Andrezej Kowerski

Andrezej Kowerski


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Andrezej Kowerski was born in Poland in 1912. His father Stanislas Kowerski, was one of the country's largest landowners. Kowerski was a gifted athlete in his youth but as a result of a hunting accident had to have his leg amputated. Despite this he served in Poland's only mechanized brigade during the early weeks of the Second World War. While fighting against the German Army Kowerski was awarded Poland's highest award for bravery, Virtute Militari.

After Poland's government fled to Romania on 18th September, Kowerski moved to Hungary where he established a network where he attempted to help members of the Polish armed forces to escape from the camps where they had been interned. This involved transporting them to Yugoslavia before being sent to Britain and France so they could continue the struggle against Nazi Germany. He was later joined by his old friend, Christine Granville, in this work.

Kowerski (who now took the name of Andrew Kennedy) and Christine both joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Kowerski was the SOE's first one-legged parachutist when he was dropped in Italy to help with the training of Poles.

After the war Kowerski established automobile agencies in Germany. This was unsuccessful and he returned to London where he lived with Christine Granville until her murder on 15th June, 1952.

Madeleine Masson's biography, A Search for Christine Granville was published by Hamish Hamilton in 1975.

In Budapest Christine Granville came into contact with a Pole whom she had met a couple of times before, named Andrzej Kowerski. Their social paths had naturally crossed, for Kowerski too belonged to the szlachta, the name given to the Polish land-owning upper class, whose members exhibited as their most determining characteristics complete social ease, an excellent command of French and an apparently inexhaustible supply of people whom they referred to as their cousins.

When she arrived in Budapest Christine's marriage had already effectively foundered. She and Kowerski became lovers, so beginning a relationship which never turned into marriage but which survived, essentially unimpaired, until death, even though both were to be driven from time to time to other people and indeed to different continents.

We entered by the side door and were greeted by a guard of honour formed by the Swiss Guards. Then we went

along enormous corridors to an antechamber filled with wonderful paintings. Here a Church dignitary, a Cardinal I believe, was waiting for us. He showed us round, and guided us into the room in which the Pope was sitting. It was a tiny room with white Louis XVI chairs. His Holiness sat on a plain chair. We walked in, kissed his ring and the conversation began. This was between His Holiness, the Polish Ambassador and myself, as the poor Colonel was unable to participate. I was very disappointed that the Pope would not follow our suggestion that he should say something about the cruelties of the Nazis against the Jews and the Poles.

I was very bitter and forgetting all protocol said, "But, Your Holiness, surely the Catholic Church cannot just sit and watch these horrible atrocities being carried out-people being killed, taken away and gassed, without saying something?" His Holiness said, "Well, my son, you must understand that the Catholic Church must look after the whole world, and not one country only."


11 Women Warriors of World War II

There are more stories of heroism out of World War II than can ever fit in a school textbook, but hundreds of those stories are written down somewhere for those who want to find them. Over 100 million military personnel participated in the war, including many women. Here are the stories of eleven of these brave women. They are from many countries, and they all did their part and more for the Allied effort.

1. Nancy Wake: Guerrilla Fighter

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Nancy Wake was a journalist in New York and London and then married a wealthy Frenchman and was living in Marseille when Germany invaded. Wake immediately went to work for the French resistance, hiding and smuggling men out of France and ferrying contraband supplies and falsified documents. She was once captured and interrogated for days, but gave no secrets away. With the Nazis in hot pursuit, Wake managed to escape to Britain in 1943, and joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a British intelligence agency. After training with weapons and parachutes, she was airdropped back into France—as an official spy and warrior. Wake had no trouble shooting Nazis or blowing up buildings with the French guerrilla fighters known as maquis in the service of the resistance. She once killed an SS sentry with her bare hands. After the war, Nancy Wake was awarded the George Medal from the British, the Medal of Freedom from the U.S., and the Médaille de la Résistance and three Croix de Guerre from France, among other honors. She also found out that her husband had died in 1943 when the Gestapo had tortured him to find out his wife's whereabouts. He refused any cooperation to the point of death.

Wake ran for political office a few times in Australia, and remarried in the 1950s. She published her biography, The White Mouse, in 1988. That was the Gestapo's nickname for her due to her talent for sneaking by them. Nancy Wake died August 7, 2011 at age 98.

2. Elsie Ott: Flight Nurse

Lieutenant Elsie S. Ott was the first woman to receive the U.S. Air Medal. Already a trained nurse, she joined the Army Air Corps in 1941 and was sent to Karachi, India. The Army Air Corps was considering using airplanes to evacuate injured military as they delivered fresh troops. Ott was assigned to the first evacuation flight with only 24 hours notice -and she had never flown before. The plane had no medical equipment beyond first aid kit supplies, the patients had a motley variety of injuries, diseases, and mental illnesses, and there was only one army medic to help her care for the passengers. The plane left India on January 17, 1943 and made several stops, picking up more patients, on its 6-day flight to Washington, D.C. The previous route for such a mission was by ship, and took three months. Ott wrote up a report on that flight, recommending important changes for further evacuation flights. She returned to India a few months later with a new unit, the 803rd Military Air Evacuation Squad, and was promoted to captain in 1946.

3. Natalia Peshkova: Combat Medic

Natalia Peshkova was drafted into the Russian Army straight out of high school at age 17. She was trained with weapons that didn't work and then sent off with a unit so woefully equipped that at one time a horse ate her felt boot as she slept, forcing her to make do with one boot for a month. Peshkova spent three years at the front, accompanying wounded soldiers from the front to hospitals and trying to fight disease and starvation among the troops. She was wounded three times. Once, when the Germans moved into an area the Soviets held, Peshkova was separated from her unit and had to disguise herself. However, she could not discard her weapon because she knew the Soviet Army would execute her for losing it! Yet she made it back to her unit undetected. As the war dragged on, Peshkova was promoted to Sergeant Major and given political education duties further from the front. After the war, she was awarded the Order of the Red Star for bravery.

4. Susan Travers: French Foreign Legionnaire

Englishwoman Susan Travers was a socialite living in France when the war broke out. She trained as a nurse for the French Red Cross and became an ambulance driver. When France fell to the Nazis, she escaped to London via Finland and joined the Free French Forces. In 1941, Travers was sent with the French Foreign Legion as a driver to Syria and then to North Africa. Assigned to drive Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig, she fell in love with him. In Libya, her unit was besieged by Rommel's Afrika Corps, but Travers refused to be evacuated with the other female personnel. After hiding for 15 days in sand pits, the unit decided to make a break at night. The enemy noticed the escaping convoy when a land mine went off. Driving the lead vehicle with Koenig, Travers took off at breakneck speed under machine gun fire and broke through the enemy lines, leading 2,500 troops to the safety of an Allied encampment hours later. Her car was full of bullet holes. Travers was promoted to General, and served in Italy, Germany, and France during the remainder of the war. She was wounded once during that period driving over a land mine.

After the war, Travers applied to become a an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She did not specify her sex on the application, and it was accepted -rubber-stamped by an officer who knew and admired her. Travers was the only woman ever to serve with the Legion as an official member, and was posted to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War. Some of her awards were the Légion d'honneur, Croix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire. Travers waited until the year 2000, when she was 91 years old, to publish her autobiography Tomorrow to Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion. By then, both her husband (whom she met after World War II) and Colonel Koenig (who was a married man during the war) had passed away.

5. Reba Whittle: POW Nurse

Lt. Reba Whittle was the only U.S. female soldier to be imprisoned as a POW in the European theater of war. Whittle was a flight nurse with the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron, and had logged over 500 hours. On a flight from England to France to pick up casualties in September of 1944, her plane went off course and was shot down over Aachen, Germany. The few survivors were taken prisoner. The Germans did not know what to do with Whittle, as she was their first female military POW -at least on the Western Front. In the East, many female Russian soldiers were interned as POWs and used for forced labor. Whittle, who was initially rejected by the Army Air Corps in 1941 for being underweight, was allowed to minister to the wounded in camp. A Swiss legation that negotiated POW transfers, mostly of wounded prisoners, discovered her in custody and began to arrange her release. Whittle was escorted by the German Red Cross away from the camp along with 109 male POWS on January 25th, 1945.

Whittle's status as a POW was undocumented by the U.S. military. She was awarded the Air Medal and a Purple Heart, and promoted to lieutenant, but was denied disability or POW retirement benefits. Her injuries kept her from flying, so she worked in an Army hospital in California until she left the service in 1946. Whittle applied for, and was denied, POW status and back pay for ten years. She finally accepted a cash settlement in 1955. While nurses who were imprisoned in Asia had received hero's receptions upon their release, Whittle's story was kept quiet by the Army and barely noticed by the media in the celebrations of the war's end. Whittle died of breast cancer in 1981. Her POW status was officially conferred by the military in 1983.

6. Eileen Nearne: British Spy

Eileen Nearne joined the Special Operations Executive in Britain as a radio operator. Two of her siblings also served the SOE. Only 23 years old, Nearne was dropped by parachute into occupied France to relay messages from the French resistance and to arrange weapons drops. She talked her way out of trouble several times, but was eventually arrested by the Nazis, tortured, and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Yet Nearne stuck to her cover story. She was transferred to a labor camp and escaped during yet another transfer. Once again, Nearne talked her way out of trouble when confronted by the Gestapo and hid in a church until the area was liberated by the Americans.

