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tv   Sarah Rose D- Day Girls  CSPAN  September 3, 2019 5:15am-6:06am EDT

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tonight we're so pleased to welcome sarah rose for her new book "d-day girls", helps win world war ii. she draws on recently declassified files, diaries and oral histories to tell the thrilling mostly unknown story of three remarkable women who destroyed train lines, ambushed nazis, plotted prison breaks and gathered crucial intelligence, laying the groundwork for the d-day invasion that proved to be
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the turning point in the war. refinery 29 called the book a thriller in the form of a nonfiction book and another review said the book is comprehensive and compelling. readers get to know these amazing women as individuals as their duties unfold against the backdrop of the war. rose smoothly integrates developing events with biographical details calling it a satisfying mix of social history and biography. she is the author for all the tea in china how england stole the world's famous drink and changed history. she is written for many journals. in 2014 he was awarded a prize in travel writing. sarah, we're so glad to have you here tonight. thank you. [applause] >> so thank you all for coming. before i start, i want you to know that you have a responsibility here. and that is i need you to ask questions.
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i'm going to give a little and short reading and then the responsibility is in your hands to get me talking. with that in mind, i want you to picture a war that is being lost, 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 levelled in many respects by a foreign bombing. all of europe is gone. europe belongs to hitler. there isn't a democracy left on the continent. and you get a call from the government, and they say we need your help. you have three children, three little girls under the age of 6. the youngest still in diapers. and the government says we need your help. we can't quiteel need you to do. will you come work for us? it will be very dangerous, and
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you may not come home. this was a mother with three little girls, french born living in london, married an englishman. and the government called. she was a single mother alone and she was given this choice, help england, help europe, help democracy, leave your kids behind. i found this a challenging choice, who leaves three little girls potentially motherless, their father was at the front, so potentially perilous. and she said what happens to my little girls if england's gone too? if it's not just europe that hitler has, but the last democracy left, england is also
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taken over. then where do they go? what kind of a world are they growing up in then? shouldn't i as a mother do everything i can to make it safe for them even if it means leaving them? so she did. she joined the war. she was in the very first class of women in combat. the first women in combat was 39 women, like this woman. they were mothers, they were divorcees. some were about to be grandmothers. they aged from 22 to 55. they were recruited by a secret government agency to parachute into france, to arm and train the french resistance so that when some day, and at that moment it was many years hence, when d-day arrived, d-day was just this word for the day that everybody came back and the fight went back to continent, when d-day arrived, there were
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arms in the hands of the occupied nations. there was training that when hitler went to the beaches to defend against the invading allies, there was someone at the rear, preventing his reinforcements from getting to the beaches too. so this 30-year-old single mother with three small kids, trained in parachuting, in secret writing, in encryption in hand to hand combat. she learned 100 ways to kill a man silently with her bare hands. she's one of 38 women who did the same thing. we don't know about it. we don't know about it because men write war histories and women don't, until now. so "d-day girls" is the story of the very first class of the 38 women who were recruited. they were recruited over two years from 1942 to 44. i wanted to focus on the
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pioneers, on the very first women to do a man's job. they weren't just doing a man's job. they were doing a job that women were forbidden from; right? there is no more masculine space on earth than war. i mean, there's not a culture on the planet that doesn't have a combat taboo for women and children. so they are swimming upstream in every single respect. and it's not as if the allies wanted to be like magnanimous towards women. they had run out of men. they are three years into hitler's war, and every single man is at the front and there's a very specific need. whoever goes to france has to speak french. they have to be look like -- they have to blend in. not just to fool the germans. because they are easily fooled. their french isn't that good. they have to fool the french.
