The Cold War and That Damned Berlin Wall

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On a cold, January day in 1961, in a world chilled by the threat of nuclear Armageddon, I sat near a radio with my family and listened intently to the words of a man that my very young mind idolized.

Even as a small child, it was not my nature to easily trust. I would listen to anyone, believe most of what they said, and count on very little of it. I liked nearly everyone and trusted few. I trusted this man and I believed his words. I had inherited the caution that my father and so many of my uncles exhibited. They and my aunts and my older cousins and siblings held great hope for this man. The new president of my country, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, told me that day my freedom did not come from government, but from God.

 

American tanks face East Berlin, Oct 25, 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

I was too young to attend school with my older siblings, but I knew who God was. I was certain of His presence, and I understood him completely. A half a century later, I understand far less of God than I did then, but I have never stopped believing what that man told me, and I still hear some of his words in my memory. I can still feel the great excitement and the feeling that I was witness to a monumental occasion.

The new president told me that every nation, whether they wish us well or wish us ill, should know, “. . . that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” I hear those words still.

Few words have influenced my life as those words did. Few words have influenced the world as those words did. Millions of people around the world heard those words. Some found hope and assurance, and some heard them as a challenge to their right to take freedom from others.

 

East German masons building up wall, Nov 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

Seven months later, the Soviet Union erected a wall between the Soviet-controlled sector of Berlin, and the Western-controlled sector of Berlin. Situated deep inside Soviet-occupied East Germany, West Berlin was a beacon of hope surrounded by a sea of Soviet oppression.

By 1961, nearly four million Germans living under Soviet occupation decided to abandon their homes and seek freedom in West Germany. The easiest place to cross from East Germany to West Germany was Berlin.

 

East German mother cries after handing son over border to father in West Berlin, Aug 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

One night in August of 1961, the Soviet and East German troops formed a cordon along the dividing line between East and West Berlin. On August 13, 1961, they began to erect a concrete wall. Streets and buildings were removed from the east side of the wall to create a killing zone–the Death Strip.

 

Razing houses along wall to provide clear line of fire on anyone trying to escape East Berlin
Image by CIA, public domain

 

East Germans, under the control of the Soviet Union, built barbed wire-topped fences and guard towers equipped with machine guns. Like a monster from some cheap science fiction movie, the Wall grew taller and wider over time, as if it were growing fat on the flesh of the nearly two hundred East Germans who were murdered while trying to cross it.

 

East Berliners escaping to West
Image UK Imperial War Museum, public domain

 

The Soviets congratulated themselves for the effectiveness of the Wall in stemming the tide of escapees from the Soviet police state. I saw it as a shameful monument and an open admission by the Soviets that, given the opportunity, any sane man or woman would seek freedom over oppression.

 

West Berliners wave to loved ones in East Berlin on Xmas Eve, 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

During the Cold War, the great central debate between the Soviet- and Maoist-controlled East and the West centered, in theory, on the struggle between communism and capitalism.

While some of my generation debated the appeal of “Marxism” vs. “Capitalism,” I avoided those debates. Whatever Marx might have said didn’t matter to me. He was long gone, and his ideas weren’t deciding policy in Moscow. How the Soviets divided their land or ran their economy was of little concern to me. That Damned Wall and the men, women, and children who were murdered trying to cross it were all I needed to know about which side of the Wall I preferred to live on.

In the East, the Warsaw Pact had over 3.6 million troops facing the West and the South. In Western and Southern Europe, NATO countered that with 3.7 million troops.

 

East Berlin sign saying “Whoever attacks us will be destroyed.”
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

Surrounded as it was by East Germany, the view east from West Berlin was much less comforting. In West Berlin, approximately 10,000 allied troops, known in the USA as the Berlin Brigade, were surrounded by 250,000 Warsaw Pact troops. Outnumbered or not, the Berlin Brigade did not intend to ever surrender if war returned to Berlin.

 

East Germans erect tank barriers to reinforce Berlin Wall
Image by CIA, public domain

 

The Berlin Wall remained a symbol of the political dynamic between East and West for 28 years.

In June of 1987, Ronald Reagan visited the Brandenburg Gate, and at the same place that John Kennedy had delivered his famous Berlin speech within sight of the Wall, Reagan now delivered a speech. In response to reformist Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s claims that the Soviet Union sought peace and prosperity he challenged Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall!”

 

Pres. Reagan at Brandenburg Gate, June 12, 1987
Image by US State Dept., public domain

 

In August of 1989, the unwilling Soviet “ally” Hungary opened its border between Hungary and Austria.

Thousands of East Germans and other Eastern Europeans escaped to the West via Hungary. The Soviets pressured Hungary to stop the escaping Eastern Europeans. Hungary pretended to comply, but looked for opportunities to defy their KGB taskmasters.

Protests sprang up in East Germany. East Germans began to chant, “We want to leave.” Each week, the protests grew in strength.

In October, the long-time East German president and Soviet boot licker Erik Honecker resigned and was replaced by a slightly less homicidal maniac named Egon Krenz. On the occasion of his retirement, Hoenecker announced to the world that the Berlin Wall would remain for at least another 50 years.

East and West Berliners began to congregate at the Wall as the protests continued to grow. Krenz had been offered up as a reformist, but East Germans recognized him for what he was–a ruthless, self-promoting politician who was, in fact, attempting to crack down on reformers in his own government.

 

Checkpoint Charlie, Dec 4, 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

The East German military began to show signs of mutiny. Krenz was quickly becoming a puppet king without a kingdom, and East Germany had over $100 billion in debt with no way to make payments.

Buried under deep layers of its own cynicism and impaired by factional maneuvering, the Soviet Politburo was busy with its own internal struggles and felt little inclination to reinforce East Germany with cash or Soviet troops. Krenz was making fast progress on the road to nowhere. His Polish and Czechoslovak allies to the east had slipped the Soviet leash, and he was beginning to understand what the Berlin Brigade must have felt like for so long.

