, 1945 a few days before the end of the war. There is not too much else that we know, because at the time to have a child out of wedlock was something to be kept hidden. All the letters written between my grandmother and the man she was involved with were destroyed, however, we found some documents and especially two notebooks kept by my grandmother where there were written the names and addresses of several American officers and enlisted men, and also members of the British and Canadian military as well.

Can you help me identify these people? Thank you for your help.


Séverine Lecoq

Severine had two pictures attached to this letter, and one of them had my father's name, unit and mailing address. Needless to say, I knew I had to do something with this quest.

Severine Lecoq writes about her quest

Lucette ...

Since I was small always have told myself that I would tell her story and that one day I will seek for "the American. "

I am proud to be his daughter. The woman fascinates me....

Their story began between 1942 and 1943, possibly in Algiers, during the Second World War. We do not much about their relationship. What clues, for example in a letter sent to her parents, Lucette wrote that her son had received two pairs of shoes for Christmas from his father, proving that he knew of his son's existence.

My father was born October 4, 1943 at the SOLAL Clinic in Algiers. Dr. Jahier attended the childbirth. Dr. Jahier also filled out the birth certificate in the city hall of Algiers. My Father was baptized at Daria. Lucette then put my father with a lady who kept him close for over a year until her parents claimed him. This woman made the trip with my father up the Yonne near Joigny in France. My father thinks his parents were afraid that Captain A. Nillen would come and retrieve his son, after Lucette was killed in action. The subject thus remained taboo.

In a handwritten letter found in the affairs of my father it is written:

"Odette and Lucette 25 and 23 were very dedicated ambulance drivers, spent their days and nights served the wounded. They were always in front of the lines. Their motto "Saving lives" - they thought were helping the wounded despising the danger - they were admired by the soldiers under fire. "

Click on Images to Enlarge

November 19, 1942 - Unit Citation for bravery

General Order of 12-11-1942: 

General Boissau, commander of the Territorial Division of Oran, has cited the order of the division, the detachment of the Automotive Division North African ORAN: 

Under the command of Madamoiselle DE L'ESPEE, thanks to the dedication and courage of its leader and driver, Lucette LECOQ (8 other drivers) Provided ongoing relief of the injured and dying on the field of battle under fire and shelling, consistently demonstrated the greatest coolness and absolute contempt for danger, managed to cross the lines to accomplish its mission, thus saving a large number of injured, without losing a vehicle and giving a great example of quiet bravery. 
Oran, 19 November 1942. 

General Boissau, Commandant Oran
signed Division: Boissau

Lucette Lecoq
French North Africa (Algeria) - 1943

Odette Lecoq

Right: Odette Lecoq at far right with unkown friends

Pages from the Address Book belonging to Lucette Lecoq
Captain H. Arthur Nillen
United States Army
Headquarters, Central Task Force, II Corps

Captain A. Lang
Royal Australian Medical Corps
West Africa Hospital Section

Lieutenat Robert G. Mainzer
United Sates Army
Headqaurters, Ist Air Service Area

Captain Shimmin
Royal Australian Service Corps - General Transport
225 Company

Private First Class Leon B. Cohen
Company A, 110th Medical Battalion
Mrs. Henriette Fallwell
402 Westover Avenue
Roanoke, Virginia

Mrs. Fallwell was born in Henriette Messager in Tours, France. She met her husband John Holman Fallwell while he was serving in France with the United States Army during World War I, and came to America in 1919. Both Mr. & Mrs. Fallwell worked as teachers in the Roanoke public school system. The 1930 Census shows that there were three children- Jacques, Andre, and Marie Fallwell. Sadly, Private First Class Andre Portevin Fallwell was illed in action on Christmas Day, December 25, 1944 while serving with Company L, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division while taking part in the American counter-offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, during the advance to the Sauer River at Echternach.

Sadly, her oldest son, Jacques, who had also served in the Army, died in 1950. Mrs. Fallwell was teaching as late as 1963. She passed away in 1965.

How Lucette Lecoq acquired Mrs. Fallwell's  address is somewhat of a mystery. Mrs. Fallwell had traveled back to France in 1936, but there does not seem to be a family connection. The most likely explanation is that she met one of her sons... but why not their postal information? It truly is a mystery.

Odette & Lucille Lecoq
April 20, 1945


Odette & Lucille Lecoq
April 22, 1945


Letter from
Lucille Lecoq
to her parents
April 12, 1945

Please note that this translation and others were done using Google Translate which can be, to say the least, a but rough. I edited them as best I could for clarity, as the translated texts sentence structures rendered a few of the sentences illogical, at best. 

