Virginia Hall Goillot, DSC, Croix de Guerre, MBE (6 April 1906 – 8 July 1982) was an American spy with the British Special Operations Executive during World War II and later with the American Office of Strategic Services and the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was known by many aliases, including “Marie Monin,” “Germaine,“ “Diane,“ ”Marie of Lyon,“ ”Camille,” and “Nicolas.” The Germans gave her the nickname Artemis, and the Gestapo reportedly considered her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.”
Virginia was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She Radcliffe, Barnard College and George Washington University, where she studied French, Italian, and German and Economics. She wanted to finish her studies in Europe, so she travelled the Continent and studied in France, Germany, and Austria, finally landing an appointment as a Consular Service clerk at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland in 1931.
She had hoped to join the Foreign Service, but she suffered a setback around 1932 when she accidentally shot herself in the left leg while hunting birds in Turkey. The leg was later amputated from the knee down and replaced with a wooden leg which she named “Cuthbert”. The injury ended whatever chance she might have had for a diplomatic career, and she resigned from the Department of State in 1939. She then attended graduate school at American University in Washington, DC.
Hall was in Paris at the start of World War II, and she joined the Ambulance Service before the fall of France and ended up inVichy-controlled territory when the fighting stopped in the summer of 1940. She made her way to London and volunteered for Britain’s newly formed Special Operations Executive (SOE), which sent her back to Vichy in August 1941. She spent the next 15 months there, helping to coordinate the activities of the French Resistance in Vichy and the occupied zone of France in Toulouse and Lyon, using the cover of a correspondent for the New York Post.
Part of Peter Churchill’s first mission in France in January and February 1942 was to deliver 300,000 francs to Georges Duboudin, organizer of the SPRUCE network in Lyon, and Hall introduced Churchill to him.
Churchill returned to England via Spain when the mission was complete, and Hall accompanied him by train to Perpignan, since couples aroused less suspicion. He then crossed the Pyrenees on foot, and she returned to Lyon. In his second mission in April 1942, Churchill dropped off four SOE agents on the Cote d’Azur by submarine, including Edward Zeff, wireless operator for the SPRUCE network; and Hall introduced him to the network.
The French nicknamed her ”la dame qui boite“ and the Germans put ”the limping lady” on their most wanted list, according to Dr. Dennis Casey of the U.S. Air Force Intelligence Agency. When the Germans seized all of France in November 1942; they made many arrests, and Hall knew that she had to leave immediately. She narrowly escaped by train from Lyon to Perpignan, then walked over a 7,500 foot pass in the Pyrenees to Spain, covering up to 50 miles over two days in considerable discomfort. She had given her artificial foot its own codename “Cuthbert”, and she signaled to SOE before her escape that she hoped that Cuthbert would not give trouble on the way. The SOE did not understand the reference and replied, “If Cuthbert troublesome, eliminate him”. After arriving in Spain, she was arrested by the Spanish authorities for illegally crossing the border, but the US Embassy eventually secured her release. She worked for SOE for a time in Madrid, then returned to London in July 1943 where she was quietly made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Hall joined the U.S.Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Special Operations Branch in March 1944 and asked to return to occupied France. She hardly needed training in clandestine work behind enemy lines, and OSS promptly granted her request. They provided her with a forged French identification certificate for Marcelle Montagne, and because her artificial leg prevented her from parachuting in they landed her from a British Motor Torpedo Boat in Brittany. She eluded the Gestapo and contacted the French Resistance in central France, using the code name “Diane”. She mapped drop zones for supplies and commandos from England, found safe houses, and linked up with a Jedburgh team