1945: Virginia Hall

“The Limping Lady,” Courageous WWII Resistance Organizer

Virginia Hall had a knack for languages and finding adventure. After attending college and graduate school at tops universities in the U.S., she went on to study and travel in Europe in the early 1930s, eventually taking a clerical position with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Her next assignment took her to Izmir, Turkey, where she was in a serious hunting accident and lost her left leg below the knee. She was fitted with a wooden prosthetic leg, which she affectionately nicknamed "Cuthbert." She'd always dreamed of working in the Foreign Service, but when she applied a few years after the accident, she was informed that only the "able-bodied" need apply. Hall was determined not to let her prosthetic leg limit get in the way of her desire for to serve her country overseas.

Not long thereafter, with Europe newly entrenched in World War II, Hall was accepted by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), who gave her extensive training in clandestine tradecraft, communications, weapons, and other resistance activities. She spent 13 months in France in 1941-42, organizing spy networks, running safehouses, and delivering important intelligence to the British government – all while staying one step ahead of the Gestapo, who called her "The Limping Lady."

She fled France just one step ahead of her would-be captors and ultimately joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, who sent her back to France in 1944, where she again took up the cause of the resistance. In 1945, Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her heroic actions during the war. She continued intelligence work for the CIA after the war, retiring in 1966 when she reached the mandatory retirement age of 60.

Read more about Hall's courageous resistance work on the CIA website and the DIA website. A longer recounting of her wartime experiences, complete with excerpts from her own journals, has been published by the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence.