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Month: November 2015

We’re Moving!

20151109_162017_resizedI’ve been quiet of late. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been buried under writing A Harmony for Steve, but that wouldn’t be true. My husband was offered a new job in another part of the state. We’ve traveled there twice in the past several weeks for interviews and preliminary planning. We’ve talked to schools, looked at houses, talked to movers, and arranged home inspections with a Realtor.

Then, the two of us went away, alone, and spent the last week praying about the decision. When we came back home, Gregg put his resignation notice in at his job and solidified the arrangements.

Now, we’ve started packing. The kids’ last day of school is December 18th. At 8:30 that morning, the movers will arrive and load our household up, then cart it across the state to our new home on Fort Knox Army post, near Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Gregg and I are both Army brats. I’ve lived in this house for 8 years, and it’s the longest either one of us have ever lived in the same house. We brought our youngest son home from the hospital to this house, and he’s 7 now. Despite the ties to church and community we have here, we are thrilled to be moving onto an Army post, where Gregg will work 2 miles from our home and our children can grow up in an environment similar to the one in which we grew up.

Despite our excitement, nothing about this move will be easy. We have an 18-year-old college Freshman at a local college whom we’re moving into an apartment. We have a 9-year-old autistic son whose OCD tendencies make him absolutely terrified of something “different” or “new”.  And our 7-year-old is very social and already mourning the thought of leaving his friends and classmates behind.

cover-front_9781939603-4ah4s_640I should have finished A Harmony for Steve by now. I’m about 10 chapters away from finishing it, but haven’t spent any time on it in a few weeks. I’d promised it before the end of the year, but I’m positive that I cannot make that deadline now. I have a million details to see to, and the more that I pack and manage, the more chaotic my environment becomes. I have a hard time creating in chaos, and I have I hard time focusing on fiction when there are other things overwhelming me. Instead of stressing it, I’ve made the decision to just put it on hold until after the move, after Christmas break. Once we are settled into the new home and the kids go back to school, I’ll be able to refocus on my writing in my way.

20151109_155400_resizedIn the meantime, I’ll be penning a series of articles on moving with a child on the autism spectrum. I may pen a few articles about how our nest suddenly became 1/3 lighter as we settle our daughter into her new home. And I’ll be digging up articles on decorating and organization as we empty this house and fill another.

I saw a sign once that absolutely resonated with the Army brat inside of me. It said:

Home is wherever you are.

My prayer is that this new home will be a place of security and comfort for our children, that the walls will be bursting with laughter and prayers, and that we grow to love our schools and community.
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Valor’s Vigil Releases Today!

v8_Valor2640Valor’s Vigil is the exciting and suspenseful special addition to the Virtues and Valor series by selling inspirational novelist, Hallee Bridgeman. An American spy undercover in a Nazi uniform operating under the codename VALOR, Leopold Schäfer is in charge of the prisoners in Occupied France’s Valeurville prison. In the wake of Marie Perrin, codename TEMPERANCE’S arrest, Leo must handle the situation with the utmost caution. Can he protect her without blowing his own cover, or will he place his own life in danger to keep her safe?

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Valor’s Vigil is available in e-book format at the following booksellers:

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Olivia Kimbrell Press
EBook ISBN: 978-1-68190-022-3

The Back Cover:

LEOPOLD SCHäFER, the only child of Major Charlene Radden and former spy, Karl Schäfer has trained his enter life for this moment in time. An American spy undercover in a Nazi uniform operating under the codename VALOR, he receives a promotion to Oberleutnant and a new duty assignment in charge of the prisoners in Occupied France’s Valeurville prison.

In the wake of Marie Perrin, codename Temperance’s arrest, Leo must handle the situation with the utmost caution. On one hand, every instinct in his heroic mind screams to protect the beautiful wireless operator from the hands of the Nazis. On the other, he cannot risk compromising his cover.

It takes quick thinking and not a small amount of prayer to shield her from the harsh interrogation tactics of the Schutzstaffel trained interrogator. While he personally sees to her health and safety, he realizes that more than his cover is at risk as his feelings for the beautiful spy grow. As her situation grows more grave, he must focus on the bigger picture and the whole mission and make the hardest decision of his life. Can he protect her without blowing his own cover, or will he place his own life in danger to keep her safe?

VALOR’S VIGIL is part eight of eight serialized novellas entitled the Virtues and Valor series.

Seven valorous women — different nationalities, ethnicities, and social backgrounds — come together as a team called the Virtues.

In 1941 Great Britain a special war department assembles an experimental and exclusively female cohort of combat operatives. Four willing spies, a wireless radio operator, an ingenious code breaker, and a fearless pilot are each hand-picked, recruited, and trained to initiate a daring mission in Occupied France. As plans are laid to engineer the largest prison break of Allied POWs in history, the Nazis capture the Virtues’ radio operator. It will take the cohesive teamwork of the rest of the women to save her life before Berlin breaks her and brings the force of the Third Reich to bear.

Some find love, some find vengeance, and some discover the kind of strength that lives in the human heart when all they can do is rely on each other and their shared belief. Courage, faith, and valor intersect but, in the end, one pays the ultimate price.

The special edition to the Virtues and Valor series by Hallee Bridgeman. Eight serialized novellas, each inspired by real people and actual events, reveal the incredible story of amazing heroines facing the ultimate test of bravery.

valor

EXCERPT:

 

Valeurville, Occupied France, 1942

Leo shifted gears in the Kübelwagen and slowed the vehicle to go around the curve on the country road. As he drove with the top down, he enjoyed the warm French spring air versus the recent bitter Munich winter he’d endured. The breeze on his face as he drove made him miss his 1938 Opel Admiral convertible — the college graduation present from his parents. Nothing about the boxy Kübelwagen handled like his sleek Opel, and he looked forward to getting behind her wheel again one day.

