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Repatriation of the Remains of the Conqueror of the Alps

le bourgetPeru and France agreed to repatriate the remains of the Peruvian aviator and engineer Jorge Chavez Dartnell. Therefore, after making the necessary arrangements in both countries, on September 12th, 1957, Chavez’s Coffin, which had remained in the family tomb, at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris for 47 years, was exhumed, analyzed and reconditioned. A Requiem ceremony, which was widely attended, was held at Saint Pierre de Chaillot Church.

After the ceremony, the coffin was taken to Le Bourget airport in Paris covered in the Peruvian flag and surrounded by large floral wreaths. It arrived accompanied by a large delegation and a guard of honor.

An official delegation received Jorge Chavez Dartnell’s coffin upon its arrival at Le Bourget airport. This delegation was made up by the Aide-de-Camp of the French President, M. René Coty; Peruvian Ambassador, Engineer Hector Boza; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Christian Pineau; the French Air Force Commander in Chief, General D’Armee Marcial Valín; the Papal Nuncio, Reverend Paul Marella; members of the Diplomatic Corps; delegations of the French Armed Forces; Mr. Manuel Chavez Dartnell, Jorge Chavez Dartnell’s brother, other relatives of the hero amongst others. A contingent of French troops, with the flag and a band was also present to pay homage to the aviator on behalf of the French Government. General Marcial Valín, Commander in Chief of the French Aviation conferred the Aeronautic Medal, the highest decoration of the French Air Force, to the Peruvian flag, which covered the coffin. The medal was awarded as a posthumous tribute to the distinguished Peruvian pilot, while in the background the band played the Peruvian and French national anthems.

As General Valin bestowed the decoration, he declared

llegada“Chavez contributed to laying the foundations for modern aviation and we feel compelled to award him the supreme French award of aviation, in this airport where many aviation pioneers arrived and departed”.
After the ceremony, the coffin was placed in a two-engine plane of the French Air Force, a Noratlas Nord-2501, to be transported to Lima with a military escort. The plane departed on its way to Blida, Algiers, the first stage of the flight, and continued to Dakar and Natal. It then headed towards the Rio De Janeiro Campo Dos Alfonsos military airfield where it was received by a large crowd. The Peruvian Ambassador to Brazil, Mr. Carlos Echecopar Herce was present, as was the French Ambassador to Brazil, Mr. Bernard Hardión, as well as high rank officers and cadets of the Brazilian Air Force. The Brazilian Air Force had prepared a funeral chapel where a permanent guard of honor, made up the cadets of the Brazilian Air Force, guarded the coffin during the two days that it remained on Brazilian territory.

On September 18, the Noratlas Nord-2501 plane of the French Air Force departed from the Rio De Janeiro Campo Dos Alfonsos military airfield towards Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia), where the Bolivian Air Force paid their corresponding honors and escorted the coffin until the following day.

limatamboOn the morning of September 10, the plane continued its journey to Peru. A large crowd had gathered at Limatambo airport, to attend the return of the coffin of the conqueror of the Alps. The military took their position on the airport runway in order to pay their respects. Towards the south of the runway, the cadets of the Peruvian Army, Navy and Air force stood together with delegations of neighboring country Air Force academies including: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. To the north of the runway, the students of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe state school and Italian Antonio Raimondi School were standing to attention. A battalion of the Peruvian Air Force closed the formation. In the center of the runway, the Official Peruvian Delegation sat next to members of the foreign delegations that had been especially invited. These came from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Amongst the guests were General Salvador García Zapatero, Chief of the Military House of the President of the Republic, Manuel Prado; the Minister of War, General Alejandro Cuadra Ravines; the Minister of the Navy, Rear-admiral Emilio Barrón Sánchez; the Minister of the Air Force, Peruvian Air Force Major General Manuel Polidoro García Mejía; the President of the French Senate, Mr. Gastón Monnerville; the French Ambassador, Mr. León Brasseur; the Peruvian Ambasador to France, Mr. Héctor Boza Ariscorbe; the Ambassador in Special Mission, Peruvian Air Force Major General Fernando Melgar Conde; the Mayor of Paris, Mr. Marcel Leveque; The Commander in Chief of the French Air Force, General D’Armee Marcial Valín; Jorge Chavez’s brothers, Manuel and Juan Chavez Dartnell; military staff and members of the Diplomatic Corps assigned to Lima.

On September 19, at noon, the French Noratlas Nord-2501 plane appeared in the skies of Lima, escorted by Peruvian Hawker Hunter jet planes. After the landing, the Noratlas Nord-2501 moved to the main runway of the Limatambo airport. Military and civil authorities, together with the troops, cadets and schoolchildren waited. The coffin was draped in the Peruvian flag and was carried on the shoulders of Generals Noya Ferré, Enrique Bernales Bedoya, Guillermo Suero Bustamante, Luis Darío Cayo Murillo, Raúl Ravines Benavides and Armando Zamudio Colmenares and placed before the Military Priest, who led the prayers. The band played the French National Anthem, which was followed by a speech from the Commander in Chief of the French Air Force, General Marcial Valín. He formally delivered the body of the distinguished aviator and engineer Jorge Chavez Dartnell to the Peruvian Air Force General Commander, Major General Salvador Noya Ferré, who received it on behalf of the Peruvian Government.


