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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.

Both the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) used female intelligence agents, some going behind enemy lines, working with great courage under virtually constant danger. But Betty’s talents were unique. She used the double bed as her operational battlefield. She coaxed secrets from the enemy. Her great gift—perhaps any spy’s greatest talent—was to believe whatever she was telling her targets at the moment she was saying it – and then in the next moment to have no compunctions about betraying them. Betty’s only loyalty was to the country and the spymasters she served. She lived quite easily with the moral ambiguities of her chosen profession. In that way, she was the perfect spy. The CIA shares a bit of operational wisdom with its new recruits: ‘The last person to whom you say goodnight is the most dangerous.’ Betty Pack was the personification of this warning.

“Who could spend a long evening dancing cheek-to-cheek in La Floridita with a crowd of love-sick delegates and in the morning write a perceptive report detailing the schemes lurking in each of her dancing partners’ minds, the political manoeuvres’ they had up their sleeves, their hidden loyalties. Who could share a candle-lit dinner with a virulent pro-Nazi, anti-British Argentine politico and have him spill the secrets that lay hidden in his soul. Who could get the most truculent Marxist delegate to abandon the barricades for an evening in return for just the hope of a little human kindness.”

Her recently declassified files have been a treasure trove. They have cast new operational light on her many missions, and also revealed how significant they were. The Allied invasion of North Africa, for example, was a turning point in the war. Up till that moment, the future was looking bleak. The British had been chased from France, Norway, and Greece. America had been surprised at Pearl Harbour. And the Russians had fought the Germans to a stand-still outside Moscow, but the invaders were still on Russian soil. The successful landing of 33,000 Allied troops on the shores of North Africa was, as Churchill said, ‘the end of the beginning.’ It was the moment when the war began to turn. And the ciphers that Betty had inventively managed to steal from a locked safe in a well-guarded embassy helped ensure this victory. As Col. Ellery Huntington of the OSS said, ‘it changed the whole course of the war.’

It is important to remember that Betty was a patriot. She was deeply committed to the Allied cause. At the same time, she was also driven by what she called her ‘restless heart.’ She had a constant desire for new adventures. She liked taking risks. And she also liked living with the roller-coaster emotions that came with moving from romance to romance. What made her special, and historically significant, was that she was able to subordinate the mercurial passions that ruled her life to an important cause. Betty was the woman she wanted to be, and at the same time she was the secret agent the Allies needed.

“Betty’s romances were mercurial. She could throw over everything on a sudden whim, only to decide in the clarifying light of a new day that it was a passing fancy. The swivel of her emotions went wildly up and down, exhilaration one day, tedium the next. At great risk, she could embark on an adventurous quest to find the man who was her “one true love,” only to find herself at the same quixotic time beginning an intense affair with a man she barely knew.”

 The exact same moment Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were on Warner Bros. Burbank, California studio lot shooting Casablanca, a tiny band of spies entered sovereign Vichy-French territory on a secret mission to liberate the real Casablanca. Far from North Africa, the black ops team comprised of a former D.C. debutante-turned-spy, her Vichy-French lover, a safe-cracker and their OSS (pre-CIA) handler, broke the FBI’s strict law forbidding espionage within city limits and infiltrated the Vichy French Embassy in wartime Washington D.C.

Amy Elizabeth "Betty" Thorpe. 1937, While in Poland, Betty became a full-fledged MI-6 agent, the Secret Intelligence Service’s operative in Warsaw. Betty meets and seduces her first official Secret Intelligence Service target, the young Polish diplomat Edward Kulikowski.

Amy Elizabeth “Betty” Thorpe. 1937, While in Poland, Betty became a full-fledged MI-6 agent, the Secret Intelligence Service’s operative in Warsaw. Betty meets and seduces her first official Secret Intelligence Service target, the young Polish diplomat Edward Kulikowski.

After Hitler invaded France in May, 1940, President Roosevelt shrewdly maintained diplomatic relations with Vichy, allowing France to retain an embassy in D.C.  This embassy received daily encrypted cables from Nazi Germany about Hitler’s plans for the French Fleet and his forces in North Africa. America and Britain already possessed the technology to intercept these communiqués, but without the embassy codebooks needed to decode them the communiqués were useless.

