War

Photo Of The Day

Betty Pack— born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. Wedding portrait of Amy Thorpe, 1936. January 1936, Betty caught the attention of MI-6 and became an “asset” – someone the Secret Intelligence Service could – and did – reach out to. As a diplomat’s wife, and a natural seductress, Betty had the ways and means to access powerful men and their military and government secrets.

Betty Pack— born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. Wedding portrait of Amy Thorpe, 1936. January 1936, Betty caught the attention of MI-6 and became an “asset” – someone the Secret Intelligence Service could –and did –reach out to. As a diplomat’s wife, and a natural seductress, Betty had the ways and means to access powerful men and their military and government secrets.

Sexpionage

Code Name Cynthia

Also Known As:

Elizabeth Pack

Judy Brackett

Betty Pack

Betty Thorpe

 She hid Secrets in her Negligees, never wore Knickers and Seduced Countless Men to help Britain Win the War

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe Pack was one of the most successful female spies of her time, arguably any time – yet her story has rarely been told.

A fundamental rule of intelligence work is that one must not mix love and work when dealing with any intelligence target. The relationship can become dangerous to one or both of the parties if an agent develops genuine affection for a target. In wartime, this rule is even more critical, and if the agent is operating in hostile territory, the rule of avoiding romance is paramount. In spite of that, one agent broke this essential rule in wartime and lived to tell—a remarkable woman by the name of Amy Elizabeth Thorpe.

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, Family and friends called her Betty, was a glamorous American socialite, born in Minneapolis, raised in Washington, DC, who helped the Allies win World War II. She had lots of derring-do exploits, helping the British obtain an Enigma code-breaking machine, ingeniously stealing ciphers from an embassy safe that were crucial to the successful invasion of North Africa. Time magazine, in her obituary, called her a ‘blonde Bond’ who used ‘the boudoir as Ian Fleming’s character used the Beretta.’ She lived a consequential, exciting, and intriguing life.

Cynthia and her husband travelled to European and South American posts, where she conducted a series of foreign intrigues with assorted admirers. She once wrote in her diary, “I love to love with all my heart, only I have to appear cool. Life is but a stage on which to play. One’s role is to pretend, and always to hide one’s true feelings.”

Betty found that marriage and motherhood left her unfulfilled and empty. She longed for adventure and romance, and as she strayed from her husband she felt she was always searching for her one true love. In her quest, she was introduced to a top British diplomat who quickly recognized Betty’s impressive powers of seduction. In the mid-1930’s Betty was groomed for a career in espionage against the backdrop of a world preparing for massive conflict. Over the course of World War II, Betty identified, pursued, and seduced many powerful men, including top-ranking Polish and Italian commanders. Through her series of intense love affairs, Betty uncovered privileged intelligence that would help the Allies break the top-secret codes and ciphers of the enemy troops.

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Elisabeth Gloeden on trial for her involvement in the July Plot, Jul-Nov 1944. After being caught by the Gestapo she was executed by beheading on November 30th, 1944. Photo: ww2db United States Library of Congress.

Elisabeth Gloeden on trial for her involvement in the July Plot, Jul-Nov 1944. After being caught by the Gestapo she was executed by beheading on November 30th, 1944. Photo: United States Library of Congress.

July Plot

The attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July 1944, was the seventeenth known occasion that someone had tried to kill Hitler. Unlike other attempts however this, the 20 July Bomb Plot, was the most intricate, and involved plans for a new Germany following the successful accomplishment of the mission.

Elizabeth Charlotte Lilo Gloeden was a 31 year old Berlin housewife, and opponent of the Nazi regime, who with her mother and husband, helped shelter those who were persecuted by the Nazis, by hiding them for weeks at a time in their flat.

Alongside her husband Erich Gloeden, she helped German Jews escape from Nazi Germany and hid General Erich Gloeden after he took part in the attempted coup against Hitler in 1944.

Also, among those they took in was resistance leader, Dr. Carl Goerdeler and the Mayor of Leipzig. Elizabeth, her mother and husband, were all arrested by the Gestapo, and subjected to torture under interrogation. On November 30th, 1944, all three were guillotined at two-minute intervals.

