Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and RescueNot all the heroes of WWII were in the trenches, some were behind the lines and they were women.

This book talks about 26 of those women. Women who hid Jews right in Nazis' basements, women who were radio operators, women were underwent torture, were purposely infected with gangrene, sterilized, women who smuggled fake papers, tried to save sick Jewish kids from ghettos, transported bombs in the bicycles, parachuted into enemy territory... I could mention each one, but the review would be as long as the book.

One that stood out for me: Josephine Baker. Despite her ill treatment in America, she helped the Allies by hiding secrets in her underwear. She was a spy. This woman's chapter was fascinating. There's so much more to her.
Marlene Dietrich...this really shocked me. I confess I'm not a fan. I think she's always a hussy in her movies. (Yes, I watch those old back and whites.) She was German by birth and canceled her citizenship out of disgust for the Nazis. She sent money to get friends out of the country and joined the USO, traveling with the American  troops, pistol in her pocket, as she sang over the radio, sad German songs in an attempt to dissuade German soldiers. She was also a member of the OSS. I didn't know that!

Very intriguing book. Something I noticed in particular. At least half of the stories are about women trying to smuggle/hide/save Jews and when their male comrades were tortured, the men blabbered out names, turning in the women and the resistance organization..but when the women were tortured--sometimes for four months or more--they didn't break. Some died, but none of these women gave names. Interesting. Something to be said for a our pain tolerance there.

Quibble: Though the WASP was mentioned briefly in the opening of the U.S. part, there were no stories, no women pilots featured. I wasn't too pleased to find that. Many of the WASP and the ATA were def heroes. *frowny face*

Four bikes. I bought this on Amazon.


  1. Great review. Until recently I didn't know much about Josephine Baker's contribution.



  2. oh boy, now I want to write a book about Josephine Baker.

    Thanks for flagging this up to me - I'm really looking forward to reading it!