Breaking into a foreign embassy to steal codebooks constituted an act of war. J. Edgar Hoover’s bureau boys were ordered to protect all embassies and officers of a foreign power from espionage, even America’s own. Ironically, all Federal Agents were forbidden to enter Capitol Hill unless expressly invited. However, Foreign Agents (i.e. spies) could enter at will. So Roosevelt recruited his friend General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to form the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA. Donovan assembled a special team to infiltrate the target embassy.

She was born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe on November 22, 1910, in Minneapolis. William Stephenson, who ran Great Britain’s World War II intelligence activities in the Western Hemisphere, would one day give her a code name–‘Cynthia.’

Betty’s father was a U.S. Marine Corps officer, which put travel high on the family agenda. By the age of 11, she had used postcards and guidebooks to provide the Neapolitan setting for a romantic novel she wrote, titled Fioretta. A copy found its way to a young-at-heart naval attaché named Alberto Lais at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Her father’s resignation from the service to study law brought Amy Thorpe to the U.S. capital, where she met Commander Lais. The Italian officer’s platonic relationship with the adolescent he called his ‘golden girl’ undoubtedly contributed to her appearance of maturity. By the time she made her debut in Washington society, 18-year-old Thorpe was beautiful, well-bred and graceful, with green eyes and amber blonde-coloured hair. She exuded a magnetism that drew men to her.

Betty inherited her father’s love of adventure and her mother’s inquisitive, bright mind. She studied in France and later in private schools in the United States, made her debut in Washington, and spent summers at Newport, Rhode Island. It was during this frivolous period in her life that she met Arthur Joseph Pack, a commercial secretary at the British embassy. They were married in April 1930. They had two children, Anthony and Denise, neither of whom lived much of the time with their family. Their mother opted for boarding schools and foster homes for these siblings who did not fit into her exotic mode of life.

Their mismatched marriage was doomed from the start. She became a British citizen and, as a diplomat’s wife, suddenly found new avenues to satisfy her yearning for adventure, both sexual and political.

A fellow MI6 agent described how the master seductress would ‘lock on’ to a man with her ‘radiant smile and emerald-green eyes’. He added: ‘The trick of making a man feel he is her entire universe is an old feminine wile, but she had it to the nth degree.’ Meeting her nearly 20 years after the war finished, when she was in her 50s, he found her ‘electric force undiminished’.

A fellow MI6 agent described how the master seductress would ‘lock on’ to a man with her ‘radiant smile and emerald-green eyes’. He added: ‘The trick of making a man feel he is her entire universe is an old feminine wile, but she had it to the nth degree.’ Meeting her nearly 20 years after the war finished, when she was in her 50s, he found her ‘electric force undiminished’.

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. World War II’s answer to Mata Hari, she waged a relentless war against the Nazis and their allies — one lover at a time. In its obituary on her death in 1963, Time magazine noted admiringly how she ‘used the bedroom like Bond uses a Beretta’.

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. World War II’s answer to Mata Hari, she waged a relentless war against the Nazis and their allies — one lover at a time. In its obituary on her death in 1963, Time magazine noted admiringly how she ‘used the bedroom like Bond uses a Beretta’.

Arthur Pack was transferred to Madrid on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, where Amy Pack immersed herself in secret operations. She helped smuggle rebel Nationalists to safety, transported Red Cross supplies to Franco’s forces, coordinated the destroyer evacuation of the British Embassy staff from northern Spain, and meddled in diplomatic affairs. Those activities ceased when she was denounced to her Nationalist friends as a Republican spy, apparently by a jealous woman.

In the fall of 1937, accompanied by her young daughter and a nanny, Amy Pack boarded the Warsaw Express in Paris to, in her words, ‘become a member of his Britannic Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service.’ She was quickly ‘adopted’ by a group of young men working for the Polish foreign ministry, a situation facilitated by her husband. Arthur Pack, now an official at the Embassy in Poland, had informed her he was in love with another woman. Shortly afterward, he suffered an attack of cerebral thrombosis that landed him in an English nursing home.