After the war, Nearne was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French and was made a a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by King George VI. She suffered some psychological problems and lived a quiet life with her sister Jacqueline (also a British spy during the war) until Jacqueline's death in 1982. When Eileen Nearne died in 2010, her body was not discovered for several days, and her wartime exploits were only revealed after a search of her apartment uncovered her war medals. Nearne was then given a hero's funeral.

7. Ruby Bradley: POW Nurse

Colonel Ruby Bradley was a career Army nurse well before the war began. She was a hospital administrator on Luzon Island in the Philippines when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Bradley hid in the hills with a doctor and another nurse when the Japanese overran the island. Turned over by locals, they were taken back to their former base, which had been turned into a prison camp. They once again went to work aiding the sick and injured, though with fewer supplies and hardly any equipment. Bradley spent over three years as a POW, performing surgery, delivering babies, smuggling supplies, and comforting the dying in the camps. When she was finally liberated by U.S. troops in 1945, she weighed a mere 84 pounds, down from her normal 110 pounds. You can read Bradley's own account of her imprisonment.

But wait -there's more! After the war, Bradley stayed with the Army and earned her bachelor's degree. In 1950 she went to Korea as the 8th Army's chief nurse, working at the front lines. During one medical evacuation just ahead of the enemy, she loaded all the wounded soldiers and was the last person to jump aboard the plane, just as her ambulance exploded from the shelling. Bradley remained in Korea through the entire conflict. Bradley's 34 medals and citations included two Legions of Merit and two Bronze Stars from the Army, which also promoted her to Colonel. She was also awarded the International Red Cross' highest honor, the Florence Nightingale Medal. Bradley retired from the Army in 1963, but continued to work as a supervising nurse in West Virginia for 17 years. When she died in 2002 (at age 94), she was buried with honors at Arlington Cemetery.

8. Krystyna Skarbek: Polish Spy

Krystyna Skarbek (later Christine Granville) was the daughter of a Polish Count and the granddaughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. Skarbek's second husband was a diplomat, and they were together in Ethiopia when World War II broke out. Skarbek signed up with Britain's Section D to return to Poland through Hungary and facilitate communications with the Allies. Impressed with the "flaming Polish patriot," the British intelligence service accepted her plan. Beginning in 1939, Skarbek worked to organize Polish resistance groups and smuggle Polish pilots out of the occupied nation. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941, but faked a case of TB by biting her tongue until it bled. They let her go after hours of interrogation. Skarbek and her partner Andrzej Kowerski went to the British embassy and received new identities as Christine Granville and Andrew Kennedy. They were smuggled out of Poland through Yugoslavia to Turkey, where they were welcomed by the British.

In Cairo in 1944, Granville and Kennedy founded themselves persona non grata because the Polish group they had been working with, the Musketeers, had been compromised by German spies. Granville could not be sent back to Poland, and instead trained as a radio operator and paratrooper. After D-Day she was dropped into France, but her assigned resistance area was overrun with Germans, so she escaped, hiking 70 miles to safety. She then worked in the Alps to turn Axis fighters. Granville's success rate was almost supernatural and she took extraordinary risks to pull off further capers. The most famous was when she outed herself as a spy to French officials working for the Gestapo, and arranged a prisoner release by threats and promises of money. Granville and the prisoners made it out alive, which secured her reputation as a legendary spy.

After the war, Granville was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the George Medal, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). However, Granville was at loose ends without the adrenaline rush of her wartime exploits. She did not return to Poland, as it was under Russian authority, but lived in Britain, Africa, and then Australia. Granville was murdered in 1952 by Dennis Muldowney, a stalker who had become obsessed with her. There was a rumor that Granville carried on a one-year affair with Ian Fleming, but there is no evidence to support it. However, she is considered to be the inspiration for at least two of his Bond girls.

9. Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Russian Sniper

Unlike many of the young girl snipers of the Soviet Army, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was an accomplished sharpshooter before joining the military. She was older than the others as well, and was in her fourth year of study at Kiev University when war broke out. The Russian Army sent around 2,000 trained female snipers to the front during the war only around 500 survived. Pavlichenko had by far the greatest war record of them all, with 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers. And that was accomplished by 1942! Pavlichenko was wounded by a mortar and pulled from the front. Because of her record, she was sent on a public relations tour to Canada and the United States to drum up support for the war effort and make an impression on the Allies. She was never sent back to the front, but served during the remainder of the war as a sniper trainer. Pavlichenko earned the title Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war, she completed her university degree and became a historian and served on the the Soviet Committee of the Veterans of War.

10. Aleda Lutz: Flight Nurse

1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz volunteered with the unit inaugurated by Elsie Ott (see #2), the 803rd Military Air Evacuation Squad, designed to carry wounded soldiers quickly away from the war front. Lutz flew 196 missions to evacuate more than 3,500 men. No other flight nurse logged as many hours as Lutz. She would have stretched that record of 814 hours out further, but in December of 1944, her C47 hospital plane picked up wounded soldiers from Lyon, Italy, and then crashed. There were no survivors. Lutz was the first woman ever awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, conferred posthumously. This was in addition to the Air Medal (earned four times), the Oak Leaf Cluster, the Red Cross Medal, and the Purple Heart. In 1990, the Veterans Administration Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan was named in her honor.

11. Noor Inayat Khan: Spy Princess

Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan had a particularly distinguished background. Her father was Indian Sufi master and musician Inayat Khan her mother was American Ora Ray Baker, the niece of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, and her paternal great-great-grandfather was the ruler of Kingdom of Mysore. Noor was born in Russia her younger siblings were born in England. She held a British passport, but lived in France when Germany invaded. The family was able to escape to England ahead of the Germans, and Noor Khan joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). The British intelligence agency SOE took her as a wireless operator and sent her to France in June of 1943. There, she transmitted information out of France by Morse code. She refused to quit, even as other radio operators were arrested. Khan was arrested in October by the German intelligence agency (SD) and fought them so fiercely that she was classified as "an extremely dangerous prisoner." A month of interrogation yielded no information about Khan's SOE activities, and she even sent a coded message about her compromised position (which the SOE ignored). However, the Germans found her notebooks, which gave them enough information to send false messages and lure more British spies to France and arrest. In November, Khan escaped briefly, but was caught and then kept in shackles for ten months. In September of 1944, Khan was transferred to Dachau, where she was immediately executed along with three other female SOE agents.

Khan was posthumously awarded the British George Cross, the French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The strange part of her story was that Khan was a Sufi Muslim pacifist of Indian origin. She opposed the British rule of India, and if it weren't for the Nazi invasion of Europe, might had fought against the British instead of for them.


SPY WEEK Famous Polish Spies - Krystyna Skarbek

Krystyna Skarbek (1 May 1915 – 15 June 1952) was a Polish Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent who became a legend in her own time for her daring exploits in intelligence and sabotage missions to Nazi-occupied Poland and France.

She was a British agent just months before the SOE was founded in July 1940 and had been the longest serving of all British women agents during World War II. Skarbek was extremely resourceful and quite persuasive. Because of her influence the SOE began to recruit increasing numbers of women agents into the organization.

In 1941 she chose her began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville, which she ultimately legally adopted after the war. Skarbek was a friend of Ian Fleming, and is said to have been the inspiration for the charachters of Bond girls Tatiana Romanova and Vesper Lynd.

Krystyna Skarbek was born on an estate at Mlodzieszyn, 56 km (35 miles) west of Warsaw, to Count Jerzy Skarbek, a Roman Catholic and Stefania née Goldfeder, the daughter of a wealthy assimilated Jewish banker. It was a marriage of convenience which allowed Jerzy Skarbek the benefit of using Stefania`s dowry to pay his debts and continue his lavish life-style.

The Skarbeks were well connected with notable relations such as the composer Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin's godfather and prison reformer Fryderyk Skarbek, and American Union General Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski.

The couple's first child, Andrzej took after the mother's side of the family while, Krystyna, second born, took after her father. She shared his love for riding horses, which she sat astride, rather than side-saddle. During family visits to Zakopane in the mountains of southern Poland, she developed into an expert skier. From the very beginning, there was a complete rapport between father and daughter and her penchant for being a tomboy developed quite naturally.

Krystyna first met Andrzej Kowerski her childhood playmate, a her family stables, when his father met with her father the Count to discuss agricultural business. The 1920s financial crisis had left the family in dire financial straits in which they had to give up their country estate and move to Warsaw. In 1930, when Krystyna was just 22, her father died. The financial empire of the Goldfeder family had almost all but collapsed leaving barely sufficient money to support the widowed Countess Stefania.

Krystyna found work at a Fiat dealership but soon had to quit due to illness incurred as a result of the auto fumes. Initially, a doctor's diagnosis concluded that the shadows on her chest e-rays were that of tuberculosis, since her father had died of the disease. She received compensation from her employer's insurance company and followed the advice of her physician to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible. She spent a great deal of time hiking and skiing the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland.

