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.

 

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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.

 

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

The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Wouldn’t Fight

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

During WWII, dozens of the bloody campaigns raged around the globe, involving millions of US military personnel. Four hundred sixty-four of those Americans received the Medal of Honor — two hundred sixty-six of them posthumously. Most of the recipients received the medal for incredible feats of valor while attacking the enemy. However, in a few instances, the medal was given to a recipient that never attempted to harm the enemy. Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector from Virginia, was one of those recipients.

 

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

 

Seventy years ago, on October 12, 1945, President Truman awarded Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor for his conduct during the US campaign to take Okinawa from the Japanese imperial forces.

The US undertook the invasion of Okinawa to establish large air bases for operations during the anticipated invasion of Japan. On April 1, 1945, 250,000 combat troops, organized into three US Marines Divisions and four US Army Divisions, stormed the shores of Okinawa.

The landings, themselves, were conducted without much resistance from the approximately 90,000 Japanese defenders. By 1945, the Japanese had decided that it was unwise to expose their forces to vastly superior US naval gunfire and US air support on the narrow beach zones where the concentrated fire would devastate them. Instead, they built strong defensive positions inland from the beaches, where the US advantages in naval gunfire and air support were negated by the close proximity of the attacking US troops.

To defend Okinawa, the Japanese military had perfected two other major defensive innovations.

The first of these was Kamikaze (Divine Wind) suicide air units. Most of us are familiar with the Kamikaze fighter plane units that were unleashed with devastating effect against the US Navy’s amphibious fleet during the US invasion of the Philippines in October of 1944. By the time the US invaded Okinawa, the Japanese had further refined their aerial Kamikaze weapons. In particular, they had developed a man-guided rocket-propelled bomb. These fast moving rocket bombs were difficult to shoot down, and, in combination with the slower Kamikaze fighter craft and light bombers, they managed to kill nearly 5,000 US sailors while sinking twenty amphibious assault ships and twelve destroyers.

On land, the Japanese introduced their second highly effective and savage innovation – the child suicide bomber. The occupying Japanese conscripted middle school children to conduct suicide bomb attacks against the invading US troops. US Marines and soldiers were hesitant to shoot at civilians that ran toward their lines because some of them were simply trying to escape the Japanese. Unfortunately, many of the children carried explosives under their loose fitting shirts. In some instances, the Japanese troops sent forward young mothers with babies. When US troops left their cover to try to assist the women and babies, Japanese snipers killed the US rescuers.

This combination of the aerial Kamikaze and the child suicide bombers greatly complicated the battle for the US forces.

The Japanese commanders in Tokyo, pleased with the effectiveness of the suicide bombers, ordered the conscription of all boys aged fifteen and older and all girls aged seventeen and older to be trained and equipped as suicide troops for the defense of the home islands against the awaited US invasion.

Such was the savage nature of the fighting on Okinawa, which made Desmond Doss’s conduct all the more remarkable.

Because of his religious beliefs, Doss was a conscientious objector. He did not want to engage in combat. His beliefs, however, did not keep him from serving in the US Army as a combat medic.

The text of 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.”

After his discharge from the US Army, Desmond Doss spent five years in treatment for his injuries and for tuberculosis. He died in March, 2006.

Of the thousands of stories of outstanding courage during WWII, Desmond Doss’s story is one of the most remarkable. He did not act with a burst of adrenaline for a few minutes to achieve remarkable results, but rather he acted calmly and repeatedly risked his life under fire for several days in order to save his wounded comrades. In the midst of one of the most savage battles of history, Desmond Doss, conscientious objector and Medal of Honor recipient, still stands as an outstanding example of courage and compassion.

Pfc. Doss’s story is being brought to the big screen on November 4, 2016, in the movie HACKSAW RIDGE. Watch for the Bayard & Holmes review.

 

 

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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.

 

ANTHROPOID — Espionage Legend on the Big Screen

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

ANTHROPOID brings one of history’s legendary espionage events to the big screen – the WWII assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich by two Czech paratroopers and a few Czech resistance fighters.

 

2016 Aug Anthropoid Movie Poster

 

Heydrich, also known as the Butcher of Prague, was the architect of Hitler’s death camps and third in command after Hitler and Himmler. Jan Kubis (played by Jamie Dornan) and Jozef Gabcik (played by Cillian Murphy) trained for months in the UK and then parachuted into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Once in Prague, they met up with the dwindling group of Czech resistance fighters, who helped them plan and execute Operation Anthropoid. Heydrich was the highest ranking Nazi officer assassinated during WWII.

Piper Bayard:

This movie is a symphony compared to a Bourne movie rock concert.

If you’re looking for unrealistic characters who do unrealistic things to thwart unrealistic villains with unrealistic explosions and quippy dialogue, this is not the movie for you.  On the other hand, if you enjoy historically accurate war dramas about real events and real people, then you will likely find ANTHROPOID captivating and informative.

ANTHROPOID thankfully makes no effort to glamorize espionage, war, or the ordinary people made extraordinary by the demands of integrity and circumstance.

Courage falters, equipment fails, and humans make stupid mistakes, while at the same time they rise over and over again with a stubborn courage and devotion to their mission and to the Czechoslovakian people. While historical sources differ on the details, the main events surrounding the assassination are well portrayed.