Amy Pack was recruited by the British intelligence and allotted an entertainment allowance of 20 pounds sterling to cultivate her high-placed Polish sources. Of her first official male conquest, she would later tell a biographer and future lover, ‘Our meetings were very fruitful, and I let him make love to me as often as he wanted, since this guaranteed the smooth flow of political information I needed.’

Pack met her next target at a dinner party hosted by the American ambassador.

She was ordered to target Count Michael Lubienski, the chief aide to the Polish foreign minister, Jozef Beck.

Betty had persuaded the U.S. ambassador to sit the count next to her at a dinner party and he was instantly smitten, the next day sending her a bouquet of pink roses.

The handsome, married Count told her everything during their nightly assignations’ including his boss’s secret negotiations with Hitler to prevent a war.

The moment he left, she would rush to her typewriter and dash out everything he had said while it was still fresh in her mind. Her dispatches were sent back to London in the diplomatic bag twice a week.

The rule in any honey trap was to tickle, but never to shove, When the target returned to bed, you’d have a second chance. And Betty’s men always hurried back. And back.

It was lucky for Britain that they did. Historians often argue over the exact contributions of individual spies from those years and Betty is no exception. But William Stephenson, Churchill’s wartime spy chief and the man who Ian Fleming claims really inspired James Bond, credited her with providing invaluable information about Germany’s famous Enigma code machines.

In perhaps the greatest intelligence coup in the war, experts at Bletchley Park cracked Enigma and so uncovered German U-boat movements in the Atlantic. In 1939, Britain realised it had neglected Enigma and belatedly ordered its spies to find out whatever they could.

From her devoted Count, Betty discovered Polish mathematicians, working from a secret underground base called the Black Chamber, were already cracking Enigma codes long before the war.

She was also able to pass on hugely useful information on how the code machine was used.

The Polish Count was so wrapped around her little finger, Betty had even inveigled her way to accompany him as far as Berlin after he was sent to represent Poland at Hitler’s huge Nuremberg rally in 1938. Lubienski was reluctant at first — she was married to a British Diplomat after all — but his lover only had to remind him about the comfort they’d find in the night train sleeping cars and his imagination did the rest.

After that, MI6 sent her on to Prague where she and a fellow agent broke into the HQ of a local pro-Nazi leader and stole papers showing German plans to take over central Europe. Betty smuggled them back to Warsaw hidden among her negligees.

By the time war broke out, the Packs had left Warsaw, hounded out by embassy colleagues and their wives, who were outraged by her promiscuity — unaware she was a spy.

Lubienski was devastated, but Betty shrugged off his distress.

‘I don’t like broken hearts. I’m not sentimental at all,’ she told him.

Fearing her marriage of convenience had run its course and that she soon wouldn’t be able to hide behind her cover as a diplomat’s wife, MI6 had her and her husband posted to Chile where he took over his embassy’s commercial section, while it worked on a new identity for her.

She was ostracized there, too, after a fellow diplomat’s wife took her clothes shopping and, peering into her changing room, discovered the free-spirited Pack didn’t bother wearing underwear.

She soon was writing political articles for Spanish- and English-language newspapers in Chile. Britain was then gearing up its intelligence and propaganda efforts in the hemisphere, placing them in the spring of 1940 under the British Security Coordination (BSC), headed by Canadian William Stephenson.

MI6’s next destination for Betty was Washington DC, where she went in late 1940, without her husband but with a new cover as a journalist.

So, Amy Pack left her husband and sailed to New York, where she was given her code name, ‘Cynthia,’ and an assignment to set up shop in Washington, D.C. As her cover, she posed as a journalist. Her first major assignment was obtaining the Italian naval cryptosystem. Given her mission, it was only logical that Cynthia look up her old friend Alberto Lais, now an admiral and naval attaché at Italy’s Washington embassy. Virtually all published accounts say that Cynthia pried from the 60-year-old admiral the Italian navy’s code and cipher books, as well as plans to disable Italian ships in U.S. ports to prevent their seizure. The literary consensus is that Cynthia’s amorous success contributed to British victories in the Mediterranean. Technically, their affair was never consummated. Lying next to her on her double bed, he wanted only to stroke her naked body for hours at a time. The lady herself, described her relationship with Lais as’ sentimental and even sensual, rather than sexual,’ and said she received the ship sabotage information directly from the admiral and access to the sensitive books from his assistant with Lais’ full cooperation.

