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tv   Sarah Rose D- Day Girls  CSPAN  May 29, 2019 12:53am-1:46am EDT

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country so you can make up your own mind, created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. next, sarah rose on her hook, "d-day girls" tells the story of the women sent to france to create and lead the front and resistance. she spoke at porter square books in cambridge massachusetts. this is 50 minutes. tonight we are so pleased to welcome sarah rose for her new book, "d-day girls: the spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the naziss and helped win world war ii" i she draws on recently declassified files in lle diaries and oral histories to tell the thrilling mostly unknown story of three remarkable women who destroyed my income and bush did not cease, prodded prison with great
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and grabbed to the gathered intelligence for the invasion proved to be the turning point in the war. refinery 29 calls about a thrillethe book athriller in tha nonfiction book, and booklets in the star review sai star reviewe book is comprehensive and compelling. readers get to know these amazing women as individuals as the duties unfold against the backdrop of the war. she smoothly integrates the events with biographical details into the french wartime society calling it a satisfying mix of social history and biography. sarah is the author of for all the tea in china how england stole the favorite drink and changed history. she's written for "the wall street journal," outside outside magazines, the saturday evening post and men's journal. in 2014 she was awarded the thomas prize in travel writing. we are so glad to have youpr hee tonight. thank you. [applause] thank you all for coming. before i start, i want you to
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know you have a responsibility and that r is i need you to ask questions. i'm going to get a little bit of a spiel and then i would've a short reading it and that responsibility is in your hands to get me talking. the talking. with that in mind, i want you to picture a war that is being lost. qr three years into a losing war, and you have nothing to celebrate. there isn't a battle that you have succeeded in. your city has been practically leveled in many respects i for form of bombing. there is a democracy left on the continent and you get a call tom the government and they say we need your help. you have three children, three little girls under the age of six the youngest still in diapers and the government says we need your help but can't quite tell you what we need you to do.
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but will you come work for us. it will be very dangerous and you might not come home. odette sansom was a mother with three little girls, french born living in one and she married an english man and the government called. her husband was at the front so she was a single mother alone and she was given this choice to help england, help europe, help democracy can't leave your kids behind. and i found this a very challenging choice. who leaves three little girls potentially motherless. the author was at the front of the potentially parentless. and odette framed the entire conversation in a mother's language. she said what happens to my little a l girls if england is . if it isn't just europe but hitler has come about unless
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democracy england is also taken over, then where do they go, what kind of world are they growing up in, shouldn't i as a mother do everything i can to make it safe for them even if i means leaving them flex so she did. shehe joined the war. she was in the very first class of women to come to the combats of the first women in combat with 39 women like odette. they were mothers, divorcees cut some were about to become grandmothers aged from 22 to 55 and they were recruited by a government agency, secret agency to parachute into france, two armto armand train the french re so that when someday, when d-day arrived, and this was just a
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word for the day that everybody came back into the fight went back to the continent. when it arrived, ther they wered in the hands of the occupied nation, there was training but when hitler went to the beaches to defend against invading allies there was someone at the rear carrying them, preventing his reinforcement from getting to the beaches, too. so, odette, single mother with three kids trained in parachuting, secret writing, encryption, hand-to-hand combat she learns 100 ways to kill a man silently with her bare hands. and she's one of 38 women who did the same thing. and we don't know about it.w we don't know about it because men write the history and women don't, until now. so it's the story of the very first class 38 women who were
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recruited over two years from 1942 to 1944. i want to focus on the pioneers, the very first women to do a man's job and not just a man's job, they were doing a job women were forbidden from. there's no more masculine state on earth than war. there isn't a culture on a planet that doesn't have a combats taboo for women and children. so swimming upstream in every single respect it's not as if the allies got super token in the middle of the war and wanted to like be magnanimous towards women. they had run out of men. three years into the war in every single man is at the front end there is a very specific need. whoever goes to france has to speak french. they have to be habituated french, look like a parisian government they have to blend in, not just to fool the germans because they are pretty easily
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fooled their french isn't that good. they had to fool the french. three years into the war every able-bodied man already beenen conscripted. winston churchill gave his personal approval to send women into combat because he really lookedco good about warfare. he just thought it was cool, and in part, because he didn't have ca choice. .. . >> and they should go. and the very first woman in
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combat and in every respect that was grandiose and dramatic it was very common sense and was an aristocrat and came from a island off the coast of africa it was french and used as a stop so she spoke french and she lived in paris most of her adult life. if she stays in france she'll end up in a concentration camp. so she flees she gets to london where her brother is already working for a secret
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government agencies so they give her name to a recruiter. for her it is a very commonsense decision. why wouldn't i to do everything to say france? the very second female paratrooper ever and this is what captured my imagination about this story she was commanding troopss in normandy on d-day and we don't know about her. soldiers under her command answering to her orders second in command of the french resistance behind enemy lines on the most important day of the 20thay century. second paratrooper ever and then had a even more interesting story.
