An extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman who never got half the credit she deserved. She literally helped win WWII by organizing and fighting next to the French Résistance, first for the British SOE and then for the US OSS, and then came home to work for the CIA, which was run by a bunch of men who were so terrified of her competence and experience that they continually sidelined her. One cannot look upon the multiple instances of CIA failures abroad, from the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, and not wonder if perhaps it might be a much better organization with a much better intelligence product if Virginia Hall had been allowed a larger part in its beginnings. This book is her revenge, although, professional spy that she was, she would have hated being outed like this.
The other takeaway from this narrative is just how in the bag Vichy was for the Germans, aiding and abetting the Nazis in kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and mass murder hand in glove with the Abwehr and the SS, and an enthusiastic participant in dispatching trains filled with French Jews to the death camps in compliance with Hitler’s “Final Solution.” It is astonishing that the Europeans were able to put all that behind them and begin creating the EU immediately after the war. No wonder Martin Walker is still writing about it in his Bruno series. I can’t imagine that those memories will die until the last Milice has died, too.
A great edge-of-your-seat narrative. Highly recommended.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.