In 2013 America, it’s hard to imagine that there are and were spys. That people endangered their lives, lived in fear, and started everyday not completely certain they would end it still in this world.
Nancy Wake was one of the most decorated members of the French Resistance during WWII, earning the French government’s highest military medal, and England and America’s second highest. Leaving home at 16, she worked as a nurse and then a freelance journalist until she fell in love with the city of Paris and her future Parisian husband. Her subsequent social standing and wealth acquired from her marriage, made her a less than suspicious French citizen and when the war broke out, she became an escort and courier to the Allies, helping hundreds of injured airmen escape to safety into Spain. Her years as a journalist in Vienna showed her first-hand how brutal the Nazi regime was, and her hatred for them overcame any fear she might have felt as a member of the French Resistance. Besides, she wanted to do her part for the war effort, for she never understood “why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” In 1943 when the Nazis finally discovered her activities, her husband was executed and she barely escaped to England where she joined the S.O.E. intelligence group. Wake parachuted back into France along with other S.O.E. members to set up communication lines, and gather and hide ammunition before D-Day for the incoming American and British forces.
Wake used her femininity as an advantage, knowing, as a woman in the 1940’s, she wouldn’t have been suspected as the elusive “white mouse” that the Germans eventually knew her as. Her success and courage during the war years has made her a subject of documentaries, films, and dramas about her life. In a 2011 article published after her death in The New York Times, she said she enjoyed the re-made versions of her life except for the ones that portrayed her as having affairs during the war years. Though by her own admission she loved nothing more than “a good drink” and handsome men, she never had an affair because, she said, “if I had accommodated one man, the word would have spread around, and I would have had to accommodate the whole damn lot!” If Nancy Wake pinned, I think her boards would have a poignancy, a drama, and a sense of courage from a woman who knew exactly how far her femininity could get her and when to draw the line against an evil world.
Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans and currently serving men and women who will be someday!
**Check out this article too about another WWII female spy and the upcoming movie about her tragic and powerful life.**
– <3 A.