Heirs of the admiral sued a British author in an Italian court for defamation in 1967, insisting Lais (who had died in 1951) had not betrayed military secrets, and won. In 1988, Lais’ two sons protested publication of the seduction account in David Brinkley’s best-selling Washington Goes to War and persuaded the Italian defense ministry to publish denial ads in three leading East Coast newspapers.

Italian naval attache Alberto Lais was seduced and gave code details to Betty Pack. Lais had been her ardent admirer when she was a teenager. Alberto Lais, a former Italian intelligence chief, was now an admiral and naval attache at the Italian embassy — but he and Betty had met on the debutante scene in Washington. He also happened to possess a copy of his navy’s ciphers, or code books, which Britain desperately wanted. Lais was a professional spy himself but he, too, was rapidly drawn into Betty’s web.

Italian naval attache Alberto Lais was seduced and gave code details to Betty Pack. Lais had been her ardent admirer when she was a teenager. Alberto Lais, a former Italian intelligence chief, was now an admiral and naval attache at the Italian embassy — but he and Betty had met on the debutante scene in Washington. 

Cynthia’s next assignment was one that assured her place in the intelligence hall of fame. The Vichy French government, established after France’s collapse in 1940, was vehemently anti-British.

Cynthia was asked to develop a relationship with someone working in the Vichy French Embassy.

Posing as an American journalist, Cynthia phoned the French Embassy in May 1941 and introduced herself to Charles Brousse, the press attaché. Right away, Brousse–49 years old, several times married and anti-Nazi–was besotted with Cynthia.

Cynthia made quick work of the older married man:

“He planted a long, passionate kiss on my lips and pressed my back against the door until I was limp.  Then he swung me easily off the floor and started to carry me up the stairs.  He looked at me hungrily.  “Just point out your bedroom,” he said.  “You have nothing to fear, Chérie.”  As a lover, Charles Brousse was the most ardent of all those I met in my career as a spy…”

The relationship began with elicited material and intelligence tidbits. But by July, Cynthia felt confident enough to make a false flag recruitment, telling Brousse she worked for the Americans. The French official soon was offering his mistress embassy cables, letters, files and accounts of embassy activities and personalities. Before long, to foil FBI surveillance, she moved into the hotel, Wardman Park where Brousse and his wife lived. The Wardman, was large and with multiple entrances, which would frustrate the FBI’s surveillance efforts of the OSS Agent.

Charles, having fallen madly in love with her, provided Cynthia with daily copies of decrypted embassy cables, which were sent immediately to the White House. President Roosevelt, fluent in French, often didn’t wait for the cables to be translated before reading them.  Cynthia and Charles even collaborated on reports, which the President read “as a bedtime story” and called, “the most fascinating reading I have had for a long time…the best piece of comprehensive intelligence I have come across … since the last war.”

When Cynthia asked Charles for the codes for decrypting themselves, her French lover balked – remarking that what she wanted was impossible. Undeterred, Agent Cynthia solicited the Chief Cipher Officer of the Embassy, Count Jean de La Grandville.  Young, ambitious and arrogant, the Count received Cynthia alone in his suite at the Shoreham Hotel while his wife was in the Virginia countryside giving birth to their second child.  Cynthia offered the Count money in return for the code books.  But De La Grandville had other ideas in mind and remarked on how a pretty woman should not concern herself with such things. Cynthia was not amused. She left him with her hotel phone number and the caveat that, if he was going to be serious, he could ring her the following night.

Cynthia was taken aback to find Count de La Grandville in the Wardman Park lobby upon her arrival home the next night.  Unsure what to do, Cynthia brought de La Grandville up to her suite.  Her control of the situation deteriorated when the Count informed her he had uncovered her true identity – that of Betty Thorpe Pack, estranged wife of a British diplomat.