During this time, Krystyna married a young businessman, Karol Getlich but the marriage ended amicably. They were incompatible. Subsequently, she was involved in a love affair, but it was nipped in the bud, as Karol's mother refused to allow him to marry a penniless divorcee.

One day while skiing at Zakopane, Krystyna lost control on the slopes and was saved in the nick of time by a giant of a man who stepped into her path and saved her. His name was Jerzy Giżycki - a brilliant, moody, irascible eccentric young man, who came from a wealthy family in Ukraine. At the age of fourteen, he had quarreled with his father, run away from home, and worked in the United States as a cowboy and gold prospector. Eventually he became an author and traveled the world in search of material for his books and articles. He had visited Africa and knew it well. It was his hope to one day return.

On 2 November 1938, Krystyna and Jerzy Giżycki married at the Evangelical Reformed Church in Warsaw. Shortly thereafter Jerzy accepted a diplomatic posting to Ethiopia, where he served as Poland’s consul general until September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Skarbek would later refer to Giżycki as having been "my Svengali for so many years that he would never believe that I could ever leave him for good."

Frederick Voigt

With the outbreak of World War II, the couple sailed for London, England, where Skarbek offered her services to the British Empire. At first the British authorities had little interest in considering her, but were eventually convinced by Skarbek's acquaintances, including that of journalist Frederick Augustus Voigt, who had previously introduced her to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). In 1940 Voigt was working as advsor for the British in the Department of Propaganda in Enemy Countries. After World War II, George Orwell described Voigt as a "neo-tory" who expounded on the need to maintain British imperial power as a necessary bulwark against communism and for the maintenance of international peace and political stability.

Skarbek travelled to Hungary and in December 1939 persuaded Polish Olympic skier Jan Marusarz, brother of Stanislaw Marusarz, to escort her across the snow-covered Tatra Mountains into Poland. Having arrived in Warsaw, she pleaded with her mother to leave Nazi-occupied Poland. Tragically, Stefania Skarbek refused to comply and died at the hands of the occupying Germans. In what was a cruel twist of fate, she perished in Warsaw's infamous Pawiak prison The prison had been designed in the mid-19th century by Krystyna Skarbek's great-great-uncle Fryderyk Florian Skarbek, a prison reformer and Frédéric Chopin's godfather, who had been tutored in French language by Chopin's father.

Pawiak Prison
An incident in February 1940, illustrates the danger she faced while working as an undercover spy on home turf. At a Warsaw café, she was greeted by a female acquaintance who exclaimed: "Krystyna! Krystyna Skarbek! What are you doing here? We heard that you'd gone abroad!" Skarbek, with cool composure, denied that her name was Krystyna Skarbek, though the woman persisted that the resemblance was such that she could have sworn it was Krystyna Skarbek! After the woman had left, Skarbek remained some time at the cafe before leaving, so as not to arouse suspicion.

Krystyna Skarbek helped to organize a team of Polish couriers that transported intelligence reports from Warsaw to Budapest. Among them, was her cousin Ludwik Popiel who managed to smuggle out the unique Polish anti-tank rifle, model 35, with the stock and barrel sawed off for easier transport but it never saw wartime service with the Allies. Its designs and specifications had to be destroyed upon the outbreak of war and there was no time for reverse engineering. Captured stocks of the rifle were, however, used by the Germans and the Italians. For a period of time Skarbek, had the weapon concealed in her Budapest apartment.

In Hungary, Skarbek met long-lost childhood friend, Andrzej Kowerski, a Polish Army officer, who would later use the British nom de guerre "Andrew Kennedy". Skarbek met him again briefly before the war at Zakopane. Kowerski had lost part of his leg in a pre-war hunting accident, and was now exfiltrating Polish and other Allied military personnel and gathering intelligence.

Skarbek demonstrated her penchant for quick-thinking strategy. When she and Kowerski were arrested by the Gestapo in January 1941 she feigned symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis by biting her tongue until it bled. She won their release. Skarbek was related to the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Mikos Horthy, though a distant one at that. A cousin from the Lwów side of the family had married a relative of Horthy. The pair made good their escape from Hungary via the Balkans and Turkey.

As soon as they arrived at SOE offices in Cairo, Egypt, they were stunned to discover that they were under suspicion.because of Skarbek's contacts with a Polish intelligence organization called the "Musketeers". The organization was formed in October 1939 by Stefan Witkowski, an engineer-inventor who would be assassinated in October 1941, whose identities have never been determined. Another source of suspicion was the ease with which she had obtained transit visas through French-mandated Syria and Lebanon from the pro-Vichy French consul in Istanbul, a concession offered only to German spies.

Suspicions also surrounded Kowerski and were addressed in London by General Colin Gubbins, head of the SOE (from September 1943). In a letter dated 17 June 1941 to Polish Commander-in-Chief and Premier Władysław Sikorski, he wrote the following:

Eventually,Kowerski was able to clarify any misunderstandings with General Kopański following which he resumed intelligence work. Similarly, when Skarbek visited Polish military headquarters in her British Royal Air Force uniform, she was treated by the Polish military chiefs with the highest of respect.

Intelligence obtained by Skarbek through her connections with the Musketeers, had accurately predicted the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). Consequently, when Skarbek and Kowerski's services were dispensed with, Jerzy Gizycki took umbrage and abruptly resigned from his own career as British intelligence agent. (It was discovered only later that a number of Allied sources, including Ultra, also had similar advance information about Operation Barbarossa.)

Skarbek informed Jerzy, her husband that the man she loved was Kowerski. Giżycki left for London, eventually emigrating to Canada. Their divorce became official at the Polish consulate in Berlin on 1 August 1946.

Krystyna Skarbek was sidelined from mainstream action. The assistant to the head of F section, Vera Atkins, described Skarbek as a very brave woman, though very much a loner and a law unto herself.

By 1944 events had occurred that would lead to some of Skarbek's most famous of exploits. Due to her fluency in French, her services her offered to SOE teams in France, where she worked under the nom de guerre, "Madame Pauline". The offer was timely one - the SOE was encountering a shortage of trained operatives to meet the increased demands being placed on it in the run-up to the invasion of France. Though new operatives were already in training, the process took time to complete. The could not be posted throughout occupied Europe until they acquired the necessary physical and intellectual skills, otherwise their fate as well as that of other SOE colleagues and that of the French Resistance would be greatly compromised.

Cecily Lefort
Skarbek's track record in courier work was exceptional during her missions in occupied Europe and required only a little "refresher" work and some guidance about working in France. There was one particular incident which required immediate attention: the replacement of SOE agent Cecily Lefort, a courier who was lost on a busy circuit whose mission it was to be the first to meet the proposed Allied landings. Skarbek was chosen to replace Lefort, who had been captured, tortured, and imprisoned by the Gestapo.

The SOE had set up several branches in France. Though most of the women in France reported to F Section in London, Skarbek's mission was launched from Algiers, the base of the AMF Section. This fact, combined with Skarbek's absence from the usual SOE training program, has been the source of mystery to many historians and researchers. The AMF Section was only set up in the wake of the Allied landings in North Africa, 'Operation Torch', comprising of staff from London's F Section and the MO4 from Cairo.

The functions of the AMF Section were three-fold: it was simpler and safer to run the resupply operations from Allied North Africa acroos German-occupied France, than from London since the South of France would be liberated by separate Allied landings there ("Operation Dragoon"), SOE units in the area needed to be transferred to have links with those headquarters, not with forces for Normandy the AMF Section tapped into the skills of the French in North Africa, who did not generally support Charles de Gaulle and who had been linked with opposition in the former "Unoccupied Zone".

After the two invasions, the distinctions became irrelevant and almost all the SOE Sections in France would be united with the Maquis into the Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (FFI). (There was one exception: the EU/P Section, which was formed by Poles in France and remained part of the trans-European Polish Resistance movement, under Polish command.)

On July 6, 1944, Skarbek, as "Pauline Armand", parachuted into southeastern France and became part of the "Jockey" network directed by a Belgian-British lapsed pacifist, Francis Cammaerts. She assisted Cammaerts by linking Italian partisans and French Maquis for joint operations against the Germans in the Alps and by inducing non-Germans, in particular Poles who had been conscripted in the German occupation forces to defect to the Allies.

On August 13, 1944, just two days before Operation Dragoon landings, Francis Cammaerts, another SOE operative,Xan Fielding who had been operating in Crete, as well as a French officer, Christian Sorensen, were arrested at a roadblock by the Gestapo. When Skarbek learned that they were to be executed, she managed to meet with Capt. Albert Schenck, an Alsatian, who was the liaison officer between the local French prefecture and the Gestapo. She introduced herself as a niece of British General Bernard Montgomery and threatened Schenck should any harm come to the prisoners. She reinforced her threat by offering two million francs for the men's release. Schenck in turn introduced her to a Gestapo officer, a Belgian named Max Waem.

Cammaerts and the other two men were released. Capt. Schenck was advised to leave Digne. He did not and was subsequently murdered by a person or persons unknown. His wife kept the bribe money and, after the war, attempted to exchange it for new francs. She was arrested but released after the authorities investigated her story. She managed to exchange the money but received only a tiny portion of its value.