Press here to view the animation of the flight path of the transportation of the remains of Jorge Chavez.

plaza de armas de limaThe ceremony ended with the Peruvian National Anthem, after which the coffin was placed on a funeral carriage, and the procession towards the city began. During the procession to the Cathedral of Lima and on its arrival, the citizens solemnly paid a silent tribute to the fallen pilot. When the carriage stopped in front of the Cathedral doors, the Peruvian Air Force Generals carried the coffin on their shoulders and they were escorted by Peruvian Air Force cadets. At the Cathedral of Lima the coffin was received by the Major, Municipal officials and by the members of the Conciliary Seminar of Santo Toribio, and was taken through the central aisle to be placed in front of the presbytery for a Requiem Mass led by the Bishop of Lima, his Eminence Juan Landázuri Ricketts.

The coffin remained in the Cathedral until Sunday, September 22nd, to be visited by the large crowds, which attended each day to pay their posthumous respects.

On Sunday 22, the remains were taken to Las Palmas Air Base, which at that time, was the Air Instruction Center. In the Square of Honor of this Instruction Center, the troops of the Lima Garrison were assembled, accompanied by delegations of cadets of the various air forces that had been invited to pay a posthumous tribute to the great aviator.

A funeral chapel was set up to mourn the remains of Jorge Chavez, with a permanent guard of honor in the Central Aisle of the Peruvian Air Force School of Officers. On Monday, September 23, 1957, the date of the 47th anniversary of the crossing of the Alps, Jorge Chavez Dartnell was buried in the tomb, which the Peruvian Air Force had reserved for him in the Square of Honor of the Air Instruction Center.

Politicians, Ministers, Diplomatic Corps, foreign delegations, delegations of Armed Forces Officers, cadets of the Armed Forces and Police Schools, students of Leoncio Prado Military School and representatives of various local schools attended the ceremony. Peruvian Air Force Colonel Jose Gagliardi Schiaffino commanded the troops. The ceremony started with the raising of the National Flag while the band played the March of the Flags, followed by the Peruvian National Anthem. A Campaign Mass followed with the Oath to the Flag by the conscripts of year 1957, the Minister of Aeronautics read out a proclamation and conferred the Cruz Peruana al Mérito Aeronáutico medals.

entierroLater, the coffin with the remains of Jorge Chavez was taken to the tomb built in the gardens of the Square of Honor of the Las Palmas Air Base, where the General Military Vicar, Monsignor Santiago Hermoza y Sarmiento, led the prayers. General Marcial Valín, Commander in Chief of the French Air Force, spoke on behalf of the French nation. Followed by the Peruvian General Major Luis Darío Cayo Murillo, who spoke on behalf of the Peruvian Air Force. The Minister of Aeronautics, Peruvian Air Force General Major Manuel Polidoro García, conferred Chavez the posthumous medal Gran Cruz Peruana al Mérito Aeronáutico. The coffin was placed in the tomb with a box containing some soil from Domodossola, and was covered by a black marble grave over which a bronze plate was placed with the following inscription: “To the memory of Jorge Chavez D. The Conqueror of the Alps, who fell in Domodossola on September 23rd, 1910. Upwards, always upwards”. During the ceremony, the Square echoed with the sound of drums and gunfire.

mausoleoThe President of the Republic, Engineer Manuel Pardo arrived in an Alouette helicopter. After receiving the corresponding honors, and inspecting the troops, the President personally laid a floral wreath accompanied by the Peruvian Air Force band. A copy of the Bleriot plane was presented to the Peruvian Air Force, followed by a military parade and an air show of Hawker Hunter fighter planes.

Thus, the remains of the Jorge Chaves Dartnell, the Conqueror of the Alps lie in a country, he never visited but honored with his daring feats. As a Peruvian citizen born abroad, he held a permanent spiritual link with his home country. An example of this is that, when he signed up for the various competitions in which he participated; he did so as a Peruvian competitor. When he competed in Brigue, Switzerland, to attempt the crossing of the Alps, the hangar where his monoplane was sheltered, read “CHAVEZ” in large print and the red and white Peruvian flag flew. He had registered as a Peruvian Citizen for the crossing of the Alps. He loved Peru although he had never actually set foot in Peru himself. He was always aware that despite the fact that he had been born in France, he had been registered as a Peruvian citizen born abroad. In fact, he always felt the call of his distant home country.

When the legislative chambers of Peru sent Jorge Chavez and Juan Bielovucic warm wishes of encouragement and congratulations, and when the Lima La Prensa newspaper sent Chavez a congratulation telegram, he immediately responded: “La Prensa. Lima, September 10, 1910. Thank you, fellow citizens. Hope aviation services will serve country, signed, Chavez.” As we can see, Peru was always present in Jorge Chavez’ life and Jorge Chavez shall always be present in the lives of current and future generations of Peruvians.

If we had to list the pioneers and heroes of Peruvian aviation and we called Jorge Chavez Dartnell’s name, the answer that we would surely hear would be... “PRESENT!”



Multimedia Archive: Repatriation of the Remains of the Conqueror of the Alps

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