Cynthia had kept her marriage a secret from everyone.  Her cover blown, the compromised secret agent then made the only major tactical mistake of her illustrious career. As she recounted in her memoirs:

 “He wanted to be “sure” of me.  I replied that I did not know what he meant, that I was a trustworthy American agent, and that I had made him a straightforward proposition.  He said that he appreciated all that but ‘love-making forms a bond’ and that he wanted this bond…so I closed my eyes and hoped that this, like so much else that I wanted to do, would be for (the Allies).”

Afterward, Cynthia surmised she was duped. De La Grandville had no intention of producing the codebooks.  What’s more, the duplicitous Frenchman planned to turn her in to the French Ambassador come first light.  The seductress had allowed herself to be sexually blackmailed by a novice.

SIS (MI6) Building, London. The Headquarters of the British Secret Service.

SIS (MI6) Building, London. The Headquarters of the British Secret Service.

As if matters couldn’t get worse, Charles Brousse rang her from his suite inside the hotel to say he would be over momentarily.  Agent Cynthia could not get de La Grandville out of the hotel fast enough, and the Vichy officials passed one another in the hallway outside her suite.  In an instant, Charles knew Cynthia had been unfaithful.  He exploded in a jealous rage and became physically abusive.

“It was a very thorough thrashing, and from his point of view, one that I richly deserved.”

Badly bruised and bleeding, Cynthia fled the hotel and stumbled across the famous William Taft Bridge, more commonly known as Connecticut Ave. Bridge.  It was only by sheer luck that an FBI surveillance team was not in the area to witness the distraught agent enter her mother’s deserted apartment at 2139 Wyoming Ave. – three doors down from the Vichy Embassy itself. Cynthia fell into a fitful sleep:

“I drifted off into a half-sleep and a dream of “penetrating” the French Embassy again through a window, obtaining the ciphers and dispatching them to my Chiefs with the improbable aid of a well-trained B.S.C. flock of carrier-pigeons!”

The next morning, an apologetic Charles arrived at Cynthia’s mother’s doorstep.  He was surprised to find the female spy more emboldened than ever.  She told Charles:

“While I was dozing at Mother’s I had a dream and am going to work out something around it.  I am far from lost as far as the project is concerned, but it would be catastrophic if I were “burnt”.  Everything depends on you to get me out of the mess that I really feel I am going to be in.” 

Sure enough, at that very moment across town, Count de La Grandville arrived at the home of Gaston Henry-Haye, the Vichy Ambassador, to tell him about the beautiful agent and her botched spy mission.  What the young Count didn’t know, however, was that Charles possessed incriminating evidence on the Ambassador himself, thanks to surveillance the OSS provided Cynthia.  Charles used this information to paint the Count as the real security risk and told Henri-Haye of rumours de La Grandville had been spreading about the Vichy Ambassador’s own illicit affairs.

Charles played his hand well, so well that de La Grandville was removed from the code room. Cynthia’s cover and the mission were spared.  However, they were still no closer to acquiring the codes, and time was running short.  Hitler’s grip on North Africa and the remaining French Fleet was tightening. The Vichy codes were now needed more than ever.

Cynthia appealed to her OSS handler, Agent Hunter, that there was only one remaining alternative – a black bag job; espionage parlance for an illegal break-in.  But a black bag job of a foreign Embassy was fraught with risk and very real danger. If they were caught, it would constitute a state of war between Vichy-France and the US.   Besides the FBI, who suspected Cynthia of being a spy and surveilled her night and day, there was also the notorious Vichy Secret Police to consider. Operating within the US and Canada, their duty was to report on anyone of French descent aiding the Allied cause.  Should Charles be caught, torture and death would surely follow and even his relatives in France would not be spared.

But Cynthia needed his help if she was to have any chance of gaining entrance to the heavily-guarded code room.  Charles agreed to help, risking his own life. And to pull off the risky heist, they would need a professional safecracker who could gain access to the Embassy’s safe where the Nazi codebooks were kept.