Pulling his mind from the nostalgia of his home in Oregon, he brought himself to the present day. Rumor had it, his commander planned to promote Oberleutenant Beck to Kapitan and transfer him to the prisoner of war camp currently under construction several miles from town. With Leo’s recent rise to Oberleutenant, he knew he would receive a orders to take over Beck’s position as officer charge of the prisoners in the Valeurville prison. In that position, he could help facilitate the passing of information from headquarters to the housed prisoners, insuring the planned escape happened more smoothly. Everything he did, though, had to be completely above board and appear harmless, or else his cover would be jeopardized. If his cover became jeopardized, so would his father’s.

As he rounded another corner, he saw a woman on a bicycle. Even from this distance and behind her, he recognized Marie, aka Temperance. He remembered from a briefing long ago that a farmer in this area was friendly to the Resistance. She likely had just used his farm to send a wireless message — which meant that she probably carried her wireless machine in the basket strapped to the back of her bike.

v8_Valor2640He’d met her face-to-face once before, when he’d rigged his uniform pants to lose a button right before his promotion ceremony. It gave him access to her room — she couldn’t very well sew a button on his pants while he still wore them, unlike a uniform coat — and he was able to inspect her living quarters and make sure nothing appeared out of order to a watchful eye. It had struck him then, as it did now, how drawn he’d felt to her since seeing her photograph in her dossier months ago in a hangar in Britain.

He had two choices. He could drive right by her. Or, he could give her a training opportunity. Let her speak to a German officer and work on traveling with such contraband on her person without giving anything away.

He slowly pulled alongside her. “Excuse me, Fräulein!”

She jumped and the front tire of her bike wobbled a bit as she recovered from her surprise. When she stopped the bike and put both feet on the ground, she covered her heart with her hand and smiled at him. “You startled me, Oberleutnant.”

Leo killed the engine and set the parking break before hopping out of his car. He jogged over to her. “I am so sorry to startle you, Fräulein Perrin.”

She smoothly raised an eyebrow. He found himself impressed and intrigued by the lack of fear she exhibited. “How do you know my name, Oberleutnant?”

He smiled while he thought of a reason he would know her name. “I made an inquiry of your landlady. She was generous to give me your name.”

She looked around before looking directly at him again. He wondered how long she would do this job before her brown eyes lost all of their warmth and turned hard and cold. “Well, it’s nice to see you again, Oberleutnant,” she said, clearly wanting to dismiss him. “Did you make it to your ceremony on time last week?”

Giving in to the irrational desire to have some form of contact with her, he held his hand out, hoping she would take it. As she placed her hand in his, he noticed how small her hands were compared to his, and felt the slight tremor that belied the fear her face masked. “Yes, thanks to you.” He smiled, wishing she felt at ease with him. “You are very beautiful, Fräulein Perrin.”

Why had he said that? Immediately, her face flooded with color and she started to pull her hand away. “Oberleutnant Schäfer, I hardly think that is appropriate.”

Giving her a break, knowing she had no idea of his true identity, he released her hand and bowed stiffly. “You are correct, Fräulein. I apologize.”

She gave him a slight nod but her eyes widened and an appalled look crossed her face. “Thank you. I hope you don’t –”

He cut off her panicked apology. “Of course not. I should have kept that thought to myself even though it is a fact.”

She lowered her eyes as her cheeks tinged bright red again. He cleared his throat, seizing the moment, knowing his superiors, and especially his mother, would not approve of the direction he planned to take the conversation. “I have been searching for you, Fräulein.”

As she looked up at him, the color started to leave her face. “You’ve been searching for me?”

“Yes. I want to ask you. Would you like to go see a show with me?”

She frowned and raised an eyebrow. “A show?”

“Yes. In a few weeks, Virginia Benoit will be here to perform for our Oberst, our Colonel. Herr Oberst is her biggest fan and we are all invited to see the show … to lift the morale of the troops, you see. Tell me, Fräulein, do you know Virginia Benoit?”

He had a feeling she would not appreciate it knowing that she was being tested by him. He watched as she swallowed and clearly tried to think of a reply. “Of course I have heard of her,”

“She is from America, like me,” he proclaimed, as if giving her information she didn’t already know.

Her eyebrows furrowed. “American? Why are you here in France, then?”

He gestured in the air. “The call of the Fatherland I’m afraid. My father insisted I return a few years ago.”

With wide eyes, she let that digest. “Do you know Virginia Benoit?”

“No.” He chuckled, thinking of the size of America. “America is enormous. She’s from a state called Louisiana in the deep south near the Gulf coast. I’m from Oregon a few thousand kilometers away on the north of the Pacific coast. Also, I understand the lady is a Negro. Perhaps you’ve heard that Negros and Arians hardly ever socialize in America. Still, it will be nice to hear an American accent again, I think.”

He hated acting like a racist. He personally believed that man originated from one person – Adam – and that race had nothing to do with anything about a person’s character.

However, while under cover in this Nazi uniform, he must do nothing to rouse suspicion. Even if that generated the look of disgust that crossed her face.

She did recover very quickly, though. “I imagine you must feel very homesick at times, Oberleutnant.”

“I am homesick.” Now, that was the truth. He ached for his Oregon home. Putting a hand to his heart, he sincerely said, “It would do me a great deal of good to attend the performance with the most beautiful woman in the village on my arm.”

Oberleutnant Schäfer, I don’t think –”

He held up a hand to halt her speech. “Please, don’t say no, Fräulein. At least let me have a little hope by telling me you’ll consider the offer. Besides, I still owe you for sewing on my button.”

While he watched her war with herself over whether she should accept his invitation, she pressed her lips together and finally nodded. “Very well, Oberleutnant. As you say, I will think about it.”

