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WWII's Most Dangerous Job: SOE Courier

One in four.

That's how many SOE agents in France were either executed, killed in action, or died during captivity. Had not many agents escaped their prisons or concentration camps, the number would be closer to one in three. But that's for all agents. For women, almost all of whom were employed as couriers, the fatality rate was much higher.

Almost one in two.

Of the thirty-eight female SOE agents operating in France, sixteen did not return. That's a death rate of 42 percent, which puts it in the realm of risk faced by Britain's Bomber Command. And this for "non-combat" personnel.

TODAY in 1944, seven captured SOE agents—six couriers and a radio operator—left 84 Avenue Foch (Gestapo headquarters in Paris) handcuffed in pairs. They were put on a train bound for Germany.

Six would never be seen again.

Who these women were, and the extraordinary story of the sole survivor—World War II's most highly decorated woman—is the subject of my upcoming book to be published January 15, 2019 by Gallery/Simon & Schuster.

Larry Loftis is the author of INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov—World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond (Berkley, 2016) and the upcoming nonfiction thriller about World War II's most highly decorated woman (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, January 15, 2019).

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