A remarkable World War II story of an American within the French Resistance.
Guiet teams up with former Fortune senior features editor Smith to tell the story of Guiet’s father, Jean Claude Guiet (1924-2013). At the outbreak of war, Jean Claude and his brother, Pierre, got stuck in France for a year, giving them valuable experience in French life. Fluent in idiomatic French, they were prime targets for recruitment by the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. OSS head Bill Donovan drew up the plan for American spy services with Britain’s Special Operations Executive. Both brothers were sent to England, Pierre to a desk job and Jean Claude to rigorous training in codes, wireless operations, parachuting, and unconventional warfare. Then he was assigned to an operations group named “Salesman II,” along with three others: Violette the messenger, Philippe the leader, and Bob the explosives expert (last names were never used). The authors make it absolutely clear that they were not spies but rather secret agents, trained for mayhem. Their job was to organize and galvanize the “maquisards,” the guerrilla army, to create havoc, and to prevent Nazi troops and materiel from reaching the D-Day landing sites. Though poor weather delayed their arrival in Limoges until the day after D-Day, they wasted no time finding the maquisards. The problem was to convince them all to work together. Communists, socialists, and anarchists all disagreed and often trusted no one. Philippe managed to pull everyone together, which left the matter of getting Allied equipment where it was needed. Those drops were epic in their volume, one involving 72 plane loads; another featured tricolor parachutes, which incurred Nazi wrath. In this page-turning, exciting book, the authors demonstrate an eye for significant details and a strong feel for the players.
Any World War II buff will love this tale of heroism.