Attempts on Adolf Hitler’s life were made even prior to this assassination attempt that would later be dubbed the July Plot. For instance, Operation Flash on 13 Mar 1943 had Hans von Dohnanyi set up a time bomb on Hitler’s plane as he flew over Minsk; the altitude of the plane froze the fuse and the bomb failed to detonate. Another such attempt actually took place only a week after Operation Flash. Colonel Rudolf von Gersdorff wanted to carry explosives in his own overcoat, sacrificing himself to kill Hitler as he toured an exhibition of captured Russian equipment in Berlin; that attempt failed because Hitler decided to shorten the visit to a mere two-minute one, leaving Gersdorff drenched in cold sweat afterwards trying to disarm the bomb and flush it down a toilet before he gathered too much suspicion.

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Death of a Danish hero – Anders Lassen VC.

Death of a Danish Hero – Anders Lassen VC.

Kill Without Mercy

Party Like There’s No Tomorrow

As the British Expeditionary Force retreated from the French beaches in 1939, Winston Churchill issued an extraordinary order to his chiefs of staff: “Prepare hunter troops for a butcher-and-bolt reign of terror.”

Under Churchill’s orders the British military was tasked with recruiting forces to strike the enemy in hit-and-run attacks, using all possible measures and with no holds barred. Churchill knew that Britain had to strike back hard. So Britain’s wartime leader called for the lightning development of a completely new kind of warfare.

He tasked his Special Operations Executive (SOE) to recruit a band of eccentrics: free-thinkers, misfits, cutthroats, gaol-breakers and buccaneers – those who had the special character to operate on their own initiative deep behind enemy lines, with no holds barred, and offering these volunteers nothing but the potential for glory and all-but-certain death. Incredibly, there was no shortage of volunteers flocking to his call.

The most famous of Churchill’s commandos – who would go on to form part of the SAS – was arguably the Anders Lassen. Lassen epitomized the spirit of these warriors, whose actions were defined by extraordinary – some might argue, suicidal – bravery, and a blatant disregard for the traditional military hierarchy.

Men and officers alike had to earn respect – merit was prized above and regardless of rank – and the only way to do so was in battle. Lassen became the only member of the British SAS ever to win the Victoria Cross (among numerous other decorations).

His VC was granted posthumously, as a result of a raid on Italy in the closing stages of the war that also claimed the lives of many of his men. Prior to that, he and his small force had liberated the entirety of Greece pretty much single-handedly.

These men were the SOE’s first ‘deniable’ operatives. Falling under the SOE’s command as opposed to that of the military, they were empowered to use all necessary measures to achieve Churchill’s aims, and they were to be disowned by the British Government if captured.

Each SOE warrior-agent was issued with a ‘0’ codename, meaning that he was a ‘zero’-rated agent – one trained and licensed to use all means to liquidate the enemy, especially the arts of silent killing. Indeed, these SOE 0-rated operatives are believed to be the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s ‘00’ agents in his James Bond novels.

The Special Operations Executive also came to be known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. And perhaps the least gentlemanly of the SSRF butcher-and-bolt specialists was Dane, Anders — known as Andy — Lassen, who was not averse to bellowing orders in German to confuse the enemy. His father, visiting London before the war, liked to summon his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce with a blast of his hunting horn from the steps of the Hyde Park Hotel.

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Irena Sendler. An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Irena Sendler. An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Remembering Irena

A Light that Never Went Out

Arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death, Sendler managed to escape her sentence for smuggling over 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and saving them from certain death.

Irena Sendler, born in 1910, in Warsaw, Poland, was raised by her parents to respect and love people regardless of their ethnicity or social status. She grew up in the town of Otwock, Poland. Her father, a physician, died from typhus that he contracted during an epidemic in 1917. He was the only doctor in his town of Otwock, near Warsaw who would treat the poor, mostly Jewish community of this tragic disease. As he was dying, he told 7-year-old Irena, “If you see someone drowning you must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.”