Skarbek's service in France restored her political reputation and greatly enhanced her military reputation. When the SOE teams returned from France some of the British women sought new missions in the Pacific War, however Skarbek, being Polish, was ideally suited to serve as a courier for missions to her homeland during the final missions of the SOE. As the Red Army advanced across Poland, the British government and Polish government-in-exile worked together to establish a network that would report on events in the People's Republic of Poland. Kowerski and Skarbek, fully reconciled with the Polish forces, were preparing to be dropped into Poland in early 1945. However, the mission, Operation Freston, was canceled because the first party to enter Poland were captured by the Red Army (they were released in February 1945).

All women SOE operatives were assigned military rank, with honorary commissions in either the Women's Transport Service - which was an autonomous, though elite part of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) or the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Skarbek appears to have been a member of both.

In preparation for service in France, Skarbek worked with the Women's Transport Service, but on her return had transferred to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force as an officer, a rank she held until the end of the war.

Skarbek was one of the few SOE female operatives to have been promoted beyond subaltern rank to that of Captain, or the Air Force equivalent, Flight Officer, the counterpart of the Flight Lieutenant rank for male officers. Skarbek, by the end of the war was Honorary Flight Officer, a title that of Pearl Witherington, the courier who had taken command of a group when the designated commander was captured, and Yvonne Cormeau, considered to be the most successful wireless operator.

For her remarkable exploits at Digne, Skarbek was decorated with the George Medal. Years after the Digne incident, in London, she spoke about her experiences to another Pole, also a World War II veteran that, during her negotiations with the Gestapo, she was completely unaware of any danger to herself. Only after she and her comrades had escaped did she realize "What have I done! They could have shot me as well!"

In May 1947, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for her work in conjunction with the British authorities. This award is usually presented to officers about the rank of colonel, and a rank above the "standard" award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) given to other women of SOE.

In recognition of Skarbek's contribution to the liberation of France, the French government awarded her the Croix de Guerre.

After the war, Skarbek was left without financial reserves or a country to return to. Xan Fielding, whom she had saved at Digne, wrote in his 1954 book, Hide and Seek, and dedicated "To the memory of Christine Granville":

During the latter part of her life, she had met Ian Fleming, with whom she allegedly had a year-long affair,although there is no proof that this affair ever occurred. The man who made the allegation, Donald McCormick, relied on the word of a woman identified only by the name "Olga Bialoguski" McCormick always refused to confirm her identify and did not include her in his list of acknowledgments.

Christine Granville met an untimely end at a Kensington Hotel on June 15, 1952 where she was stabbed to death by a man by the name of Dennis Muldowney, an obsessed merchant-marine steward and former colleague whose advances she had rejected. After being tried and convicted of her murder, Muldowney was hanged on the gallows at HMP Pentonville on 30 September 1952.

Krystyna Skarbek / Christine Granville was interred in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery at Kensal Green, in northwest London.

Following his death in 1988, the ashes of Skarbek's comrade-in-arms and partner, Andrzej Kowerski (aka Andrew Kennedy) were interred at the foot of her grave.

Skarbek became a legend during her lifetime and after her death, has become forever after immortalized by popular culture. In Ian Flemings first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, the character Vesper Lynd is said to have been modeled after Skarbeck. According to William F. Nolan, Fleming also based Tatiana Romanova, in his 1957 novel From Russia, with Love, on Skarbek.

Four decades later, in 1999, Polish writer Maria Nurowska published a novel, Milosnica (The Lover)—a fictional story about a female journalist's attempt to probe Skarbek's story.

A Polish TV series has been announced by Telewizja Polska (Polish Television) about Skarbek.

The Krakow Post report on February 5, 2009 that Agnieszka Holland will direct a big-budget film about Skarbek—Christine: War My Love.


3 Krystyna Skarbek Knew the Jedi Mind Trick

Here is where we find out there is no more powerful weapon of war than bullshit.

At the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland, a Polish countess named Krystyna Skarbek fled from her home and found work with the British Secret Intelligence Service (the same one James Bond works for). She was sent to Hungary, where she operated in a spy ring that smuggled intelligence reports and even a top secret Polish anti-tank rifle from Europe. In short, she was living as different a life from that of a countess as you can get.

In January 1941, Skarbek and fellow spy Andrzej Kowerski were arrested by the Gestapo. Skarbek bullshitted the Germans into letting them go by biting her tongue until it bled and then convincing them she had pulmonary tuberculosis (or was insane -- either way, probably best to not have her hanging around anymore).

Clearly, this woman had a gift.

In 1944, Skarbek was sent to France in preparation for the liberation of Europe. Upon her arrival, she proceeded to wipe out entire battalions at a time. Not with sabotage or guiding bombers to their position, but by convincing them to disable their guns and desert their stations. What did she say to them? Who knows? The woman could talk the shit back into a bear. One story claims that a German patrol sent a guard dog after her, and she convinced the dog to stay with her instead. Seriously.

Later, prior to the little-known Allied landings in the South of France known as Operation Dragoon, three Allied spies were captured and were going to be executed. Skarbek swung into action. She met with two Gestapo officers named Albert Schenk and Max Waem, and in three hours she convinced them that she was a British radio operator. She went on to say that she was the wife of one of the captured men, she was the niece of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (the British Army officer who planned D-Day) and that she had the power to have Waem executed for war crimes after the war or to guarantee his safety if he let the men go. Terrified, Waem let them go, though he was mysteriously murdered not long afterward.

Her story and personality reportedly would later serve as the inspiration for two James Bond characters: Vesper Lynd and Tatiana Romonova. So Hollywood interpreted "most persuasive soldier ever who happened to be a woman" as "woman who must have had great boobs."

Related: 6 Reasons The Jedi Would Be The Villain In Any Sane Movie


Andrezej Kowerski - History

Christine Granville, nee Krystyna Skarbek, O.B.E., GM, Croix de Guerre, died tragically on June 15, 1952. She was a Special Operations Executive Agent during the war, celebrated for her daring and resourcefulness in intelligence and irregular warfare in Nazi occupied Poland and France. She was one of the longest serving of Britain’s wartime agents and was decorated by the King after the war. In 1941 she began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville and adopted it with her naturalization as a British citizen in February 1947. She was 37 years old when she died.

Krystyna Skarbek, “Vesper” to her father, was born in 1908. the second child of Count Jerzy Skarbek and Stephania Goldfeder, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. The Skarbeks had influenced Polish history for a thousand years, saving the country from medieval invaders and serving its royal courts’ “Krystyna inherited the self‐assuredness, patriotism and fearlessness of her ancestors. She also displayed her father’s vivacity and drive.”

Well educated, fluent in English and French, she was an avid skier and horseback rider. It was at the stables, in fact, where she first me Andrzej (Andrew) Kowerski while their respective fathers discussed horses and agriculture. Neither she nor Andrew had any idea how their lives would eventually intertwine. Though they would continue to cross paths, there was no love between them then.

Instead, Christine married a Polish diplomat and was stationed at the embassy in Fascist-ruled Ethiopia, when Germany invaded Poland. Rather than return to their homeland, now occupied by the Nazis, she and her husband sailed for London from South Africa — where she immediately offered her services to British intelligence. With the marriage already on the rocks, Christine and her husband eventually separated he emigrated to Canada and later to Mexico.

Christine then discovered that Kowerski was also in working for British Intelligence, under the name Andrew Kennedy.

They began working together, carrying out missions in Hungary and Poland, narrowly escaping capture by the Gestapo. On one occasion, when she was stopped and questioned by Gestapo agents, Christine bit her tongue until it bled and feigned symptoms of tuberculosis. The Gestapo got tired of her coughing blood and spittle in their direction and told her and Kowerski to go. On a mission in Hungary, she swore to a German patrol that she was a relative of the Hungarian dictator Admiral Horthy.

While transporting a large sum of cash which she couldn’t explain, she calmly offered the money to the two security police who stopped her, bargaining for her freedom with the statement you can arrest me and your bosses will only keep the money…they took the money. Christine and Andrew escaped through Turkey and Syria in Kowerski’s beat up Opal , making their way to British-held Cairo.

They hadn’t expected a heroes’ welcome, but they were mystified by the icy reception they received. There was a simple reason for it: the Polish government‐in‐exile in London had just ordered all ties with “amateur” resistance networks to be cut, claiming they had been penetrated by German intelligence.

This meant that the British could not send either Christine or Andrew back to Eastern Europe. Christine handed over microfilms she’d brought from Hungary as evidence of the importance of her sources, which clearly showed the build up of German forces in advance of the imminent invasion of Russia, but they too were ignored. Having put their lives on the line for their country, they were now suspected of being Gestapo spies.

And so they sat in Cairo intil 1944.

With the landings at Normandy, there was a serious need for agents in the south of France. Christine, being fluent in French, was a natural. Now using the name Pauline Armand, she was returned to service, parachuted into France and joined the network run by a British-Belgian agent named Francis Cammaerts.

Kowerski was left behind in England while Christine assisted in linking together French and anti-fascist Italian guerillas, striking German forces in the Alps, her skiing expertise put to good use. She also contacted Polish soldiers conscripted into the German army, encouraging them to desert and join the Resistance. She was a courier and radio operator par excellence.