My Dear Parents,

When stopped for a while, I want to make you a word. And do not worry if you get hurt from us, right now we have so much faster than the mail can not even follow us. If you see the equipment abandoned by the Krauts, stations are full of goods train looted by civilians, there are boxes all over. We find our equipment by them chipés cars, jackets, etc. .... Their is taken our Citroen. The other day with Odette had recovered a motorcycle, but it is compact, it has been forced to leave again on the roadside.

I think in a few days the war is over in Europe at least.

On the roads many deportees who tell us hellos, especially Polish, Russian and also the Alsatians, the poor are all happy now. I do not think there were so many. It's simple in villages and towns there are more German men as children and the elderly. (No deciphered?) Agriculture and industry was composed solely of prisoners and deportees. 

For two days he makes a pig time it rains well it even snowed.

I have no news of Algiers, if it continues we will find ourselves in Vienna. 

Odette is repairing a door of the car, we could not open it. 

I hope Dad's knee is healed and my uncle Maurice how is he? Embrace well the family to us.

I leave you because we will lunch before leaving can be.

I embrace you both very strong. Your big girl who often think of you

Lucette LECOQ.

Odette & Lucille Lecoq's Ambulance
April 24, 1945

April 24, 1945 - The death of drivers Odette and Lucette Lecoq

On 21 April 1945, the 1st Armored Division reached and crossed the Danube: Combat Command 1 is in Müllheim, Combat Command 2 in Tuttlingen to Lake Constance and Combat Command 3 in Lörrach providing coverage of the Swiss border.

On April 24, all goals were achieved and we were forbidden to go further.

The vast area covered during this rapid progress was not yet cleared many routed Germans took refuge in the woods.

"Woe to him who risked going without protection"

On April 24 at 10 am the Lecoq sisters were given a mission to evacuate three wounded (Cuirassier Mairot and two wounded Germans). They took their charges south of Ulm to transport to Mengen where refuelling track of our aircraft is furnished. Lucille decides to go through Sauggart, as they have taken this path in peace yesterday. The atmosphere is very relaxed because the end of the war is near and the certain victory. And yet!

It is not yet midday when they reach Sauggart. Cuirassier Mairot, sole survivor of the tragedy, reports that a sidecar with three SS aboard is blocking the road. Lucette brakes. The Germans surround the ambulance. Very quietly those in the ambulance stare in astonishment and Odette asks Mairot not to move. Suddenly there is a burst of machine gun fire, Odette collapses on her sister who is calm which in turn hit the net killed. The Germans were aware that this was an ambulance, the red crosses visible from a distance and they were less than a meter from the door. The German wounded then attempted to run screaming their identities. These wounded escape death and saves the life of Mairot, who is imprisoned in Ravensburg where he was released the next day by his comrades.

A Piper Cub spotted the column, which is destroyed by artillery. Combat Command 1 was alertly dispatched , a detachment of the 2nd Armored Regiment and 3rd Cavalry to clear the village.

The two sisters were friends of these soldiers and their desire for revenge was understandable. It is well that the destruction of the village was avoided, honoring their comrades by avoiding a massacre. Buried comrades of BAYARD Network of the Regiment of Volunteers of the Yonne and all the 1st Armored Division.

The Lecoq sisters were from the Yonne region, near Joigny. The eldest, Lucette, who was in Oran did not participate in the landing in Provence (the south of France) for health reasons, probably to the birth of his son Jean Christian. She joined the Medical Battalion in time to participate in the November campaign in Alsace. Her sister Odette had remained in France, joining the BAYARD Network of Resistance from 1942 to 1944 where she participated in the fighting. The network then became the Belfort Volunteers Regiment, which became the 35th Infantry Regiment under amalgam, and fought with the 1st Army in the combat zone of Belfort. She was then assigned to Lucette's unit where they teamed up and and where they both met their cruel fate. They were 25 and 23 years old.

about the death of drivers
Lucette & Odette Lecoq

From Captain De L'Espee
Commandant of the 34th Administartive Unit
Commandant of the Train of the First French Army



(waiting on transcription for translation)








In a handwritten letter found in the affairs of my father it is written:
"Odette and Lucette 25 and 23 were very dedicated ambulance drivers, spent their days and nights served the wounded. They were always in front of the lines. Their motto "Saving lives" - they thought were helping the wounded despising the danger - they were admired by the-soldiers under fire. "

Letter of April 29, 1945 to Lucette and Odette's mother
from Solange De la Brosse


No doubt you expect the worst, having no more news of Odette and Lucette, it is as a comrade and section head painful that I have to announce that they were killed heroically in service driving their ambulance as they transported the wounded.