East German protesters changed their chant. “We want to leave,” was replaced with, “We want to stay. YOU leave!”

By November, it was becoming obvious that most of the East German border guards were sympathetic to the protestors. With a possible collapse of the government looming, nobody in the East German government wanted to have to answer for ordering a slaughter of the increasingly brazen protestors.

 

Children maintaining friendships across the pre-Wall border in 1961
Image by CIA, public domain

 

On November 9, 1989, in an attempt to relieve the social pressure that was threatening to rupture the East German state, the East German government announced that the gates would be opened in the Wall, and that anyone who wished could pass from East to West.

Until late October, I had been in Europe. On my flight back to Washington D.C., I wondered if my dream of seeing a free Eastern Europe was about to materialize. The Soviet steamroller that had kept Eastern Europe’s puppet communist regimes in power for four decades had run out of steam.

On November 9, I returned home from a martial arts class. When I entered the living room, my wife was smiling in a way that I had not seen her smile before. She said, “You got your wish,” and she pointed to the TV.

 

Germans Reunited
Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nov 1989
Image by Senate of Berlin, public domain

 

I felt compelled to get close to the screen, as though I could hug the Berliners who were dancing on top of that Damned Wall. I wished I had gone back to Berlin. I missed the biggest party in the history of the Cold War.

I was stunned and relieved, and simultaneously filled with joy and sadness. I felt joy for the people of Eastern Europe and for us. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wish that a few people who mattered greatly to me could have remained among us long enough to see that night. They had paid that price. They had borne that burden. It had not been in vain. I never for a second thought that it would be.

Tonight, from the distant, warm, comfortable safety of my home, I offer my humble gratitude to them for never losing their faith, and to the people of Berlin and Eastern Europe for finding their faith and their freedom.

What did the Berlin Wall mean to you?

Note:  Many of the CIA images in this article are from the CIA publication “A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall.” Click on the link, and it will take you to a page where you can download the publication free of charge.

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Cotton Reigned Until Slavery Was Outsourced

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Today, Western nations are forced to consider the price and flow of crude oil in all foreign policy decisions concerning the Middle East. From Algeria to Iran, Oil is King. However, back in 1861, petroleum was not yet a major commodity for world markets. Instead, a major commodity was cotton.

America’s South had developed an important economic position in world markets by harvesting and exporting cotton to European markets. In 1860, the United States exported over four million bales of cotton to Europe, with each bale weighing 500 pounds.

 

Girls Picking Cotton
Image by Keystone View Co, public domain
Located at NY Public Library

 

The largest importer of US cotton exports was Great Britain.

American cotton was one of the two major ingredients in profitable textile mills in England. The other critical ingredient was cheap labor, and the UK had plenty of that, as well.

The cash that flowed into the South allowed it to import goods from Northern factories, mills, and foundries. The cotton formula was simple, and the Southern states had the long growing season and four million slaves to make cotton farming highly profitable. Many Southern leaders saw themselves as key players in the global market. As far as they were concerned, cotton was essential to Europe’s economy.

Today when we look back at the Civil War, we might wonder why the less-populated, less-industrialized South would have considered a war with its Northern neighbors.

In 1860, Southern states had a population of nine million citizens and nearly four million slaves. The Union population was twenty-two million. The Northern states could boast of having ten times as much manufacturing production as the South. And, in particular, Southern states produced almost no military equipment or firearms.

To add to the disparity, the Northern states operated with a single, standard railroad gauge covering nearly 98% of Northern routes. An engine in New York could, and did, run just as easily in Michigan. In the South, one symptom of “states rights” parochialism could be seen in its railroads. It had railroads but no railroad system. An individual investor built in any fashion that he saw fit. An engine in Virginia would not only not work in Mississippi, it likely wouldn’t even be able to traverse the state of Virginia. That lack of cooperative planning and central regulation haunted the South throughout the duration of the Confederacy.

On the eve of the American Civil War, the North had the guns, the manufacturing capability and the manpower. The South had cotton and four million slaves.  When the odds are considered, the North would have seemed to have a clear advantage.

 

Women Picking Cotton
Image by J.N. Wilson, public domain.
Located at NY Public Library.

 

However, the South was counting on three factors not normally reported in censuses and almanacs.

First, it was counting on fighting a defensive war, and it had no need to invade the North. The Union army would have to invade the South to recapture it and force its re-entry into the Union. Given the weapons available in 1861, being outnumbered two and a half to one was considered an even match. Trained military leaders with Southern sympathies would not have encouraged secession from the Union if a secession would have required “conquering” Northern states.

Second, and more subtle, the Southern leaders calculated nearly correctly the unwillingness of “lazy city folks” in the North to enter military service and campaign in the South to free slaves that, in the South’s estimation, most of them cared nothing about.

The third “ace up the sleeve” was the 1861 equivalent of an OPEC oil embargo. The South knew, or thought they knew, that European nations would not tolerate an interruption in cotton trade. In weighing the odds for war, many Southern leaders were confident that Europe would threaten intervention and coerce the US to accept the Confederacy’s independence. Guns, ammunition, and the massive mountains of manufactured goods required to feed the glutinous gods of war would flow from Europe like oxen to the sacrificial altar.

That was the plan, anyway.

 

Southern Belle
By Erich Correns, public domain.

 

 

Somewhere between the certainty of a bright Confederate future and Appomattox Courthouse, something went wrong for the South.

On a pleasant spring day on April 12, 1861 amidst a carnival atmosphere with well-dressed, picnicking revelers, Confederate General Pierre Gustave Tautant Beauregard ordered his artillery to open fire on Union-occupied Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor in South Carolina. A merry time was had by all except for Union Colonel Anderson and the men trapped in the fort.

