In every war, there are legendary spies who do great things for their side through clever or secretive means. When we look back on a great war like World War II, we have to take a moment and notice that even our enemies had some legendary characters worth noting. Even if they were sworn to our destruction, the fact that they were great spies who accomplished amazing things cannot be diminished. And when we narrow our focus to recognize women in the field of espionage who really stood out in the enemy ranks, some outstanding names begin to emerge.
Both sides of the great war knew the value of using women spies to accomplish their espionage goals. Women had some distinct advantages in being able to go places without being noticed disguised as a peasant girl or some other role that would not be scrutinized. Female spies used their charms and their sexual favors combined with a brutal willingness to do whatever it took to accomplish their missions. Small wonder that so many female spies achieved notoriety and have lived on in history as great legends of the conflict even though they were part of the cause we were fighting.
A good example of the kind of impact a woman working against our troops was Mildred Gillars who was an American who worked in Europe for Radio Berlin. Her radio show, Home Sweet Home was designed to hurt the morale of American troops. After the American conquered Germany, Gillars was convicted of treason for her broadcast against the D-Day invasion on May 11, 1944.
The name that is most commonly associated with World War II espionage is Tokyo Rose. But Tokyo Rose was actually a rotating role that was filled by a number of women. She was also used by the Japanese to broadcast discouraging messages to American servicemen to attempt to drag down their morale and will to fight against a tough enemy. The one woman who was tried for treason in her part in the Tokyo Rose effort was pardoned because reviews of her tapes showed she was working to undermine the effort by making her broadcasts absurd thus eliminating their effect on the enemy.
In our politically correct world, we would like it if it was not true that gender made attractive women better spies simply because they could use their god given gifts to gain access and move among the enemy without scrutiny. But the world of women like Coco Chanel who used her affair with a Nazi officer successfully or other women who played on the desires of men of power for the purpose of espionage tell us that gender is very much a big deal in the spy game and that intelligence agencies on either ride of a cold war know that and use it to full advantage.
But many women used their ability to give voice to opposition to American positions to great advantage. Jeannette Pickering Rankin used her office in the congress to vote against and openly oppose both World War I and World War II. Elizabeth Arden used her strong business savvy to allow her string of successful beauty salons in Europe to become fronts for Nazi covert operations. These are just a few example of the large role even women of the opposition had in the outcome of World War II. There were no doubt countless other female spies who accomplished just as impressive of accomplishments on both sides of the battle. But we never learned of their exploits because, after all, they were spies.