His eyebrow cocked, “You give me your word?”

After perhaps a half second of hesitation, she nodded. “You have my word.”

He clicked his heels again. “Wunderbar! I will seek you out in two days time to learn your final decision.” He leaned closer and whispered as if conspiring with her. She smelled of sunshine and lavender and he felt his heart rate increase with the closer proximity. His body’s reaction made him curious. Surely, he could think of a thousand better places and even more better times to get consumed over the attraction of a woman. “I hope you say yes.”

To convey his sincerity, he took her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles. He felt the muscles under his fingers flex, but she did not actually pull her hand away. Deciding to release her from the torture of talking to him any longer, he smiled and said, “I look forward to speaking with you again, Fräulein Perrin.”

“Good day, Oberleutnant Schäfer.”

He got back into his Kübelwagen and started the engine. Without looking back at her, he headed on his way. As he drove, he felt his face frown, thinking of the inappropriate timing for his pursuit of her attention. What had possessed him to do that? Yes, she was beautiful. Yes, he felt like he could talk to her for hours. But, honestly, couldn’t he have waited until this war ended?

Frustrated with himself, he clumsily ground the gears in his vehicle as he went around a corner. Maybe he could come up with a way to gracefully back out of his invitation. Especially before his mother or father got wind of it.

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The Amazing Stories That Inspired Flight of Faith, Book 7 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, Flight of Faith IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of Flight of Faith, Part 7 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

flight of faith

My fictional little town of Lamarr, Texas was inspired by none other than actress and inventor, Hedy Lamarr. Born in Austria as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914, Hedy died in her Florida home at the age of 85 on January 19, 2000. In 1933, Hedy had fled from her abusive husband and secretly moved to Paris, France. There, she soon met American film mogul, Louis B. Mayer. In no time, Hedy Lamarr became known the world over as the world’s most beautiful woman and played alongside MGM’s most famous leading men from Spencer Tracy to Clark Gable. What few people know is that Hedy was also a brilliant – or perhaps genius – mathematician.

hedy-lamarr

Hedy, along with composer George Antheil, co-invented the technology for spread spectrum and frequency hopping communications. This became important to America’s military during World War II and was used in everything from controlling torpedoes to helping guide bombers onto their targets. Her invention is still used today in such modern technologies as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Hedy Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014

While researching the incredible women during World War II to write this series of books, I often experienced the difficult task of choosing between this or that remarkable story of one incredible woman or another equally incredible account to help inspire my heroines. However, in the case of my fictional character, young Helen Mulberry (later Green), my inspiration was very clear.

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The heroic then 22 year old woman on the cover of this book photographed at Love Field, Texas in 1943 is the incredible Florene Miller (later Watson). Florene Miller was born on December 7, 1920. She turned 21 on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. When writing my Virtues’ stories, I very purposefully shied away from too much mention of specific historical events surrounding the war. I had no desire to tred on true history and sought only to create a world with my characters doing their things in the fictional towns I crafted. However, I did have a very significant scene in this book that pertained to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In a way, that was my little nod to Florene.

Like my fictional Helen, the real-life Florene was a Texan, born in San Angelo. At 8-years-old, she took her first airpline ride in a WWI era Barnstormer’s open-cockpit biplane and fell in love with flying. While she was in her sophomore year at Baylor University, her father purchased the family a Luscombe airplane. Much like my fictional character Ruth Aubertin in Grace’s Ground War, the real life Florene’s father believed his country would soon go to war with Germany and he wanted his children to be trained aviators in the war effort.

The Luscombe enabled Florene to spend numerous hours flying and studying aircraft engines, navigation, meteorology, and flight rules and regulations. At 19, she graduated from flight school. In a few short months Florene became a commercial pilot, obtained flight and ground school instructor ratings. Before her 21st birthday, she would be teaching men (including her future husband, Chris Watson) how to fly in the War Training Program in Odessa, Texas.

Women's Air Ferrier Service members-Betsy Ferguson, Florine Miller, and Helen Richards at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, Feb. 1943 Picture loaned by Florene Miller Watson, Dec. 5, 01.
Women’s Air Ferrier Service members-Betsy Ferguson, Florine Miller, and Helen Richards at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, Feb. 1943
Picture loaned by Florene Miller Watson, Dec. 5, 01.

In 1939, after Germany invaded Poland, female pilot Jacqueline Cochran wrote to the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, regarding using women pilots in the armed forces. Shortly thereafter, female pilot Nancy Harkness Love wrote a similar letter to the people in charge of the Ferrying Division of the Armed Air Forces. Early in the European war, the United States wasn’t quite ready to utilize women as pilots for military planes. However, by September 1942 – 9 months after the Pearl Harbor attack – they started shifting that idea.
An increased demand brought on by male pilots heading out of the country to fight in the war left a shortage of experienced pilots in the United States. The leaders of the Air Transport Command contacted Nancy Harkness Love, and hired her to recruit qualified women pilots.

As I mentioned, December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, was Florene’s 21st birthday. After Pearl Harbor attack, both Florene and her brother had volunteered for the Army Air Corps. To qualify as Army pilots, men were required to have 250 hours of flying time, a commercial license, and a horse power rating. On the other hand, women were required to have a minimum of 500 hours.

A call was put out for 50 women who had logged over 500 hours of flying to help ferry aircraft, cargo, and troops. Only 25 women in the entire country met the criteria, though the women who qualified at the time averaged 1,100 hours each.

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Florene was one of those 25 women who qualified, and she became a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and, a very short time later, its first Commanding Officer.These women flew 8 months delivering airplanes nationally before any of the 1,074 other women pilots graduated from Jackie Cochran’s flight training school.

Then, on September 14, 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, approved a program that would train qualified female pilots to serve as ferry pilots. The program was placed under the direction of Jacqueline Cochran, and named the Army Air Forces Women’s Flying Training Detatchment (WFTD).

On August 5, 1943, the WAFS and the WFTD merged and became re-designated as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). Jacqueline Cochran was appointed the Director and Nancy Harkness Love was named WASP Executive with the ATC Ferrying Division. Florene, the fomer Commanding Officer of the WAFS, became the first Commanding Officer of the WASPs stationed at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.

Although the WASP held officer status, they were classified as civilians, ineligible for government life insurance, military funerals, burial expenses, and other G.I. benefits. More than three decades elapsed before the first honorable discharge was awarded to a WASP.

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By the end of the war, Florene had flown every type of plane that the Air Corps used including: Aeronea, Waco, Taylorcraft, Piper Cub, BT-13, PT-17, PT-19, AT-6, AT-9, AT-10, AT-11, AT-17, A-20, A-26, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, SB2C, C-47(DC-3), B-17, B-24, B-25, Lockheed P-38F Lightning and her favorite, the North American P-51D Mustang. In 1944, Florene was chosen to be a test pilot in a secret program to develop radar equipment for planes.

After the war, Florene and Chris Watson married, and she earned her BA then MBA. Her husband worked for Phillips Petroleum, and she taught college for 30 years.
The image used on the cover of this book was also selected by the US Department of Defense for its official WASP website:
http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0310_wasp/

Among her many honors and distinctions are:
Membership in the Distinguished Flying Corps in the Kritser Aviation and Space Museum, Amarillo, TX
Induction into theNinety-Nines International Forest of Friendship, Atichison, Kansas (Amelia Earhart’s home) for exceptional contributions to aviation
First woman inductee into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Fame
Distinguished Veteran honoree at the Air Force Military Ball in Dallas, TX
National Medal of Honor from The Daughters of the American Revolution
Designation as an “Eagle” 4 separate times at the Air Force’s annual Gathering of Eagles celebration
National Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Induction into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame
The renaming of the airport in her hometown of Big Lake, TX the Florene Miller Watson Airport
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award the United States Congress can present to a civilian.

Florene had extensive Bible training and spent ten years as the National Chaplain of the WASP. She was active in her church and community affairs in Borger, Texas near Amarillo.

I’m sad to say Florene died on February 4, 2014 at the age of 93, just 13 months before this book published. I’ve read numerous articles and interviews about this incredible woman. In everything I’ve read about her, this stood out to me:

“During the years, I have been asked to give many, many WAFS- WASP WWII presentations … been inducted into several prestigious ‘Hall of Fame’ type honors, and been featured in newspapers, books and magazine articles – but the bottom line for me is – ‘What does my Lord think of me!'” – Florene Miller Watson

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Today, Flight of Faith IS FREE November 5-9. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

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The Amazing Stories That Inspired Mission of Mercy, Book 6 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, Mission of Mercy IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of Mission of Mercy, Part 6 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

mission of mercy

There are dozens of documented cases of female physicians – working on both sides of the conflict – but there are very few detailed stories about any of them, and I found no detailed stories about any women who worked covertly as a physician. Likewise, while members of the International Red Cross performed near miraculous acts of heroism and suffered incredible personal sacrifice throughout the conflict, the organization was then and is now, completely neutral. And finally, the very much not red headed nurse on the cover of this book never personally went to combat, but represents so many young women who surrendered their lives to a life of service, willingly answering the call to offer aid and comfort in a time of global war.

Like all of my characters, the fictional character, Doctor Beatrice “Betty” Grimes, is entirely made up. The half Scottish and half French redheaded surgeon who worked in a London hospital until a bombing during the Blitz, and who later becomes a spy pretending to be a Red Cross nurse who really works covertly as a doctor for the resistance does not represent a single historical woman. The thing that makes her unique in my mind is that, more than any of my other Virtues heroines, Betty represents an amalgam of many real people and not just a single individual.

While there were few details of physicians working covertly to defeat the Nazis from which I could draw to fill out my fictional character, there is one particularly brave woman who came to mind. What follows is only a summary of the amazing story of the incredibly courageous woman named Marthe Cohn.

Marthe Cohn

Marthe was a Jewish woman from Alsace-Lorraine, France, near the border of Germany. Her family actually helped hide Jews who fled Germany until the German occupation of France. Her sister, father, and brother were arrested in 1942. Her father and brother survived.

At one point, her sister was offered her freedom, but insisted on staying a Nazi captive in order to help care for the interned Jewish children. Eventually, she ended up at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and did not survive the war.

After the liberation of Paris in 1945, Marthe joined the French army. Because she had blonde hair and spoke fluent German, the French intelligence created falsified documents and a fictional identity for her – that of a German nurse.

Marthe made 13 unsuccessful attempts to cross the border into Germany, finally succeeding. During a speech given after the war, Marthe said, “I took my little suitcase and walked towards the German border guard. Then I raised my right arm and said, ‘Heil Hitler’ and showed him my papers. It worked, and I was in Germany.”

Her job was to seek out information regarding the German retreat; specifically, information about the Siegfred Line, a 400-mile long German defense system. While covertly obtaining and funneling vital information to her contacts, Marthe treated German soldiers, including members of the Schutzstaffel, the dreaded Waffen SS.

As a spy, to gain the sympathy of her assets, she told the Nazis she was desperately trying to find her fictional fiancé, a German soldier listed as missing in combat. Gaining the confidence of the men she treated, she discovered that the retreating German army lay in wait for Allied troops in the Black Forest, and that the Siegfred Line had, in fact, been abandoned.

Because of the intelligence she provided, Allied troops broke through the Siegfred Line and successfully penetrated into the heart of Germany, eventually taking Berlin.

