It almost sounds like something out of a spy novel. A young American newlywed sends her husband off to fight in World War II.
When he dies in battle, she decides to get revenge on Axis powers in the only way she knows how: She’ll become a spy.
This isn’t just some fictional treatment destined for the New York Times Best Sellers list or the big screen. It’s the real-life story of Patricia Warner, a 98-year-old who just received the Congressional Gold Medal for her work with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II.
The OSS was a precursor to today’s intelligence services. In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency explained that it arose out of that wartime effort.
The OSS worked closely with British intelligence throughout World War II. By 1944, it had roughly 13,000 employees, which made it about the same size as an Army division.
One of those people was Warner. According to WBZ-TV, she intentionally chose to take to espionage.
When her husband of less than a year perished during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, she refused to stay home and mourn.
“My husband was killed int he war, and I wanted to do something useful,” she said.
She became a secretary in Spain, but her administrative work in the pro-Nazi nation was only a cover.
Her real task involved feeding intelligence to the French underground, WCVB reported. She would obtain it by worming into upper-crust society, flirting her way to actionable info.
Some of that information involved getting stranded American pilot to safe havens. Today, Warner downplays the peril of her work.
“Somehow, I was in all of that, but I wasn’t really in any danger,” she said. “I don’t want to take any credit for it.”
But Warner’s son, Chris, told WBUR-FM that his mother’s work really did require her to get up close and personal with enemy troops.
“She was young and beautiful, and I think she was meant to hang around parties and see what she could pick up,” he said.
Even Warner herself admitted that her position had become untenable by the end.
“I didn’t feel I was in great danger at every moment, but I knew the Germans had my number,” she said.
On May 28, Warner received some official recognition for her bravery in the form of the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the United States’ highest honors.
“It means a lot,” she said. “I don’t think anyone ever thanked me, and I never thought I needed thanking. But to see this now is very touching, and I’m very grateful.”
She also displayed a bit of girlish glee at the accolade.
“Can you see it?” she asked, according to WCVB. “It’s beautiful. It looks like it’s solid gold.”
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