Archive for the ‘OSS’ Category

High profile people make the most interesting spies. Their fame and subsequent connections allow them access to places everyday schmoes can only dream of (like a certain Miss Baker  during WWII). It makes me wonder though about Princess Stephanie Julianne Richter zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst (1891 – 1972), a high-society, Austrian of Jewish descent married into German royalty and a spy for Hitler: does this odd relationship say more about a famed wild child-celebutant or a keen self-preservationist?

Stephanie was born in Vienna, Austria, and raised in the lap of luxury. Her training as a ballet dancer, charm and good looks helped insert the young Miss into the highest social circles. It also helped Stephanie get into a good number of fixes over the years as well.

At the tender age 22, Stephanie found herself knocked-up with the illegitimate love child of an Archduke/Prince. The family’s money and connections manage to cover up her indiscretion through a hasty marriage to German Prince Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst.

The child was born and raised with Hohenlohe name. Stephanie herself took to royalty like a Cinderella and a glass slipper. Despite her divorce in 1920, Stephanie continued on with her “Princess” shenanigans all throughout Europe and was involved with anyone from a British newspaper tycoon to a Nazi diplomat. It was during this time that Stephanie began her association with one Adolf Hitler, who intimated her with the moniker “My Dear Princess”. She held close relationships with the Nazi elite and managed to secure yet another title, one of “Honorary Aryan“, a pretty important title if you had but a drop of Jewish blood in you during those times.

During the 1930s, Stephanie took up residence in London and circulated through London society. The assumption during this time was that she was spying for Hitler and using her charms for propaganda and the Nazi cause. Not a hard sell as the London elite of the age had plenty of Nazi sympathizers among their ranks. Passing correspondence and arranging meetings between noted Britons and high-ranking Nazis, Stephanie even arranged the infamous meeting between the abdicated King Edward VIII, now Duke of Windsor, and his American wife, Wallis Simpson, with The Fuhrer in 1937. The British government kept a close eye on her though, noting her influence with Hitler and how he actively sought her advice.

With Germany effectively being broke during this time, one wonders how the Princess managed to support herself. Well, she did so by becoming the paid mistress of a British Lord. The relationship eventually fizzled and Stephanie went as far as to sue the Lord in court (she lost) demanding continued payment as was promised to her for life. Considering the payments were regarded as a “retainer”, one doesn’t have to go far to guess what kind of services were rendered.

An affair with Hitler’s top-aid, Fritz Weidemann, saw Stephanie through the rest of the 1930s. When Fritz was name consul-General to the United States and assigned to the San Francisco post, she followed. She traveled back and forth between the US and England but settled in the US after the official outbreak of war. Her spidey-senses a tingling, she became fearful the Brits might arrest her as a spy. However, the US, despite not taking part in the global festivities, kept a close eye on the minx. FDR famously wrote that the activities of one Princess Stephanie made her “worse than 10,000 men”.

Stephanie’s relationship with Fritz ended and after her visas ran-out in 1941, she was detained by US immigration. However, yet another affair, with the head INS no less, prolonged her stay in the country, and even saw her put up in a hotel in DC for a spell.

But as we all know too well, all good things must come to an end. In 1941, the FBI arrested Stephanie. She was placed in a detainment camp in Texas until her parole in 1945. But she made good use of her time there, she helped the OSS develop a psychological profile of Herr Hitler and was influential in a 1943 report “Analysis of the Personality of Adolf Hitler“.

After the war, Stephanie resumed her affairs in post-war Germany, targeting men who were best able to support her lifestyle. She lived to the ripe-old age of 81 and died in Geneva, Switzerland. A good long life, longer and better than most who lived during those times.

A very good book about this dame and her exploits was crafted by Martha Schad and is definitely worth a read.

Let me just start by saying that Cpl. Barbara Lauwers had the best job ever. Seriously, only a broad could think of a weapon so simple, so elegant as a mind game of this nature.

I am, of course, speaking of the one and only OSS Lonely Hearts Club. Sigh. Makes my young heart go all gooey just thinking about it…

So let’s get to it. Barbara Lauwers was born Bozena Hauserova in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1914. A brainy broad who became a lawyer, just prior to to the big break out of war, Babs also became a journalist. She also got hitched and she and her man high-tailed it to America in 1939 when things started to get nasty in Europe.

However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Babs’ man joined the army while Babs worked for the Czech embassy in Washington DC. She apparently got the bug to fight as well because she then joined the Army found her soon-to-be-bad-self in Algeria before moving onto Rome, Italy.

Lauwers worked for the Women’s Army Corp (WAC) Morale Operations Unit. Morale Ops is just another term for psychological operations (PSYCHOPS), as in psychological warfare. Propaganda. Smack. Trash talk. Subversion. I could go on. But just think what a job that would be to have during war where your sole purpose is to mess with the minds of the enemy.

Babs found all sorts of ways to amuse herself in Italy. There was the Hitler toilet paper. That’s right, toilet paper. Some were crude and raunchy with Hitler in all sorts of interesting poses, others were more explicit in their intention:

Comrades! Stop this shit! We do not fight for Germany but only for Hitler and Himmler. The NSDAP led us this damned way but now the bigwigs are only trying to save their own skin. They let us die in the mud; they want us to hold out until the last bullet. However, we need the last bullets to free Germany from this SS-shit. Enough! Peace!

