The Allied Spies Who Paved the Way for D-Day
Secret agents—women and men—died making it possible for the Allies to storm through France. It's time to remember them.
PARIS—There was a moment in the dark of night, as she sat down in the blacked-out, flat-black American B-24 flying very low over Normandy, when 22-year-old Second Lieutenant Évelyne Clopet must have felt what one of her colleagues on an earlier mission called “that cowardly sense of relief replacing the fear I had felt until just then.” Five of her colleagues had parachuted into the fields of France below, far behind German lines, but then the lights went out in the drop zone. It looked like the mission might have been compromised. The plane headed back to England and Clopet was still on it.
She was part of a top secret operation pulled together jointly by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and exiled French leader Charles De Gaulle’s BCRA intelligence service using French volunteers to spy on German troop deployments before and after the Allies’ D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.
Operation Sussex, as it was called, had recruited about 100 men and a handful of women to supply first-hand observations on the ground and report back.