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Female World War Two Medal of Freedom Recipient Nancy Wake, "The White Mouse"

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history; and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

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A White Mouse Wins a Medal

On August 9 2011, the Maori Party of New Zealand paid special honor to one of their native daughters, Nancy Wake. Also known as The White Mouse, this hero of World War II lived to age 99 and was largely unknown to most people around the world.

As our WWII veterans die by the thousands each month, we realize the importance of their contributions in wartime and the courage of their military service. Non-military support personnel were just as heroic in their everyday tasks, and we have lost the majority of them without understanding all of their individual stories and accomplishments.

Many nations made up the Allies of WWII, including the UK, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, the Philippines, Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and some others. Yet, perhaps some individuals think that the participants were only USA, France, and Britain against Germany, Japan, and Italy.

A good starting point for understanding WWII veterans, their families, and non-military support operations is the book The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw and the follow-up volume The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections.

Both volumes describe Americans at home and in the Pacific and European Theaters. Books have no doubt collected stories of WWII era citizens from the UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries as well.

Historical fiction and home soil tragedy have also emerged from WWII. One example is James Doohan's (Montgomery Scott of Star Trek®) Flight Engineer science fiction novel series. In its characters and stories, he included aspects and events from his own RAF service in WWII. George Takei (Hikaru Sulu) from the same television and film series was held in a Japanese-American internment camp, as was Pat Morita (The Karate Kid). Mr. Takei's experiences are detailed in his autobiography.

I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don't see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.

— Nancy Wake via Brainy Quote

Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living.

— Nancy Wake via IMDB nm1196877

Awards of Five Countries for Nancy Wake

  • Companion of the Order of Australia; awarded in 2004.
  • Croix de guerre; France.
  • George Medal; U.K., established in 1940 by King George IV. Awarded to Nancy Wake in 1945.
  • Médaille de la Résistance; France.
  • Officer of the Legion of Honor; France; Knight level in 1970 and Officer in 1988.
  • U.S. Medal of Freedom; U.S.A. in 1947.
  • RSA Badge in Gold; New Zealand in 2006.

Women in World War Two

The roles of women in war in the 1940s subsequent decades becomes clearer through the memorial tributes we see now.

The world is still home to living WWII veterans in the early 2020s, although they are dying by the thousands daily. Living veterans of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Theater were old enough that the 70th Reunion at Pearl Harbor was the last. The leaders of the group planning the yearly venture were veterans themselves and travel was becoming too taxing at 85 or 90+ years of age. We will not forget them, however.

Actor, director, and producer Tom Hanks has accomplished much to honor these people through his films Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and even Forest Gump. Not one to ever film commercials with his likeness, he agreed to a single series of commercials that promoted the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

The concept of honoring these veterans has been important enough to him to warrant a commercial from him. His work in films and this series of commercials spurred recognition of greater numbers of WWII veterans than otherwise would have occurred. Further, this recognition and honor has been extended to men and women, