One of the worlds most famous
swimmers in the 1940

Recipient of the
Croix de Guerre and Olympic Medal


FORT LAUDERDALE – The International
Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced today that Frenchman Georges Vallerey,
will become one of seventeen (17) honorees to enter the International Swimming
Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Vallerey is the ninth individual to be named
for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale. Previously, Open
water swimmer Maarten Van Der Weijden, swimmers Wu Chuanyu (CHN) and Takeshi
HaloHirose (USA), diver
Zhang Xiuwei (CHN), long distance swimmer Walter
Poenisch (USA), water polo player Osvaldo Codaro (ARG), coach Dick Jochums
(USA) and photojournalist Heinz Kluetmeier have been announced. Vallerey, a
swimmer and war hero, will enter the Hall of Fame in the Pioneer category.  The Pioneer Category of Honoree Selection was
established to recognize individuals whose careers were interrupted by war or
politics, or whose great accomplishments or inspirational stories have been
overlooked in the fog of time.

If you take a walk in the old French
Quarter, in the Wittenau district, of Berlin, you can have a chance to cross
the Rue Georges Vallerey. And you can imagine that this Vallerey was a
German  administrator, or a general, or
whatever else. In fact, the street was named after a Frenchman and one of the
most famous swimmers of the 1940s.  His
name was

He was born into a family of fish.

Georges-Urbain Vallerey, Jr. and he was born on October 21st, 1927 in
Amiens, France, 100 kilometers north of Paris, into a very special family. The
father, Georges (1902-1956) swam at the Paris Olympic Games and his six
children, Jehan (1925), Georges, Guy and Michel (1932), Jacques (1939) and
Gisele (1930) were all world-class competitive swimmers.  


In 1932, the family relocated to
Casablanca, Morocco, a colony of France, where Georges became an exceptionally
good swimmer. He was gifted and superiorly trained for the time, by his
knowledgeable father, who was inspired by the American methods to train in all
three strokes. Georges, nicknamed
Yo-Yo,was always ready to
help others and was only eleven when he made news saving a young girl from
drowning. But his great exploit as a lifesaver happened on the 8th November,

While the second World War was raging
in Europe, an Armistice between the French government, in Vichy, and Nazi
Germany, had made Morocco ostensibly a neutral territory.
 The Allies saw this

George Vallerey at 15,

recipient of the Croix de Guerre.

neutrality as aiding the Nazis and hoped to convince the sizable French Naval
fleet stationed in the harbor of Casablanca, to join them, through a show of
strength. Instead of
surrendering, the French fleet resisted and the Naval Battle of Casablanca
 Watching the battle
from the beach, which was taking place a few miles out to sea, was George
Vallerey and the best friend of the family, Robert Guenet, 14 years his senior.
Georges was only 15, but a very strong guy, with a Herculean build (even though
not tall, 5
1,73m), and he could swim like an otter.


The French ships were outgunned by the
American fleet and several French vessels retreated into the harbor while under
attack, hoping to avoid being sunk at sea. George and Robert saw a ship being
hit by high-explosive shells some 300 meters off the shore.
 By tradition, many
of the sailors did not know how to swim and the pair quickly realized that many
were drowning as they abandoned the ship.
any hesitation, they undressed, jumped into the water and began to swim to the
ship, which was still being hit by bullets and shells, through water covered
with burning oil.
 Each rescued a
sailor, returned to the beach with them, and immediately swam back to the
burning wreck. The bombing continued but they didn
t stop. Yo-Yo found a
little boat on the beach, tied a rope around his waist and swam it out to the
 By this method he
saved scores of seamen.


On the 13th of May, 1943, Georges
Vallerey, and Robert Guenet, were decorated with the Croix de Guerre avec
Etoile de Bronze (War Cross with Bronze Star), but that is not the end of this


Three years later, in 1946, Georges,
by now a robust young adult, began his remarkable swimming career that saw him
establish with Alfred Nakache and Alexandre Jany the world record for the 300
meters medley relay. By 1947, he was the best French swimmer in the 200
breaststroke, 100 and 200 backstroke, and 400 meters freestyle.

The next year, at the London Olympic
Games, he won the bronze medal in the 100 meters backstroke. Seeing his talent,
Bob Kiphuth, the great American coach, tried to recruit Georges to Yale
University, but he was now established in Paris and declined.
 In 1949, Yales Allen Stack, the 100
meters backstroke Olympic champion at London, thinking that the Casablanca
swimming pool was fast, wanted to try for the world record and asked Vallerey
to accompany him. Vallerey won the race in a time faster than Stack
s winning time in
London. Later he starred in a short film by famed French filmmaker, Julien
Duvivier, that further magnified his reputation and celebrity.


At the 1949 Christmas Cup where

his death warrant was signed.

Then in December, he swam in a
Christmas Cup, where the water was at 1
°Fahrenheit). He
developed a throat infection, that triggered a nephritis, which is an
inflammation of his kidneys. The disease would incapacitate him for four years
and finally claim his life on October 4, 1954, in Casablanca, seventeen days
before his twenty-seventh birthday. In his memory, the Les Tourelles Piscine,
where the swimming events of the 1924 Olympic Games were held, was renamed
piscine Georges-Vallerey.
 Today the pool has been renovated and is one of the great
pools of the world – a lasting tribute to a great swimmer and hero who died too


The International Hall of Fame,
established in 1965, is a not-for-profit educational organization located in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance
of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water
safety of all adults and children. 
It accomplishes this through operation of the International Swimming
Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming,
the memory and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players,
synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving activities and
education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role
models for people around the world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at
954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email

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