 One of the greatest secrets still surrounding World War II was the number of criminals who were recruited into secret service directly out of jail, for the same skills that put them there. One such colourful con was a safecracker known only as the “Georgia Cracker.”  He was released from prison in return for work on dangerous missions.

The Georgia Cracker joined Cynthia, Charles and Hunter, and the black-bag plan was finalized. By early June the date was set for the break-in. But first each had to swear an oath that if caught none would implicate the OSS or its British equivalent, the BSC.  To be safe, both General Donovan and Intrepid (William Stephenson, head of the British Security Coordination operating in the US) left the country.

On the night of June 19, 1942, the same night British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s flying boat put down on the Anacostia River to attend the Second Washington Conference at the White House – Agent Cynthia crossed Connecticut Ave. Bridge with Charles. The two continued up Connecticut Ave. and made the familiar right turn onto Wyoming Ave.

The reconciled lovers walked up the steps of the Embassy like they had done for several nights prior and greeted Andre Chevalier, the night guard. Brousse had persuaded the embassy’s night watchman to let him visit his office at night as he needed somewhere private to conduct an affair with his lover …

Cynthia tried not to show it, but she was wary of his dog – a large Alsatian that had been written up in a local newspaper for excessive barking at night.

Betty Pack— born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. There was virtually no man alive who could withstand the relentless onslaught of Betty, and no secret that she couldn’t winkle out of them as they lay helpless in her arms.

Betty Pack— born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe. There was virtually no man alive who could withstand the relentless onslaught of Betty, and no secret that she couldn’t winkle out of them as they lay helpless in her arms.

The couple brought with them several bottles of champagne, on the pretense that tonight was the anniversary of their first meeting.  Cynthia playfully coaxed the guard into joining them for a toast. When he wasn’t looking, she introduced a generous dose of Nembutal (a sleeping agent) into his glass.  Twenty minutes later the guard was sound asleep, and Cynthia then dosed the dog as well.

Given the all clear, the Georgia Cracker entered through the front door, stepped over the sleeping dog, and headed down the hallway to pick the lock to the code room.  Within moments, the three of them stood in front of the safe containing the codebooks.  Cynthia checked her watch; it wasn’t yet midnight.

Cynthia and Charles sat down on the divan in the private hallway outside his office and smoked, waiting nervously for the Georgia Cracker.  Minutes turned into hours. The Mosler-brand safe was old, its four tumblers rusty.  By the time the Georgia Cracker cracked the combination and turned the handle to open the safe door, it was perilously close to dawn, too late to copy the ciphers and have them back before the Embassy staff began their workday.

Cynthia watched helplessly as the convict closed and relocked the safe, careful to remove his fingerprints with a cloth. Within the hour, she and Charles were back in her nest. She telephoned her handler to give him the bad news. Charles showered and returned to the Embassy to begin his day. Fortunately, aside from a brutal hangover, the guard and his dog were unharmed and none the wiser.

Agent Cynthia was given the go ahead to make another attempt the following night, but now there were two serious complications. The first was that they couldn’t attempt to drug the guard again, for fear they would arouse his suspicion.  The second was that, incredibly, the Georgia Cracker was sent off on another mission and temporarily unavailable. Cynthia would have to open the safe by herself, using the combination the Georgia Cracker had written down for her. Another agent would be outside the code room window, ready to receive the codebooks and take them to be copied.

Night came slowly on June 21st. Charles and his spy mistress once again set out for the Embassy. Once again, the guard was waiting for them and let them in. Once again, the handsome couple smoked and made friendly conversation with him before retiring to the divan.  They waited for over half an hour for the guard to finish his rounds. As Cynthia began to pick the code room lock, a nervous Charles asked her what to say should the guard appear and inquire about her whereabouts. “Tell him I’ve gone to the toilet,” she said.

