By Adele Williams, Student Contributor
Alice Lloyd College Associate Professor of History, Dr. Rhonda Smith-Daugherty, recently traveled to Paris, France to give an expert testimony on a documentary by Stephanie Hauville-Hourlier titled “Wing Against Wing – Cochran/Auriol.”
Dr. Smith-Daugherty was first contacted on May 12, 2014 by Indigenes Productions, a production company located in Paris, France. Dr. Smith-Daugherty was asked to provide expert testimony regarding Jacqueline Cochran, famous female aviator.
The documentary itself compared French aviator Jacqueline Auriol (1917-2000) with American aviator Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980). It was often said that the two competed to be the fastest woman in the world, as they both set speed records and often broke each other’s records in the 1950s. Cochran earned her pilot’s license in 1932 and was well known for winning air races and for establishing the Women’s Air Service Pilots in WWII. Auriol earned her pilot’s license in 1948, but was in a terrible private airplane crash in 1949. After thirty-three reconstructive and plastic surgeries she went on to set speed records and became the first woman test pilot.
Dr. Smith-Daugherty considers herself an expert in this field and was excited when she was contacted about the trip. She has delivered three papers relating to Jacqueline Cochran and published a biography of Cochran in 2012. In addition, Cochran was the subject of Dr. Smith-Daugherty’s doctoral dissertation, which she spent three years researching and writing. Throughout the years, Dr. Smith-Daugherty has studied Cochran’s papers which are housed in the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas and has also viewed documents relating to Cochran at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and at the Wright-Patterson Air Museum in Dayton, Ohio. She has also researched the history of aviation and World War II. In short, Dr. Smith-Daugherty was well qualified for giving the expert testimony.
Dr. Smith-Daugherty’s trip began on September 13th, and she returned back to the States on September 18th. While she wasn’t filming, Dr. Smith-Daugherty was able to tour Paris. When asked about her experience, she said, “I had an absolutely wonderful trip.” Indigenes Production arranged for Dr. Smith-Daugherty to have a guide, a British lady named Pat Ngo, who spoke both English and French. Although filming was the primary reason for travel, she was able to view Notre Dame, visit the Sienne River, tour the Museum of the Invalids, see Napoleon’s tomb, exhibits from World War I as well as World War II, the Eiffel Tower, the Arch of Triumph, and tour the Louvre Museum. She was able to see the natural splendor of the city, and commented saying, “Paris is a beautiful city.”
Dr. Smith-Daugherty said, “The taping of the documentary was a very interesting experience. I didn’t really know what to expect.” She sat in front of a green screen with two cameras facing her. The producer would ask her a question in French, and then an interpreter would repeat the question in English. She wasn’t the only one they filmed, but she was the youngest being interviewed. The program should air in France in November of 2014. They hope that an American program will broadcast the documentary as well.
In all, Dr. Smith-Daugherty says that she had a fantastic trip. She says, “The French people were very polite and helpful. I only know a few French words, but I was able to order food and shop without any difficulty.” In retrospect she says, “I never dreamed that I would be asked to appear on a documentary. It is very flattering to be recognized internationally as an expert in your field. It was an opportunity that came out of the blue, but I knew that I could not pass it up.” Dr. Smith-Daugherty’s plans for the future include the publishing of a book on counterinsurgency in 2015 of which she is a collaborating author. We are proud to call Dr. Smith-Daugherty one of our own!