Sunday, February 10, 2008


The Telegraph has the world's finest obituary section, and they've proved it again with a fantastic piece on somebody I'd never heard of before, Charles Fawcett. Here's how he spent World War II:

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 Fawcett joined the Polish army but had been in barracks for only a week before escaping from the advancing Nazis and hitchhiking back to Paris. When the French rejected his application to enlist, Fawcett joined the Section Volontaire des Américains - the ambulance corps.

He was sharing a studio with another young American, Bill Holland, whose mother was a German aristocrat. One of Holland's relatives, General Otto von Stülpnagel, had been appointed commander-in-chief of occupied France, and when Holland introduced Fawcett to senior German officers he was able to pass important information to the French Resistance.

In Paris Fawcett also took part in the rescue of a group of British prisoners-of-war who had been placed under French guard in a hospital ward by the Germans. By impersonating a German ambulance crew, Fawcett and a comrade marched in at 4am and ordered the French nurses to usher the PoWs out into the yard. "Gentlemen," he announced as he drove them away, "consider yourself liberated."

"You're a Yank," said a British voice.

"Never," came Fawcett's lilting southern burr, "confuse a Virginian with a Yankee."

Cameo appearances by Louis Armstrong, Warren Beatty, Hedy Lamarr and the mujahideen of Afghanistan.

The whole thing. Read it.

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