|Born||22 Nov 1910|
|Died||1 Dec 1963|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseAmy Elizabeth "Betty" Thorpe was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States to United States Marine Corps Colonel George C. Thorpe and Minnesota state senator Cora Wells. Her family moved to Washington, DC when her father resigned from his post and began to study law in 1929. Her mother made sure her daughter was invited to all important social events in the city, which were often attended by diplomats from various countries. Her beauty and conduct made her a popular figure in Washington's diplomatic circle. One admirer of hers was Arthur J. Pack, an attaché from the British embassy who was 19 years her senior. When Thorpe became pregnant, Pack insisted that they marry. Their 1936 marriage was doomed from the start, for Pack was far too dull to satisfy Thorpe. Later that year, Pack was transferred to Madrid, Spain, and she followed. Bored with Pack, she sought her own outlet. With her connections established through her husband's colleagues at the British embassy, she had an affair with a clergyman, arranged for the escape of key leaders of Francisco Franco's forces from certain capture, and smuggled Red Cross medical supplies to Franco's forces.
ww2dbaseWhen Pack was assigned to Poland, Thorpe followed, along with her continued desire for love outside of her marriage and for adventures akin to what she had experienced during the Spanish Civil War. In Warsaw, Pack admitted to her that he was involved with another woman, which she interpreted as an affirmation for her own affairs. Many of them men she was involved with held important posts, among them the personal aide to Foreign Minister Józef Beck. In the winter of 1937, she was noticed by Sir William Samuel Stephenson of the British Security Coordination (BSC), who recruited her to gather intelligence from her wide network of contacts. While Stephenson never overtly suggested that Thorpe was to use her sexual prowess to gather intelligence, he hinted, and she readily adopted the tactic. Among Thorpe's greatest achievements in Warsaw was her ability to facilitate flow of Polish intelligence on the German Enigma code to Britain.
ww2dbaseAfter Poland fell under German control, Pack was reassigned to Chile as the head of the commercial section of the embassy. Thorpe worked briefly as a journalist, but was soon recruited back into the BSC for operations in the United States; her husband Pack remained in Chile. Under the code name "Cynthia", she was deployed to Washington, DC. Thorpe was placed at the residence at 3327 O Street under the guise of a journalist. She made contact with Italian naval attaché Admiral Alberto Lais, whom she had met and befriended in her teenage years. Now as Lais' mistress, she extracted intelligence from him regarding the Italian order to sabotage all Italian merchant ships in US ports to prevent US capture. Although by the time US authorities acted on this intelligence, most of the 27 ships were already destroyed according to plan, those that were saved were, as Mussolini feared, commandeered by the US military. Then, before Lais was kicked out of Washington, DC after the sabotage incident, she was able to acquire from the Italian Navy's code books, which was used by the British Navy against the Italian fleet, particularly for the Taranto raid and the Cape Matapan battle.
ww2dbaseIn Mar 1942, Thorpe was ordered to approach French figures in Washington. She made contact with Vichy-French Ambassador Gaston Henry-Haye and embassy press attaché Captain Charles Brousse. From the latter, who was an anti-Nazi, she easily convinced him to pass along embassy documents. With the former, conventional sexual offerings failed to get her near her target, the French navy's code books. Thus, she resorted to burglary; drugging the security guard, she sneaked the French Navy's code books out the window of the embassy to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent waiting outside, who photographed them and returned them within an hour. The French codes were used to plan operations in North Africa.
ww2dbaseArthur Pack committed suicide in 1945 and Brousse divorced his wife soon after, giving way for Thorpe and Brousse to marry. They moved into Château de Castelnou, a Medieval-era castle, in southern France. Thrope passed away from throat cancer in 1963.
ww2dbase"Ashamed? Not in the least," Thorpe once said in regards to her methods of obtaining intelligence. "My superiors told me that the results of my work saved thousands of British and American lives.... It involved me in situations from which 'respectable' women draw back... [but] wars are not won by respectable methods." To journalist David Brinkley, Thorpe was "a genuine heroine never sufficiently honored."
Howard Blum, The Last Goodnight
David Brinkley, Washington Goes to War
Last Major Revision: Sep 2007
Betty Thorpe Timeline
|22 Nov 1910||Amy Thorpe was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.|
|1 Dec 1963||Amy Thorpe passed away in Castelnou, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.|
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal