Hawaii's French Connection: Hawaii couple wins France's highest honor

Published: Nov. 11, 2010 at 4:59 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2010 at 10:39 PM HST
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Louise McCluer
Louise McCluer
Kaimi Judd
Kaimi Judd
Dr. James Judd
Dr. James Judd

By Malika Dudley - bio | email

JUILLY, France (HawaiiNewsNow) - Veteran's Day was originally named Armistice Day. It marks the end of "The Great War" in 1918 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France. In the final segment of her French Connection series, Malika takes us to France with a story that connects Hawaii and World War I. It's a story of courage and aloha.

In 1915, Dr. James Judd and his wife Louise, set sail to France from their Hawaiian home. Their grand-daughter Louise McCluer explains, "My grandfather was a prominent surgeon in Hawaii and he was one of the founders of Kapiolani Women and Children's Hospital. He was chief of staff for many years at Queens Hospital. They were Francophile's they liked France, French things and they felt the call to go over to France to help in the war."

The young couple left everything they knew, to volunteer in a foreign land. Well before American soldiers were sent over seas for the war, the Judd's were hard at work at the American Ambulance in France. Dr. Judd was named chief surgeon. "I believe they went right to work and my grandmother was not a trained nurse, formally, but she was intelligent and gutsy obviously and picked up on how to do things, how to treat wounds. My grandfather was pretty much round the clock working as a surgeon, working very hard," said Louise.

They spent their first few months in Paris but wanted to get closer to the front line so they soon found themselves in the small town of Juilly where the college and the chapel they called home still stand. Twenty-three miles outside of Paris, the College de Juilly is the oldest academy in all of France. Parts of the school were transformed into hospital wards. "The soldiers were on the second floor which was a dormitory at the time. When there were bombings or other problems they were then transferred to the cellars below," said College de Juilly caretaker Cyriaque Valognes.

In 1914 this room was used as a hospital ward the beams are still here and now as you can see it's a classroom. "To know that they were treating wounded right there in that room was really, I kind of had to take a breath there and just kind of look around and it's now a classroom it's still in use. That's amazing," said Dr. Judd's grandson Kaimi Judd.

The very classroom where Mrs. Judd started her project. A 500 page journal of photos, drawings and intimate tales from the battlefield. Handwritten, mostly in French by the wounded soldiers who were in the care of the Judd's and the American Ambulance in France. "You know it's kind of that chicken skin moment when you open these pages and see these hand written accounts of a war that happened nearly 100 years ago," said Kaimi.

"I've never seen a book like this before. I don't think there are very many in the world, it's a rare thing," said Louise. Cyriaque said, "Newspapers, journalists, historians only repeat what they have heard. But the soldiers, those we called the "poilus" in France, they were there. So the stories they tell are the REAL truth."

Many excerpts with personal messages of gratitude for Hawaii-born James and Louise Judd. Kaimi said "Hearing it for the first time the translation of these stories it's an honor and it's a little chilling."

I translated an excerpt for them by Rene Mondon, a soldier in the 32nd infantry regiment. He wrote: Right near me I felt a violent explosion, a sense of burning in my face and the pain in my wounds. At the American Ambulance they healed my wounds, the one on my face, the one on my thigh and the really bad wounds that I had and I suffered less. It's with greatest thanks that I want to thank everyone who helped to heal me. I asked Louise how that made her feel. "It makes me feel proud. Proud that I have ancestors that did so much and helped so many people," she said.

That service didn't go unrecognized. In 1921 Dr. and Mrs. Judd were awarded the French Legion d'Honneur. The legion of honor is the highest distinction that one can receive and the only person that can award it is the President of France. It's awarded to very few people.

"The dedication that my ancestors had to helping these people and the love that these people had and the gratitude that these wounded people had for the care that they got it's really heart warming," said Louise. Dr. Judd and his wife returned to Hawaii and raised a family but I think we can safely say that their aloha spirit lives on both here in Hawaii and on the other side of the world in the heart of France.

Click HERE for a link to Dr. Judd's book online. Text and pictures are all posted free of charge. He recounts his journey to France and back home to Hawaii.

Click HERE for a link to Malika's travel blog or follow her on Facebook.

If you missed other stories in the French Connection series, links are below.

Hawaii's French Connection: Paris plages & ukulele

Hawaii's French Connection: Surf Culture

Hawaii's French Connection: Surfing the tidal bore

Hawaii's French Connection: A hula halau in Paris

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