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A TRUE WAR HERO DIES|
Posted on November 06, 2007
We hear many people try to describe a hero. Below is the story of a true hero.
Danny "Greasy" Belcher, Executive Director
Task Force Omega of KY Inc.
Vietnam Infantry Sgt. 68-69
"D" Troop 7th Sqdn. 1st Air Cav
----- Original Message -----
From: Joe Douglass
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2007 9:32 AM
Subject: Fwd: Lady War Hero for our Aviators
Know you will appreciate this.
Andrée de Jongh, 90, Legend of Belgian Resistance, Dies
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: October 18, 2007
Andrée de Jongh, whose youth and even younger appearance belied her courage and ingenuity when she became a World War II legend ushering many downed Allied airmen on a treacherous, 1,000-mile path from occupied Belgium to safety, died Saturday in Brussels. She was 90.
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In her 20s, Andrée de Jongh rescued more than 100 Allied airmen. Here she was thanked after the war by Jack Newton.
Her death was announced by a Web site for former resistance fighters, verzet.org. There was no information about survivors.
Derek Shuff, in his book “Evader” (2007), told of three British crewmen whose bomber made a forced landing in 1941. They found their way to the Underground and were ensconced in a safe house when a slip of a young woman appeared.
“My name is Andrée,” the 24-year-old woman said, “but I would like you to call me by my code name, which is Dédée, which means little mother. From here on I will be your little mother, and you will be my little children. It will be my job to get my children to Spain and freedom.”
She left and the three sat in stunned silence. One finally spoke. “Our lives are going to depend on a schoolgirl,” he said.
Two of the men survived the grueling trek along what became known as the Comet escape line, because of the speed with which soldiers were hustled along it.
Ms. de Jongh eventually led 24 to 33 expeditions across occupied France, over the Pyrenees to Gibraltar. She herself escorted 118 servicemen to safety. At least 300 more escaped along the Comet line.
When the Germans captured her in 1943, it was her youth that saved her. When she truthfully confessed responsibility for the entire scheme, they refused to believe her.
The citation of her Medal of Freedom With Golden Palm, the highest award the United States presented to foreigners who helped the American effort in World War II, said Ms. de Jongh “chose one of the most perilous assignments of the war.”
Andrée de Jongh was born on Nov. 30, 1916, in Schaerbeek, Belgium, the younger daughter of Frédéric de Jongh, a schoolteacher. She was brought up to admire Edith Cavell, shot the year before Andrée was born for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium during World War I.
She was working as a commercial artist in May 1940 when the Germans absorbed Belgium. Having had first-aid training, she began working as a nurse. She quietly pored over the myriad German rules governing control of movement and conferred with confidants about escape.
Her task was harder than that of Ms. Cavell, who had only to move men across the Dutch frontier. Belgium was surrounded by occupied countries. Eventually Ms. de Jongh settled on the long route to Spain.
When she got her first two airmen to the British Consulate in Bilbao, Spain, she asked for support for further missions. Officials there were sufficiently convinced of her integrity to overcome skepticism among the British intelligence brass that she might be part of a Gestapo plot.
Ms. de Jongh’s mission had wider resonance because it signaled to Allied nations that pilots and crews crashing in enemy territory were not lost. It also succeeded in coupling espionage with escape by sending critical information to Allied channels.
The Comet operation was complex: organizers needed to recover fallen airmen, procure civilian clothing and fake identity papers, provide medical aid for the wounded, and shelter and feed the men as they moved along their long obstacle course.
It was also so dangerous that Ms. de Jongh warned recruits that they should expect to be dead or captured within six months. Her own father was captured and executed, along with 22 others.
Her inspiration was sometimes all that kept exhausted men plodding on. Bob Frost, a bomber crew member, said in an interview with a publication of a British veterans’ group, “It was her eyes, they were absolutely burning and there was an air of supreme confidence about her.”
She was captured escorting a soldier over the Pyrenees in January 1943 after a German collaborator betrayed her. After 20 interrogations, the Germans still refused to believe her confession and she was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. There, among skeletal and shaven forms, she was so unrecognizable that the Gestapo could not identify her for requestioning.
Ms. de Jongh later worked in leper hospitals in the Belgian Congo and Ethiopia. She was made a Belgian countess in 1985.
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