After thirty-four hours of bombardment, Anderson was allowed to withdraw his men by way of a Union Navy ship, and in exchange for safe passage, the remains of the fort were surrendered to the Confederacy. Beauregard was hailed as a Caesar by the jubilant picnickers and by their cousins across the South. Four hellish years and 630,000 dead Americans later, the spring picnic seemed somewhat less splendid.

 

Gate to Gettysburg local cemetery, which became a battleground.
Image public domain.

 

The Southerners had calculated the odds of defensive action correctly.

Their basic suppositions about the size of the Union forces needed were accurate enough. What was less accurate was their supposition that Northern couch potatoes would not fight. They did. Even after suffering the horrendous casualties while attacking prepared positions at numerous battles, the North still managed to fill the ranks of the Union Army and equip it.

The Southerners had not calculated that Northerners would be willing to pay such a high price in blood to defeat the Confederacy. They were wrong, and the South’s mighty monarch King Cotton had an accidental hand in assisting Union Army recruiters.

The Confederacy was not altogether surprised at England’s reluctance to send its navy to defeat Union Navy blockade of its ports. However, the South was accustomed to life in a democracy and was prepared to coax the Parliament and Queen into seeing the “Southern light.” Southerners knew that Queen Victoria considered slavery an abomination and was reluctant to defend the interests of wealthy slave owners in a fight against the US, so the South played the Cotton Card. . . . It stopped exporting cotton to England.

An island nation with mothers who can’t cook, artists who can barely paint , and army officers who buy their commissions does not come to rule the waves by being stupid. Great Britain saw that Southern move coming.

 

Cotton bales at Bombay port in 1860s.
Image public domain.

 

Great Britain had been at the trade game for a long time, and they were good at it. Unlike the British Army, the British Navy was a well-run meritocracy, and it communicated well with British governments and merchant marine by way of its Admiralty staff. In 1860, a bumper crop of cotton glutted the markets, and England was organized and disciplined enough to invest substantial long term capital in stockpiling it.

Also, far from London, and even farther from the cotton fields of the South, British colonial officials in Bombay saw an opportunity in the chaos caused by the anticipated cotton embargo. The Bombay area had the perfect climate and soil for cotton growing. It also had something better than slaves. Great Britain had cheap, disposable workers who showed up willingly and worked for less than it cost to operate an American slave. England outsourced its need for the Southern slave labor to India, Egypt, and Africa.

While the shortage of cotton imports from the Confederacy did hurt England, and thousands of English laborers were laid off, the problem was short-lived.

Interestingly, even after losing their textile jobs, the British working class remained strongly anti-slavery and pro-Union. Thousands of unemployed Irish, English, and Germans immigrated to the Northern US. Waiting for them on the docks were Army recruiters promising citizenship and bonuses to enlistees. By 1863, many Union regiments had immigrant majorities in their ranks.

Cotton production in India, Egypt, and Africa grew quickly.

By 1863, England had little concern for what happened to the mountains of cotton bales being stockpiled in the Confederacy. The guns, ammunition, and gold were not forthcoming for the South from Europe except at high prices. Cotton was, in fact, not quite king after all. It was nothing more than a commodity.

 

Bombay Cotton Merchant
Image public domain.

 

Across the South and at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, gravestones mark the resting places of silent witnesses to a war fomented in ignorance and arrogance.

Cotton, the plantation elites, and the American President who had to fight almost more against his Northern cohorts than against the Confederates, are all gone. The great-grandsons of the slaves remain, and, although the reconstruction and social evolution have yet to be completed, the Union remains, as well.

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Jay Holmes is a veteran field operative and a senior member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

To follow Bayard & Holmes, sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing, or find them at their site, Bayard & Holmes. You may contact them in blog comments at their site, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or by email at BH@bayardandholmes.com.

© 2017 Bayard & Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

The Fox Behind the Desert Fox — Hekmet Fahmy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Great Britain. At the time, Great Britain lacked the resources to invade Italy, and Italy had no intention of invading Great Britain. However, the two enemies, along with France, had large colonial holdings in North Africa. At the time, the Suez Canal in Egypt was critical for Great Britain to connect the British Isles, Gibraltar, and Egypt to its colonial holdings in India, Ceylon, and Burma. Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini was confident that his forces, along with his German allies, could deal a major blow against the British from their bases in Libya, and perhaps threaten the British Suez Canal.

 

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, 1942 Image from German Federal Archives, wikimedia commons

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, 1942
Image from German Federal Archives,
wikimedia commons

 

In general, the North African campaign of WWII is remembered as a series of battles. Great Britain dealt a decisive blow against the Italians in Libya. Germany sent reinforcements led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, aka the Desert Fox, who pushed the British back to the Egyptian border. Newly appointed British commander Field Marshall Montgomery led UK forces in a series of counterattacks. Those attacks were marginally assisted in the final phases by American landings in Morocco and Tunisia.

Conventional analysis of these battles emphasizes the skills of the opposing leaders. More in-depth descriptions also consider the logistical nightmares that both sides faced during the campaign. However, these assessments are based on well-researched analysis that was conducted without the benefit of certain classified information that was not released before 1970. When we consider the newer information, we learn that Erwin Rommel’s tactical genius and Bernard Montgomery’s inspiring leadership were heavily impacted by a variety of intelligence operations conducted by both sides.

Until July of 1942, Rommel, the Desert Fox, enjoyed a tremendous advantage over the British in the form of timely, detailed, and accurate intelligence about British dispositions, supplies, and intentions. This information came inadvertently from US General Bonner Fellers.

General Fellers was the US liaison with the British in North Africa. Over his objections, he was instructed to use the US diplomatic Black code to transmit messages to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unfortunately, that code was stolen and copied by the Italians from the US Embassy in Italy in September of 1941, prior to the US entry into the war. As a result, Rommel’s staff read every word Fellers sent back to Washington before Washington read it. When Fellers was replaced in July of 1942, his replacement was permitted to switch his communications to US military cyphers. The Germans could no longer decipher the intercepted transmissions.

