I’ve been a little loathe to write of Elizabeth “Betty” Thorpe Pack (1910-1963), famous WWII Spy-Dame, for the simple reason that she is too closely associated with a term this Agent truly dislikes: Sexpionage.
Sexpionage, quite simply, is a practice attributed to the dames who use those other “womanly charms” to get the intel or finish the op. This term is regularly and incorrectly attributed to ladies in the know, just like the name “Mata Hari”. And while this Agent won’t dispute the reality or even the necessity of utilizing such extreme methods to get a job done, this Agent does take issue with such methods garnering Ms. Pack the moniker of “Greatest Female Spy” because of them.
Okay, so here we go: Betty-Boop was born in Minneapolis, the daughter of a career Military man. Betty was a broad who, at a very early age, like to play the field. She was well educated and a striking beauty with her red hair and green eyes. She became the Paris Hilton of her day prowling the socialite circuit until she found herself knocked-up at 21 and set to marry a dull, British, embassy man twice her age.
Life wasn’t all bad as her husband’s career took her abroad to Chile, Spain, Poland, where she apparently continued to play the field. Around such time, Betty was put on the British payroll as a spy and set up to capture her first target: a Polish Prime Minister with access to the code-breaking work on the Enigma machine.
When war broke out, Betty found herself back on home turf where she was further recruited by the British (remember, the US was still neutral at this point) to set up shop in Washington DC. Her task was to obtain Italian naval codes from a certain sailor at the Italian Embassy. Betty employed her “usual methods” and voila! the Italian battle fleet is hitting skids.
Next up: Vichy France and their cipher codes. Betty set her sights on Charles Brousse, French Embassy Press Officer in order to gain access to the French Embassy in DC. She began a passionate affair with Brousse (a married person not unlike Betty, it’s easy to forget about that fact). Brousse was “turned” by the enticement of money, his dislike of Germans, and apparently Betty’s charms. The intel flowed into British hands but the cipher books were proving difficult to obtain and despite Betty’s “best efforts” with other men in the embassy, she unable to get them into the hands of the Brits.
A last ditch effort to obtain the books involved Brousse and Betty working in tandom over several nights at the French Embassy with a safe cracker. Guards were paid, others drugged, and the pinnacle event was while the safe cracker was doing his deed, Betty and Brousse engaged in the deed themselves, in flagrante delicato no less, in order to thwart discovery of their true activities when a security guard happened into the room they were in at the embassy.
So, of course, after all that hooplah, the codes were obtained. Pearl Harbor went down, America ended its neutrality, and we can all pretty much remember what happened after that.
After the war, Brousse divorced his wife and Betty’s long forgotten husband committed suicide leaving Betty and Brousse free to marry, which they did. Betty pack died in 1963 of throat cancer at the age of 53.
So what do we take away from all of this? Perhaps an argument about what makes a successful spy versus what makes a great spy? Betty was certainly successful and the intel was important, but do you compare that to the exploits of Hall, Szabo, Cornioley, and the host of other dames being dropped out of airplanes, wrangling ammo, sending secret communiques, waging war, and generally risking their lives? Does a broad using sex as her tradecraft really equate a “great” spy?
I’m not trying to undermine Betty’s accomplishments because to a certain extent we are comparing apples and radiators, but tallying up this skirt’s love of adventure and promiscuity, both of which seemed to have fueled her actions, makes this Agent glad for one thing:
That Betty Pack was on our side.