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Dindy sat at the bar deep in thought. Everyone else had left the cocktail party an hour ago, but she still couldn’t believe what she was holding.
She looked down at the business card.
She read the words one more time:
“If you’re really interested in stopping Hitler, come and see me.”
This card could open the door to a life that she always wanted… But she knew that if she chose this path, it would be dangerous… and there would be no going back.
Dindy put the card in her purse and walked out into the night.
Dindy was born to a wealthy family in Maryland.
From an early age, she was a natural leader. Her classmates wanted to follow her and her teachers wanted to help her. She was named “the most original of her class” in her school’s yearbook.
However, when she left school, she was unwilling to conform to any of the traditional paths for young women.
By the time she completed University, she had traveled across Europe, earned a diploma in economics and international law, and was fluent in French, German, and Italian. She even knew some Russian.
After college, she applied to work for the US Foreign Service. The application process consisted of three parts: a written test, a language test, and an interview.
She applied several times, but couldn’t make it past the interview. Although it was never directly said, Dindy knew that the rejections were because she was female. It was the 1930s and there were only a handful of female operatives in the Foreign Service.
She landed another job at the State Department, in a position where she could at least build her network.
Months passed, and again, Dindy applied for the Foreign Service. But right before the test, she had an accident.
While on a hunting trip, Dindy hopped a fence with her shotgun in hand. The gun accidentally discharged and shredded her foot.
Her friends rushed her to the hospital and the doctors were able to save her life… but they couldn’t save her foot. Gangrene had already set in and her leg had to be amputated from the knee down. Dindy would live with a prosthetic for the rest of her life.
If the Foreign Service was hard to get into before… now it was impossible. They had strict rules against hiring employees with disabilities and wouldn’t allow her to interview.
Dindy was furious.
She spent the next year in Maryland relearning how to walk. The prosthetic was a clunky, wooden device that weighed 7 pounds. Rehab was hard, and she would always have a limp, but Dindy was positive. She lovingly named the prosthetic ‘Cuthbert’.
Determined to find a new adventure, she resigned from the State Department and traveled to Paris.
She arrived on the eve of the German Invasion.
Rather than flee back to the States, Dindy stayed to support the French as an ambulance driver.
Before the Germans took Paris, she managed to escape to England, taking a job as a code clerk.
One fateful night after work, she went to a cocktail party. She had some drinks and proceeded to lecture the audience on how they should go about stopping Hitler.
Nobody listened except for that one man who handed her his business card.
She called him the next day.
The stranger was an agent from the British Special Operations Executive – an espionage and reconnaissance organization created by Great Britain to infiltrate the Axis powers.
Because of Dindy’s experience, time in France, and unassuming appearance as a handicapped woman, the agent saw her as a valuable asset.
After completing her training, she arrived in France in August of 1941. She took the identity of a French-American reporter for the New York Post named Marie Monin. Her code name was Germaine.
Dindy radioed back info on German troop movements, military posts, and even helped recruit a network of spies in France.
To communicate with British leadership, Dindy would write “news” stories with coded messages and send them to her editor in New York and the BBC.
At home, Dindy would put a potted geranium in her window which signaled that she had a note ready for pickup.
For the next 15 months, Dindy organized and armed the French resistance. She planned POW escapes from prison camps. She orchestrated rescues of downed Allied airmen and organized attacks against Axis supply lines.
Meanwhile, the Gestapo was on the hunt for the spy that was leaking classified information and hindering their every move.
They were so desperate to stop Dindy that they dispatched an entire team of double agents to try to uncover who she was. The Germans nicknamed her “Artemis”.
Klaus Barbie, the infamous leader of the Gestapo, was so upset that he once yelled out of frustration: “I would give anything to lay my hands on that Canadian dog.”
Of course, Dindy wasn’t Canadian. But gradually, Nazis uncovered more details. They created a wanted poster that resembled Dindy and even called her “la dame qui boite”, or the ‘limping lady.’
The Gestapo was hot on her heels but by the time the Axis agents arrived in Lyon, Dindy had vanished.
In the deep snow of winter, Dindy took the only route to Spain – a 50-mile trek by foot through the Pyrenees mountains.
During the journey, she sent a message to London that jokingly said, “Cuthbert is giving me trouble.”
Unaware that she was referring to her wooden leg, London replied, “If Cuthbert is giving you difficulty, have him eliminated.”
Dindy made it to Spain but was immediately arrested by Spanish police. She didn’t have proper documentation and spent six weeks in prison.
When her superiors got her out, she went straight back to France, disguised as an old farmhand. When allied troops hit the beaches of southern France, Dindy and her French Resistance troops came out of hiding and directly attacked the Germans. Ten days later, they accepted the Germans surrender at Le Chambon.
So who was this limping lady? Over the years she went by many names: Marie Monin, Germaine, Camille, Diane, Artemis, and of course la dame qui boite.
Her family called her “Dindy”.
But her real name was… Virginia Hall.
Virginia Hall was the most wanted allied spy of WWII. She was responsible for more jailbreaks, leaks, and sabotage missions than any spy in France.
She was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest U.S. military honor for bravery in combat.
Virginia faced rejection for being a woman and for being disabled, but she didn’t let that stop her from doing what she was called to do.
When everyone tells you ‘no’, you can quit, or you can keep searching until you find another way.
There is always another way.
That’s her story. What’s yours going to be?
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