When World War II started in 1939, Irena immediately started protecting her Jewish friends in Warsaw. She worked as a social services director in Warsaw. She would make false documents for Jews in the city and had already started gathering her famous rescue network. When the Warsaw Ghetto was erected in 1940, Irena saw the danger ahead.

When liquidation started in 1942, Irena and her network accelerated the rescue process. The number 2,500, in connection with children rescued, is estimated by Irena and historians to be of this division. About 800 were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto, many of which were orphans. Approximately the same number were in orphanages and convents, Irena and her network assisted in the hiding of these children.

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Conroy and Stubby’s formal portrait.Sergeant Stubby and J. Robert Conroy, March 1919. Courtesy of Division of Armed Forces/Smithsonian National Museum of America History.

Conroy and Stubby’s formal portrait.Sergeant Stubby and J. Robert Conroy, March 1919. Courtesy of Division of Armed Forces/Smithsonian National Museum of America History.

The Drool Sergeant of World War I

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
                                                                          – Mark Twain

 Sergeant Stubby, the ‘Hero Dog of WWI,’ once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants and held him until American soldiers came. He also served in 17 battles, saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, and helped locate wounded soldiers.

On April 6th 1917 the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany officially entering a conflict that over the course of three years would become World War I or “The Great War”. In the following months all men between the ages of 21 and 30 that were eligible for military service were traveling to various locations including Yale University who was lending their athletic fields to the training effort beginning in July 1917.

One of the soldiers training at Yale, 25-year old J. Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment 26th “Yankee Division”, quickly caught the eye of one campus resident in particular, a small brown and white dog with stub for a tail.

No one is entirely sure when the pup first arrived on the grounds of Yale but he definitely made a good impression in a short amount of time while visiting students and getting some friendly scraps to eat. Even though he was no stranger to everyone on campus, it was Conroy that he attached himself too and he gave his new friend the name “Stubby”.

The furry little guy became an instant companion but after a short amount of time he also became a training partner. While the men practiced their drills Stubby marched alongside them memorizing the various commands. He also learned the bugle calls that set the daily schedule and, in a move that further endeared him to everyone, Stubby learned to stand on his hind legs and raise his right paw in a salute that he would not break until answered. He trained, slept, ate, and relaxed with the men and before long Stubby was considered not just a friendly pup, but a fellow soldier.

As the days moved on and the situation overseas intensified the atmosphere at Yale became markedly more serious as the men began to accept that they were moving closer and closer to facing actual combat. Letters written by Conroy jokingly talk about his telling Stubby he would not be allowed to move on with him but that the dog simply “could not understand that”. When the men marched to a railway depot and boarded a train for Newport News in Virginia, Stubby was still by Conroy’s side and no one stopped their four-legged friend from boarding the train with them.

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Photo Of The Day

After: Joseph R. Beyrle: His POW mug shot shows a justifiably angry young man. That anger would earn him a beating when he insulted a German officer who interrogated him. But it would also motivate him to attempt escape at every turn.

After: Joseph R. Beyrle: His POW mug shot shows a justifiably angry young man. That anger would earn him a beating when he insulted a German officer who interrogated him. But it would also motivate him to attempt escape at every turn.

“A Hero of Two Nations”

A Long and Arduous Odyssey through a World at War

As the twentieth century closed, the veterans of its defining war passed away at a rate of a thousand per day. This is the story of Joseph R. Beyrle. It is a story of battle, followed by a succession of captures, escapes, then battle, in the final months of fighting on the Eastern Front.

Twice before the invasion he parachuted into Normandy, bearing gold for the French resistance. D Day resulted in his capture, and he was mistaken for a German line-crosser – a soldier who had, in fact, died in the attempt.