In 2000, Marthe received France’s highest military honor, the Medaille Militaire. In 2002, the Los Angeles based Simon Wisenthal Center declared her a Woman of Valor for her service to the Allied forces. In 2006, just four years after its establishment, she received the Medaille de Reconnaissance de la Nation from the French government.

Cadet Nurse Marguerite V. Clodfelter (circa 1944)
Cadet Nurse Marguerite V. Clodfelter (circa 1944)

Pictured on the cover of this book is the very not red headed Marguerite V. Clodfelter. Canadian born, Marguerite and her family lived in upstate New York when the war broke out. Both of her brothers were offered American citizenship if they accepted the American draft versus going back to Canada to join the Canadian armed forces, and they readily accepted. In 1944, Marguerite graduated from high school and immediately joined the newly formed Cadet Nurse Corps.

At the height of the war and with a nursing crisis in America, Marguerite fast-tracked through nursing school then worked as a nurse in the House of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, New York. At any time, she could have been deployed to Europe or the Pacific. As it turned out, she served with the Nurse Corps until the end of the war, providing a much needed service on the home front. During her service, she applied for and received her American Citizenship. She married Bob Clodfelter in 1947.

Visit the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project online at http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/WVHP/ or write to the project at: UNCG Digital Collections, PO Box 26170, Greensboro NC 27402-6170.

While my fictional Betty Grimes goes under cover as a Red Cross Nurse, this is just my own artistic license. It is unlikely that Betty’s disguise as a Red Cross nurse would allow her to carry out a mission of espionage – but doing so allowed me, perhaps selfishly, to honor that organization in my own small way. The International Red Cross has always protected its neutral stance so that it can have access to the local populace in disputed territories and so that fear of spying will not hinder the performance of any of its very important duties.

The horrors of the first World War ran the gamut, ranging from tooth edged bayonets in the trenches all the way to widespread use of chemical weapons. After the armistice, nations met in neutral Geneva with the intent of creating and ratifying a set of conventions that would govern how warfare could legally be conducted should hostilities resume. The International Red Cross was linked to these Geneva Conventions with respect to how captured personnel should be treated during war. For the countries who ratified the Geneva Conventions, this gave them access to prisoners of war and captured civilians.

In 1934, the International Red Cross had attempted to get all nations to agree to legal safeguards for civilians in any area where war had broken out. However, those in authority agreed to defer further talks of this until 1940. Consequently, when WWII broke out, many civilians had no safeguarded legal rights – civilians including Jews, Priests, the elderly, homosexuals, gypsies, etc., became civilian victims of the Nazi regime. The Red Cross never stopped trying to access those who were arrested, deported, or sent into forced labor, but met with little success.

The Red Cross really went into action in Greece. Before the war, Greece imported one third of its food supplies. When it was occupied in April 1941, what crops existed were destroyed in fighting. During the first year of occupation, it is estimated that up to 500 children per day died of malnourishment. In March 1942, the Red Cross sought and received permission from the occupying nations to bring in food. They brought in freighters of food, painted with large red crosses, and set up food kitchens. In two months, they produced over 500,000 basins of soup, pulling the populace away from the very brink of starvation.

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During the war, the Red Cross established and staffed auxiliary hospitals where permitted. The personnel were neutral and treated anyone – regardless of sides taken in any conflict. In return, the hospitals were not deemed legitimate targets. The distinctive Red Cross emblem and blue and red nurse cape of the Red Cross nurse became a welcome vision to wounded men of every nationality.

nurses_american-red-cross nurses_nazi-red-cross-wwii

Article 79 of the Geneva Convention allowed the Red Cross collect letters and forward them to prisoners of war. The letters had to be only 25 words long and could only contain family news. The letters went to headquarters in Geneva, and there forwarded to the locations of the prisoners. By 1945, they had facilitated 24 million letters.

During WWII, the Red Cross had their hands full in keeping up with German prisoners of war. In September 1939, the Germans captured 500,000 Polish soldiers in just 22 days. By 1940, 30,000 British troops were prisoner, along with thousands of French, Belgium, and Dutch troops. By the end of the war, it is documented that Germany had captured over 232,000 western prisoners of war.

The Red Cross sent trained medical staff into prisons to check on the living conditions, the quality of food, and the health of the prisoners. They also fielded complaints about treatment.

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The first time the Red Cross had any kind of formal access to Russian POW’s was in the last few weeks of the war as Nazi Germany crumbled.

The Red Cross could only operate in countries that allowed it to operate and who were part of the Geneva Convention. Since Russia had not signed the Geneva Convention, the many Russians who were taken as POW’s did not receive Red Cross visits. The Germans kept the Russians in appalling conditions and were not required under any international laws to improve upon them. Over 3.2 million Soviets were taken prisoner by the Germans, and 2.8 million of them died due to the terrible conditions of imprisonment.

“The Red Cross, with its clubs for recreation, its coffee and doughnuts in the forward areas, its readiness to meet the needs of the well and to help minister to the wounded… has often seemed to be the friendly hand of this nation, reaching across the sea to sustain its fighting men.” – Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Address to Congress, June 18, 1945

The inhumane conditions prisoners endured at the hands of the Empire of Japan are now widely known though seldom discussed. Nearly all prisoners were starved, tortured, and humiliated. Female prisoners were routinely raped and beaten. Executions were commonplace and often involved stabbing, beating to death, or burning prisoners alive in order to conserve vital ammunition.

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66 US Army nurses, 11 US Navy nurses, and a nurse- anesthetist were captured and imprisoned shortly after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. These women became known as the “Angels of Bataan and Corregidor” and they were treated brutally by their Japanese captors until finally being liberated in 1945.

