Historical records matching Virginia Hall (American spy)
About Virginia Hall (American spy)
Virginia Hall, MBE, DSC (April 6, 1906 —July 14, 1982) was an American spy during World War II. She was also known by many aliases: "Marie Monin", "Germaine", "Diane", "Marie of Lyon" and "Camille". The Germans gave her the nickname Artemis. The Gestapo reportedly considered her "the most dangerous of all Allied spies".
She was born in Baltimore, Maryland and attended prestigious Radcliffe College and Barnard College (Columbia University), but wanted to finish her studies in Europe. With help from her parents, she traveled the Continent and studied in France, Germany, and Austria, finally landing an appointment as a Consular Service clerk at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland in 1931. Hall had hoped to join the Foreign Service, but suffered a setback around 1932 when she accidentally shot herself in the left leg while hunting in Turkey. It was later amputated from the knee down, and replaced with a wooden appendage she named "Cuthbert". The injury foreclosed whatever chance she might have had for a diplomatic career, and she resigned from the Department of State in 1939.
World War II
The coming of war that year found Hall in Paris. She joined the Ambulance Service before the fall of France and ended up in Vichy-controlled territory when the fighting stopped in the summer of 1940. Hall made her way to London and volunteered for Britain's newly formed Special Operations Executive, which sent her back to Vichy in August 1941. She spent the next 15 months there, helping to coordinate the activities of the French Underground in Vichy and the occupied zone of France. At the time she had the cover of a correspondent for the New York Post.
When the Germans suddenly seized all of France in November 1942, Hall barely escaped to Spain. Journeying back to London (after working for SOE for a time in Madrid), in July 1943 she was quietly made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
She joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Special Operations Branch in March 1944 and asked to return to occupied France. She hardly needed training in clandestine work behind enemy lines, and OSS promptly granted her request and landed her from a British MTB in Brittany (her artificial leg having kept her from parachuting in). Codenamed "Diane", she eluded the Gestapo and contacted the French Resistance in central France. She mapped drop zones for supplies and commandos from England, found safe houses, and linked up with a Jedburgh team after the Allied Forces landed at Normandy. Hall helped train three battalions of Resistance forces to wage guerrilla warfare against the Germans and kept up a stream of valuable reporting until Allied troops overtook her small band in September.
For her efforts in France, General William Joseph Donovan in September 1945 personally awarded Virginia Hall a Distinguished Service Cross — the only one awarded to a civilian woman in World War II.
In 1950, she married OSS agent Paul Goillot. In 1951, she joined the Central Intelligence Agency working as an intelligence analyst on French parliamentary affairs. She retired in 1966 to a farm in Barnesville, Maryland.
Virginia Hall Goillot died at the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Maryland in 1982, aged 76.
Her story was told in "The Wolves at the Door : The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy" by Judith L. Pearson (2005) The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-59228-762-X.
A biography exists in French: "L'Espionne. Virginia Hall, une Américaine dans la guerre", by Vincent Nouzille (2007) Fayard l (Paris), a book reviewed by British historian M.R.D. Foot in "Studies in Intelligence", Vol 53, N°1. She was honoured in 2006 again, at the French and British embassies for her courageous work.