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three years into the war, every abled body man was already there. winston churchill gave his personal approval to send women into combat, in part because he loved warfare, he just thought it was cool, and in part because he didn't have a choice, there were no soldiers on the continent, but also in part because it made good battle sense. you could save 40,000, 50,000 men in combat if you were to put women in soldiers' roles, if you were to allow them to shoot a gun, at an airplane over london. like what general wouldn't try to make use of every available asset, if there were women in england who spoke french well enough to teach a teenager in france how to use a gun, and they wanted to go, they should go. so with churchill's blessing, they went. they were the very first women in combat. this woman is not alone. she was among the first. in her class was another woman
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who was in every respect different than odette. odette was very dramatic. for her war was an adventure, sort of romantic thing that she could do to help. this other woman was very common sense, she was aristocrat. she came from an island off the coast of africa. it had been french, captured in the napoleon wars. england used it as a calling stop on the way to its far east empire. she spoke french growing up, but she had a british passport. she had lived in paris most of her adult life. the day hitler marches in, she becomes an enemy alien. if she stays in france, she will end up in a concentration camp. so she flees, via spain, gibraltar, she gets to london where her brother is already working with the secret agency, hence her name to the recruiter. for her it is a very common sense decision. why wouldn't i do everything to
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save france? i mean, duh, like, there's no balance to it for her. she parachutes in, and she is the very second female paratrooper ever in history, but -- and this is the thing that kind of captured imagination about this story. she was commanding troops in normandy on d-day and we don't know about her. there were soldiers under her command answering to her orders, when the allies arrived. she was second in command in the french resistance behind enemy lines on the most important day of the 20th century and you haven't heard her name. she was second female paratrooper ever. very first female paratrooper has an even more interesting story. she was 22. she was the very first female
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combat paratrooper. she was completely different. she left school at 14. she was a counter girl at a bakery. but when hitler marched into paris, she marched out, with 6 million other frenchmen. she walked south into the demarcation line into unoccupied france and volunteered to become a member of the red cross. she trained as a nurse. while working as a nurse, she joined the underground. she became part of an underground railroad where she helped get 65 allied airmen out of france and back to england so they can continue bombing hitler. 65 is a high number. the entire underground railroad over the course of the war liberated about 600 airmen. she was responsible for 1/10. she was so good at it and so
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successful, there was a price on her head. at a moment somebody betrayed her and her partner, she had to leave france, via the underground railroad. she hikes, gets to spain, and from spain she could stay, but she says no, i have to get back in the fight. she goes to london, where she trains as a secret agent and parachutes back to france, goes to paris, where she becomes a member of the resistance that raises up the entire battery of circuits along the channel coast ahead of the d-day landing. so from basically the moment of this idea of guerrilla warfare in france takes root as a systemized governmental strategy for taking on hitler on the day of an attack that nobody has yet named, women were part of the battle plan. and women were there leading
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troops, making a difference, and it's not like oh, these were first and it matters because they were first, i mean, like pioneers. they made a difference. on june 5, 1944, a signal goes out on the bbc to all of france. it is an encoded signal. it says guys, we have been dropping weapons, we have been dropping explosives to you for two years. we have been training you and been teaching you how to use these. this is the night we need you to put all of that into action. they get the signal on bbc, night of june 5th, hours yet before the allies arrive and they go to work. they blow up bridges. they blow up train lines. they drop trees across roads. they take down power lines and phone lines. when the allies arrive, at 6:00 a.m., june 6th, 1944, normandy
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is isolated. you can't get there from anywhere else in france. there have been 950 cuts across roads and main bridges all over fran france. when hitler wants to get his reinforcements to the beaches, he can't. d-day wasn't a given. it wasn't an obvious that it was going to work. having time for the allied to get their back ups, get their supplies on the ground, every moment, every hour, changed the equation of that victory. it took hitler three weeks for his tank divisions to reinforce the beaches. those were a critical three weeks and it all happened because of the french resistance and it all happened because the allies armed the french resistance and the allies were able to arm the french resistance because women were a part of that plan. you don't know about it because men write war history.