 

Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubis and Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabcik

Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubis and
Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabcik

 

The tension and conflict are well drawn in spite of a script that is at times a bit stiff.

The stakes are clear. There is no doubt that not only are the lives of the Czech resistance fighters on the line, but also the lives of their families and the people of Czechoslovakia. The drama is not manufactured, but rather real, and raw, and tremendous in the fact that in spite of all human fears and failings, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik carried on and succeeded in one of the greatest assassinations in history.

Jay Holmes:

In the way of disclosure, I must explain that I could not view Anthropoid with the objectivity that a reviewer should always employ.

Though I was not alive at the time of the operation, and I am not of Czech descent, I admire the operatives that conducted the operation, and I have always considered the Nazis to be contemptible. That combination makes it difficult for me to be completely objective in reviewing a movie like ANTHROPOID, but I am happy to share my impressions.

 

The real Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik Image by UK Govt., public domain

The real Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik
Image by UK Govt., public domain

 

Most war movies and action films that depict historic events are created with an emphasis on watchability, and the pace of events, the characters, and the dialogue sacrifice accuracy to make them more fun to watch. ANTHROPOID is not fun to watch, but it is an excellent movie all the same.

I am fairly well read on Operation Anthropoid, and I was once fortunate enough to meet a retired member of British Intelligence that had helped prepare the mission.

It is my impression that the movie ANTHROPOID succeeded in closely portraying the actions and moods of the men and women that were involved in the operation. For me, this made the movie more acceptable. It seems to me that the writer, producer, and actors were perhaps somewhat reverent in their attention to detail and accuracy. The movie may be the best memorial to Operation Anthropoid yet created. As such, I applaud it.

 

Reinhard Heydrich's car after the attack. Image in German Federal Archive, public domain

Reinhard Heydrich’s car after the attack.
Image in German Federal Archive, public domain

 

Interestingly, the process of researching and producing the movie has reawakened the Czech public’s interest in the event.

The Czech Government has now agreed to do forensic work to try to identify bodies from unmarked graves of that period and location to try to locate and rebury the Czech resistance fighters involved in Operation Anthropoid, and give them a proper military burial. I commend the Czech people for pursuing this course. The makers of Anthropoid can be proud that their movie has a tangible result beyond, and more important than, the box office.

Our Rating:

Overall the early reviews of the movie have been tepid. We will depart from the trend and give Anthropoid the Bayard and Holmes .44 magnum – our highest rating.

If the events of WWII and the moral questions surrounding those events matter to you, or if you are interested in raw espionage legend and the feats of real operatives, then you should make the short pilgrimage to see ANTHROPOID. Enjoy the symphony.

 

 

Ben MacIntyre’s DOUBLE CROSS: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

Bayard & Holmes

~  Jay Holmes

DOUBLE CROSS, by writer-at-large and associate editor of the Times of London Ben MacIntyre, addresses one of the more complex and important intelligence operations of World War Two. It explains how the UK’s MI-5 Counter Intelligence division quite effectively turned and managed German spies in an attempt to deceive Germany about the Allied plans for the invasion of Western Europe in 1944.

 

Double Cross The True Story of the D-Day Spies Ben MacIntyre Paperback Cover

 

In DOUBLE CROSS, McIntyre manages to present personalities from both sides of that terrible war in very human form.

He demonstrates how imperfect people from diverse backgrounds working for MI-5 shared that one essential quality that any effective intelligence person must have. They shared a genuine commitment to their mission. In this case, their mission was to help defeat Nazi Germany. By most traditional standards, the agents would not appear to be “cut from the right cloth.” In some instances their handlers committed blunders in dealing with them. The book clearly shows the reasons why each of them might have failed miserably, as well as why they didn’t.

The first thing about this book that jumps out is its readability.

Great Britain’s operation for running double agents involved many people and many details. The details can be tedious to consider, but without considering enough of them, these operations can’t be reasonably understood. MacIntyre has done a brilliant job of presenting enough details without making the book read like a boring bureaucratic report. I envy his ability to present such a complex and important piece of history in such a readable form.

Good history writers do good research—lots of it—and Ben MacIntyre certainly did his. But he did something else as well. He very skillfully analyzed the collected data and produced an accurate and clear interpretation of the facts. I’ve never met Ben MacIntyre, but if he was never a spook, he should have been one. For us.

I had previously read and enjoyed a couple of MacIntyre’s books, but so far, this must be his masterpiece.

I have no hesitation in giving this book a Five Star rating on the Five Star scale. It’s not a movie but I can’t help but assign our Bayard and Holmes “.44-Magnum” rating because I so rarely get to use that top assessment. Anyone with interest in World War Two or the world of intelligence operations, or who simply likes good action stories, should absolutely read this book. It’s purely a great book.

Bravo to Ben MacIntyre for staying awake and on course through so many hours of work reading thousands of pages of documents to get to the critical facts. Well done!

You can find DOUBLE CROSS, along with MacIntyre’s other books, at Ben MacIntyre: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle.

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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, now available on kindle and in paperback at Amazon and on nook and paperback at Barnes & Noble.

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

 

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