In 1941, Virginia Hall was a 35-year-old American living in London when she sent a cable to an old friend who worked at the New York Post. Europe was in the throes of war, and Paris had just surrendered to the Nazis. Would the paper be interested in her dispatches on life in Vichy France?
Publisher George Backer answered immediately. He would love to run her reports, but was she sure she wanted to embark on such a dangerous assignment?
Hall had to laugh. After all, Backer didn’t know that he was dealing with one of the Allied Forces’ cleverest spies.
There’s a saying that the actress Ginger Rogers did everything her on-screen dance partner Fred Astaire did except backwards and in heels. Well, Virginia Hall — alias Brigitte LeContre, code-named “Germaine” — did everything that the fictional James Bond would do, except in real life and with one leg.
In her three years working in France for the British and US governments, Hall recruited resistance fighters, supplied fellow agents with weapons, helped downed Allied pilots, organized jailbreaks and even blew up a few bridges. She could speak five languages, lie through her teeth and slash an enemy in the throat with a knife. The Gestapo nicknamed her the “limping lady” on account of her wooden leg, which Hall named Cuthbert. She was branded “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.”
“She was [Britain’s] first resident agent in the field, the longest-lasting and certainly the most influential,” said Sonia Purnell, who has penned a biography of Hall called “A Woman of No Importance,” coming soon.
Yet, despite her accomplishments, Hall has been largely forgotten.
“For whatever reason, she has not really been known outside the intelligence community,” said Shelby Prichard, chief of staff of Manhattan’s new Spyscape museum.
Even Hall’s niece Lorna Catling, told The Post that she had no idea of the extent of “Aunt Dindy’s” heroic deeds.
“We figured she was…