Ironically, Japan had signed the Geneva Conventions years before, but had never ratified them, so the land of the rising sun did not feel bound by any of the Conventions stipulations or terms. Japan hindered the Red Cross from doing any good at all, and instead accused workers of being spies. Japanese soldiers went so far as to arrest and summarily execute a Red Cross delegate and his wife on suspicion of espionage. They allowed no neutral ships into their harbors, which meant no food or aid parcels could be sent.

The Red Cross also attempted to help those in concentration camps, even though no official protection for civilians had been established. In 1943, they were allowed to send aid/food parcels to named prisoners in the camps, but they only had a few names. They sent the parcels, and receipts came back with dozens more names scribbled on them. By the time the war ended, the Red Cross has managed to compile a list of more than 105,000 names of people interred in concentration camps and was able to send out over 1 million parcels.

I imagine that the food and aid contained in those parcels meant the difference between life and death for many who received them. Near the end of the war, Red Cross delegates actually stayed in each of the camps as observers. This experience, and the sheer magnitude of the horrors they witnessed at places like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, would haunt these men and women for the rest of their natural lives.
The agent I code-named Mercy represents so many actual historical women and is intended to honor them. So many that they would fill an entire set of books, I imagine. Even more, she represents many ideals that personally inspire me. May God bless you.

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
Proverbs 3:3 (NKJV)

Today through November 9th, Mission of Mercy IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

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The Amazing Stories That Inspired Grace’s Ground War, Book 5 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

GraceWHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, Grace’s Ground War IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of Grace’s Ground War, Part 5 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

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The girl on the cover of this book carrying the M1916 Spanish Mauser is a derivative image of the now iconic photograph of 17 year old Marina Ginestà. The original photograph was snapped on July 21, 1936 by Juan Guzman, who was born Hans Gutmann in Germany before moving to Spain. In the original photograph, Marina stands overlooking Barcelona from the rooftop of the Hotel Colón during the outset of the Spanish Civil War. At the time, she worked as a translator for a Soviet journalist of Pravda. She was a member of Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (Socialist Youth), the youth organization mainly directed by Partido Comunista de España (PCE, Communist Party of Spain).

Despite her early involvement, Marina quickly realized she had been duped by the Stalinists and left the Soviet movement, joining up with the anti-Stalinist P.O.U.M – alongside such notables as George Orwell – and contributing as a militant soldier and journalist for several Republican media outlets in the struggle against Communism, Fascism, and Franco for the duration of the conflict.

Marina did not even know about the photo until 2006, although the image was printed, reprinted, and circulated everywhere and has become symbolic of the conflict and even of that time in history. Marina Ginestà died January 6, 2014 in Paris, at the age of 94.
The prologue of this book is set in Hebron immediately after the massacre that took place there in the late 1920s. While the Aubertins are fictional characters, the bloodshed there was all too real.

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Synagogue, Hebron 1929 — Photo source

In August 1929, in an ominous prelude to the coming Nazi propaganda against the Jews in Europe, a radical Islamic faction of jihadists carrying out a fatwa against the Jews living in (then) British Palestine engaged in Taqiyya, which is to say they lied, deliberately deceived, and spread false rumors against the Jews. This organized campaign of deception spread throughout British Palestine with the intent of inciting violence against the Jewish population. The rumors claimed that Jews were massacring Arabs in Jerusalem and seizing control of Muslim holy places.

On August 24, 1929, the Hebron Massacre began. Hebron is a city south of Jerusalem and is Biblically the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. After only 3 days, 67 Jews were killed, and many more were seriously injured or maimed. Homes and synagogues were pillaged and destroyed. Throughout British Palestine, 133 Jews and 110 Arabs were killed.

The British authorities relocated the 435 surviving Jews from Hebron to Jerusalem in an attempt to protect them. The massacres of the Jews in Hebron and in Safed led to the re-organization and development of the Jewish paramilitary organization, the Haganah, which later became the nucleus of the Israel Defense Forces.

The character of Ruth Aubertin, code-named Grace, was inspired by none other than “The White Mouse,” better known as Nancy Grace Wake.

Nancy Grace Wake, aka: “The White Mouse”
Nancy Grace Wake, aka: “The White Mouse”

An Australian by birth, Nancy left her native soil in her early twenties on a world tour, supporting herself with freelance journalism. She met Henri Fiocca, one of the wealthiest men in Marseille, France, at a party one evening and the two fell deeply and madly in love.
They married in 1939. Henri spoiled his beloved bride with a luxurious lifestyle she had never even imagined. When Henri prepared to go to war, Nancy said she wanted to go, too. He asked her what she could do, and she replied, “Drive an ambulance.”

“But you can’t drive,” he’d reasoned.

“You must have me taught,” she’d insisted.

Never one to deny her anything, he had one of the mechanics who worked for him teach her. She drove an ambulance back and forth from Belgium to Paris, transporting refugees, wounded soldiers, and civilians needing to escape the oncoming Nazi front. When Paris fell to the Germans, she knew she also had to leave or be arrested. She drove her truck until it broke down, then walked and hitchhiked the rest of the way back home to Marseille where her husband, a defeated French soldier from the front lines, met her.

With half of France under Hitler’s boot heel, their area of Southern France fell under Vichy rule. However, the Führer could snatch it up at any time because the Vichy government collaborated with – and capitulated to – Berlin. While the Fioccas resumed what sense of a “normal” life they could manage, Nancy used their wealth to hoard as much canned food as possible, then started stockpiling black market soaps, cigarettes, and meat, all of which she generously shared with those in need.

Many British troops held as prisoners of war at Fort St. Jean had “parole” that allowed them to come into the town. Over time, Nancy and Henri became hosts to them. They fed them in their home, provided them with soap and cigarettes, and eventually with money. Their home became a planning center for the POWs at Fort St. Jean to escape back to Britain. Soon, she began traveling, delivering messages from the POWs to contacts in other towns. Eventually, she began making deliveries for the French Resistance as a trusted courier.