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and she was 22 when she parachuted into t france. but andrean was completely different but she was high class very educated parisian but andre left school at 14 and was a counter girl at a bakery. was she marched out was 6 million other frenchmen marched out of the demarcation line. and volunteered as she trained as a nurse and while working as a nurse she joined the underground and became part of the underground railroad where she helped to get 65 allied airmen out ofpe france and back to england so they can continue bombing hitler. sixty-five is a high number
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they liberated about 600 airmen and she was responsible for one tenth and she was so good at it there was a price on her head at a moment somebody betrayed her and her partner she had to leave france one - - france through the underground railroad. she hikes over the pyrenee pyrenees, gets to spain and she can stay but she says no. i have to get back in the fight so that she trains as a secret agent and parachutes back to france. she goes to paris where she becomes a member of the resistance that raids the entire battery of circuits ahead of the d-day landing. so basically the moment of guerrilla warfare takes fruit as a governmental strategy to take on hitler on the day of an attack that nobody has
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named women were part of the battle plan. and women where they are leading the troops and making a difference. but they made a difference in june 1944 there signal was sent to all the a france it says we have been dropping weapons and explosives to you for two years we have been training you and teaching you how to use these, this is the night we need you to put all that into action. they get the signal on the bbc hours before the allies arrive and go to work they blow up bridges and train lines they drop trees across roads, take down power lines and phone
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lines. when the allies arrive at 6:00 a.m., june 6, 6:00 a.m., june 6, 1944, normany is isolated. you cannot get there from anywhere else in france. an 950 cuts of cross roads and bridges all over france so when hitler wants to get his reinforcements there he can't. d-day was not a given it was never obvious it was going to work having time for the allies to get their foothold and get the backup and supplies on the ground, every hour changed the equation of that victory. it took hitler three weeks for his tank divisions to reinforce the beaches and those were critical three weeks and it all happened because they armed the french resistance and they were able to because women were a part of the plan.
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and you don't know about it because men write war history. [laughter] until now. so this was a fun book to write because not only a great story nobody worse on earth than a nazi and no better story than heroism you don't know about. but it was fun to research because they were my age and everyday ordinary women. i thought if they can do it shouldn't i try? so i jumped out of an airplane. i went to boot camp because they had to boot camp. i built a radio i tried to learn morse code and go through the training they went through only to discover i would make a very bad spy
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that's not something everybody could do. also not only fluent in french i had never spoken any french so the first thing he had to do is move to france and learn french. it was a very fun book to write and to research and fun to interview the veterans and their families but because you get to blow stuff up so the bits i will read you is one of my characters somebody who works with andre and she was 45 in the very first female sabotage agent they didn't want to send her and she was about to become a grandmother and they thought of french teenager with a respect her at all i think they are sending a joke they must me in such a bad way to send a grandma to
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train the troops but she was incredibly successful at her job. so full moon was a parachute reception when the whole sky went dark then along with sabotage traveling to the small village and a student of yoga a vegetarian his weight hovered at 80 pounds the only person who could do the job the allies needed that night she hung suspended o in a parachute harness hanging over the railroad tracks while searching for the ground beyond her light ande there was nothing no hint of light came in from the opening but the
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steady drip of water her hands are cold andnd sticky and smelled like almonds from the chemical residue of plastic explosives and her clothing was tatters and a pair of underwear she washed and wrung out every night but somehow much younger than the year before in the best possible sense were took years off of her life she worked looks 15 years younger and has found her niche. and then running across the seams of france there was a straight drop down no obstacle would impede a package of exclude closes of it was or from above the path to the tracks was elevated space. she signaled she had what she needed and at the center of the tunnel under the sloping
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hill foisted aloft by virtue of her delicate stature and flexibility could wiggle through the ventilation shaft of the railway passage also the only one i can look at reconnaissance and develop the railway tunnel and she said i am the only one who has been specially trained. the sabotage party was far when the explosion began it was like a bolt of lightning it grew into a blaze and black smoke filled the tunnel alternating between the bright light and a warm yellow of a bonfire and then consumed the passageway into ricochet to shatter the wall. mortars and bricks and debris