Getting the nickname “Jumpin'” when you’re in the 101st Airborne’s “Screaming Eagles” division and everyone’s job is to jump out of planes has to be an achievement in itself. Not satisfied with that, Jumpin’ Joe Beyrle also went on to become the only American soldier to serve in both the U.S. Army and the Soviet Army in World War II … but not before having to go through hell and back. Just looking at his face before and after his ordeal should tell you the whole story

From his spot in the hayloft, American paratrooper Joe Beyrle watched as Russian soldiers cautiously advanced across the Polish fields and toward the farm where he was hiding. He saw the soldiers approach the adjacent farmhouse and summon the old German couple who lived there. The Russians gunned down the man and woman, then cut up their bodies and fed them to their pigs. Beyrle remained hidden. That night he heard the sound of arriving tanks, and dawn broke to reveal a Russian tank battalion.

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Baghdad Country Club

It takes Real Balls to Play here

 The Who’s Who of Baghdad’s Green Zone Ate Steak and Drank Fine Wine at a Bar that Billed It’self as “An Oasis of Calm.”

So, many Western visitors to Iraq in the past decade have thrown their heads back after a near-miss with a roadside bomb and thought, I need a drink right now. That was where the Baghdad Country Club came in.

“The management is happy to secure any firearms, grenades, flash bangs or knives in the club armory.”

Saturday night in Baghdad, and Heidi, the barmaid at the Baghdad Country Club, is worried about the beer. On a busy night, she might serve 800 cold ones to the diplomats, security guards, and construction workers who frequent the Country Club, a white cinder-block house with blue trim on a residential street in the Green Zone.

The BCC, as its known, gets its alcohol from suppliers outside the walls, but insurgents are targeting the crossings on either side of the Tigris River. On this Saturday, a truck bomb on a bridge has locked up traffic on the west bank of the Tigris, delaying the delivery of the night’s beer supply. Heidi, a recent college graduate from Florida, wonders whether the war will eventually collapse on the Green Zone, the way it did on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. But she doesn’t let that occupy her for long. Looking down at the empty glass in her hand, she smiles and says, “Let’s do a shot…

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Angus and Evelyn Jane.

Angus and Evelyn Jane.

My Mother’s Lover

What Happens when Your Mother’s Dying Wish is to Rest in Peace with…Someone You’ve Never Heard of Before?

For years my mother wore a gold locket. When I was a boy, I liked to pull it up from inside her blouse on its chain, tugging it up from between her breasts so I could squeeze the curved button that ran along one edge and make the curlicue gold cover, heavily sprung, pop open to reveal a photograph of my mother’s grandparents.

On an elegant chair sat her grandmother and namesake, Ivy Evelyn Stone, a formidable-looking woman wearing a full skirt, a fuller blouse, and an immensely confident expression. Next to her chair stood her husband, Gene, a railroad engineer in their hometown of Wichita Falls. Especially in Wichita Falls, a railroad town, this was a high-status position then, like that of an airline pilot 50 years later. He is dressed in suit and tie, hair slicked, with his hand on the back of the chair.

I viewed this portrait as a fair representation of the distant world from which my mother came: a stable, solid existence full of aunts and uncles and her mother and father and grandparents all living toughly but carefully in the high bright sun struck towns of north Texas. The picture agreed with the steady, accomplished, morally sturdy person I and many others knew my mother to be. But it hid the fact that she came from a world that moved violently beneath her feet.

The February after my mother died, my brother, Allen, left his New Mexico home and boarded a plane for Honolulu. He carried a backpack that carried a rosewood box that carried our mother’s ashes. The next day, on Maui, he bought six leis and rented a sea kayak. With the leis in a shopping bag and our mother’s ashes in his pack, he paddled into the Pacific.

That day nine years ago was the sort one hopes for in the tropics: warm and balmy, with a breeze that pushed cat’s paws over the water. Beyond the mouth of the bay he could see rising plumes, the spouts of humpback whales gathered to breed. He paddled toward them. When he was closer to the whales than to the shore, he shipped his oar and opened his pack. He pulled out the box and sat with it on his lap, letting the boat drift. He watched the distant spouts. Without any prelude, a whale suddenly but gently surfaced about 30 yards in the distance and released a gush of air. It bobbed, noisily breathed, and dove.