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[laughter] >> until now. with that in mind, this was a very fun book to write because not only it was a great meaty story. there's nobody worse on earth than a nazi. and there's no better story than heroism that you don't know. it was fun to research because these women were my age and every day ordinary women. i thought okay, if they can do it, shouldn't i at least try? so i jumped out of an airplane. i learned to shoot a gun. i went to a boot camp because they had to go to a boot camp. i tried to learn morse code. i built a radio. i tried to go through much of the training that they went through. only to discover i would make a very bad spy. [laughter] but it is not something everybody can do. not only was i not fluent in french, i had never spoken any
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french. the first thing i had to do was move to france and learn french. it was a very fun to write because it was a very fun book to research. it was fun to interview the veterans and their families, but it was also fun to write because you get to blow stuff up, which as a writer, that's just fun. the bit i'm going to read you is about one of my characters, somebody who worked with these three women, actually. she was 45. she was the very first female sabotage agent. and they didn't want to send her in. she was about to become a grandmother. and they thought oh my goodness are french teenagers going to respect her at all, or are they going to think the allies are sending some joke? they must be in such a bad way to be spending grandmas to train troops. but in fact, she was the very first, and she was incredibly
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successful at her job, as we're about to see. full moon, with a parachute reception, new moons, when the whole sky went dark but for the stars along the sabotage as autumn turned to winter, they traveled to a little village on the river. petite, barely 5 feet 2 on her toes, she was a student of yoga, a vegetarian whose weight hovered at only 80 pounds. she was the only person who could do the job the allies needed done that night. she sung suspended in a parachute harness. dangling over railroad tracks, while searching for the ground. her flashlight beams sliced through a cloud of breath. beyond her light there was nothing. an ink black railway tunnel in france at night. no hints of light bled in from the openings on either end of the underpass. there were no noises either but for the steady drip of water somewhere. her hands were cold and sticky
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and smelled like almonds from the chemical res due of plastic explosives. her clothing was tattered, a pair of underwear she washed every night. she looked bedraggled, but also somehow much younger than the year before, in the best possible sense. war took years off her life, said her commanding officer. she looks 15 years younger and has definitely found her nearby. her torchlight flooded the tracks below revealing a shadowy zipper running across the seams of france. there was a straight drop down. no obstacle would impede a package of explosives if it was lowered from the air shaft above. the path to the tracks was one of empty, and long gaited space. -- elongated space. she signalled to her man that she had what she needed, a view of the center of the tunnel, the depth and grade of the tracks under the sloping hill. she was hoisted aloft with swift
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precision, by virtue of her delicate stature and flexibility, she was the only person who could go up through the ventilation shaft of the railway passage. she was also the only one who could perform the reconnaissance by education and authority, who might lead the mission of french partisans to blow up the railway tunnel. after all, she said, i am the only one who has been specially trained. the sabotage party was far from the underground explosion when it began. there was a small flash of light, like a bolt of lightning. the sparks blossomed into a blaze. and black smoke filled the tunnel. there was an alternate between the bright light of a star and the warm yellow of a bonfire, the flames grew until they consumed the oxygen. boulders, bricks and debris tumbled down, littering the tracks. she didn't need to be near the village to follow the
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choreography of the explosion. the blazes, the concussions, the familiar symphony of elemental chaos roared, like a thousand tin cans crashed at once and lingered long after in hisses and pops. she knew it all too well. she had been home on the night of april 16th, 1941, in london, when herman goring had one of his best nights of the blitz. in that one night of precision bombing, the damage of st. paul's cathedral, the houses of parliament, the law courts and the national gallery. nazi command called it a bombing, declaring we shall go out and bomb every building in britain, marked with three stars in the guide. they also destroyed her home in her town. near victoria station, two parachute mines and three high explosive bombs went off at once and the blast took out an entire
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terrace of houses. the top floor of her home was levelled. it was a house where she had raised a daughter to adulthood and watched a marriage crumble. where she had studied philosophy and practiced medication. where she had played boarding house mom. it was essentially gone. chimneys stood alone severed. the fires burned through the morning. at day break, the neighborhood smelled of charred wood, masonry dust and decay. her large house was declared uninhabitable. everyone survived, except the family cat, bones. it was this yvonne said of her cat's untimely demise, more than anything else, which made me somehow determined to fight
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back. and she did. so with that background, i'm hoping you will all have questions for me, and if not, i will prompt you to have questions for me. [laughter] >> yes, please. >> [inaudible]. >> of the 38 women in the book, only one is still alive. she's 98. she lives in new zealand and she's extremely unwell and private. she's in the book, however. i got to the story almost at the very edge of living memory. there were 436 agents par suited into the -- parachuted into france, when i started writing, there was two. there was a sense of sadness, but there was also incredible sense of discovery. we don't get access to their files until they are dead.