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tumbled down littering thebr tracks. she did not need to be near the village to follow the choreography the blazes and concussions in the symphony of the elemental chaos roared and went long after. she knew all too well she was home on the night of april 16194119 in london having one of the best nights of the blitz and that one night of precision bombing from st. paul's cathedral the admiralty and the national gallery they declared we should go out to bomb every building in britain they also destroy the home but near victoria station the parachute
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lines of bombs went off at once in an entire terrace of houses where she lay the daughters raise them tohe adulthood and watch her marriage crumble studied philosophy and practice meditation and played boarding house mom to eccentrics and kooks insubstantially gone feelings collapsed on the floor glatt gas means exploded .he fires burned through morning and at daybreak it smelled of charred would dust and decay her large house was declared uninhabitable everyone survived except the family cap. it was this more than anything
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else and made her determined to fight back. and she did. so with that background i hope you will have questions for me. >> of the 38 women in the book only one is still alive she is 98 and in new zealand and extremely private. ii got the story at the very edge of living memory there were 486 agents parachuted into france when i started there were three there were two and i got to interviewiviv one. there was a sense of sadness that this incredible story passed from memory but also
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because we don't get access to their files until they are dead so i'm the first historian in some respects to witness the back story there are pluses and minuses but when you have that personal connection you feel the pull and desire to tell the story they want to tell them that they think is important and to tell the story from a journalist and historian. want to honor them but judge them and believe that i do. i did get a chance to talk people who live through this but not d my people.
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or the women better than men? everybody who did this was amazing now into enemy territory they were incredibly ndbrave and human and so many made o mistakes they even made ordifferent mistakes and had a higher success rate and more than half of the men were captured and killed that there were so many moree men that isn't a good sample comparison. and that the allies did not realize at first and not realizing how much they were giving up by not hiring women
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there are more women in occupied territories than men. the demographics it is incredibly female place. and entrance in particular armistice was not a peace treaty. everybody exchanges soldiers with a negotiated settlement that this was a pause and hitler kept the french army in jail throughout the war and they were there for a five years that meant the entire french army was in prison there were many more women in france and the men were shipped off to germany that this was an obvious move. knows that not at war this is
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an obvious tell. and looking like every other person in france with every other demographic advantage. because of the work they were doing was recruitment they discovered that women were significantly better than men and women had and advantage that it took a lot of caretaking at a teenager who is about to be shipped off to germany don't go. we will send guns to you and train you. it takes a lot of coaxing and listening to their concerns to get them to do that and women are good caretakers it was a
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skill that men had to learn so once they realized recruitment required a great deal of compassion and caretaking the french were starving the calories were last everywhere else because it was so fertile and hitler plundered it to send to the troops. the allies recruiting french teenagers and old farmers to fight for the resistance t they are getting food dropped from the sky so they needed female traits to do this job if it was better but they were more naturally equipped and they taught the allies that this was an important part of the job this was the first time this had ever been tried. so it was a way to do
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guerrilla warfare and women were really good at it. . >> so how do you come across this story? in the first place quick. >> i am a reporter i was doing a lot of freelance work and i knew i wanted a book and a long project and i wanted the marathon again so in 2015 i knew with that combat explicit exclusion as of january 1st 2016 a woman can be in in any combat role including special forces she can get to the training she can join the navy so what was interesting is
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this book began in hawaii where i go to winter because i don't like being cold. [laughter] so many of my friends there are in the military. and not divide my preconceived notions so like junior male executives and that is so not who they are they are incredibly feminine incredibly credentialed i'm the only one who doesn't have a doctorate.. and all of this was surprising to me. so they were interesting to me. and then this story was coming up and i was sitting in a hot
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tub and i asked the question who was the first woman in war quirks i that i be afghanistan or iraq or the first female combatant. so if you google searches it wasn't recent not even vietnam.bu seventy-five years old there were women in combat in world war ii. this court where the first and i did not know about it. and we didn't know because men have been telling the story. so with that in mind i did some reading and i came up with what i thought was the spine of the story i pitched it and my editor took it in the project began and then i started toto learn french. . >> were women in combat on the russian front?