At Digne, France, just days before the British landings nearby, Cammaerts and two of his agents were arrested by the Gestapo. Christine knew the landings were coming and also knew that the three would be executed as soon as the British hit the beaches. They would certainly be tortured to reveal what they knew if they exposed her she, too, would arrested and executed.

Christine came up with the boldest of plans.

She walked into the office of Captain Albert Schenck, the German officer who was holding the three agents and demanded to see him in perfect English and French. Schenck was the liason between the Gestapo and the local police.

“Who are you and what do you want?” asked the orderly.

“I am the niece of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and I want to see Captain Schenck. Now!”

Christine was quickly ushered into the Captain’s office. He sat there with a stunned expression.

“I told your orderly who I am. I am General Montgomery’s niece. You know he has just landed on the coast and will be here within a day or two. I know you are holding three British agents and I am here to warn you of the consequences if any harm befalls them!”

Captain Schenck was incredulous. “How do you know that?”

“Because I too am a British agent…I have been brought here just for this mission. How do you think I know?”

Christine brazenly continued to threaten Schenck with terrible retribution if harm came to the prisoners. She then reinforced the threat with a mercenary appeal—an offer of two million francs for the men’s release.

Schenck did not have the authority to release the prisoners so he brought the local Gestapo agent in charge, Max Waem, into the room.

For three hours Christine argued and bargained with them and, turning on the full force of her personality, told them that the Allies would be arriving at any moment and that she was in constant wireless contact with the British forces. To make her point, she produced some wireless crystals useless, but they couldn’t know that for sure. All the while, Waem was holding his revolver with the butt flat on the table, pointed at Christine.

“If I were in your shoes I would give serious consideration to my proposal. My uncle will not take kindly to my husband, Francis Cammearts, being hurt in any way.” She added the twist identifying Cammearts as her husband, and therefore a relative of General Montgomery. ”Uncle Monty will probably execute you if you are lucky – or perhaps turn you over to the townspeople!”

Both Schenck and Waem knew the war was lost. Increasingly alarmed by the thought of what might befall them when the Allies and the Resistance decided to avenge the many murders they had committed, Waem tapped the butt end of his revolver on the table and said, ‘If we do get them out of prison, what will you do to protect us?

“I’ll be back tomorrow with the money. Have our agents ready to go!”

That night, British intelligence parachuted two million francs to Christine, who returned to Gestapo headquarters the following day. Cammaerts and his comrades were lead from their cells, certain they were going to be executed. They found Christine waiting in a car instead.

After Cammaerts and the other two men were released, Captain Schenck and Waem were advised to leave town. Waem did Schenck did not and was subsequently murdered by a person or persons unknown. His wife kept his share of the bribe money and, after the war, attempted to exchange it for new francs. She was arrested, but was released after the authorities investigated her story. She was able to exchange the money for only a tiny portion of its value.

Christine and Andrew Kowerski

After the war Christine was awarded the George Medal, the highest award for civilian bravery. She was also made an officer in the Order of the British Empire and decorated by the French government. With the war over, she was thanked profusely, given one month’s pay and discharged from service while in Cairo.

Christine was lost. Her war life was over. She could not go home to a communist Poland, so she made her way back to England and took a job as a salesgirl in Harrod’s.

And she could not find Andrew in London.

She met Ian Fleming and is purported to have carried on a year long affair with him, although there is no proof of their romantic attachment. It is said that the first of Ian Fleming’s Bond girls, Vesper Lynd (in Casino Royale), is based on Christine.

Eventually Christine took a job as a hostess on an ocean liner sailing regularly to South Africa. There she met a porter, Dennis Muldowney, aboard ship. Dennis fell in love with her. She told him she wasn’t interested she had found Andrew Kowerski, living and working in Germany. Andrew had asked her to come meet with him in Belgium..

She was going to rejoin the boy from the stables. She knew, now, where she belonged.

The porter Dennis Muldowney followed Christine when she quit her job on the ship and moved to London. As she prepared to fly to Belgium and perhaps begin her new life, her old acquaintance began to stalk her.

The night before Christine was to leave to join Andrew, Muldowney decided that if he couldn’t possess her, no one would. He plunged a knife into Christine’s heart as she walked down the hotel stairs, killing her instantly. The fearless girl who had faced and taken on the most dangerous and deadliest of enemies was tragically lost to a murderer she hadn’t recognized as the terrible threat he would become.

Some 200 former agents, including Andrew and Cammaerts, were at her funeral. Andrew Kowerski never married. When he died in 1988, he left instructions that his ashes be interred in Christine Granville’s grave.


The Amorous Agent

She was beautiful and looked fragile, but years of skiing had strengthened her body. She faced death many times without flinching. She also seduced virtually every male agent with whom she worked. After her death in 1952, a group of her lovers formed a club to protect her reputation. In the 1950’s, women who slept around were sluts, even if they were also war heroes.

Christine Granville (Krystyna Skarbek) was born in 1908 into an aristocratic Polish family. Her father, Count Jerzy Skarbek, married a Jewish heiress who converted to Catholicism. Jerzy soon resented his wife’s Jewish heritage which denied them access to the top tier of society and the fact that her money saved his ancestral estates from bankruptcy. He eventually abandoned her.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Christine and her father fled to South Africa and then sailed to England. Her mother remained in Warsaw and later turned down Christine’s offers to smuggle her out of Warsaw. Her mother believed that her status as a Polish countess and a Catholic convert would protect her from the Nazis. It didn’t.

Christine offered her services to the British Secret Intelligence Service, later renamed the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Agents of SOE infiltrated Nazi-occupied Europe to spy on Nazi activities, commit acts of sabotage and support local resistance groups. Christine offered to serve as a liaison between the British and her contacts in the Polish resistance.

Christine’s earliest efforts to help Poland were stymied by the Polish resistance leaders. They didn’t trust her because she was an amateur and an agent of the British. So Christine joined forces with a childhood friend, Andrzej Kowerski, who had set up an escape organization based in Budapest, Hungary.

They smuggled spies into and out of Nazi-occupied Poland. They also helped Polish soldiers who had escaped from prisoner of war camps to get out of Poland, many on their way to England to join the Free Polish Forces. The British later estimated that in 1940, about 5,000 internees escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland using Kowerski’s escape routes through the mountains.

Most of the escape routes snaked through the Tatra Mountains on the Slovak-Polish border. They often traveled in Kowerski’s old Chevrolet which had a broken heater. During winter trips everyone in the car risked frostbite and had to dig the car out of snow drifts.

Christine relied on her skills as a skier to persuade a couple of agents to let her join them as they infiltrated Poland. They skied across the Tatra Mountains from Slovakia into Poland in the middle of winter. They survived a blizzard that killed a nearby Wehrmacht patrol searching for escapees.

A few days after the ski trip, Christine boarded a train for Warsaw with a packet of incriminating documents. To avoid suspicion, she began flirting with a Gestapo officer. She told him that her packet contained tea for her mother which she feared would be confiscated at the train station’s checkpoint. She asked the officer to take her packet until they were through the checkpoint, knowing he wouldn’t be searched. After they cleared the checkpoint, she retrieved her packet, waved goodbye to the Gestapo officer and went on her way.

On another trip over the Tatras, Christine and another agent were caught by the Slovakian border police. While Christine tearfully told the police a story of her tragic life, complete with a fable about escaping from an internment camp, her companion was able to destroy most of the incriminating evidence they had brought along. Hours later, when the Gestapo still hadn’t shown up to arrest the suspected spies, Christine and her companion staged a fight that allowed them to escape.

Eventually, Budapest became too dangerous for Christine and Kowerski and they fled to British-occupied Egypt. Their Budapest exploits enhanced their credibility with the British and led to many later assignments. Christine worked as a British spy in North Africa and in occupied France.

Along the way, she apparently seduced almost every male agent with whom she worked. Each man was enthralled by her beauty and charm and bravery. Several later named their daughters Christine in her honor. After her death in 1952, a group of them banded together to protect her reputation by suppressing all evidence of her promiscuity.

To learn more about the dangerous life of Christine Granville, see The Spy Who Loved, by Clare Mulley (2012)

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The Fascinating Life and Tragic End of the Polish Countess Who Became a Heroic British Spy

Krystyna Skarbek was said to be “ Winston Churchill’s favorite spy ” she led an extraordinary life that peaked with clandestine acts of heroism during World War II—and ended tragically just a few years later. Six decades after her death, a biopic is said to be in the works . It’s about time.

Her birth year has been widely reported as 1915, but researcher Ron Nowicki has described Polish and British documents that list the earlier date [of 1908]. She enjoyed an upper-class childhood as the daughter of bank official Jerzy Skarbek, who claimed the noble rank of Count, and his wife, Jewish-born Stephanie Goldfelder. Described as physically stunning from the very start, Skarbek entered the Miss Polonia contest, an early beauty pageant, in 1930 (a date that also supports the earlier birth year) and placed sixth.

Skarbek left Poland with her second husband in 1938 she got involved with the war effort in London after her home country was invaded. Her confidence and good looks helped land her first mission, to Hungary, in 1939. And her plan read like something out of a spy novel :

Posing as a journalist based in Budapest, she would cross Slovakia and ski over the Polish border to Zakopane, where she could rely on help from her friends there. Once she’d opened a courier channel, she could begin to deliver propaganda material for the Polish networks to distribute, and bring out whatever intelligence they had for London.