But the really big idea came about when a failed assassination attempt on Hitler was publicized (think Tom Cruise’s upcoming movie Valkyrie) and the WAC, or Babs more specifically, got to thinking that this was news they could use to their advantage. Enter the “Lonely Hearts Club”…

Dear frontline soldier!

When will you have leave again?

When will you be able to forget your arduous soldier’s duties for a while, for a few days of joy, happiness and love? We at home know of your heroic struggle. We understand that even the bravest gets tired sometime and need a soft pillow, tenderness and healthy enjoyment.

We are waiting for you:

For you who must spend your leave in a foreign town; for you whom the war has deprived of a home; for you who is alone in the world without a wife, fiancée or a flirt.

We are waiting for you:

Cut our symbol from this letter. In every coffee shop, in every bar near a railway station, place it on your glass so that it can be clearly seen. A member of our VEK will soon contact you. The dreams you had at the front, and the longings of your lonely nights, will be fulfilled… We want you, not your money. Therefore, you should always show our membership card (to anyone who may approach you). There are members everywhere, because we women understand our duties to the homeland and to its defenders.

We are, of course, are selfish too – we have been separated from our men for many years. With all those foreigners around us, we would like once more to press a real German youth to our bosom. No inhibitions now: Your wife, sister, or lover is one of us as well.

We think of you and Germany’s future. Which rests – rusts.

Association of Lonely War Women.

So very naughty of Babs. So very baaaaaaaad.

As all good things must come to an end, so did the war. Our gal was awarded the Bronze Star. She and hubby also found they grew apart and divorced. Babs later married Polish nobility. She went back the US for a stint working as an analyst on Soviet matters in the Library of Congress. Later on, <iss Lauwers found herself back in Europe during all the brouhaha of the Soviets invading Czechoslovakia, so she worked in Vienna for a number of years helping Czech refugees and received a medal and a Woman of the Year award for that in 2003 at the ripe old age of 89.

And last I found, Babs was writing for the OSS Society Newsletter as of 2007, so the old gal must still be around. Makes you wonder what type of mischief the dame is up to. I got money on her trash talking the neighbors in the old folks home on FaceBook.

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.

aka: “The Limping Lady” (1906-1982)

Virginia Hall grew up very well-educated and in a very posh manner in Baltimore, Maryland. She was studying in Europe when she became an embassy clerk in Poland in 1931. Things went swimmingly for Ginny until she accidentally shot herself while turkey hunting and lost her left leg for her efforts. Consequently, this ended her consular career in 1939.

Now, don’t go writing off our girl Virginia as a flighty bird, and I say this or two reasons:

1. The loss of a gam led Ginny girl into the world of espionage and thus becoming one of the greatest female American spies to date.

and

2. She named her prosthetic leg “Cuthbert”.

Needless to say, this Agent likes her spy-dames with a sense of humor.

So Gimpy made her way to Vichy France where she volunteered for the Ambulance Service and later forwarded her soon-to-be-bad-self to London where she volunteered for the British Special Operations Executive which sent her back to Vichy France where Hall coordinated the goings-on for the French Underground. In 1942, Germans took over this area and Hall barely made it out with her life.

Hall joined the American OSS in 1944 where she was sent back to France, again, and made quite a name for herself mapping safe houses, coordinating drop zones for supplies, and waged guerilla war alongside the locals against the Germans. This is the real stuff of spies, ladies, no sexed-up Killer Fembots need apply. A one-legged, American debutante kicking ass and taking names.

At one point, when her identity was compromised, and Germans sent out word they looking for a limping interloper, Hall trained herself to walk perfectly, of course, with her prosthetic leg and gimped the hell out of Dodge despite the agonizing pain she must have endured in doing so.

Virginia Hall, for her bad-ass service to both the British and the US, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire and awarded the American Distinguished Service Cross by no less than “Wild Bill” Donovan himself.

After the war, Hall married, joined the newly formed CIA, and retired to Maryland, where she passed away in 1982.

So then next time you’re listening to the droning of “the brave men of WWII” (which they were, don’t pick a fight where there’s none to be had), never let it be said the Ladies merely sat on the sidelines.

Aside from her incredible life of writing fabulous cookbooks, hosting a much-beloved cooking show on TV, and introducing everyday American schmoes to the lush and wonderful world of French Cuisine, a little known fact about Julia Child (1912-2004) is that she worked for the OSS during WWII. Being too tall for the Navy at a whopping 6’3, Julia opted instead to work for “Wild Bill” Donovan in the Secret Intelligence Division.

Instead of cooking up coq au vin, Julia cooked up shark repellent. Co-invented actually. The fishies were doing a bang-up job of detonating underwater mines before our enemies could happen by. Enter our gal.

Interestingly enough, Julia, at the time, couldn’t cook at all. It wasn’t until she was out of the service, married, and her husband took a job in Paris that Mrs. Child learned to roast a chicken.