Who do we think of when we hear the word “spy”? We think of people like James Bond, the Rosenbergs and the television show, which later became a movie franchise starring Tom Cruise, in “Mission Impossible”. However, there is one famous spy that no one has really heard of before and became instrumental in helping the Allied forces during World War II.
During the war, the German secret police, more commonly known as the Gestapo, declared one person as “the most dangerous spy of all of the Allied spies”. This person also had an artificial leg. The name is Virginia Hall. Yes, the Gestapo wanted this “limping lady” as she was known as to them, dead. Born in Baltimore Maryland, Virginia Hall became the most publicized and decorated spy that you have never heard of. She furthered her education in Europe and in 1931, when she finished her education, Virginia Hall was apointed as Consular service clerk to the American Embassy in Poland. In 1939, Hall had to resign from the Department of State due to a hunting accident in where she lost the lower part of one of her legs.
Virginia Hall then moved to Paris and lived there until World War II started and Germany began to occupy France. Undaunted by her disability, in which she had a prosthetic limb now, Hall moved to Spain once all of France became occupied but she had to do it by going over the Pyrenees Mountains, on foot, with a prosthetic leg.
Virginia Hall eventually worked for both the United States Office of Secret Services, (OSS) which is now known as the CIA; and Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), which is Britain's secret police and while doing so, she helped POWs escape to safety, coordinated parachute drops of weapons and other necessary supplies for the resistance groups and also reported German troop movements to the Allied Forces. Virginia Hall was able to stay undercover through all of this by dressing up as an elderly milkmaid and wore bulky clothes to hide her thin body. She also shuffled her feet when she walked in order to disguise her limp. Virginia Hall also kept the Germans from tracking her radio signals by constantly moving and hiding out in attics, barns and shacks that she could find.
Virginia Hall finally moved back to London in 1943 and she received the honor of Member of the Order of the British Empire. London wanted to give her a higher award but felt the ceremony around any higher award were render her unable to be an effective spy. However, in 1945, Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts as a spy in the war and she was the only civilian woman to receive this medal in World War II.
Most of her career as a spy was done while she lived in Vichy, France and ironically died on July 14, 1982, which is the French equivalent to America's Independence Day, known as Bastille Day.
There is a lot of information about her on the Internet and in a book by Judith L. Pearson titled: The Wolves at the Door: The Story of America's Greatest Female Spy”. Just from doing the research on this article, I have personally found her story compelling and will read more about this true American hero and I would like to challenge you to just to read a little about her, then you too, will want to know more about her. Just put her name in your search bar and read your fill of this great woman. This article is only a tiny portion about her and what she has accomplished. She was truly an amazing woman.
It was on this day in history, April 6, 1906, that Virginia Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
To read more about Virginia Hall, please check the links I have posted below this article.