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i get to be the first historian in some respects to witness the back story, what the commanders thought, what was going on around them. there are pluses and minuses. they are extremely interesting people. i got to know their families, many of them. but when you have that kind of personal connection, you also feel the personal connection. you feel the pull and desire to tell the story they want to tell and that they think is important to tell, and while that matters, it can bend in a direction. i wanted to tell a story as i saw it from a journalist and historian and storyteller point of view and without feeling obligated. i wanted to honor them but i also wanted to be able to judge them and believe that i do. so i did get a chance to talk to people who had lived through there, but i didn't get a chance to talk to my people. yes, maria? >> were the women spies better
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than the men? >> this is a very important question. the important diplomatic answer is everybody who did this was amazing. they went into enemy territory, behind the lines, without the protections of soldiers, they were incredibly brave and human. many of them made mistakes. the women didn't make more mistakes or different mistakes than men did. they had a higher success rate. third of the women were captured and killed and half of the men were captured and killed, but there were so many more men. there were ten times that it is not a very good sample comparison. but they had assets that men didn't have and that the allies didn't realize, at first. i think the allies would have hired women sooner, had they understood how much they were sort of giving up by not hiring women. at war, always, there are more women in occupied territories than there are men. men get captured. men get killed. the demographics of war that it is in fact an incredibly female place.
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women on the home front are what's left of the home. and in france, in particular, the armistice wasn't a peace treaty; right? in a peace treaty, everybody exchanges their soldiers and you have negotiated settlement. the armistice was just kind of a pause, and hitler kept the french army in jail throughout the war. they were in germany for four, five years, which meant that -- like the entire french army was in prison. there were many many more women in france than there were men. there was also forced labor, slavery, slave work, and so men were shipped off to germany to build weapons for the war, which meant that sending a man into enemy territory was a pretty obvious move. you could see them. what were they doing? here's a 30-year-old able-bodied man who is not at war, isn't in prison, and is in a factory.
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that's kind of an obvious tell. send a woman in and they look like every other person in france. there was kind of a natural demographic advantage. also because the work they were doing was clandestine and because the work they were doing was recruitment, they discovered that women were significantly better than men at -- or i will say that women had an advantage by virtue of being women which is it requires a lot of care taking to say to a disaffected frenchman, some teenager who is about to be shipped off to germany don't go. live in the woods. we will send guns to you and train you for the day the allies come back. it takes a lot of coaxing and listening to their concerns to get them to do that, to organize them, and women are good care takers. we are taught from the cradle to listen to other's concerns. it was a skill men had to learn. once the allies realized recruitment required a great
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deal of compassion and care take and care taking at the most basic level. france was starving. the calories for the french were lower than everywhere else in europe in part because it was such a fertile place, hitler plundered to send everything to the eastern front to feed his own troops. france is starving. the allies recruiting french teenagers and old farmers to fight for the resistance could actually feed them. they are getting food dropped from the sky, and so this became -- they needed a lot of female traits to do this job. i don't know that they were better, but they were sort of more naturally equipped, and they taught the allies that in fact this was a very important part of the job that was being invented on the ground. this was the first time this kind of warfare had ever been tried. there were no plans. they discovered that was a really important job for a spy and women were really good at it.
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other questions. yes? >> how did you come across this story in the first place? >> okay, i'm a reporter, and i had been doing a lot of freelance work, and i knew i wanted a book. i knew i wanted to sink my teeth into a long project. i'd been doing a lot of the sprint, where you hit send and something ends in the paper the next day. and i wanted the marathon again. this was in 2015. i knew that the u.s. was lifting the combat exclusion for all combat roles that as of january 1, 2016 in america a woman can be in any combat role a man can be in. there's nowhere she is forbidden, including the special forces. if she can get through the training, she can join the navy seals, as of january 1, 2016. this new story is coming. war is interesting. women in war is even more interesting. this book really began in hawaii where i go every winter because i don't like being cold.