Her scheme worked, though one unexpected drawback was that the Polish agent who’d been assigned to assist her fell in love with her . She wasn’t into him—though she was still married, she’d soon meet the man who’d become her most significant life companion, fellow operative Andrzej Kowerski —but the mission launched her career in espionage.

Often going by the name “ Christine Granville ,” the creativity she applied to her work became the stuff of legend. There was the time she bit her tongue while being interrogated, enabling her to cough out blood and convince her German captors she had tuberculosis. (Fearing the disease, they let her go.) And that famous, much-reported story isn’t even her most daring :

One day she was stopped near the Italian border by two German soldiers. Told to put her hands in the air she did so, revealing a grenade under each arm, pin withdrawn. When she threatened to drop them, killing all three of the group, the German soldiers fled. On another occasion she dived into a thicket to evade a German patrol, only to find herself face to face with a large Alsatian hound. She managed to quiet the dog while making noises suggesting to the Germans that they themselves were about to be ambushed, and she took advantage of the confusion to escape another close call.

Skarbek’s most celebrated exploit was her rescue of her chief, Resistance leader Francis Cammaerts, who had been imprisoned by the Gestapo . Skarbek first located Cammaerts by walking around the prison walls singing the American blues ballad “Frankie and Johnny,” which they both knew after some time, she heard Cammaerts singing along with her quietly. Then she convinced the police holding Cammaerts that she was his wife and managed to make contact with him in the prison.

Not only did she track down Cammaerts, she also somehow able to convincingly bend the truth enough to spring him from prison, and save his life.

There are many more incredible stories from the life of “Christine Granville.” She was “ Britain’s longest-serving female agent ,” as Women’s History Network points out, and she received a number of honors for it (“ the OBE, the George Medal and the French Croix de Guerre as well as an array of service ribbons that would have made any General proud ”) but was ultimately not eligible for military honors . because she was a woman.

If that depressing fact enrages you, prepare to turn even redder, because as the Guardian reports , it got worse. Way, way worse:

After the war she was paid off with £100, and ended her working life as a cleaner on cruise ships. In 1952 she was stabbed to death in the cheap London hotel where she was living by an Irish ship’s steward, Dennis Muldowney, who had become obsessed with her.

By then, she had become a British citizen, but her wartime heroism didn’t earn her more than a cursory burial. (Longtime love Kowerski died in Munich in 1988 among his last wishes were to have his ashes interred beside hers —though he had said over the years that Skarbek’s true love was her beloved Poland .)

In 2013, the BBC reported that she was finally getting some long-overdue public recognition:

Her extraordinary courage on dozens of clandestine missions during World War II was celebrated during a a memorial service at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green, north-west London.

The ceremony marked the renovation of her grave by the Polish Heritage Society.

And now, it seems, a movie may be in the works according to a Polish news outlet report just last month, US-based Bluegrass Films hopes to adapt her incredible life story from Clare Mulley’s acclaimed 2012 biography—alluringly titled The Spy Who Loved .


Andrezej Kowerski - History

Krystyna, and later her lover Andrzej Kowerski, were exceptional in being Polish nationals employed by the British special services during the war. Krystyna’s reasons, however, were entirely pragmatic. She was in southern Africa with her second husband, a diplomat, when Poland was invaded in September 1939. By the time she was back in Europe, Poland had fallen - but had not yet established its Government-in-Exile. Desperate to join the fight against the Nazis occupying her homeland, Krystyna stormed into the British Secret Services HQ and demanded to be taken on there and then. Her plan, soon put into action, was to ski over the perilous Carpathian mountains, sometimes in temperatures of -30 degrees, smuggling money and propaganda to the fledgling Polish resistance, and information, radio codes and microfilm back out. By the time she arrived in Budapest for her first mission, however, the Polish underground was getting organised and were determined to maintain their independence. As a result the main resistance group, the ZWZ, refused to work with Krystyna because officially she was already a British agent. This was a legitimate concern. The two countries might be allies but their interests would not always be aligned. ‘We are the Polish Underground,’ one officer put it colourfully, ‘and we do not wish the British to peek inside our underpants’.

Once in occupied Warsaw, however, Krystyna did join a fiercely independent Polish resistance group: the Musketeers. Unfortunately they would later be disbanded in disgrace their leader assassinated for having entered into talks with the Nazis regarding the Russian threat. Krystyna would now never be accepted by Poland's exiled government. Putting her life on the line was not enough, being passionately patriotic but not especially political, she had failed to play the strategic game. In her haste to serve her country she had in some Polish eyes betrayed it.

Krystyna Skarbek, in British uniform
When the war in Europe ended, Krystyna was left stateless. She knew she could never return to Poland under the Communist regime. She may not have been aware that the British had at one point traded her name with the NKVD (precursor of the KGB), but being a pre-war Countess and war-time British special agent was enough to guarantee she would not be well-received. Yet the British, for whom she had put her life on the line for six years, the longest tour of duty of any female special agent, dismissed her with only 𧴜. When someone in the British administration suggested she was not entitled to further deployment or citizenship because she had been fighting for Poland rather than Britain, she rightly remonstrated that this was rather 'hard', given that 'I have got into so much trouble with the Poles because I worked for the firm'. The last British memo relating to her stated, ‘she is no longer wanted’. It was not our finest moment.

Ultimately Krystyna did gain British citizenship, having at one point refused to accept honours from a country that would not give her residency. When she died, in 1952, she had been awarded the British George Medal and the OBE, along with the Croix de Guerre from France, and an array of ribbons that any General would have been proud of. Yet among her collection, now kept at the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London, is one unofficial badge of honour a silver gorget (designed to be worn at the throat) in the shape of a shield embossed with the Polish white eagle. Because she was a British agent, Krystyna has never been honoured by the Poles, and this badge was perhaps her own private statement of her loyalty to, or token of appreciation from, the country that she served if not on paper, than certainly within her heart.

Publically recognised or not, Krystyna was never an exclusively British heroine. In fact despite being honoured officially here but not in Poland, she is probably better known in Poland today. Certainly the book launch at the Warsaw Uprising Museum next week is being organised by wonderfully generous and enthusiastic Poles, and attended by the Polish Foreign Minister several other cabinet members, as well as the British Ambassador and French First Consul. Earlier, during my research, I had also found plenty in Polish archives, and through interviewing Poles both in Britain and Poland who, or whose relatives, had known Krystyna. On the other hand there was even more information in British archives. But how did she view herself, and in what language did she choose to communicate?

Krystyna was born and brought up in an area which is now Poland, but was then part of the Russian Empire. Belonging to a family of patriotic aristocrats, she spoke Polish at home, but French at her convent school. By the time she arrived in London in 1939, via Europe and southern Africa, she spoke some English too, although French remained her default foreign language. As a result, when the British sent her to Hungary it was under the guise of being a French journalist. It was here that Krystyna met her compatriot, soul-mate and partner-in-arms, Andrzej Kowerski, and their language of love was definitely Polish she was his affectionate 'kotek' or kitten, and he her 'kot', her cat. In Egypt she took classes in English and Italian. She now spoke English charmingly, if not always very accurately, with a lilting accent and similarly seductive turn of phrase. She would often translate idioms literally if she felt it added impact, such as when telling admirers how she loved to 'lie on the sun'. But then even her French was idiosyncratic. She was 'fluent but rather breathy', one friend noted, and her natural manner was to speak in a 'halting. panting fashion'. Always conscious of the power of language, when she felt her Polish charm could not get her what she wanted, Krystyna would simply petition friends to write on her behalf 'in your King's English'.

All of the letters I traced in Krystyna’s own hand were written in English – although still with the odd Polish endearment and literally translated turn of phrase thrown in. 'Perks kochany' - literally 'Darling Perks' - she boldly opened one 1945 letter to Harold Perkins, her formidable SOE boss. This letter, the rest written in English, is a wonderful testimony to her courage and determination. 'May be you find out I could be useful getting people out of camps and prisons in Germany - just before they get shot', she wrote, 'I should love to do it and I like to jump out of a plane even every day'. So brave, yet she clearly also felt nervous that her English might be letting her down, adding 'Sorry for the spelling!' in a rather jarring ps.

Krystyna's letter to Harold Perkins, March 1945 (TNA, HS9/612)

It seems that Krystyna mostly thought in Polish this was the language that shaped her and best expressed - possibly even helped to define - her feelings and ambitions. As she learnt more languages she enjoyed collecting other useful turns of phrase, 'quel potron' (what a coward) was a favourite that friends remembered, as was the pleasingly expressive: 'bloody fool'. As with her approach to friendships, it seems that Krystyna would pick and choose her language to suit her mood, intentions and audience.

Wherever I was researching, I tried to get to the truth of this extraordinary woman, but the fact is that there were many truths. Krystyna could be kind and generous, even with her life, but she could also be cruel and self-centred. She was tough and fiercely independent but also rather vulnerable. She lied, exploited and deceived, but she fought for justice, freedom and honour. Her mother was Jewish, her father was anti-Semitic she was brought up a Catholic but converted to secure a divorce she was a pre-war beauty queen and a highly-trained special agent fighting among men. She spoke several languages, was known under about twenty names, and she had two nationalities. It was the same Polish Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek that became the British Polish émigré Christine Granville.

