She was one of the most decorated women of the Second World War.
And her specialty was kicking Nazi butt. Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand in 1912. At the age of 16 she ran away from home and worked as a nurse. She later traveled to New York and London, and trained herself to be a journalist, working in Paris in the 1930s. After the fall of France in 1940, she became a courier for the French Resistance, which was probably the worst thing to happen to Hitler that year.
She was probably very proud of that fact.
As a member of the Resistance, her life was in constant danger. She was helping to smuggle Jews and allied airmen out of the country (via). By 1943 she was the Gestapo's most-wanted person, and she had a 5-million franc price on her head. Which is even more incredible due to the fact that they had no idea who she was (via). Wake was so good at evading them they only knew her by the nickname "white mouse". Because nobody thought someone so good looking could be a ruthless spy. When she described her tactics, she said: "A little powder and a little drink on the way, and I'd pass their (German) posts and wink and say, 'Do you want to search me?' God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was."
She was also a member of the SOE, which was basically British badass training.
After escaping to Britain and training in guerrilla tactics with the SOE, Wake was parachuted into Auvergne in 1944. Upon discovering her tangled in a tree, Captain Tardivat greeted her remarking, "I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year," to which she replied, "Don't give me that French shit."
The face of a woman who had no time for French shit.
Wake was instrumental in recruiting new members (the group was about 7,500 strong), and she led attacks on Gestapo HQ. And she was stone cold. At one point, she found out her men were protecting a female German spy, reluctant to kill her in cold blood. Wake volunteered. (Snitches get stitches). Despite their small numbers (7,500 vs. 22,000 German soldiers), they caused over 1,400 (while only taking 100 themselves). At one point, she was spotted by a German sentry and killed him with her bare hands.
More precisely, she judo-chopped him in the throat.
"They'd taught this judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE, and I practiced away at it. But this was the only time I used it – whack – and it killed him all right. I was really surprised." Ma'am, I think we are all surprised.
She earned those medals.
In addition to her judo-chopping skills, Wake was an instrumental member of the Resistance up until the war ended. She once biked 500 miles through several German checkpoints to replace codes her wireless operator had been forced to destroy in a German raid. She and two other American officers took command of a group whose leader had been killed, and her leadership prevented any more fatalities. There are literally not enough high fives in the world for this woman.
But for kicks here's a short list of her medals and honors:
The George Medal
The United States Medal of Freedom
The Médaille de la Résistance
The Croix de Guerre (thrice)
Chevalier (knight) of the Legion of Honor
Promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor
As well as several other honors from the United States, the French Republic, the United Kingdom, and the Australia Republic. Because you don't judo-chop a Nazi and not get a lifetime of respect.
Nancy Wake was a war hero.
She saved hundreds if not thousands of lives, and got crucial information to the Allies that helped determine the fate of the war. I'd be lucky to be half as brave and smart as she was. (Oh, maybe skip the movie made about her life. She wasn't a fan. It implied that she had an affair with one of her fellow soldiers, which she denied. At the time, she was too busy killing Nazis.)