Friday, February 1, 2008

Artemis lady with the limp.

This, my friends, is Virginia Hall.
Never heard of her, right? Neither had I.
Virginia was a spy. Cool, huh.

She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1906, where her father owned a Cinema. She went to college at Radcliffe, and developed an affinity for languages. By the time she was finished, she was speaking French, Italian, and German.
In 1931 she accepted a position working for the American Embassy in Poland. She also, in the next few years worked at embassies in Estonia, Austria, and Turkey. While she was in Turkey, she was in a horrific accident, which resulted in her losing a leg, from the knee down. The US State Department, her employer, has a regulation that prevents anyone with the amputation of limbs from working for them, so in 1939, she had to resign. Interestingly enough, when she got her prosthetic, she named it "Cuthbert".
The beginning of WW II found her living in France. Not one to sit on her laurels, she joined the French Ambulance Service Unit. But rather than stay in occupied France, she made her way to England, and managed to secure a job in the American Embassy.
In 1941, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive to become a British special agent. Her code name was "Marie". (imaginative, no?). She was sent back to France, posing as a reporter for the New York Post. While there, she assisted in setting up some resistance networks in Vichy. After Vichy, she moved on to Lyon, and worked with the resistance, there. The Germans became suspicious of Marie, though, and she had to leave France again, for her own safety. She barely made it to Spain, where she worked for a while, and then found her way back to London. She returned to France again, in 1944, working now under the Office of Strategic Services. This time she went to the Brittany Coast, with the code name "Diane", joining the resistance in the Haute-Loire region. By this time, the Gestapo were aware of her activities, and referred to her as "the lady with the limp", and also, Artemis. Despite them knowing of her, she still gathered intelligence, and was able to tell the allies when the Germans changed their headquaters from Lyon, to Le Puy. She also was responsible for helping to train three battallions of the resistance in the art of guerrilla warfare so they could practice it on the Germans.
In 1945, President Truman awarded Virginia the Distinguished Service Cross. It was the only one awarded to a civilian woman in WW II.After the war, she took a job with the CIA, where she became an intelligence analyst of French parlimentary affairs. In 1950, she married Paul Goillot, who had also been an OSS agent. She retired in 1966, and died, in 1982. Not bad for a one legged dame, huh?


Anonymous said...

I love stories like this.


sybil law said...

I love the spy stuff. :)

My Own Woman said...

Now the Mission Impossible Theme Song is playing in my head.

In DC, we went to the spy museum and they mention her. Very interesting lady.

holly said...

i love spy stuff too. particularly when women are the heroines. love me some of that!