Friday, August 03, 2012

Fullbore Friday

Yes - people like this walked the earth in our lifetime.
... at age 15, he received a pat on the cheek from Hitler on a class visit to his Alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.

Two years later, Hitler’s army invaded France and Count de La Rochefoucauld’s father was taken prisoner. Count de La Rochefoucauld became a follower of Charles de Gaulle, who was assembling Free French forces in England, and one day a postal worker tipped him off to a letter he had seen that denounced him to the Gestapo.

With the help of the French resistance, Count de La Rochefoucauld took a pseudonym and fled to Spain in 1942 with two downed British airmen, who were also being sheltered by the underground. He hoped to go on to England and link up with de Gaulle’s movement.

The Spanish authorities interned the three men, but the British secured their freedom and were so impressed with Count de La Rochefoucauld’s boldness and ingenuity that they asked him to join the Special Operations Executive, the clandestine unit known as the S.O.E., which Prime Minister Winston Churchill created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze,” as he put it, by working with resistance groups on the German-occupied Continent.

Count de La Rochefoucauld was an asset to the British in another way. As their ambassador in Spain told him, according to The Telegraph: “The courage and skill of British agents is without equal. It is just that their French accents are appalling.”

The British flew Count de La Rochefoucauld to England, where they trained him to jump out of airplanes, set off explosives and kill a man quickly using only his hands. They parachuted him into France in June 1943. There, he destroyed an electric substation and blew up railroad tracks at Avallon but was captured and condemned to death by the Nazis.

While being taken for execution, he jumped from the back of his captors’ truck, dodged bullets, then ran through nearby streets, winding up outside a German headquarters, where he spotted a limousine flying a swastika flag, its driver nearby, the keys in the ignition. He drove off in the car and then caught a train to Paris, hiding in one of its bathrooms.

“When we arrived in Paris, I felt drunk with freedom,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying.

The S.O.E. later evacuated him to England by submarine, but in May 1944 he parachuted back into France. Dressed as a workman, he smuggled explosives into a huge German munitions plant near Bordeaux, hiding them in hollowed-out loaves of bread. He set off the explosives on May 20 and fled on a bicycle, but was caught by the Germans once more.

In his cell he feigned an epileptic seizure, and when a guard opened the door Count de La Rochefoucauld hit him over the head with a table leg and then broke his neck. He took the guard’s uniform and pistol, shot two other guards, and escaped. Desperate to avoid recapture, he contacted a French underground worker whose sister was a nun. He donned her habit and walked unobtrusively to the home of a more senior agent, who hid him.
A life well lived; a rest well earned.

He just passed away back in May. He spent most of his post-war life as mayor for 30-years and resident of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée in north-central France. Well played sir, well played.


Anonymous said...

Um....I need to do more research. But this is almost word for word the war experience of my grandfather. Either they lead the same exact life, or someone is lying.

And I have the medals, photographs, weapons and Free French uniform of my grandfather to prove his story though he is deceased 10 years now.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Also take a look at the life of Bill Donovan who formed the OSS (CIA), new book out last year that is a great read for any person interested in intel history.