They turned to an Egyptian belly dancer for help. In the spring of 1942, a team of elite German commandos set out from Libya in US military vehicles captured from the British. Their goal was to infiltrate two Abwher agents, Johannes Eppler and his radio operator Hans Sandstede, into Egypt.

Eppler had a German mother and an Egyptian father and had spent most of his childhood in Alexandria and Cairo. He was well-trained and well-prepared for an operation in Egypt. After a grueling fifteen day trip through the desert, Eppler and Sandstede were dropped near the British Egyptian rail station at Asyut, Egypt.

The German spies made their way to Cairo where they used well forged documents and high quality counterfeit British cash to rent a house boat and set up operations. The crux of Eppler’s plans came down to one roll of the dice. He contacted an ex-girlfriend by the name of Hekmet Fahmy.

 

Hekmet Fahmy Image from BellyDanceMuseum.com, wikimedia commons, public domain

Hekmet Fahmy
Image from BellyDanceMuseum.com,
wikimedia commons, public domain

In 1942, Fahmy was the most popular belly dancer in Egypt. She had access to the best night clubs and parties attended by the elite of local British and Egyptian society. She was the most alluring female celebrity in that country and enjoyed popularity with dance fans across Europe. She was also trusted in the highest military and social circles. Fahmy recruited other popular belly dancers to assist Eppler, allowing him to operate one of the most successful honey traps of all time.

British officers and government officials mistakenly trusted Fahmy and foolishly revealed critical information. As Fahmy’s guests slept in her arms, Eppler searched their personal effects. By keeping track of which British officers from which regiments frequented the clubs, the Germans determined when particular units were being dispatched to the front.

In some cases, British officers and civilians revealed more detailed classified information that was then transmitted to Rommel’s headquarters. In effect, the Germans replaced an American general with an Egyptian belly dancer.

Thanks to the continued flow of high grade intelligence, the Desert Fox confounded British attacks with timely delaying actions and skillful withdrawals. Rommel’s tanks were outnumbered by now, but he could continually place them and their accompanying 77 millimeter anti-tank guns in ideal locations to deal with British movements.

After a few months of operations in Cairo, the British pushed back the Afrika Korps from El Alamein. Communications with Rommel’s headquarters became difficult. Eppler sought out the Egyptian Free Officer Corps, who were anti-British, to request assistance with passing information to Rommel. The young Egyptian officer who agreed to help was the future president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat.

In his 1957 book Revolt on the Nile, Sadat depicts Eppler and Sandstede as being too lazy and too concerned with their own pursuits of flesh. The depiction may have been unfair, as Eppler needed to appear to be a Scandinavian-American playboy in order to conduct his operations most effectively. If Eppler was in fact lazy, then we have to say that he was also fantastically lucky in his recruitment of Fahmy and his skillful use of her connections in gathering vital intelligence for the Desert Fox.

While Fahmy seduced British officers and Eppler fed their information to the Germans, the British simultaneously read and partially decrypted German military communications. They quickly became suspicious that German spies were succeeding in operations against them in Cairo. Either by managing too many local agents without insulation from themselves, or possibly because an Egyptian messenger was compromised, the British captured Eppler, Sandstede, and Fahmy.

With the defeat of the German intelligence operations in Cairo, combined with an increasing flow of Allied supplies and continued decryption of German military communications, the British were able to roll back Rommel across Africa. When the British captured 130,000 Germans in Tunisia in May of 1943, Rommel was on medical leave in Germany.

Rommel was tasked with organizing the German defenses on the French Atlantic Coast. However, he was implicated in a plot to kill Hitler. He committed suicide in exchange for his family being spared from persecution. The Nazis kept his betrayal of Hitler secret, announcing the Desert Fox had died of a heart attack. They gave Rommel a hero’s funeral.

Eppler and Sandstede were sentenced to death as spies, but Egyptian King Farouk intervened, and their sentences were commuted. They were released from prison after the war and Eppler became a successful construction engineer.

Fahmy was assumed to be an unwitting accomplice. She was sentenced to two and a half years in jail. She was unable to revive her career after her release, though she managed a few minor movie roles and invested her own money in a failed movie. The Egyptian Fox who did so much to aid the success of Desert Fox Field Marshal Erwin Rommel turned to Christianity for solace and spent long hours praying in church.

The North Africa campaign of WWII will always be remembered as a battle of supplies and opposing wits, and it was. But it was also a campaign critically affected by the intelligence operations of both opponents, and for a while, the balance of it all was tipped by the weight of a single belly dancer.

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

©2013 Bayard & Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

 

Josephine Baker–Dancer, Singer, Mother, Booty Spy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

We often expect our military heroes to come equipped with great athletic prowess and years of grueling training. A few ultramodern, nearly-magic gadgets and good looks don’t hurt either. Josephine Baker showed up with one of the four.

Josephine Baker 1949 Carl Vn Vechten Library of Congress

Josephine Baker in 1950, image from Library of Congress

On June 3, 1906, Freda Josephine McDonald was born in St Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of a black American washerwoman, and, according to her foster son Jeanne-Claude Baker, her father may have been a white German-American for whom her mother had worked.

When Josephine was eight years old, she went to work for a wealthy white family as a washer girl. According to her biography, the women of the house purposely burned her hands for using too much soap on the laundry.

When Josephine was twelve, she quit school and became a homeless person. Josephine lived in cardboard boxes and scavenged food from trash to survive. Is it possible anyone who saw her scavenging for food in the alleys of St. Louis imagined that she would some day do great service to the Allied armies and the people of France during World War Two?

