Nancy Wake, Proud Spy and Nazi Foe, Dies at 98
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: August 13, 2011
Nancy Wake, French Resistance Heroine, WWII
Nancy Wake did not like killing people. But in wartime, she once told an interviewer, “I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.”
Ms. Wake, a onetime freelance journalist whose life careered along a path that Hemingway might have sketched, from impoverished childhood to high-society hostess in the south of France to decorated heroine of the French Resistance during World War II, died last Sunday in London. She was 98.
In the war, she was credited with saving the lives of hundreds of Allied soldiers and downed airmen between 1940 and 1943 by escorting them through occupied France to safety in Spain.
She helped establish communication lines between the British military and the French Resistance in 1944 that were deemed crucial to weakening German strength in France in advance of the Allied invasion.
By her own account she once killed a German sentry with her bare hands, and ordered the execution of a woman she believed to be a German spy.
“I was not a very nice person,” Ms. Wake told an Australian newspaper in 2001. “And it didn’t put me off my breakfast.”