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. > yes but it is important 1942 is the first women in combat simultaneously on the westernas front in the west they were never categorized as combatants. the russians had no problem calling them soldiers.oriz the russians just had a very different approach. it was a numbers game you are throwing bodies that hitler you had more of them a deep pocket and all of siberia to recruit from, it was just one more force you could add to the overpowering force against hitler. also in russia they had a force of women in the revolution that was an organized horse but again but
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these are the differences that are minute but add up to world war ii in 1942 hand over fist. but it marks this moment with a are conscripted on a mass scale. . >> how did america recruit the spies quick. >> we have a very big notion of what a spy does there were femmee fatale's but these were sabotaged agents there were americans and virginia hall was the very first woman. she was a reporter.
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she works for "the new york post". by virtue of being american she could go into unoccupied passports were not allowed but america was not in the war and didn't declare war on unoccupied france until hitler took it over. so she could still good in get in when other agents came in she got housing and clothing and within underground railroad so she is a one leg it american journalist helping allies out of france arming and training other agents. and she is american and
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another woman in the core whose mother is a cousin of marianne baker eddy so by those standards she was non-american in the current sense so our sins today by virtue of her mom but actually .t casts a pretty wide net and the commanders were british charles de gaulle wasn't having any of it. he didn't like the idea of any frenchman answering to an allied commander because he didn't want france to be a colony. he could envision a moment where it was a protected state
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under churchill that was not so much better he wouldn't let his own citizens fight for the core so that sabotaged agent was french born but married to an italian so born in france married in british so everybody but the french but still they had to be fully habituated. . >> what does the archives look like? . >> it is very bureaucratic on the british side with summaries of conversations and their training files britain
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has let the sunshine in everything is declassified that france is very much the opposite it is hard to shake material out of france. they have yet to come to grips with their collaboration and apologize for killing jews and in the mid- nineties they are very behind on reconciliation and that makes it bureaucratically very difficult. in america everything is online and it is great. [laughter] so it's a lot of voices from the past when you tell a story of these bits and pieces and get a sense of people's personalities one thing that
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struck me was not just the sexism but to come across in these files you cannot be mad at them to be anti-semites but what comes to the page and that was a problem. >> so these are the first women so did the attitude shift? in the answer to the follow-up question.
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[inaudible] . > i hope so. you don't just write a book for two nights on an airplane but you want to bring a story to life and hopefully change some minds. they did this extraordinary thing and then they were celebrated as he rose and then they became symbols. it was secret and it was classified but a third ended up in the camp and britain did not tell people. they were very closed for a country that was lying to itself. rather than celebrating them the way that britain said it wasn't better than the war. so what also happened it diminished almost immediately.