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[laughter] >> and many of my friends are in the military, my female friends, my girlfriends are in the military. they defy my preconceived notions of what women in male spaces are. i had this sort of 80 notions of female executives look like junior male executives. then females in the army should be short of junior male in the army. that's not so who they are. they are incredibly feminine. they are incredibly credentialed. i go hiking with these women. i'm the only who doesn't have a doctorate. they are interesting people and all of that was surprising to me, because they are in a male space while living these extremely feminine lives. so they were interesting to me. women in war was interesting. women in male spaces was interesting. this new story was coming up. and i was sitting in a hot tub, because it is hawaii, and i sort of asked the question, like, who is the very first woman in war? i thought i was going to find
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like a great maybe vietnam story, but more likely kind of afghanistan iraq story where i could point to the first female combatant. a few google searches and a little bit of digging in a library later, it wasn't recent. it wasn't even vietnam recent. it was 75 years old. there were women in combat in world war ii. this core of women in world war ii were the first women in combat and i didn't know about it and you guys didn't know about it, most of you, and we didn't know because men haven't been telling this story. so with that in mind, i did a little bit of reading and i came up with what i thought was the spine of the story, and i pitched it, and my editor, amanda cook bought it, and a project began. and then i started learning french. yes? >> were there women in combat on the russian front, though? on the russian front. this is very important. 1942 marks the first moment of women in combat.
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it was happening on the russian front, also happening simultaneously on the western front behind enemy lines. in the west, they were never categorized as combatants. the russians had absolutely no problem calling them soldiers. the russians had a very different -- i think in part because it is so large. the russians had a very different approach. like for them it was a numbers game. you were throwing bodies at hitler. you had many more of them. you had a deep pocket. you have all of siberia to recruit from. it was one more force you can add to a force against hitler. in russia there was a force of women in the revolution that was considered a bit of an organized force, but again that sort of not qualifies as combat because it's intrastate arguing as opposed to -- these are the kind of differences that are minute,
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but ultimately sort of add up to -- by world war ii, by 1942, women were being recruited, but women were being recruited hand over fist. in the west we didn't call them soldiers. in the east they did. but 1942 marks this moment where suddenly women are conscripted on a mass scale. the war is going on forever and it is mostly being lost. you needed everybody you could get. yes? >> these women were recruited in england? >> yes. >> how did america do with recruiting women spys? >> so this is a very good question, and spies covers a lot of ground, right? we have a very big notion of what spies are. there are spies who are sort of intelligence agents. these were sabotage agents. and there were americans in this force. virginia hall was actually the very first woman considered a member. she was a reporter. she worked for the new york post. and by virtue of being american,
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she could go into unoccupied france. britain couldn't. british people, their passports were not allowed. however, an american -- america was not in the war up until 1941 and didn't declare war on unoccupied france until after hitler took it over. so she could still get in by virtue of her passport. she was a liaison agent. when other male agents came in, she got them clothing, housing, ration stamps, got them out via an underground railroad. she had one leg. she is this one-legged american journalist helping allies out of france and arming and training other agents. and she was american. there is another woman in the core whose mother was a cousin
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of marion baker eddy, an american, so though by citizenship standards, she was not american in their legal sense, but in our sense today, she would be considered an american by virtue of her mom. she too was an agent. her father was indian. it actually cast a pretty wide net. all the recruitment was in london. and the commanders were british. but the thing the core needed is they couldn't have french passports. charles de gaulle wasn't having any of it. he didn't like the idea of any frenchmen answering to an allied commander because he didn't want france to be a colony of the allies at the end of the war. he sort of could envision a moment where it was a protected state, under winston churchill, which was not so much better to
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him than being a state to hitler, so he wouldn't let his own citizens fight for this core, which meant it was -- there was yvonne, the sabotage agent i just read about. she was french born but married to an italian. the other woman had a british passport. it was sort of everybody but the french. and yet they still had to be fully habituated french. >> what did the archives look like? >> excellent question. it's very bureaucratic on the british side. you get a lot of summaries of conversations people are having, and you get their training files. on the french side, it is a lot harder to find. the french -- whereas britain has sort of let the sun shine in. everyone's dead. everything's been declassified. the war is over. let a thousand flowers bloom,
