I ran across this Article from my Beyond Band of Brother tour Newsletter I recieve. Thought I would share it with all of you. It is quite interesting.
Spotlight on Virginia Hall
Who says life cannot imitate fiction? Virginia Hall's life reads like spy novel. The fact that the Gestapo reportedly considered her the most dangerous of all Allied spies speaks for itself.
Virginia Hall was born in 1906 into wealth and privilege in Baltimore. She attended two of the best colleges, Radcliffe and Barnard, studying European languages. With the help of her parents, she was able to continue her studies in Europe while traveling extensively. Hall then left her life of comfort to realize her dream of joining the U.S. Department of State. Despite having failed to pass the difficult U.S. Foreign Service exam in 1931, she landed an appointment as a clerk at the American Embassy in Warsaw. Two years later she transferred to the U.S. Consulate in Izmir, which proved to be decisive. A great lover of adventure and the outdoors, Hall took great pleasure in hiking, hunting and horseback riding. While serving in Turkey, she shot herself in a hunting accident. Gangrene set in and Hall lost her left leg from the knee down. She was fitted with a wooden appendage which she named "Cuthbert." The injury put an end to her chances for a diplomatic career, as amputation was grounds for dismissal from the U.S. Foreign Service, so she voluntarily resigned from the Department of State in 1939.
The outbreak of the war found her in Paris, where she enlisted in the French ambulance corps known as the Services Sanitaires de l'Armee as a private. After the French surrender, she fled to Britain, where she worked as a code clerk at the American embassy. However, Virginia wanted more than just sitting behind a desk, and volunteered for Britain's newly formed and elite Special Operations Executive, which sent her back to Vichy in August 1941.
After completing the SOE's demanding agent training program, she embarked on the task of organizing and coordinating French resistance networks and assumed the identity of Brigitte LeContre, a French-American reporter for the New York Post, the first female SOE officer to reach such a position. She oversaw SOE parachute drops and planned sabotage attacks against German supply lines. In addition, she helped POWs escape from camps and secured safe houses for agents.
Naturally, because of the success of her activities, she could not elude the attention of French and German authorities. Despite never quite pinpointing her identity, the Gestapo was close on her heels, and privy to the fact that she was American and disabled, there were "wanted" posters all over France calling attention to her limp. The Nazis gave her the code-name Artemis and were desperate to capture her.
When the Germans suddenly seized all of France in November 1942, she had no choice but to escape via Spain. In a radio message to London during the journey, she mentioned that Cuthbert was giving her trouble. Forgetting her leg's nickname, London replied, "If Cuthbert is giving you trouble, have him eliminated." After a brief detour as an undercover agent in Madrid, upon her return to England she was quietly made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire. Since she was at the top of the Gestapo's most wanted list, the SOE refused to send her back. However, she did not want to stay long far away from the actual frontline, and in 1944 she was recruited by the American counterpart of the SOE, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Disguised as an old milkmaid, which made it possible to camouflage her leg, her reports of Nazi troop and headquarter locations were invaluable in the D-Day planning. On August 26, Virginia and her French Resistance troops accepted the surrender of the German southern command at Le Chambon. She remained active in France until VE Day.
After the war Hall married an OSS agent and joined the CIA. She stayed with the CIA until her retirement. For her efforts in France, General Donovan personally awarded Virginia Hall a Distinguished Service Cross in September 1945 - the only one to be awarded to a civilian woman in World War II.
Written by: Andrea Bago