Archive for September, 2010

Heros

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Strange History

            Its funny the things you remember, especially after the long, rich and rewarding experiences we all had serving in the Air Force.  Some of the stuff I think I remember, I often challenge as inaccurate or mixed with too much TV or too many movies.  Most of the stuff is near impossible to relate to folks who don’t share our common backgrounds.  Today, I was shocked back into reality by a story I happened to stumble on in the Los Angeles Times.  It was an Obituary for a lady that recently passed away in England.  In the story…and perhaps this is why it caught my eye… details of her remarkable life where chronicled.   She was a decorated war hero from WWII as a British spy operating behind enemy lines in Europe.  As I read the details of her life I suddenly realized that the story was very familiar.  I had heard this story years before in a different setting.  It was at Squadron Officers School…circa 1989.  At SOS the Air Force hired motivational speakers to fill in the curriculum.  One of the key note speakers — that everyone that had gone before me had recommended I not miss—was a British lady who had been highly decorated for her exploits in Europe during the war.  She was so highly thought of at SOS that there was a life size oil painting of her in the main administration building.  You could purchase smaller versions of the painting and have her autograph them….many SOS attendees did just this after hearing her speak.   I attended her presentation and it was everything and more of what I expected from the stories  from folks who recommended her.  She told and incredible story of heroism, luck, brutality, personnel endurance and sacrifice.  There was not one dry eye in the big blue bedroom by the time she was done.   Many of the flights raised money to take her out to dinner and get their autographed paintings.  After I returned, I made sure to recommend her presentations to those who where next in line.  One such individual was Capt John Kiecana.  Yes “Johnny 3K” ( another story) he took my advice and reported to SOS.  However, after he returned he relayed to my great surprise and shock, that the lady was found out to be a fraud…she had lied about the whole story of her life!  I could not believe it…it was one of the most convincing emotional packed riveting stories I had ever heard.  I can’t imagine how the Air Force reacted to the discovery as they had invested so much in her credibility and had exposed so many junior officers to her deceit.  In hind sight I began to revisit what she had told us and began to realize that no one human being could have done what she said she had done …so I believed.  I dismissed the whole event and added the affair to one more bullshit Air Force façade.  Now twenty years later I discover that there really was a war hero that did these impossible feats of bravery.  The SOS lady had assumed this hero’s identity and embellished on the facts to make her story more saleable to the suckers that hired her.  

Perhaps as the real lesson, that was not communicated at SOS, was detailed in the Obituary.  It seems that Eileen Nearne, the real WWII hero, died alone and in obscurity, never letting on about her unbelievable history.  Only after her death did they find hidden awards, medals, records and memorabilia, including French currency used during the war she had kept secretly.   The greatest lesson from this story,  one not shared at SOS, was that humility is more often than not, a quality found amongst the real heroes in life.  What a profound lesson for today’s pop culture polluted society where clamor for fame and fortune is more important then integraty and honor.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-eileen-nearne-20100923,0,2821603.story

Eileen Nearne, a reclusive World War II heroine who operated as an undercover radio transmitter in France during the D-day invasion, helping coordinate the Allied war effort until she was caught by the Gestapo, died Sept. 2 of a heart attack at her home in southwest England. She was 89.

Nearne, who was known as Agent Rose, maintained her secrecy and never discussed her wartime exploits with her neighbors in Torquay, the seaside town in Devon where she lived until her death.

Her bravery was not widely acknowledged until local officials went into her apartment after her death and found a treasure trove of medals, records and memorabilia, including French currency used during the war.



During World War II, Nearne worked with the Special Operations Executive, a clandestine operation set up by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to carry out acts of sabotage and espionage against the Nazis, who were occupying Western Europe.

Nearne’s mission to France in 1944 — when she was just 23, posing as a French shop girl — was to operate a wireless transmitter that served as a vital link between the French resistance and war planners in London.

John Pentreath, county manager for the Royal British Legion veterans’ charity, said Nearne was captured behind enemy lines with a radio transmitter and was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She later escaped and was ultimately liberated by American forces.

“It’s a staggering story for a young girl,” he said. “We hold her in awe and huge respect. All Brits do. We are very disappointed we didn’t know about her when she was alive; we would have dearly loved to have made contact with her.”

Historian M.R.D. Foot, who had access to Nearne’s secret account of her activities, said she was the only British agent with an operating transmitter in the Paris area during the crucial period from March 1944 until she was caught by the Germans in July 1944.

“She was there during D-day,” he said. “What she did was extremely important. She was arranging for weapons and explosive drops, and those were used to help cut the Germans’ rail lines.”

He said Nearne showed bravery and discretion when she refused to talk about clandestine operations even after being subjected to extreme treatment.

After the war, Nearne was awarded an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of her services. She lived for most of the rest of her life with her sister Jacqueline, who had also served in the Special Operations Executive.

Since her sister’s death in 1982, Nearne had lived alone.

The saga of Nearne’s lonely death and her wartime service touched a nerve in Britain. The Times of London said in an editorial that she seemed to resemble Eleanor Rigby, the spinster who died alone in a song by the Beatles.

“Her life deserves to be sung about every bit as much as Eleanor Rigby’s,” the editorial said.

On Tuesday, hundreds mourned Nearne during her funeral in Devon.

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Comments (1)

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Kelley at 8:19 AM September 24, 2010 Hollywood should be making a movie about her war exploits rather than the one about that Gotti fellow.

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