Because they lived across the street from the Vichy Commissaire, who had begun watching them closely, Nancy and Henri eventually rented a flat that they kept stocked with food where those planning illegal activities could meet.

In November 1942, the Germans marched into unoccupied France. By now, the Germans knew that a woman they assumed was a French (though Nancy was not French) traveled and transported so much information, but they did not know her name so they dubbed her “The White Mouse.”

One time, she and four men working with the Resistance rode a train. She carried a suitcase filled with a butchered black market pig. She ended up sharing a train compartment with a Gestapo agent who was actually on the train trying to capture “The White Mouse”. She charmed him into carrying her suitcase for her, which breezed her through the customs checkpoint, and then made it safely away.

Eventually, she knew she had fallen under suspicion and that the Gestapo watched her. She and her husband made plans for her to return to Great Britain using the very underground she’d helped for years.

While making her escape, the Gestapo stopped her train and arrested everyone on board. En route to the prison, the trucks that transported the prisoners got stuck in traffic. Nancy and several others rushed out of the trucks and ran away. However, the arresting officers found her and took her to jail. There, she found out that the Gestapo in her own town denied knowing her existence, and the Gestapo in another town claimed her as a well-known prostitute. She then realized that they had framed her for blowing up a movie theater in another town. They spent days beating her and questioning her, trying to get her to admit to a crime she did not commit, or to admit to those who helped her. Enduring days of continual beatings, she said nothing.

Finally, the contact named O’Leary, who had planned to help get her out of France, arrived at the prison and used a ruse and false papers to secure her release. They tried to escape to Spain five times. On the sixth attempt, they had 10 escaped prisoners with them and, while they rode the train, a railway official came to their compartment and warned them that the Germans planned to stop the train ahead. As the train slowed, Nancy, O’Leary, and the prisoners jumped out the windows. Under heavy machine gun fire, Nancy ran through a field and up the side of a mountain, where she and the men who successfully escaped, hid for two days.

O’Leary went to meet a contact and got arrested. Nancy and the others disbanded, and she and a few of them made it to Nice, where Nancy hid in the home of an enemy of the Reich, Madame Sainson. She had sheltered many wanted men and women, and had teenaged children who also acted as couriers. Nancy stayed there for three weeks, until she could acquire new papers and travel to Perpignan, where she found one of O’Leary’s contacts and convinced him to take her to Spain.

She and a group walked for three hours that night and at dawn, rode in the back of a coal truck. After going as far as the “lorry” could take them, they met up with two guides who marched them for 47 hours to Spain, walking across the mountains, through blizzards, and fighting hunger and thirst. No sooner had they arrived in Spain than she and her group of 6 were arrested. For three days they were given no food or water and endured miserable conditions in a cell with 17 other people. On the third day, the police took her out of the cell and shackled her to a chair and questioned her. She did not speak Spanish and did not answer any of their questions. They fed the bunch, then took them by bus to Gerona, where they were charged with illegal entry of the country. The judge was bribed £1,000 to let them free, and Nancy made it to Barcelona. Ten days later, she left for Great Britain.

After two months in London, it occurred to her that her husband would not be following her out of France, so she contacted Free French Headquarters and volunteered her services. Because she wasn’t French, they didn’t trust that she wasn’t a British spy. In short order, she went to the British Special Operations Executive, or S.O.E.. After several weeks of training, she parachuted (wearing high heels!) back into France almost a year after the beginning of her escape. She worked as a liaison between London and the local maquis group headed by Captain Henri Tardivat in the Forest of Tronçais. She worked on securing arms and equipment that came in via parachute. She recruited members until the maquis groups grew into a formidable force of 7,500 strong. She also led attacks on German installations and the local Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon.

Nancy worked ruthlessly against the Nazis, at one point executing a female Nazi spy who the men in her unit did not have the “heart” to kill. Another time she killed a male sentry with her bare hands to keep him from sounding an alarm. During an interview in the 1990’s, the interviewer asked Nancy about killing the sentry. She drew her finger across her throat in a slicing motion and said, “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.”

At the end of the war, Nancy looked forward to being reunited with her beloved husband. It was only then that she discovered that the Gestapo had captured Henri and questioned him about Nancy’s whereabouts. Through the days and nights of endless torture, Henri never betrayed her. He never gave her up. They eventually tortured him to death.

For her service and sacrifice, Nancy received the George Medal, the United States Medal of Freedom, the Médaille de la Résistance, and the Croix de Guerre three times. Nancy was also appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1970 and received a promotion to Officer of the Legion of Honour in 1988.

In February 2004, Nancy received the Companion of the Order of Australia. In April 2006, she was awarded the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association’s highest honor, the RSA Badge in Gold.

After the war, she worked for the Intelligence Department at the British Air Ministry attached to embassies in both Paris and Prague. She eventually became very active in Australian and British politics. In 1957, Nancy remarried, this time to a British RAF officer named John Forward. The couple lived in Australia until his death in 1997.

In 2001, Nancy returned to London, where she lived until her 98th year. Nancy Grace Wake died in August of 2011. The New York Times used her death to inspire the title and included her obituary in the book The Socialite who Killed a Nazi with Her Bare Hands: And 144 Other Fascinating People who Died this Year.

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Grace’s Ground War IS FREE today through November 9th. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

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The Amazing Stories That Inspired A Parcel for Prudence, Book 4 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story

4ParcelPrudence_640WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of my fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and the story was inspired by real events.

Today, A Parcel for Prudence IS FREE. Yes! FREE. You can get it in ebook form at this link.