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Photo Of The Day

Photo: University of North Texas Libraries.German WWII POWs in Fort Bend County.Undated photo. It shows the funeral procession for a dead German POW inmate in Rosenberg. The camp was located on the old Fort Bend County Fair Grounds, where the Fiesta supermarket now stands.Notice the lone diehard who's giving the Nazi salute. Look closer, and you can see a few more in the distance.

Photo: University of North Texas Libraries.German WWII POWs in Fort Bend County.Undated photo. It shows the funeral procession for a dead German POW inmate in Rosenberg. The camp was located on the old Fort Bend County Fair Grounds, where the Fiesta supermarket now stands.Notice the lone diehard who’s giving the Nazi salute. Look closer, and you can see a few more in the distance.

America’s Forgotten German POW Camps

By May of 1943, the British government had asked the United States to help with over 300,000 German POWs taken from the North African campaign There was simply no more room to house all of the prisoners within their country. The U.S. agreed, and throughout 1943, POWs were arriving at the rate of 10,000 a week until around 450,000 were housed in over 500 POWs camps across 45 states.

They arrived on crowded troop carriers, converted freighters not meant for passengers, and even cruise ships used for troop transport. The first arrivals were the elite Afrika Corps who had surrendered after they had run out of ammunition and supplies. The POWs were sent to processing centres where the S.S. and hard-core Nazi’s were to have been weeded out of the POWS being sent to the U.S., but many eluded detection and were sent to the U.S. in the numerous shipments of soldiers.

S.S. soldiers were easily identifiable as they had a tattoo under their arm that designated that they would be the first to receive blood, medicine, and rations in the case of injury in battle. However, many Nazi soldiers passed through undetected as the U.S. simply asked each solider if they were a Nazi, and a good number of the Nazi soldiers simply said “no” when they answered. This was unlike the British screening process which had a more thorough approach in determining party affiliation.

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Auschwitz 31. Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. Auschwitz, Poland, 1945.

Auschwitz 31. Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. Auschwitz, Poland, 1945.

How One Woman Delivered 3,000 Babies During The Holocaust

Auschwitz had all sorts of facilities, such as sleeping quarters, offices, kitchens and latrines. It also had a “sick ward” where, in atrocious conditions, sick prisoners were looked after by physicians who were prisoners themselves. Anyone who appeared unlikely to get well was killed. Thus the physicians were constantly concealing serious cases by falsifying records to permit a longer stay to those who otherwise would have been sent to the crematorium. Almost all survivors of Auschwitz suffered from typhoid, a disease that qualified inmates for liquidation, but was never reported thanks to the courage of the physicians. They were risking their lives since the punishment for breaking any rule in the concentration camp was death. Auschwitz also had a “maternity-ward.” Many of the women who arrived at the camp were pregnant. They were needed for work; their babies were not. One of the midwives working in the ward was Stanislawa Leszczynska.

When Stanislawa Leszczyńska first became a midwife, she never could have imagined that she would one day be whisked away from her home in Poland, where she routinely walked miles to deliver babies, and into the real-life nightmare of Auschwitz. After the murder of her husband in Poland and the forced removal of her son to another work camp, Stanislawa and her daughter entered Auschwitz with only one hope: that they would survive.

Born Stanislawa Zambrzyska in 1896, she married Bronislaw Leszczynski in 1916 and together they had two sons and a daughter. In 1922, she graduated from a school for midwives and began working in the poorest districts of Lodz. In pre-war Poland, babies were normally delivered at home. Stanislawa made herself available at any time, walking many kilometers to the homes of the women she helped. Her children recall that she often worked nights but she never slept during the day.

After the war, she returned to her job in Lodz. Her husband had been killed in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, but all of her children survived and, inspired by their mother’s example, went on to become physicians. Stanislawa supported their education, earning the family livelihood through a devoted service to childbirth.

In March 1957, as her retirement neared, a reception was organized to commemorate her 35 years in the profession. Her son, Dr. Bronislaw Leszczynski, remarked to her before the reception that she might be asked about Auschwitz. Until that time, she had said nothing about her work in the concentration camp. Her son began taking notes and later, during the reception when all the speeches were over, he stood up and told his mother’s story.

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