One of my favorite genres to read and learn is the history of Women Allied Patriots during WW2. The Women of the Resistance came from many countries, diverse backgrounds, and economic status played key roles in the fight against nazi fascism in their countries. These courageous women fought bravely to help liberate and regain their homelands from tyrannical dictators and occupying German forces. Their stories carry on and as the adage goes, “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.”
Le Donne della Resistenza revealed the enormity of their courage to take on II Duce, the fascist dictator, Mussolini. La Résistance des Femmes revealed the enormity of their courage to take on the brutal État français Vichy government. In France, women represented around 18% of the French Resistance fighters.
From America, the WW2 most dangerous allied spy against Germany was an American woman from Baltimore, Maryland with a wooden leg. This heroine's story is not my own research but a post from a Facebook group member and I want to share with you.
"Virginia Hall, a.k.a. the ‘Limping Lady,’ organized sabotage and rescue operations across Vichy France, paving the way for the Allied invasion. She was America’s Greatest Female Spy.
During World War II, Nazi officials were constantly hunting down resistance fighters and the allied spies who aided them. But there was one foreign operative the Third Reich held special contempt for—a woman responsible for more jailbreaks, sabotage missions and leaks of Nazi troop movements than any spy in France. Her name was Virginia Hall, but the Nazis knew her only as “the limping lady.”
Virginia Hall did walk with a pronounced limp, the result of a freak hunting accident that required the amputation of her left leg below the knee. In its place was an ungainly seven-pound wooden prosthetic that she lovingly nicknamed Cuthbert.
Hall was raised in Baltimore, Maryland by a wealthy and worldly family that put no limits on their daughter’s potential. Athletic, sharp and funny, she was voted “the most original in our class” in her high school yearbook. She began her college studies at Barnard and Radcliffe, but finished them in Paris and Vienna, becoming fluent in French, German and Italian, with a little Russian on the side. After graduation, Hall applied to the U.S. Foreign Service, eager to see the world and serve her country, but was shocked to get a rejection letter reading, in effect, “No women, not going to happen”
Hall went back to Paris as a civilian in 1940 on the eve of the German invasion. She drove ambulances for the French army and fled to England when France capitulated to the Nazis. At a cocktail party in London, Hall was “railing against Hitler,” says Pearson, when a stranger handed her a business card and said, “If you’re really interested in stopping Hitler, come and see me.”
The woman was none other than Vera Atkins, a British spymaster believed to be Ian Fleming’s inspiration for Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond series. Atkins, who recruited agents for Winston Churchill’s newly created Special Operations Executive (SOE), was impressed with Hall’s firsthand knowledge of French countryside, her multi-language fluency and her unflappable moxie.
In 1941, Hall became the SOE’s first female resident agent in France, complete with a fake name and forged papers as an American reporter with the New York Post. She quickly proved exceptionally skilled at not only radioing back information on German troop movements and military posts, but also at recruiting a network of loyal resistance spies in central France.
What 1940s spy craft lacked in technological sophistication, it made up in creativity. The BBC would insert coded messages into its nightly news radio broadcasts. Hall would file “news” stories with her editor in New York embedded with coded missives for her SOE bosses in London.
“In Lyon, Hall would put a potted geranium in her window when there was a pickup to be made,” says Pearson, who spoke to some of Hall’s aging compatriots in France. “And the pickup would be a message behind a loose brick in a particular wall, or it might be go to a certain cafe, and if there’s a message, the bartender would give you a glass with something stuck to the bottom of it.”
Hall became so notorious to Nazi leaders that the Gestapo dubbed her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” When Barbie and the Gestapo distributed wanted posters for the “limping lady,” Hall fled the country the only way she could, a grueling 50-mile trek over the Pyrenees mountains southward into Spain. Her Spanish guides first refused to take a woman, let alone an amputee, but she would not be deterred. The November weather was bitter cold and her prosthetic was agonizing.
At a safe house in the mountains, Hall radioed her superiors in London to report that she was OK, but that Cuthbert was giving her trouble. The deadly serious reply from SOE headquarters, which mistook Cuthbert for an informant, read, “If Cuthbert is giving you difficulty, have him eliminated.”
But Hall wasn’t done fighting Nazis. Since the British OES refused to send her back into France as a marked woman, Hall signed up with the U.S. Office of Strategic Service (OSS), a precursor to the CIA.
In 1944, months before the D-Day invasion at Normandy, Hall rode a British torpedo ship to France, and disguised as a 60-year-old peasant woman, criss-crossed the French countryside organizing sabotage missions against the German army. In one OSS report, Hall’s team was credited with derailing freight trains, blowing up four bridges, killing 150 Nazis and capturing 500 more.
After the war, Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, one of the highest U.S. military honors for bravery in combat. She was the only woman to receive the award during World War II. Back home, she continued to work for the CIA until her mandatory retirement at age 60. Hall passed away in 1982".
To delve deeper into her true story check out the independent film "A Call To Spy"
In the death and destructive war-torn chaos, scarcity of goods and services will indeed follow. Other personal stories I have read was about a woman searching and begging for a chicken egg to feed her starving children during horrific war time. Those unbearable hard times of our history put things into perspective for me. Today, I greatly appreciate the availability of Spring flowers, scrambled eggs with asparagus paired with a nice white wine, pea soup, trendy desserts, freedom of speech and the right to practice any religion.
The past informs the future......Your ability to envision the future is strongly influenced by your memory from the past.
"War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing."
The Delong 100 Grape Varietal Challenge encourages all wine enjoyers to expand their wine drinking horizon by seeking out unusual grape varieties. These past few years, I have tasted over 180 grape varieties. After all, there are over thousands of grape varieties world wide. With so many wine grapes, styles of wine, and wineries to explore, wine is an educational adventure. So grab your virtual passport and come along with me on a Grape EdVenture™ around the world.
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