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have a look at our archives. france is very much the opposite. it is incredibly hard to shake the early out of france. they have yet to come to grips with their collaboration in world war ii. i mean, they only apologized for killing 76,000 jews, french jews in the mid 90s. so they are very behind on the sense of reconciliation. that makes it bureaucratically very difficult to work in france. and then in america, everything's on-line. everything's great -- you barely need to go anywhere. so what it looks like it is a lot of typed voices from the past trying -- and you're retelling a story through these bits and pieces of information, patching it together. you can get a sense of people's personalities through these dispatches, through their interrogations. one thing that really struck was not just the sexism but the
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anti-semitism in british government, really came across in these files. everyone is dead. so you can't be mad at them for being anti-semites. what is shocking is how much of it speaks to you through the page, that it is just -- nobody had a problem with being a bureaucratic anti-semite. yes? >> i have a question and follow up question. the first question is so these were the first women -- >> uh-huh. >> as a result of what they did, did the attitude shift towards having women -- the follow up question is, you know, you're going to talk to some people in congress -- [inaudible]. >> i hope so. the reason one writes is not to give you a lovely two nights on
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an airplane but also because you want to bring a story to light that deserves to be told but also maybe changes the minds. these women did this extraordinary thing, and then the men came back from the front, and they were celebrated as heroes and the women became symbols. britain wasn't very forthcoming about their work behind the lines. it was secret. it was classified. most governments don't tell you what is going on in these secret situations, but a third of these women ended up in the camps, and britain didn't tell people. they were very closed about what happened. they became these sort of symbols for a country that was lying to itself. and rather than celebrating them as heroes and game changers, they became a way that like britain self-flatulated for not being better in the war. they were diminished immediately, that their work was considered clerical and
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secretarial but not as important as the men. they were couriers. they were radio operators. the thing the men were couriers and radio operators too and they were celebrated as soldiers and they were soldiers. britain didn't really have a mechanism for keeping women in the army. they had auxiliary services, but these women were doing combat roles so that kind of like squeezed them into their existing schema without recognizing that they deserved to occupy full status as servicemembers. once the era of declassification came in, these women were in their 90s, if they survived this long, the greatest generation had become something to celebrate, we could talk about their missions. we knew about their missions. at that moment they became the heroes they deserved to be. but they had to survive about 65, 70 years after the war for that to be true. my hope is that -- i knew i wanted to tell a story about these women in war.
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and i knew i was telling story about war by a woman because i am and i hadn't read war stories with any great hunger up until this moment. i recognized the documents too. my editor amanda was helping me understand this. it became fun to think about well, okay, if i cast a feminine lens over everything, it really changes our interpretation over the whole war. winston churchill stops being just this colonial imperialist bulldog he became also a depressive alcoholic who liked to paint. that was true. he was always a depressic alcoholic who liked to paint as well as imperialist. -- depressed alcoholic who liked to paint as well as imperialist. but it wasn't being told.
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my hope is as more women write about it, as more women are in war, that more attitudes will change. and certainly yes i'm going to speak to congress and i hope to change some of those attitudes. yes? >> first of all, thank you for writing about this fascinating -- covering this important part of women's history. i'm just curious about the process of writing in terms of how long it took for research and then writing and was that very separate? and were you working like a day job while you were trying to write this book? i'm curious about the process overall. >> i'm extremely fortunate, fortwo years solid -- for two years solid this was my job and nothing else. it took me about a year to research, which included learning french, another year to write, from final submission to this book being in your hands, which is about another year in which there's a lot of admin.
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a lot of that was footnotes. it occupied my life for three years, but it was a year of research and year of writing by in large, and a year in admin. >> how did you learn french? >> first i moved to a beach and took immersive french. i have family in paris who i love very dearly and they let me live with them a lot so i could get better and do my work. other questions? yes? >> when you started your reading, there was something about parachute which i didn't quite get, before she could drop something on the tunnel? >> yes, so she's hanging in a tunnel in the parachute harness -- she wants to hang over the tunnel. she doesn't want to get to the ground. they need to pull her up. since they have these parachute harnesses because that's how agents are being dropped in, they just repurposed it for this and turned it into kind of a
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climbing harness for her, so she could use it as a swing. she could look at the tunnel below and pull her back out. >> they didn't have helicopters. >> they were pulling up her hand over fist? >> on the airplane up above? >> no, no, when they drop them in, they drop them in from an airplane. it is just a bomber with a hole in the floor. and this is the days before radar, right? radar is invented in the middle of the war. they can only fly in on a full moon. that's the only time it is light enough for a pilot to find his target and drop them on pin point. so you would get -- you would be in the fuselage of a plane that is not built for you. it is built for bombs. and you are all tucked in, they get you over the pinpoint, and they drop you in. you are about 800 feet over your target, not like today where they drop you a mile up, and a line pulls your parachute out behind you and you hope it opens, and you land in a moon-lit field in the dark in france at night. when you're blowing up a railway
