In "Unsung Heroes of World War II" (The Great Courses Plus), Lynne Olson introduces us to three women who played pivotal roles in the resistance to the Nazis in World War II. Olson, a bestselling author of eight books, is the historian whom former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called "our era's foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy."
Here are three women who made Professor Olson's list:
Andree de Jongh
Known as Dedee, Andree de Jongh founded the Comet Line, the largest and most important escape line smuggling airman from behind enemy lines.
Dedee "worked as a nurse for British troops wounded in the fighting. Along with a group of friends and acquaintances, she began to smuggle injured British soldiers out of German-controlled hospitals and take them to nearby safe houses that she had set up. Not long afterward, she traveled secretly to Spain, which, during World War II, was a neutral country" and struck a deal to smuggle fighters through Spain to the coast where they would be flown back to England.
"The majority of Comet Line workers were women," Olson says. "Being part of an escape network was probably the most dangerous form of resistance work in Europe. German officials were keenly aware of the value of these airmen to the Allied bombing effort. If escaped line members were caught, they faced torture, the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, and/or execution. It was particularly dangerous for the couriers—most of them young women, many of them still in their teens—who escorted the servicemen hundreds of miles across enemy territory.
"The Comet Line would be the largest and most important escape line in occupied Europe. It would be credited with rescuing more than 800 British and American servicemen, getting them out of enemy territory and back to freedom.