Cynthia picked the lock and entered the code room with remarkable ease.  She took out the piece of paper on which the Georgia Cracker had written the safe combination and set about turning the dial: 4 left 5; 3 right 20; 2 left 95; 1 right 2; stop.  She then tried the handle on the safe, but it wouldn’t budge. Cynthia began to sweat: “The damned thing won’t open.”  She tried the combination again and again, but the safe refused to open.  She joined an exasperated Charles back at the divan. They left the Embassy empty-handed, forced to abort the mission.

Nerves were wearing thin for everyone.  Cynthia was ordered by her handlers to travel to New York:

“I arrived at my Chief’s flat at about eight o’clock and from there set out in a cab for the long ride downtown.  I had no idea where we were going, nor was I much enlightened when we drew up at an intersection of Broadway and he said: “Hop into that black car standing by the curb, and come back to the flat before returning to Washington.”

 Cynthia did as she was told and was greatly relieved to find the Georgia Cracker waiting for her in the next car.

“I have never, repeat never, been so glad to see anyone in my life, I told him.”

The two set out for a remote stretch of Jones Beach and stopped the car. The Georgia Cracker ordered Cynthia into the back seat. There, under the seat, was an exact replica of the Vichy safe. Teacher and student spent the next several hours ‘cracking’ it. Once the Georgia Cracker was satisfied Cynthia could open the safe, they returned to the city. But once back, Cynthia was adamant that the Georgia Cracker accompany her on the next attempt on the Embassy. True to form, Cynthia was impossible to resist. Both she and the Georgia Cracker returned to Washington.

A first-quarter moon hung over the Capitol the night of June 23rd as Cynthia and Charles made their last trek across the familiar bridge.

“But as we turned the corner from the main avenue to the smaller one leading to the Chancery, I noticed two FBI cars parked at a discreet distance from our destination.  They were half-hidden in the shadows of the trees, and their lights were dimmed.”

Cynthia grabbed Charles by the arm and led him away from the street lamps.  They made their way to the Embassy doors and scurried up the stairs, only to find the Embassy guard missing from his post. Charles used his own key to enter the Embassy. They waited anxiously on the divan, wondering whether the night guard might be an informant for the FBI.  Was this a trap?

To Charles’s astonishment, Cynthia made a sudden radical decision.

“I left the divan and took off my dress, tossing it onto the floor in the middle of the hall.  Then I took off my slip and threw it in the same direction.  It was followed by my brassiere, along with my garter belt and stockings; I was now quite naked except for a string of pearls and my high-heeled shoes.” 

Her timing was perfect. Just then the door behind her opened and her body was bathed in the beam from the night guard’s flashlight.   Embarrassed, the guard muttered a quick apology and withdrew, leaving Charles and his Lady Godiva to resume their work.

Cynthia remained au naturel as she signaled to the Georgia Cracker to enter through the window of Charles’s office.  The second-story man got an eyeful as the naked agent led him to the code room where he quickly picked the lock.  She held his flashlight on the dial of the safe as he worked the combination.  Within moments the safe was open, the codebooks theirs for the taking.  Cynthia pressed them to her naked bosom and walked over to the window, where an OSS agent was waiting to spirit them away.

Cynthia turned back to the Georgia Cracker, and with sincere gratitude, embraced him.  She bid the lovable con man goodbye, then returned to Charles at the divan.  Cynthia dressed, and the two settled in for a long night of waiting.

Cynthia chain-smoked Capstan cigarettes, her favorite brand, as her imagination considered every contingency.  What if the guard became suspicious and forced them to leave?  Who would put the codebooks back in the safe?  They could knock the guard out and kidnap him.  But then the Embassy personnel would know the codes were compromised.  What of the G-men outside?  At any moment, they could storm in and take her away for interrogation.  After all, the Embassy was in their jurisdiction. They already suspected her of being a spy.

She tiptoed to the window and peeked out from behind the shade.  Sure enough, there they were, hidden in the shadows across the street.

“I went back to the divan and sat down in an attempt to persuade myself that “sweating it out” wasn’t so bad really, and that surely the boys at the front were having a worse time than I. Anyhow, there was now only another half hour until I would take up my post at the door.”