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tunnel, if you are being dropped in from above, you're just wearing the harness, and someone is holding you, and you use it as a swing. >> i see. >> okay. >> thank you. >> no problem. yes? >> having being quite young, when the war was over, i was about 5 when the war was over and was fascinated by the resistance. >> right. >> a film that showed chinese young teenagers fighting japanese in one film i saw on television. did you review any films that showed women in this role in film? >> so i tried to stay away from the fictionalized versions things like charlotte gray or plenty, these sort of wonderful celebrations of these women because i didn't want to be infected by a fictionalized version of what was going on. i wanted to start of stick to
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what i was reading and getting from my interviews. but that said, there are some excellent documentaries, including the very famous the sorrow in the pity in which they are interviewing not just resistance members but collaborators and they cut back and forth between people who feel very justified 20 years after the war for having collaborated with hitler and then the people who are reliving their extremely difficult lives during the war, living in the woods as teenagers. when i say teenagers, i mean, very young men. if you were old enough in 1940 to fight, you had been conscripted and you were in a camp. as you got older, after 1942, in france, you were conscripted for slave labor and you were sent to germany. so when they needed soldiers, for the resistance, they are going to the fringes of france. they are old people who are kind of too useless for a german war
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factory and too old to fight in 1940 or they are kids who are just coming up. so there is a lot of documentary evidence that i could look at that was film but i didn't look at fiction. so i'm not sure if that answers your question, but it certainly -- >> there was one film that showed a very heroic french woman. have you seen that one? >> i have not, no. >> about d-day specifically and trying to get france ready for d-day including waiting for the bbc broadcast. >> right. this is interesting too. :: collect a double map.
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charles the ball got out and the beginning of the war via a can get a letter out that way but in order to broadcast commands to a big country and give them battle orders you had to have a quicker dialogue then letters via courier over mountains. in london daily telegraph to the resistance and the resistance would telegraph back and they would agree on certain code phrases that would be broadcast into france on the bbc. it sounded like garbage it sounded like fairytales and nursery rhymes and poems and dirty jokes. but you would hear your dirty joke and he would say, that means bomb this church on the 15th because that's where the nazis are holding up. we actually get a lot of those that have come down in pop culture like the eagle has landed. these phrases all came from the moment where the bbc is
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broadcasting into france every night.this is where charles de gaulle became charles de gaulle. he's in london, not on the ground bleeding soldiers. he is broadcasting on the bbc from london every night telling france to stop what you're doing. ãb if you are working in a factory, you should follow the factory floor make the ball bearings the wrong size. slow work production. don't keep this war machine going. if you are a mom don't just read your kids, feed a rebel, help us out. right newspapers and put them under doors. help an underground railroad. keep fighting. it was charles de gaulle nightly on the bbc arguing to the french that resistance mattered. it was good to be the same that
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got them through it was amazing project because he had no reason to believe it was true. nobody knows their own future. you don't get to know how the war ends. he was certain with none. he really had nothing. he had a few officers and people who stayed in britain after dunkirk. he was certain he would be president of france after the war and he was going to get there by mobilizing people from the radio. at the end of the program every night you would get the nursery rhymes and the limericks and the dirty jokes and those were the orders the french resistance. >> were you able to speak with some of the teenagers? >> yes. what's great about this story in particular is across-the-board everyone wants to tell you there war experience. i think it surprises me that
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everyone wants to say, i was five and my mother told me where she was on d-day. it was a story i hadn't heard before but she remembered. she remembered everybody standing still. she remembers pearl harbor. these are stories i hadn't heard. once you start working on a project like that it becomes like everyone needs to share. we all want to be part of this collective moment. it's been really exciting and gratifying. [inaudible question] i sure hope so. i'm not the ãbut there ought to be. the fact that there were women on the ground in normandy on d-day and no one was talking about it until now, strikes me as one of the world's great emissions. hidden figures of d-day that's why i wrote the book. >> are you wearing the ãbi now might be a good time to start signing the books, is
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that right? >> excellent. thank you for coming. [applause] >> thank you so much sarah and thank you for coming. we have books available at the register and we will have sarah appear to sign your book when you pick it up. he could form a lie along the aisle that would be terrific. thank you for coming up.
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