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and secretarial they were radio operators but and to celebrate the soldiers and they don't even have a mechanism that these women were doing combat roles and then to squeeze them in without recognizing that as servicemembers. one set era of declassification came in with the greatest generation to celebrate but at that moment they became the heroes they deserve to be voted 75 years
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after to be true but that i had not read war history up until this moment that shall mail they were and then to cast a lens over everything so winston churchill just stopped to be this imperialist and this sounds like an alcoholic who likes to paint and that is true. and maren have not been telling that story when women were at war and men had a
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female side him and had the emotional side but as more women write about it more attitudes will change and i hope to change some of those views of congress. . >> thank you for this part of women's history research and. >> i am extremely fortunate it was my job and nothing else it took me a year to research which included learning french and then final submission and
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there is a lot of footnotes so it occupied my life for three years spent a year ofie research and a year of writing thank you amanda. >> and move to the beach and i took immersive french and they let me live with them a lot so i could get better and do my work. . >> when you start your reading over the parachute that i didn't quite get? . >> she is hanging in a tunnel. she doesn't want to get to the ground they need to pull her up they have these parachute
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harnesses so they repurpose it into a climbing harness for her to hang her over look at the tunnel and then pull her back u up. they were pulling her up hand over fist. so when they drop them in from the airplane it is a bomber with a hole in the floor in the days before radar that came in the middle of the war. identifying the target and drop them on pinpoint so you would be in the fuselage of a plane that is built for bombs you are all tucked in and they drope human you are about 800 feet not 1 mile up late today then you land in the
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field in the dark in france at night. so if you are being dropped in from above that's way it is a swing. [laughter] no problem. >>. >> that there is chinese young teenagers. >> in the films that showed in this role in film? . >> looking at charlotte gray are these wonderful celebrations because i didn't
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want to be affected by a fictionalized version so i wanted to know what i was reading and there are some excellentt documentaries that they interviewed not just resistance members but collaborators between people how they feel 20 years after the war and those who are we living there difficult lives when i say teenagers and to be conscripted to fight the blitzkrieg you are in aer camp anywhere conflicted for slave labor so when they needed soldiers for the resistance
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they are old people who are too useless for german war factory or kids were just coming up so there is documentary evidence i could not look a at that was film and i did not look at fiction i'm not sure answer that question. >> have you seen the movie? it's about d-day specifically and trying to get them ready. >> this is interesting they needed to communicate inside and not get caught as they did it and it's also very slow get it out there through switzerland or spain or if you're lucky an airplane is dropping in to collect a
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diplomat like charles de gaulle got out at the very beginning via airplane. you can get a letter out that way but in order to broadcast commands and to give battle orders you have to have a quicker dialogue so in london to telegraphy to the resistance and then to telegraph back on code phrases to be by one - - broadcast on theo bbc it sounded like garbage like fairy tales and nursery rhymes and poems and dirty jokes but you would still hear the dirty joke. then youve would say that means bomb this church on the 15th because that is rathers holding up. and then to come down and pop culture so these phrases all
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come from this moment the bbc is broadcasting into france every night this is how he became charles de gaulle he is not on the ground leading onldiers he's broadcasting to the bbc telling france stop what you're doing he is not your guy he is not your hero he is in bed with hitler do not agree to just lie down. if you're working in a factory make the ball bearings the wrong size or slow production. do not keep the war machine going and if you are a mom don't just raise your kids feed a rebel, help us out right newspapers or slip them under doors. helped the underground railroad to keep fighting he
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is telling them the resistance mattered and it was an amazing project because nobody knew it was true you don't get to know how the war ends really had nothing but a few officers he was certain he would be president of france and get there by mobilizing people from the radio every night and at the end of it we get the clues from the french resistanc resistance. >> what is great about this story is across the board everyone wants to tell you there war experience.
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everybody wants to say i was five my mother told me where she was on d-day but she remembers. she remembers listening to the radio and everybody standing still and she remembers pearl harbor and these are stories i have notst heard. that what you start working on project we all want to be a part of this collective moment it's very gratifying. . >> will this be in the d-day museum? . >> i sure hope>> so. there ought to be but the fact there were women on the ground in normandy on d-day nobody was talking about it strikes me as one of the great omissions and that's why i wrote this book.
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>> i think maybe now would be a good time to start signing books? excellent thank you for coming. [applause] . >> thank you for coming we have the books available at the register and sarah will be appear to sign your book when you pick it up so please form a line along this aisle and that would be t terrific. thank you for coming out. [inaudible conversations]
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