At age thirteen, Josephine obtained a job as a waitress, and she married one of her customers, Willie Wells. By the time Josephine was fifteen, she had earned a reputation as a talented dancer, and she was able to support herself. She left Wells and quickly rose to the top of the Vaudeville dance circuit, spending the next six years entertaining American audiences.

In 1921, Josephine married an American with the last name Baker. She kept that name for the rest of her life, though she divorced him.

In 1925, Josephine traveled to Paris to perform for enthusiastic Paris audiences. She was an instant celebrity. France fell in love with Josephine, and Josephine fell in love with France.

Josephine enjoyed greater integration in Paris than she could at home in the USA. She expanded her career to include movie acting, singing, and song writing. According to Ernest Hemingway, she was the most exciting woman in Paris.

Josephine Baker Banana DanceJosephine Baker in 1920s, Banana Dance, image in public domain

In 1935, Josephine returned to the USA to tour with the Ziegfeld Follies stage show. She had grown accustomed to something close to racial equality in France, and when she failed to “keep her place” in the United States, she generated mixed reviews.

In 1937, Josephine returned to France. She soon married a Jewish French Industrialist named Jean Lion. By marrying Lion, she acquired French nationality.

As World War Two approached, France contacted Josephine and asked if she would report on any interesting information that she picked up while attending parties, including some at European embassies. Josephine agreed. She quickly developed a skill for charming many fascist big wigs, who were desperate to cultivate an appearance of culture by being seen with her.

When Germany invaded France, Josephine received brief emergency instruction in spy craft and was taught to use invisible ink and make safe information passes.

During the Nazi occupation, Josephine was a prized commodity for parties and events held by Nazi and Italian fascist big shots. She was allowed to travel in and out of Vichy, France, Nazi-occupied France, and neutral countries such as Portugal and Switzerland.

Josephine set up a theater and stage company in Marseilles, France and used it as a cover for a large espionage and sabotage organization. Refugees from Belgium and occupied France were taught to pose as stage artists, and the stage artists were taught to perform as spies. Her seemingly harmless musicians and actor types formed a valuable branch of the French Resistance.

In 1941, Josephine was stricken with a bad case of pneumonia. She and some of her recruits traveled to North Africa seeking a dryer, warmer climate. Free French leader General Charles De Gaulle and his staff felt that Josephine had done more than her share and encouraged her to remain safely in French Colonial Africa to recover her health. Josephine was highly committed to the cause of freedom, and instead of remaining safe, she traveled to Morocco and set up an expanded espionage operation.

From her base in Morocco, Josephine safely traveled back and forth to Spain to communicate with allied agents. She was able to assist the badly outnumbered US OSS agents in Europe in setting up improved communications. Josephine apparently was warned to keep her distance from the OSS because it was known that a mole was loose in their European operations. She had to know that she was taking a tremendous personal risk by working with both the multiple branches of the French Resistance and agents of the OSS. Whatever risk she sensed did not slow her down.

Josephine suffered a miscarriage and received an emergency hysterectomy due to infection. The recovery rate from emergency hysterectomies at the time was astonishingly low; however, Josephine survived. The Free French Government ordered that she be transported to England and to a desk job. She refused her evacuation and remained active in the field until the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.

After the fall of the fascists, Josephine carried out one last, very personal mission. She traveled to Buchenwald and performed what must have been her single most important stage performance. She performed for the rescued death camp prisoners who were still too sick and weak to be moved.

For her long and distinguished service in the war against Nazi tyranny, Josephine was decorated for bravery on three occasions. She received the French Croix de Guerre, the Rosette de la Resistance, and a knighthood from General Charles De Gaulle as a member of the order, Legion de Honeur.

After the war, Josephine left her life of espionage behind and returned to the stage. She adopted orphans of Algerian, Korean, Japanese, Finnish, French, Israeli, Moroccan, and Hispanic extraction. She referred to them as her “Rainbow Troupe.”

Josephine Baker in 1951, image by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress

In 1951, when Baker was refused service at the Stork Club in Manhattan, Grace Kelly was in attendance and took exception. The future Princess Grace of Monaco took Josephine’s arm, and they stormed out together, followed by the rest of Grace’s party. Grace Kelly and Josephine became life long friends, and when Josephine and her large family of orphans faced financial trouble, Princess Grace gave her a palace and financial assistance.

In 1963, Josephine was the only female to speak at the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, she was offered and declined the leadership of King’s civil rights organization. She felt that her slew of young children needed her.

Ten years after the March on Washington, Baker opened a show in New York at one of the world’s most prestigious venues, Carnegie Hall. Before the first note of the show could be performed, a packed house rose and gave her a very long standing ovation. The homeless orphan girl from the alleys of St. Louis had finally come home, and America had finally come home to her.

On April 12, 1975, Josephine died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was the first American woman to receive a military funeral with full honors. Twenty thousand French, Europeans, and Americans who had not forgotten her extraordinary service in the liberation of France joined her funeral procession.

Without benefit of athletic prowess, much formal education, gadgetry, military or intelligence training, and armed with little more than her courage and commitment, the homeless girl from the alleys of St. Louis had made a difference in the world.

“The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.” ~ Josephine Baker

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

Farmers and Shopkeepers Raise Hell in a Cow Pen

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On the morning of January 16, 1781, an independent minded New Jersey fellow named Daniel Morgan led a force of continental soldiers and militia in an orderly retreat up a muddy South Carolina wagon road, escaping the forces of British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. It had been a long war for Morgan.

 

Daniel Morgan portrait by Charles Willson Peale

General Daniel Morgan, portrait by Charles Willson Peale

As a captain in the young Continental Army, he was captured by the British in the foolish American attack on Quebec. He spent nearly two years as their prisoner before being exchanged. The British were sure that, because of his poor health, he would be no further threat to them. They miscalculated.

After his release in 1777, Morgan rejoined General Washington in New Jersey. He had been promoted to Colonel for his heroic conduct during the assault on Quebec. Washington asked him to recruit, train, and command a fast-moving force to conduct hit and run raids against the British.