They had left the rescue outpost Tuesday the 24th at 11am and arrived in a village taken leave German who killed them at close range, their death was instant, poor girls did not suffer. The village was that evening. A French officer did bring the body to the advanced dressing station, where they were transported by two of their comrades back to our position at Mangen; they were watched over by us all in a very painful recollection because we liked them both enormously; they had already been admired for their courage and their youth.

A Mass was said Wednesday morning at 9 am in the chapel of the hospital and the funeral took place in the evening at 5 o'clock in the cemetery at Mengen (Canton Saulgan), Wurttemberg. We covered their graves with flowers; being sure that you will take to bring your two little girls close to you, we have arranged for them to be transported.

One of their very good friend wanted to take care of their personal business, a very detailed letter from him will reach you very soon.

Be sure Madame, I remain at your disposal waiting to see you to give you all the details you want.

My comrades and I even take part in your heartbreak as well as that of Mr. Lecoq. Despite your great pain you can be proud of and Lucette and Odette who died in battle to save the lives of our fighters.

I beg you to believe Madame my feelings of great sadness.

Solange de la Brosse

Letter of May 12, 1945 to Lucette and Odette's parents
from Lieutenant Dentist Marcel Peuch-Lestrade

Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

It is with great emotion that I establish a relationship with you. Iam Lieutenant Dentist Marcel Peuch-Lestrade, Liaison Officer of the Medical Company.

I write because I was spiritually and remain a friend of Odette and Lucette.

The purpose of my letter is not to teach you the horrible event, I know you are aware. I want to let me know and tell me because I'll tell you about you and they bring a little bit of it.

After a few days of combat, Lucette and Odette were the admiration of all who saw them. When they fell under enemy bullets in their ambulance loaded with wounded. for our unit and for all units that work with us, for all the soldiers it was a terrible blow. And revenge was terrible too.

For my part I have known and suffered again, my greatest pain. It is that all three of us were bound by the most beautiful friendship, that is we were inseparable and that I grieve for the two little ones.

I knew Lucette from her arrival in Alsace in January. Fellowship between all of us in our small unit was even greater for we two. Then Odette came who charmed us all. Throughout the days of fighting we had a wonderful time, of that you had echoes through their letters. From what I've known I can tell you that Lucette and Odette lived there and one of the happiest times of their lives. We lived a common life and holidays after the very tough month we had known.

Lucette, Odette, and I were still together and we were similar in our tastes, our characters and in long conversations Jean-Christian and you Madame and Monsieur were not the smallest subjects.

Then the German campaign began and everything finished in a sad tragedy.

My goal then was no longer than to know in great detail what happened and to gather all the relics. Days and days were necessary to overcome many difficulties, I come to the end now. In this letter I can only briefly summarize what I have to offer you: a journal on their last weeks and above their last hours (for and by me). The results of a thorough investigation. A suitcase with the business of Lucette, a suitcase with the affairs of Odette, a box with their common affairs. I am also on the hunt to gather the photos that have been taken or of the circumstances ... It is all that I am allowed to keep with me, I attach too much importance to entrust it to an administration I know the slowness and insecurity of, or anyone else.

Several people among us know about Christian and all of his caregivers. The goal is to make you have the child as soon as possible.

Poor parents, I know your pain and believe that someone shares with you. Hate will not make you nor replace your precious daughters, take courage, raise your head, look away: The greatest honor you can give Odette and Lucette, nothing could leave you better off is little of it. Similarly, it is itself, Jean Christian Lecoq.

Lucette and Odette were killed instantly at 11:15 on 24 April, were given a funeral with military honors and buried in the French military cemetery of Biberach (of Alsace in Württemberg). Their bodies must be later transferred to France.

Dear Madam, Dear Sir, I can do nothing for the girls, what I do now is for you and Christian. I am available for whatever you want.

I do not expect to go to Joigny for several weeks, so I ask you to send a message, so short that it may be, I also need for my pain.

Lieutenant Dentist Peuch-Lestrade

February 18, 1946
Odette Lecoq is posthumously awarded
the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre with palm

Cemetery at Chamvres, France