Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nancy Wake, "The White Mouse," and Hero of World War II, Passes Away at 98 (May G-d Bless Her Soul)


According to an article by Carolyn McDowel, when Nancy Wake was 16 she ran away from home.  She had no prospects, she had to choose between becoming a journalist or a prostitute.  

"Nancy said that in her mind both professions were basically the same and that she had found it hard to choose. However in the end she decided to become a journalist because it offered her opportunities for travel, which she was always very keen on doing."

Nancy Wake worked for Hearst Newspapers as a European correspondent based in Paris.  In Vienna, she saw Nazi brutality at its worst as she witnessed the torture of Jews in the streets.

This was back in the days when journalists had ethics and supported their countries in war for the cause of freedom, and Nancy Wake decided to do something to stop the Nazis.

As a journalist of uncommon character and startling beauty, she became a courier for the French Resistance, and established communication and supply routes.  

McDowel writes, "When parachuting into France from England she put on her best dress, made sure her make up was intact and took her stilettos. Once she reached the outskirts of the village nearby where they landed she could put them on. That way if the Germans encountered her tottering down a country lane they would think she was a prostitute offering her services nearby. She operated on the notion that you cannot see sometimes what is right in front of your nose. And, she added naughtily with a twinkle in her eye, in that way I did get to embrace both professions after all."

The Gestapo offered a 5 million-franc reward for her capture.  

She was known as the "White Mouse" because she escaped the Germans so many times.  

During World War II, she constantly put her life in danger in order to fight the Nazis, and she did it, according to everyone who knew her, with a smile on her face and an unbending spirit.  One story about her is that she rode a bicycle 500 miles through German checkpoints in order to replace codes her wireless operator had been forced to destroy in a German raid.

Her husband, Industrialist Henri Fiocca, was tortured to death by the Gestapo, but refused to give up her location.  She blamed herself for his death, but rewarded his loyalty by increasing her efforts against the Nazis.

She stood for something, she fought for what was right, and she never gave up.

She was remarried to John Forward, and Englishman, but never had children.

McDowel writes of Nancy Wake's final days, "Nancy’s last years were very difficult following the death of her second husband in 1997 and a few years later she returned to England hoping to find a way forward there. Prince Charles took on the responsibility of looking to her personal welfare when he discovered she was down on her luck. His compassionate caring for Nancy was an act of great kindness that saw her comfortable during the last years of her life."

May the "White Mouse" share a special place in the hereafter, may she rest in peace, and may her spirit live in the lives she touched.


Great Australian WWII heroine dies at 98   
by:  Madeleine Coorey   

SYDNEY  (AFP)---Nancy Wake, Australia's greatest World War II heroine and a prominent figure in the French Resistance known as the "The White Mouse"  for her ability to evade the Germans, has died in London.   

Australian  Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the woman who was once the Gestapo's most wanted person, was "a devastatingly effective saboteur and spy".

"Nancy  Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end," Gillard said. 
Wake,  who died in a London hospital on Sunday just days short of her 99th birthday, was the nation's most decorated servicewoman from WWII, holding France's Legion d'Honneur, Britain's George Medal and the US Medal of Freedom. 

Born  in Wellington, New Zealand, she grew up in Australia and politicians in  both countries led tributes to the woman who survived several firefights with the enemy, being shot at in a pursuit and a brief imprisonment during the war. 

New  Zealand's Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins described Wake as "a woman of exceptional courage and tenacity, who cast aside all regard for her own safety and put the cause of freedom first". 

Australian National Party leader Warren Truss said Wake's heroic achievements "are the stuff of legend". 

"And all Australians feel very proud of this wonderful woman," he said.   
Wake ran away from home aged 16 and by the early 1930s was living in Paris, where she worked as a journalist. 
Witnesses  to the rise of fascism in Europe, Wake and her wealthy industrialist husband Henri Fiocca joined the fledgling Resistance after France's surrender in 1940. 

She once described a visit to Austria in 1933 as a first-hand look at Nazi cruelty. 

"In  Vienna they had a big wheel and they had the Jews tied to it, and the stormtroopers were there, whipping them. When we were going out of Vienna they took our photos. That was my experience of Hitler," Wake said. 

Wake  and her husband helped Allied servicemen and Jewish refugees escape into Spain before she took her partner's advice and fled to England in 1943, where she began work in special operations. 

She parachuted back into France in April 1944 before D-Day, tasked withhelping distribute weapons to Resistance fighters. 

"In  those days it was safer, or a woman had more chance than a man, to get around, because the Germans were taking men out just like that," she later recounted. 

Wake  was never to see Fiocca again, learning only after the liberation of France that he had been killed by the Gestapo in August 1943. 

After the war, Wake returned to Australia in 1949, where she made several failed attempts to win a seat in parliament. 

She  went back to England, where in 1957 she married RAF officer John Forward, but the couple settled in Australia within two years, living there for the next four decades until Forward's death in 1997. 

Restless again, Wake left Australia for England in 2001 with the intention of remaining there for the rest of her life. 
The fearless heroine was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004, praised for her outstanding actions in wartime. 

She is expected to be cremated privately and her ashes scattered at Montlucon in central France, scene of her 1944 heroism.

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