Morgan was given 600 of Washington’s best men and recruited several hundred more sharpshooters for his regiment. The new group was the 11th Virginia Regiment.

Morgan and the 11th Virginia excelled in their hit and run role. They developed the tactic of finding British forces far from base and concentrating their fire against British officers. Then they repeatedly attacked the retreating and largely leaderless British force for days. Morgan and his regiment remained in frequent combat until Morgan was forced to retire in late 1779 because of severe pain.

In October of 1780, Morgan returned to service at the rank of brigadier general. He was assigned to help General Nathaniel Greene salvage the waning fortunes of the rebellion in the Southern states.

In January of 1781, Tarleton (rhymes with charlatan) was dispatched by the confident and impatient British General Cornwallis to hunt down and kill Morgan’s force before they could unite with the rebel forces under Greene.

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Cornwallis’ intelligence obtained from royalist sympathizers was that Morgan had 800 men with him, and that a third of them were untrained militia. It failed to include recent additions of North Carolina militia to Morgan’s forces, as well as the fact that some of the militia were experienced woodsmen, equipped with accurate, long range rifles.

Cornwallis ordered Tarleton to take his cavalry forces, reinforced by light infantry, in hopes that they could out-speed Morgan’s force and attack them on the march before they could retreat back to North Carolina and resupply.

Tarleton had earned the hatred of the people of the Carolinas with his practice of murdering prisoners and civilians. Murder and plunder by British forces was not the norm. Tarleton was the exception.

Morgan kept riders out to cover his retreat. He knew Tarleton’s scouts were close. Morgan was searching for a favorable position from which to conduct a defensive action against the very well-trained and well-equipped British. He came to some abandoned cow pens near the Broad River.  The muddy road was flanked by thick woods on two sides and backed by some low hills. Morgan made his stand.

Morgan organized his troops into a defensive battle formation and had them sleep in their battle positions. Morgan had listened to what the locals said about Tarleton and guessed the general would order a frontal attack as soon as he arrived in the morning.

Cornwallis and Tarleton considered the woodsmen from the Carolinas and the Virginia wilderness to be worthless. The British, like all armies of the time when on the attack, relied on close up “volley fire” to do what damage they could at close range, followed by a disciplined bayonet charge. Typically, the British cavalry attempted to exploit the weak flanks of the opposing force in order to induce a panic and rout the enemy.

Morgan ordered the best marksmen to inhabit the first row of the defensive position. Behind them, he placed two rows occupied by the bulk of the militia. These men were mostly typical militia made up of farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. Morgan placed his Continental forces on the top of the slope with one unit of Virginia militia on his left flank. He hid his cavalry on the north slope of the hill.

Tarleton camped about five miles away, and at about 3:00 a.m. on January 17, his forces cut their sleep short and proceeded north up the muddy road.

After marching five miles in the mud while the well-rested Americans enjoyed a warm breakfast and told dirty jokes about British and royalist women, the British formed up to attack Morgan. Tarleton charged with his cavalry. To his horror, he discovered that those poorly dressed civilians in the front row had rifles rather than smooth bore muskets. Worse yet, they seemed to be unusually good shots for untrained shopkeepers.

Tarleton lost several officers in the first charge. They retreated a few yards to regroup. To his relief, the first row of militia seemed to be retreating in a panic, just as militia are supposed to do. Tarleton resumed the charge and reached the second line of militia in time to discover that they had stopped their retreat and were cutting down his cavalry with deadly accurate fire.

Again, Tarleton retreated, and again he delighted to see the militia running off to Morgan’s left flank. He threw his infantry forward to attack Morgan’s center while his cavalry rode unhindered to attack Morgan’s right flank.

About that time, the unhindered flank attack became very hindered by Morgan’s cavalry as they appeared from behind the hill. Tarleton’s plans had not gone to hell in a hand-basket, but to a muddy cow pen in South Carolina.

The British and the rebels fought at close range. Tarleton ordered a retreat to regroup in a defensive disposition where he would be able to use his two light artillery pieces that sat in reserve behind his attacking force. Before the British could retreat though, something of a miracle occurred.

In what remains the finest hour in the history of what we now call the US National Guard, the militiamen who ran to the rear as instructed ignored instructions to save themselves and kept running all the way around the hill to throw themselves into Tarleton’s flank. They created the first double envelopment ever conducted by American forces. Tarleton escaped. Over 100 British were killed, and about 830 were captured. Morgan lost 12 men.

Oddly, Cornwallis did not court-martial and hang Tarleton for abandoning his men. We can only assume that Tarleton was well-connected in parliament. Cornwallis knew that he could replace his losses, but he needed to go into a defensive encampment until reinforcements and supplies arrived. Cornwallis retreated to the Virginia coast and found a perfect defensive position. Yorktown. But that’s another story for another day.

National Guard Logo

When you see the unusual National Guard symbol that looks like a farmer with a rifle rather than a well polished soldier, think of those poorly trained volunteers at the Battle of Cowpens.

Years later when recounting the battle to friends, Morgan said that he had never felt so proud of his countrymen as when he saw those farmers who should have been long gone from the battle throwing themselves into Tarleton’s flank.

The US Navy honored the Battle of Cowpens by naming a Ticonderoga class cruiser the USS Cowpens CG 63. She participated in combat in the Gulf, and had a prolonged deployment with the 7th Fleet in the Far East.

