Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
Jacqueline Ariol is not officially a military veteran. However, she was the first woman military test pilot and France’s most distinguished aviatrix.
Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol was born Nov. 5, 1917 in France. She graduated from the University in Nantes with a degree in art, which she continued studying at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. At twenty-one, (1938) she married Paul Ariol. They had two sons. During World War II, she fought with the French Resistance against the German Gestapo. Her husband’s father Vincent later became President of France.
After the war, her biography states that she began flying “out of curiosity”. She took to flying as if she were born to it. Indeed, her biography is entitled Vivre et Voler, 1968. It was translated by Pamela Swinglehurst as I Live to Fly, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970. Nothing stopped her tenacious desire to fly. During the twenty-two surgical operations she endured to rebuild her face after a seaplane in which she was a passenger crashed, she continued to fly. She qualified as a tourist pilot in 1948 and in 1949 – between operations -- earned her helicopter rating in only four weeks at the Bell Aircraft factory in New York. By 1950 she had gained her license as a military pilot and became the world's first woman test pilot.
August 3, 1953 Jacqueline Ariol was the second woman to break the sound barrier.
She and Jacqueline Cochran often competed amicably. Known affectionately as “les deux Jacqueline” , they swapped the women’s world speed record between each other for over a decade. Auriol held the women's world speed record five times between 1951 and 1964.
During her career as pilot, Ariol was awarded the 1952,1953, and 1955 Harmon International Trophies, the Paul Tissander Diploma in 1953, the 1963 Gold Air Medal, La Grande Medaille de L'Aero Club de France in 1963, and the Legion d'Honneur. Ariol was honored as an Eagle (as in “Gathering of Eagles” – an international program which recognizes distinguished aviation pioneers) in 1992 and was made Grand'croix (Grand cross) of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1997.
Jacqueline passed away February 11, 2000.
Aircraft she tested and flew include
British Vampire jet
Military test pilot, French Resistance fighter, survivor of a disfiguring airplane crash and the subsequent operations, repeatedly recognized as one of the fastest flyers in the world -- Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol laid the ground-work for women military veterans to proudly follow.