At five minutes to four, while the night guard was off making his last rounds, Cynthia was at the door and saw the OSS agent approach the Embassy.  She reached out and grabbed the books from him, then turned and cautiously ran for the code room.  She purposely did not wear lipstick, in order to kiss each codebook for luck before she returned it to the safe. Then she was careful to wipe away all trace of her presence as the Georgia Cracker had taught her.  Moments later, she and Charles walked hand in hand down the Embassy steps.  Even if the Bureau boys saw them now, they could prove nothing.

Back at her swallow’s nest later that morning, Cynthia heard a knock at her door.  She opened it to find Agent Hunter, smiling and smartly dressed in a U.S. Army summer uniform. Cynthia followed Hunter to the other end of the hotel. He led her into a room full of military personnel, surrounded by photographic equipment and hundreds of papers covering the furniture. They were photostats of the Vichy codebooks.  This was where they had brought the books to be copied – down the hall from her very own nest. Cynthia looked at the crystal clear prints of the secret ciphers and smiled to herself.

 “Altogether, it was the proudest moment of my life.”

 November 8, 1942, Washington, D.C.: Agent Cynthia was boarding a train bound for New York when she saw the morning paper carrying the headline “Allies Storm North Africa!”  She then looked up to see a handsome, uniformed man admiring her.  She smiled instantly, having recognized her old spy handler. Agent Hunter stood at attention and saluted her.  Then he approached and whispered in her ear:

“We have reached a turning point in the war.  The allied troops have landed in North Africa, with practically no enemy resistance.  The reason that there was no resistance is a military secret, but I think You should know that it is due to your ciphers.  They have changed the whole course of the war.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Operation Torch, and 107,000 Anglo-American troops landed on the shores of North Africa in a surprise attack.  The battle that had begun on a tiny piece of sovereign Vichy soil located in Washington D.C. less than five months prior, concluded in the liberation of Casablanca, Oran and Algiers in less than three days.  The decisive victory put an end to Hitler’s dominance on the continent, deprived Germany of the French fleet and shortened the war itself.

One of the many British posters warning Londoners of espionage potential in a capital swarming with refugees from enemy territories. Image: The Imperial War Museum, London.

One of the many British posters warning Londoners of espionage potential in a capital swarming with refugees from enemy territories. Image: The Imperial War Museum, London.

Betty went to London, asking to be sent into Nazi-occupied Europe as an assassin — an idea that was given serious consideration until it became clear that her cover had been permanently blown in Washington.

The rest of Betty’s story pales after her earlier adventures. Worried about his health and depressed, Arthur Pack killed himself in 1945.

Brousse and his wife divorced, and Charles and Betty married. He bought her the Chateau Castellnou. In storybook fashion, they settled in the medieval castle on a mountain in France.

The end of their story was tragic, however.

Not the most maternal woman, her relationships with her children was strained. Her son, Anthony Pack, died in 1951 while fighting in Korea just as they were finally developing some kind of relationship.

On December 1, 1963, Amy Elizabeth Thorpe Brousse died of mouth cancer, and was buried in a park at Chateau Castellnou where she and Charles Brousse had lived during the happy years after the war.

Her husband Charles was electrocuted about 10 years later after falling asleep with his electric blanket on, and it caught fire. Part of their fairy tale castle was also consumed in the ensuing fire.

Betty never had any time for those who questioned her methods. ‘Ashamed? Not in the least, my superiors told me that the results of my work saved thousands of British and American lives,’ she said years later. ‘It involved me in situations from which “respectable” women draw back — but mine was total commitment. Wars are not won by respectable methods.’

Sexpionage: Using sex to obtain information.

Amy Thorpe | World War II Database

Elizabeth Pack (Cynthia) – Spartacus Educational

Amy Elizabeth “Betty” Thorpe Pack | GiRl SpY

Sisterhood of Spies – The New York Times

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe: WWII’s Mata Hari | HistoryNet

 


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  • Doc45

    Truth beats fiction any day.

  • GoingRight

    Wow what a woman! I guess there are many stories of bravery and sacrifice that went on during the war that may remain hidden forever. Would make a great book or even a movie though.

  • An amazing Woman, what an exciting life.

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