Women Spies in World War II
World War II Women Spies: British Spies, American Spies, French Resistance
During World War II, when all of the able-bodied men were enlisted but more help was needed, women volunteered and were recruited to serve their country. A select few became spies.
American and British women worked in France with the Resistance as secret agents helping in numerous ways. They became radio operators and couriers, helped train new soldiers, and found safe houses for Allied supporters and spies among other tasks.
Violette Szabo, shown here, was shot at age 23 in a German concentration camp after being captured. Photo is in the public domain.
Lingo and Abbreviations Used by Spies During World War II
Here are a few of the acronyms, abbreviations, and lingo used by spies during World War II.
- FFI: Free French Intelligence (French)
- OSS: Office of Strategic Services (American), which preceded the CIA
- CIA: Central Intelligence Agency (American)
- SOE: Special Operations Executive (British)
- Radios were called pianos, and radio operators were called pianists.
- Maquis: rural French Resistance fighters
American Women Spies
Allied Spies: Women Spies in World War II - American Female Spies
These links provide information about women who were spies in World War II for the Allied Forces, of which the United States and Europe were a part.
- The People of the CIA ... -- Central Intelligence Agency
The People of the CIA ... Making an Impact: Virginia HallHer life reads like a spy novel. From overcoming the loss of her leg to working clandestinely behind enemy lines, she's a true American hero. Who is this brave woman? Some knew her as "Marie Mo
- World War II -- Central Intelligence Agency
We honor a diverse group of people in our World War II Hall of Fame, from the "Father of Modern American Intelligence" to an ingenious baseball catcher who was secretly an international spy. Read about these World War II heroes here.
- Barbara Lauwers Podoski dies at 95; launched psychological campaign against Germans in WWII - latime
Barbara Lauwers Podoski, who launched one of the most successful psychological campaigns of World War II, which resulted in the surrender of more than 600 Czechoslovakian soldiers fighting for the Germans, died of cardiovascular disease Aug. 16 at th
- Amy Elizabeth Thorpe: WWII's Mata Hari
Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, code-named 'Cynthia,' was a World War II version of the legendary Mata Hari.
The Wolves at the Door - The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy
Virginia Hall was an American who was a spy for both the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). She shot herself in the leg during a hunting accident and her leg was amputated below the knee. She was fitted with a wooden leg, which caused her to limp. She named her artificial leg Cuthbert.
Despite this setback, Ms. Hall, who was studying in France when World War II broke out, volunteered first with the French Ambulance Service. When fighting stopped in Vichy France, she traveled to London and there joined the SOE and was sent back to Vichy France under the cover as a New York Times correspondent. She later worked for the American OSS undercover in Vichy France helping organize and supply French Resistance fighters.
In her time as a female spy, she helped the French Resistance with supply drops, radioed messages to London, found safe houses for fellow Allied members, and trained French soldiers in fighting tactics.
Source: CIA Web Site
Cast No Shadow: The Life of the American Spy Who Changed the Course of the War - Amy Elizabeth Thorpe's Spying Detailed | Code Name Cynthia
In Cast No Shadow, Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, whose code name was Cynthia, is described as a spy who slept her way into the confidence of many German officials.
Books on Women Spies in World War II - Read about Brave Female Spies
Map of Vichy France -- France Occupied by AXIS Powers 1940-1944
British and French Women Spies
Allied Spies - Women Who Risked It All in World War II
- Violette: A secret story of wartime bravery
A MIDLAND historian has shed astonishing new light on the capture and death of secret agent Violette Szabo. Violette, who was recruited to the British Special Operations Executive (BSOE), was tortured and eventually executed by the Nazis after being
- World War II: Women Spies of the OSS
Female spies rendered valuable service to the OSS in the days following the invasion of Southern France.
- Spy Women
ARLINGTON, VA. Another kind of valor besides the valor of soldiers in combat is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery here: the valor of American-born women who have served as spies for the United States. The women's memorial at Arlington is fe
Carve Her Name with Pride - 1958 Movie about Violette Szabo, British Spy
This accounting of the true story of Violette Szabo, who was shown in the introduction photo, is a 1958 British film starring Virginia McKenna and Paul Schofield. This movie was very well done.
From what I've read, it stayed fairly close to the real events that took place including Szabo's husband being killed in Africa, which prompted her to volunteer to work in France because of her French language and athletic ability, as well as her intelligence.
French Maquis - Women in the French Resistance Movement
During the occupation of France, rural groups called the Maquis, fought against the Germans and provided safe passage and aid to Allied troops.
Photo of Maquis members in La Tresorerie, France, a hamlet part of Wimille, near Boulogne-sur-Mer. Photo was taken on September 14, 1944.
Photo Credit: Donald I. Grant, Department of National Defence. Photo is in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
Nancy Wake, British Spy
Wish Me Luck - British Drama of Women Spies
I recently watched all three seasons of this British drama. Wish Me Luck is a dramatization but is based on real women spies from Britain who volunteered to work as couriers, radio operators, and soldiers for the French Resistance.
It was fascinating to see what all they had to hide about themselves:
~Dental work was redone in Britain to resemble French fillings.
~ Exchanges of British items for French items took place before the women and men were taken into France. Items included cigarettes, money, sanitary pads, and clothing.
~ They were required to be fluent in French and have some knowledge of and contacts in France.
~ Accents were polished to sound more French.
It was really amazing to see what all these women did for the cause.
Radios were called pianos, and
radio operators were called pianists.
Charlotte Gray - Starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Cruddup
Charlotte Gray is a 2001 movie starring Cate Blanchett, Billy Cruddup, and Abigail Cruttenden. This movie is based on the Sebastian Faulks novel.
Set during World War II, this movie briefly shows the circumstances of a Scottish women, Charlotte Gray, who joins the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) initially to locate her missing boyfriend in France. She then realizes the importance one person's actions can make on the lives of a few people.