In 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was fighting. Believing that Britain was locked in an existential battle, Winston Churchill had already created a secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose spies were trained in everything from demolition to sharpshooting. Their job, he declared, was to “set Europe ablaze.” But with most men on the front lines, the SOE was forced to do something unprecedented: recruit women. Thirty-nine answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France.
In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the thrilling story of three of these remarkable women. There’s Andrée Borrel, a scrappy and streetwise Parisian who blew up power lines with the Gestapo hot on her heels; Odette Sansom, an unhappily married suburban mother who saw the SOE as her ticket out of domestic life and into a meaningful adventure; and Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent member of French colonial high society and the SOE’s unflappable “queen.” Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war.
Rigorously researched and written with razor-sharp wit, D-Day Girls is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance: a reminder of what courage—and the energy of politically animated women—can accomplish when the stakes seem incalculably high.
Sarah Rose is the author of For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History. She has written for the Wall Street Journal, Outside, The Saturday Evening Post, and Men's Journal. In 2014, she was awarded a Lowell Thomas Prize in Travel Writing.
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