When her Aunt Virginia died in 1982, Lorna Catling had no idea that forty years earlier the Gestapo had declared her aunt "the most dangerous of all Allied spies" in France, and issued orders to "find and destroy her." Virginia Hall seldom spoke about what she had done during World War II, and didn't even bother to collect all the honors she was entitled to for her heroic service. Tomorrow one of those long overdue honors will be presented to Catling as her late aunt's representative by the British Ambassador in Washington D.C.
The Gestapo knew Hall as "the woman with a limp". That limp was caused by her prosthetic leg-- her left leg had been amputated below the knee following a hunting accident in 1932. The accident derailed Hall's plans for a career in the diplomatic service, since the State Department at the time did not hire amputees. What was bad luck for her in 1932, proved to be good luck for the Allies during World War II, as Hall, a native of Baltimore who was living in France when the Germans invaded in 1940, worked first for British Intelligence and then for the OSS. She helped Allied spies contact the French Resistance, and, as The Associated Press reports,
… located parachute drop zones where money and weapons could be passed to Resistance fighters and later coordinated guerrilla warfare. Her teams destroyed bridges, derailed freight trains and killed scores of German soldiers.
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