The truth is that we can only understand Krystyna in the context of her country, although it often rejected her, and in the context of her times, although I would argue that in many ways she was ahead of them. In life Krystyna was informed by, and let down by, Poland and Britain, but both her birth-country and her adoptive-country seem ready to embrace and honour her now. And if the Polish translation of my biography helps to reframe and present another flavour of this complex woman to the world, then that is certainly appropriate and I am absolutely delighted.


3 Lilya LitvyakHero of the Soviet Union


When Germany broke its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1941, many women volunteered to take the fight to the Nazis. One of them was Lilya Litvyak, who became an instructor and later on a full-fledged fighter pilot in combat zones.

Litvyak&rsquos carefree spirit and positive attitude brightened other soldiers&rsquo lives. She painted a white lily on the nose of her Yak-1. Enemies who saw her skill in the air mistook the flower for a rose, giving her the nickname &ldquoThe White Rose of Stalingrad.&rdquo

On September 13, 1942, Litvyak became the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy plane, downing German pilot Erwin Maier over Stalingrad. Maier, who was captured on the ground, asked to be shown to the Russian ace. When the Soviets brought him before the diminutive Litvyak, he thought the Russians were pulling a prank. His laughter ended when Litvyak described their dogfight in vivid detail, shocking Maier so much that he offered her his gold watch. Litvyak declined, saying, &ldquoI do not accept gifts from my enemies.&rdquo She went on to rack up more victories, 12 on her own and four shared among other pilots.

Litvyak&rsquos disappearance on August 1, 1943 became the subject of debate among historians. Her plane, sporting the white lily, was spotted by Germans who immediately ganged up on the pilot. Her plane was shot down, but the wreck and her remains were not found. Some claimed that she survived the crash, became a POW, and later escaped.

In 1969, a body believed to have been Litvyak was found in Belarus. Only in May 1990 did Mikhail Gorbachev posthumously award her the title Hero of the Soviet Union.


War is often seen as something that women should be protected from. Men are often portrayed as stronger, braver, or more prepared to face the horrors of battle. And yet, when given the chance, women have shown time and time again that they can brave those dangers just as well as their male counterparts.

These are the women who have become war heroes in their respective countries and around the world for their exploits during 20th century wars. Some became famous as martyrs to a cause, others for surviving impossible conditions, and still others for their complete selflessness in the face of death.

There are millions who have served. This list of women war heroes sheds a little light on a few.

1. Susan Travers
War roles: General in the French Foreign Legionnaire

English socialite Susan Travers was in France when World War II started. Initially, she trained as a nurse for the French Red Cross and later became an ambulance driver. Travers escaped to London when France fell to the Nazis. There, she joined the Free French Forces. She was sent to Syria and later North Africa to serve with the French Foreign legion as a driver assigned to Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig. Travers soon fell in love with him. Her dedication to the married Koenig was fierce.

Even as Rommel’s Afrika Corps attacked Libya, Travers wouldn’t evacuate with female personnel. She and members of Koenig’s unit hid from the invaders for 15 days in sand pits. She drove Koenig through enemy lines under heavy fire, heading up 2,500 troops. They made it safely to the allied camp. After this act of bravery, Travers was promoted to general. She served in Italy, Germany, and France for the rest of the war, sustaining injuries when she drove over a land mine.

After the war, Travers joined the French Foreign Legion. Her request was approved by a fellow officer who knew her reputation and disregarded her gender. She was the only woman to ever serve officially with the French Foreign Legion. She went on to serve in Vietnam. She waited until her husband and Colonel Koenig to pass before publishing her memoir, Tomorrow to Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion, in 2000 at the age of 91.


2. Nancy Wake
War role: Guerrilla fighter, spy

Nancy Wake was a world traveler before the Second World War began. She was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia, and then lived in New York and London working as a journalist. She was living in Marseille with her French husband when Germany invaded the country. Wake didn’t hesitate to work for the French resistance. She hid and smuggled men out of France, transported supplies, and falsified documents.

The Germans captured Wake and interrogated her for days, but she gave up nothing. After her release, she escaped to Britain and joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE). With the SOE, Wake received weapons and paratrooper training. She dropped back into France as a spy. She blew up buildings, engaged in combat with the enemy, and killed an SS sentry with her bare hands.

The Gestapo tortured Wake’s husband when he refused to give up any information about his wife. He died as a result of the torture. Wake would discover this after the war. She ran for office in Australia and published her biography, The White Mouse (the Germans’ nickname for her), in 1988. She died in 2011 at the age of 98.


3. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya
War role: Guerilla fighter

At just 18, Kosmodemyanskaya was the first women to be named Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II. She volunteered for the Red Army Western Front as a saboteur and part of the reconnaissance group. The unit went behind enemy lines near Moscow to set land mines and to cut off German supply lines.

Under orders, Kosmodemyanskaya set fire to a stable and a few public buildings in the town of Petrischevo. She was captured by locals, possibly ratted out by one of her fellow resistance fighters. She was tortured by the Germans, forced to strip in the cold and march in the snow, and then beaten and whipped. She did not give up any information and was hanged the next day in the town center. A sign reading “arsonist” hung around her neck. Her body was left hanging for a month with visiting soldiers desecrating her body.


4. Lydia Litvyak
War role: Flight instructor, Senior Lieutenant, fighter pilot

Besides The Night Witches, the Soviet Air Force had other female units. Chief among them were the female-led bomber, ground-attack, and fighter squadrons. Litvyak was already a seasoned flyer, having been a member of flying clubs since 14. She joined the 586th Fighter Regiment and was an intense and effective instructor. She and a few other pilots were transferred to the all-male 437th Fighter Regiment. On her third combat mission, and after just three days with the squadron, Litvyak shot down Messerschmitt Me-109G and a Junkers Ju-88 bomber that were pursuing her commander. She was the first woman in military history to ever score a solo aerial victory in combat.

The pilot of the 109 survived the dogfight and couldn’t believe he was shot down by a woman. Litvyak, known as the White Rose of Stalingrad, went on to shoot down many more enemy aircraft until she disappeared over the Donbass. The last time she was seen, she was being pursued by around eight 109s. Her body has never been recovered.


5. Krystyna Skarbek
War role: Polish spy

Skarbeck, who would later change her name to Christine Granville, was a wealthy woman of Jewish heritage. She and her second husband were in Ethiopia when World War II began. She signed up with Britain’s Section D and went to Poland via Hungary to launch her resistance work. Her main role was to pass communications between allies. Skarbeck became known as the “flaming Polish patriot.” Under the guidance of the British, she organized Polish resistance groups and smuggled Polish pilots out of the country.

The Gestapo arrested Skarbeck in 1941, but she was released when she faked having TB by biting her tongue so hard it bled. She and partner Andrzej Kowerski changed their names to Christine Granville and Andrew Kennedy to escape detection. The pair were smuggled out of Poland to Turkey through Yugoslavia. Skarbeck, then Granville, wouldn’t return to Poland because her operative group had been compromised.

After being trained as a radio operator and paratrooper, she dropped into France on D-Day only to find that her resistance area had been infiltrated by the Germans. She hiked 70 miles to escape. Then Skarbeck turned Axis fighters in the Alps. She outed herself to the French who were working for the Gestapo and then orchestrated prisoner releases.

She survived the war and was rumored to be the inspiration for two of Ian Fleming’s Bond girls. Despite having survived the Gestapo, imprisonment, and many other dangers, Skarbeck’s life came to a violent end when she was murdered by a stalker, Dennis Muldowney, in 1952.


6. Eileen Nearne
War role: British spy

Nearne and two of her siblings served in the SOE. At 23, she parachuted into occupied France as a resistance message courier. Her communications centered mainly on the arrangement of weapons drops. A smooth talker, she escaped capture several times, but was eventually arrested and tortured by the Nazis. She was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and later transferred to a labor camp where she escaped during a transfer to another camp. When she came across the Gestapo, she talked her way out of identification and arrest. Nearne hid in a church until the town was liberated by the Americans.

After the war, Nearne battled psychological issues and lived a quiet life with fellow SOE spy and sister Jacqueline until the latter’s death in 1982. Nearne died in 2010 and her body wasn’t discovered for several days. A search of her apartment revealed her war time resistance and spy role. She received a decorated hero’s funeral.


7. Annie Fox
War role: Nurse

Lt. Annie G. Fox just happened to be on duty at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. As the chief nurse on duty, Fox swung into action to tend to the injured and dying service personnel on the base. She initially received the Purple Heart, but when the requirements changed in 1944 (the recipient needed to have sustained battle wounds), Fox’s medal was rescinded. She received the Bronze Star instead.


8. Lise Børsum
War role: Refugee smuggler

Børsum was the wife of a physician in Oslo. She and her husband, Ragnar, smuggled Jews out of Nazi-occupied countries during World War II. They were arrested in 1943, and her husband was later released. She was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany and was liberated by the Swedish Red Cross in 1945. She wrote a bestselling book about her war experiences and dedicated her life to ending concentration camps all over the world. Børsum was an activist and humanitarian right up until her death in 1985. Her daughter, actress Bente Børsum, honored her mother with a stage play she wrote and performed.