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

HACKSAW RIDGE–A True Tale, Truly Told

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

HACKSAW RIDGE is the true story of WWII hero Pfc. Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

 

hacksaw-ridge-movie-poster-one-man-stayed-2016

 

When Doss was drafted into the US Army during WWII, he chose to serve as a combat medic rather than go to a CO work camp, and he fought for the right to do so without carrying a weapon. During the Battle of Okinawa, the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment. A bloody battle ensued, resulting in heavy casualties driving the Battalion back. Doss refused to seek cover. He carried seventy-five injured men off the fire-swept battlefield and lowered them down the ridge to friendly hands below. HACKSAW RIDGE tracks Doss’s life through his commitment as a Conscientious Objector, his fight to be allowed to serve in combat without bearing arms, and his heroic rescue of seventy-five fellow soldiers.

The production quality of HACKSAW RIDGE is excellent, with award-worthy acting and cinematography.

The talented Andrew Garfield is brilliant as Pfc. Desmond Doss, and Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Teresa Palmer are outstanding in their supporting roles. However, the movie is every bit as graphic, and then some, as you would expect from BRAVEHEART producer Mel Gibson. The “R” rating is well-deserved, and people under the age of 17 should not be admitted for good reason. I would also warn veterans about seeing this movie. It does not pull any punches in either the graphics or the audio, and it might be too intense for someone who has seen combat in real life.

 

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

HACKSAW RIDGE does an exceptional job presenting the conflicting-but-legitimate points of view of Doss, his fellow soldiers, and his officers.

Pfc. Desmond Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who refused to touch a firearm or work on Saturdays. The story ably traces how Doss’s religion and home atmosphere solidified his commitment to never touch a weapon while instilling in him a deep sense of duty to serve his country. His faith was inseparable from his character and is portrayed realistically as such in the movie. Equally realistic are the reactions of Doss’s fellow soldiers to his “red lines.” They were suspect of Doss’s religious devotion, wondering if he was actually simply a coward who would get them killed on the battlefield. Doss’s officers were concerned, as well, about sending a man into the field who refused to fight, and they wanted him out. HACKSAW RIDGE gives a balanced and respectful presentation of the competing interests and motivations at work in the situation without over-dramatizing or unrealistically vilifying any of the men involved.

Some reviews have characterized HACKSAW RIDGE as “religious pomp and pornographic violence,” or “war propaganda.”

On the contrary, Doss was a deeply religious man, and religious beliefs were the foundation of his heroism in real life. The movie simply portrays him as such. As for the accusations of “pornographic violence,” I would invite those reviewers to do a tour or two in combat and then get back to us. Regarding the label “war propaganda,” a true tale truly told is not propaganda. HACKSAW RIDGE is true to Desmond Doss’s amazing life story with little dramatic embellishment. Interviews with Doss, his captain, and with soldiers who knew him at the end of the movie confirm the events and the characters as factual.

 

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE. Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers. This was true.

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.
Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers.
This was true.

 

In fact, the movie HACKSAW RIDGE is not big enough to portray all of Doss’s heroic deeds.

For example, the film shows cargo nets hung from the top of the ridge. What it doesn’t show is that Doss was one of the three men to carry the massive cargo nets up the ridge and mount them there under the nose of the Japanese. (See article below, History vs. Hollywood, for historical picture of Doss with the nets at the top of the ridge.) After the battle wherein Doss brought down all seventy-five casualties on his own, he continued to assist wounded soldiers and to inspire the men in the 1st Battalion to go on to win a foothold on the ridge, even after being wounded by shrapnel and sniper fire. It’s worth reading the full text of his Medal of Honor citation below.

 

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss
Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

In summary, this is a true story well told about a man of faith, whose faith gave him strength to rescue over seventy-five men from the battlefield during one of the bloodiest conflicts of WWII.

Those offended by displays of Christian faith or the horrors of war might find this movie is not for them. I would encourage those people to be open-minded and accepting of diversity and go anyway to learn about genuine historical events and a very real man who deserves an excellent movie. Those who are comfortable with religious conviction and who understand that war is hell will be amazed at the story of war hero Desmond Doss.

I give HACKSAW RIDGE our highest Bayard & Holmes rating, a .44 magnum, with one caveat.

Though the violence is realistic, it is extreme, just as one might expect the Battle of Okinawa to be. With excellent production and outstanding acting, it’s worth paying the prime time price for if you can stand the crowd.

 

 

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President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss public domain, wikimedia commons

President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to
Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The text of Pfc. Desmond Doss’s Medal of Honor citation speaks for itself, telling the story of his remarkable courage under fire:

“He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet [120 m] high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards [180 m] forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards [7.3 m] of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet [7.6 m] from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards [91 m] to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards [270 m] over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”

 

For more about Pfc. Desmond Doss and how HACKSAW RIDGE compares to Doss’s real life, see HistoryvsHollywood.com Hacksaw Ridge and Bayard & Holmes article, The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Wouldn’t Fight.

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

Virginia Hall–Bayard & Holmes 7th Annual Love-A-Spook Day Honoree

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

In 2010, Bayard & Holmes declared Halloween to be Love-A-Spook Day. It is the day when we honor the remarkable unsung heroes of the Intelligence Community, without whom we could not hope to enjoy the benefits of this great nation. This year, our honoree is Distinguished Service Cross recipient Virginia Hall, who served with distinction behind enemy lines during WWII with the British Special Operations Executive and later with the OSS and the CIA.

 

Virginia Hall receiving Distinguished Service Cross from OSS Gen. William Donovan, 1945 Image by US Govt., public domain.

Virginia Hall receiving Distinguished Service Cross
from OSS Gen. William Donovan, 1945
Image by US Govt., public domain.

 

Virginia was born on April 6, 1906, to a wealthy family in Baltimore, Maryland. Having a gift for languages, she studied French, German, and Italian at Radcliffe College and Barnard College and then traveled to Europe to continue her education in Austria, France, and Germany. Virginia hoped that her language skills would allow her to enter the US Foreign Service.

After finishing her studies in 1931, she was hired as a Consular Service clerk at the US Embassy in Warsaw.

