In the mid-1930s, an Australian journalist visited Germany to report on the rise of fascism and interview Adolf Hitler. The atrocities she saw there, which included the public beating of Jews, forever changed the course of her young life. Nancy Wake, who died Sunday at age 98, would spend World War II fighting Nazism tooth and nail, saving thousands of Allied lives, winding up at the top of the Gestapo’s most-wanted list and ultimately receiving more decorations than any other servicewoman.
Wake made her way from Spain to Britain, where she convinced special agents to train her as a spy and guerilla operative. In April 1944 she parachuted into France to coordinate attacks on German troops and installations prior to the D-Day invasion, leading a band of 7,000 resistance fighters. In order to earn the esteem of the men under her command, she reportedly challenged them to drinking contests and would inevitably drink them under the table. But her fierceness alone may have won her enough respect: During the violent months preceding the liberation of Paris, Wake killed a German guard with a single karate chop to the neck, executed a women who had been spying for the Germans, shot her way out of roadblocks and biked 70 hours through perilous Nazi checkpoints to deliver radio codes for the Allies. (via)