9. Ruby Bradley
War role: POW nurse, colonel

As a career Army nurse prior to World War II, Colonel Ruby Bradley served as the hospital administrator in Luzon in the Philippines. When the Japanese invaded, she and a doctor and fellow nurse hid in the hills. Eventually, they were turned in by locals and taken to the base, now a prison camp. Bradley and her staff spent threes years treating fellow POWs, delivering babies, and performing surgery. They also smuggled supplies to keep the POWs healthy, although Bradley herself weighed a mere 84 pounds when the Americans liberated the camp in 1945.

After the war, Bradley served as the 8th Army’s chief nurse on the front lines of the Korean war in 1950. She managed to evacuate all of the wounded soldiers in her care under heavy fire. She was the last to jump aboard the plane just as her ambulance was shelled. She was promoted to Colonel. She retired in 1963, but worked as a supervising nurse in West Virginia for 17 years. She received a hero’s funeral with full honors in 2002 at Arlington National Cemetery. She was 94.


10. Lyudmila Pavlichenko
War role: Russian sniper, major

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was already a celebrated sharpshooter before joining the Soviet Army. She was a student at Kiev University when World War II started and was part of 2,000 female snipers sent to the front. Only 500 survived. Older and more skilled than her fellow snipers, Pavlichenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers. Her male counterpart, Ivan Sidorenko, had 500 confirmed kills after six years of combat.

After being wounded by mortar fire, she went on a public relations and recruiting tour in the U.S. and Canada, dealing with sexist questions about her weight and skirt length from reporters. She would also become a sniper trainer. After her war time service, Pavlichenko became a historian at Kiev University. She also served on the Soviet Committee of the Veterans of War.


11. Aleda Lutz
War role: Flight nurse

Lutz volunteered with the 803rd Military Air Evacuation Squad. Their missions were to rapidly remove injured soldiers from the front as fresh soldiers came in. She flew 196 evac missions that brought back 3,500 men, logging more hours than any other flight nurse. In December of 1944, the C47 carrying Lutz and injured soldiers from Lyon crashed. The Veterans Administration Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan was renamed in her honor in 1990.


12. Noor Inayat Khan
War role: Princess, spy

Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan’s father was Indian Sufi master and musician Inayat Khan, and her mother, Ora Ray Baker, was the niece of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. Her paternal great great grandfather ruled the Kingdom of Mysore. Although she was born in Russia, Khan held a British passport. She was living in France when Germany invaded. Khan and her family managed to escape to England where she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She also worked for the British spy agency, SOE, as a wireless operator. The SOE sent her back to France in June of 1943, where she transmitted information back by Morse code. Even as other radio operators were discovered and arrested, Khan was determined to continue her work.

She was arrested by the SD (German intelligence) in October of 1943 and aggressively fought back. She refused to give up information under interrogation and sent a coded message to the SOE, which they ignored for some reason. When the Germans discovered her coded messages and notebooks, they used it to lure other British spies to France for arrest. Khan escaped briefly and was held in shackles for ten months after being caught. She was sent to Dachau concentration camp in September of 1944 and immediately executed.


13. Natalia Peshkova
War role: Combat medic

Peshkova was swept up along with a lot of young Russian girls in the country’s rush to pull together forces to fight the Germans. She was recruited right out of school at the age of 17 to be a combat medic. Peshkova found herself in such a poorly equipped unit that the weapons continuously malfunctioned. Disease, starvation, and the loss of a boot to a hungry horse was part of Pehkova’s tough stint in the Russian army.

At one point, she was separated from her unit and managed disguised herself while also hiding her weapon. If she discarded it, she would have been executed by her own military. She finally made it back and went on to become Sergeant Major, and was allowed to finish her education


14. Reba Z. Whittle
War role: POW Nurse, lieutenant

Flight nurse Whittle is the only U.S. female solder to be a POW in the European theater of World War II. Whittle served in the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron and her plane was shot down over Aachen, Germany in September of 1944. Whittle was one of only a few survivors and the Germans didn’t know what to do with her. The Swiss discovered her among the POWs and arranged for her release, along with another 109 male POWs, on Jan. 25th, 1945. Surprisingly, Whittle's POW experience went undocumented and she was denied POW retirement benefits. This was unfortunate, as her war injuries prevented her from flying. She worked in an Army hospital in California until 1946.

After years of being denied benefits, Whittle received a settlement in 1955. She died of breast cancer in 1981. Her POW status was confirmed in 1983.


15. Barbara Lauwers
War role: Propaganda master

Czech born Lauwers had a law degree when she she moved with her husband to the United States in 1941. After she became a U.S. citizen in 1943, she joined the Women’s Army Corps and was assigned to the OSS, America’s precursor to the CIA. Lauwers was involved in a propaganda mission called Operation Sauerkraut in 1944. The goal was to demoralize German soldiers. Because Lauwers was fluent in five languages, she was a essential in turning German POWs into counter operatives.

The mission was quite successful and Lauwers and her counterparts were adept at convincing the Germans to turn. Lauwers continued to design, and then run, other propaganda operations across Europe. She also trained the POWs in intelligence gathering. Her propaganda tactics convinced 600 Czech soldiers to turn to the Allied side.


16. Violette Szabo
War role: Spy

Szabo was married to a French Foreign Legion officer Etienne Szabo. He was killed in action in 1942 and Szabo joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1943, vowing to do as much damage to the enemy as possible. She trained as a courier for missions in occupied France. She reorganized a resistance unit, damaged roads and bridges, and sent back regular reports.

She talked herself out of trouble a couple of times, but her luck ran out after she parachuted into France and sabotaged German communications. Under arrest by the German, Szabo was tortured and eventually transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She and two other SOE agents were executed by an SS officer at the camp.


17. Hannie Schaft
War role: Resistance fighter

Jannetie “Hannie” Schaft was a Dutch resistance fighter who refused to swear an oath to the Nazis. She joined Raad van Verzet, a resistance group with a communist ideology. She spied on soldier activity, aided refuges, and sabotaged targets. Her reputation as “the girl with the red hair” would eventually lead to her downfall. She colored her hair to cover up the red but after she was captured by the Nazis, her hair began to grow out.

The Germans then discovered that they had the legendary spy and resistance fighter in captivity. She was executed on April 17th, 1945. She was defiant up until the end, taunting the soldier who shot in the head and merely grazing her. She said, “I can shoot better than that.” The second shot killed her but not before leaving an ever lasting impression on her captors and witnesses. Schaft was 24. She received a state funeral after the war, attended by Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch royal family.


18. Felice Schragenheim
War role: Underground operative

What we know of Schragenheim has been preserved through her lover Lilly Wust, the former wife of a Nazi officer, and a survivor of World War II. What is known is that Schragenheim hid her identity as a Jew while working for a Nazi newspaper. She passed information for the underground resistance and smuggled Jews out of Germany. She operated in plain sight and maintained the appearance of someone well-connected to Nazis.

Wust and Schragenheim met in a cafe and instantly had feelings for one another. Wust was unaware of Schragengeim’s Jewish ethnicity, but wasn’t upset when she eventually found out. Wust and Schragengeim kept their relationship secret while the latter continued to operate for the resistance. After a day at the lake together, the Gestapo showed up at Wust’s home and arrested Schragenheim. Wust kept track of Schragenheim’s transfers from one concentration camp to the next and regularly corresponded with her, signing her letters as Aimee. Schragenheim managed to smuggle letters back to Wust, signed “your caged Jaguar.”

It was Wusts’s visit to Theresienstadt that sealed the fate of Schragenheim. Wust was thrown out by the camp director, and Schragenheim’s subsequent “death march” may have hastened her death. She succumbed to TB. Heartbroken, Wust divorced her husband and hid Jewish women in her basement to evade capture.

Wust held onto Schragenheim’s letters right up until her death in 2006. They were donated to the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute in Jerusalem. Wust dreamed of being reunited with a woman she considered reflection of herself and her spouse. "Twice since she left, I've felt her breath, and a warm presence next to me. I dream that we will meet again - I live in hope." Wust received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.


19. Queen Wilhelmina
War role: Dutch resistance inspiration

Queen Wilhelmina was removed from the Netherlands against her wishes when the Nazis invaded. She foiled a plot to be kidnapped by the Nazis on the way to exile. From Britain, she broadcast messages of encouragement and hope to the Dutch resistance via Radio Oranie. Winston Churchill was a fan, calling the queen “the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London.”


20. Elsie Ott
War role: Flight nurse, lieutenant

Ott was a trained nurse who joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. She was sent to Karachi India where she was part of a mission that would evacuate injured soldiers as fresh troops were brought in. The plane didn’t have medical equipment sufficient to handle the serious injuries and disease of the troops. Ott’s only help was an army medic. The plane made several stops across the six-day flight after leaving India. She continued on with these kinds of flights for the rest of her career and was promoted to captain in 1946. She was also instrumental in outfitting the flights for optimum care of patients.


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