From there, she was assigned to a consulate office in Izmir, Turkey. While in Turkey, Virginia had a hunting accident and had to have her lower left leg amputated. She obtained a wooden prosthetic leg, which she named “Cuthbert,” and was then assigned to the US consulate in Venice.

Virginia requested permission to take the US Foreign Service Exam, but she was informed that due to her injury, she could not apply for a position as a diplomat. She returned to the US and attended graduate school at American University in Washington, DC.

In 1940, Virginia was visiting Paris when Germany invaded France.

She responded to the invasion by volunteering with the French Ambulance Corps and driving ambulances to evacuate wounded French soldiers from the front. When France surrendered to Germany, Virginia escaped to Spain, and then on to England.

In London, Virginia met Vera Atkins, a recruiter for British Special Operations Executive (“SOE”).

The circumstances of that fateful meeting are not clear. Some sources say they met on a train while evacuating France, and others claim that they met at a party in London. Never one to avoid danger, Virginia applied for service in the British SOE and was accepted.

Virginia trained in weapons, communications, and as a resistance organizer for occupied France. In August of 1941, she infiltrated Vichy, France. Some sources state that she was the first female SOE agent to do so.

The US was not yet directly involved in the war, so Virginia posed as a news correspondent for the New York Post. Once the US entered the war in December of 1941, the sensible thing for her to do would have been to quickly make her way back to England. Fortunately for the allied effort, she declined to escape and went underground.

When Virginia infiltrated Vichy, France in 1941, the Vichy Republic region was not yet occupied by the Nazis because the Petain government fully collaborated with the Nazis. At that time, operating in Vichy was more dangerous for an SOE agent than operating in the Nazi occupied region of France. The Vichy government had command of the French police departments, and with so many reliable local assets, it could more easily discover infiltrators and resistors. Most SOE agents sent into Vichy, France in 1941 and 1942 were killed or captured within days.

Virginia clearly had the right talents, education, courage, and determination for her difficult work. She quickly earned a reputation as a great recruiter and resistance organizer in France.

She was instrumental in the rescue of hundreds of downed allied aviators, and she arranged their safe return to England. She also organized a network of safe houses and coordinated numerous air drops of weapons and supplies to the French Resistance at a time when most drops were being intercepted by the Vichy police and the Gestapo.

Virginia’s successes did not go completely unnoticed by the Vichy government and the Nazi Gestapo. The Gestapo branded her as the most dangerous spy in all of France, and they made her capture a priority.

In November of 1942, most of the Vichy-controlled French colonial military forces in northwest Africa offered only token resistance to the allied landings in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The Nazis decided that the Vichy government was not collaborating to Hitler’s satisfaction, and they took over control of the Vichy Republic. Infamous Gestapo leader Clause Barbie demanded that “the woman with the limp,” as Virginia was known, be captured and brought directly to him so that he could personally strangle her.

Virginia managed to stay one step ahead of the Gestapo, and that winter, she escaped on foot over the Pyrenees to Spain.

During her trek over the snow-covered Pyrenees, Virginia radioed her progress to the SOE and mentioned that she hoped that “Cuthbert” would not give her too much trouble. The SOE officer that responded, apparently not in on the joke, messaged back that if Cuthbert gave her trouble, he should be “eliminated.” Fortunately, Virginia managed to keep Cuthbert in her service and made it to Spain, where she was captured by the Spanish police.

After the US embassy learned of her internment, they claimed her as a legitimate US citizen and demanded her release. Virginia then began working undercover in Spain. After four months, she decided that she was no longer achieving enough, and she returned to England in hopes of doing more “useful” work. In 1943, England’s King George VI presented Virginia Hall with an Honorary Membership in the Order of the British Empire for her remarkable courage and successes.

Though she could have accepted a position as an instructor or agent handler in England, Virginia left the SOE in order to join the fledgling American Office of Strategic Services, the OSS. Remarkably, she volunteered to return to occupied France.

Virginia dyed her hair gray and disguised herself as an elderly farmer. Since her wooden leg made a nighttime parachute drop too dangerous for her, she was infiltrated back to Bretagne, France on a British torpedo boat. Using the alias “Marcelle Montagne” and the code name “Diane,” she made her way to central France, where she set up radio communications with London. In addition to transmitting intelligence back to London, Virginia again organized successful supply drops for the French Resistance, established safe houses, helped train three battalions of Free French guerilla forces, and linked up with a Jedburgh team after the Allied invasion. In spite of Clause Barbie’s personal vendetta against her, Virginia avoided capture and continued operating until the Allies liberated central France in 1944.

In September of 1945, on behalf of a grateful nation, OSS General William “Wild Bill” Donovan presented Virginia Hall with a Distinguished Service Cross.

That was the highest honor received by any female civilian during World War II. President Truman had intended to present her the award in a public ceremony at the White House, but Virginia insisted that the ceremony be kept from public view because she was “anxious to get back to work” and still needed her cover. She wasn’t finished yet.

Virginia went to work undercover in Italy operating against Soviet efforts to cultivate Italian communist groups. Afterward, she worked with a CIA front group, the National Committee for a Free Europe, which was associated with Radio Free Europe.

In 1950, Virginia married OSS Agent Paul Goillot, and in the following year, both Virginia and her husband joined the newly-established CIA. Virginia became an expert on resistance groups in Soviet-occupied Europe. She remained in the shadows and worked on a variety of projects until her retirement in 1966.

Virginia Hall Goillot passed away of natural causes at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Maryland, on July 8, 1982. To this day, her remarkable history of selfless service in the cause of freedom remains a shining example for the intrepid few who might dare to follow in her footsteps.

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Previous Love-A-Spook Day Posts

1st Annual Love-A-Spook Day — Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik

2011 post on Josephine Baker currently being added to a book.

Billy Waugh–On Teams That Found Carlos the Jackal and Osama Bin Laden

An Insignificant Irish Quaker Woman

The Untalented Bank Clerk