Here are the amazing stories that inspired the writing of A Parcel for Prudence, Part 4 of the Virtues and Valor Serialized Story.

prudence

WHILE the story of the special team of operators I named The Virtues is entirely fictional, set in a fictional town, and comprised of fictional characters who form a fictional military division, every single one of these fictional heavenly heroines was inspired by a real World War II heroine and their stories were inspired by real events.

The woman depicted on the cover of this book is a thus far unidentified former French resistance operative who, shortly after the liberation of Paris and at the request of a war correspondent, demonstrated the means by which she photographed key Nazi targets using a mini-camera hidden inside her purse. There are thousands of stories of fearless women who worked to defeat Nazi Germany while behind enemy lines.

I made every effort to remain true to actual history in my fictionalized story of Prudence which is based upon the truly inspiring real life heroine, Cécile Pearl Cornioley (ne: Witherington).

cecile pearl cornioleyBorn in Paris, June 24, 1914 into a very troubled family, her father drank heavily and her mother barely spoke French, so her mother looked to Pearl to handle a lot of the family’s business. This bleak childhood toughened Pearl into a strong woman, willing to fight for anything in life. Pearl didn’t start attending school until age 13, and then went to a bilingual school where she studied entirely in French in the morning and in English in the afternoon.

Once she left school, she worked in the British Embassy in Paris. Her father had died and her embassy job provided the only means of financial support for her family. What complicated her life was that shortly after leaving school, Pearl had fallen in love.
Henri Cornioley had started courting Pearl in 1933, and she eventually accepted his proposal of marriage. Once engaged, they struggled to obtain the blessings of their families, but neither of their families supported the union. Her mother didn’t want to lose her only means of financial support while Henri’s father didn’t want his son saddled with Pearl’s financially dependent family.

Pearl worked at the Embassy for 7 years all the way up until the war started. Henri had been called into French military service in 1939. As fate would have it, Henri was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. Miraculously, he later escaped from a prisoner of war camp and made his way back to Pearl.

When the Germans invaded France, Pearl and her family fled to Normandy. Her family was British, but despite promises from the British Embassy where she had toiled for seven long years, they received no help in getting transportation to Great Britain. In the winter of 1940, they found out that the Nazis had begun to arrest British citizens and they, again, fled Paris. They had a harrowing journey, many times on foot, from Paris to Spain to Gibraltar to Scotland then at long last to London, arriving on July 14, 1941. Pearl’s two sisters joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force while she worked for two years for the director of Allied Air Forces and Foreign Liaison.

Ultimately, Pearl joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and trained as a courier. She specifically asked to be attached to the “Stationer network” which was run by an old school friend. Their mission: harass the enemy, exhaust them, impede them by destroying communications and transportation lines, stop munitions production, and anything else they could do to hurt the enemy’s mission.

On September 22, 1943, Pearl parachuted into Occupied France and assumed the identity of a French national named Pauline and the codename, Wrestler. In wireless transmissions back to England, she was “Marie.” She was not yet 30 years old. There, she worked as a courier for Maurice Southgate. She often traveled by train, and as a way to disguise her intent, carried with her “pro-Nazi” French magazines. Henri’s father owned a cosmetics company named Isabelle Lancray, and Pearl had paperwork that provided a cover story of a cosmetic saleswoman to help explain why she traveled so much.

One of her team’s secret missions was to recruit and train smaller teams all throughout France so that on D-Day, the Allies would have help everywhere. They organized over 1500 members. This drew attention and the Gestapo arrested Maurice on May 1, 1944. On May 2, Pearl and her team arrived at an estate in Indre. They had supplies parachuted in and accomplished two more missions in that month. On July 11, 1944, three German garrisons (about 2,000 men) surrounded and attacked the estate. During the battle, Pearl lost 24 men.

She ran from the house and hid in a wheat field, crawling on her hands and knees while Germans shot at her. She hid in the field until 10:30 that night. Then she hid in a house while the Germans searched farms, estates, and houses, killing some people, arresting a few, terrorizing others. They burned down houses and barns and searched for Pearl’s team, whom they called “terrorists”. This became known as the Battle of Les Souches, which was a small part of a larger battle in which 32 French patriots lost their lives.

After losing her that night, the Germans put a ƒ1,000,000 price on her head.

Pearl reorganized after Les Souches, and Henri, who had returned to France and reunited with her after his harrowing escape from the Nazi run prisoner of war camp, became her second in command. They lived in the woods, organizing the flood of volunteers who suddenly foresaw a positive outcome in the war after the successful D-Day invasion. Their constant acts of sabotage often prevented German troops and munitions from reaching the Normandy coast. They also provided the RAF with intelligence that led to the bombing of a German train carrying 60 tankers of gasoline. This raid seriously handicapped the German army.

henri cornioley and pearl
Henri and Pearl — Photo source

 

Pearl rose to command more than 3,000 underground fighters who killed more than 1,000 Nazi troops and injured countless more. In September 1944, France was finally liberated. Pearl and Henri presided over the surrender of more than 18,000 German troops.

Within months, the couple returned to London where they finally, at long last, married thus ending their protracted eleven year engagement. They went on to have one daughter, Claire.

After the war, Pearl was nominated for an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. However, there are two categories of the MBE: the military and the civil. Pearl had been nominated for the civil award, which she rejected with an icy note that stated, “There was nothing remotely ‘civil’ about what I did.”

Though she had completed airborne training and became one of only a handful of women to jump into enemy territory during the war, she was never awarded her parachutist badge, a fact she felt was a grave injustice for her entire life. In September 1946, Great Britain finally awarded her the military MBE. Much more recently, she was also awarded the CBE, the order of Chivalry known as the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and the French Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur or the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

Henri died in 1999. Pearl died in 2008 at the age of 93.

Read about Murielle Tolson, code-named PRUDENCE, who was inspired by the amazing Pearl Witherington, in A Parcel for Prudence, FREE November 4-8 at this link.

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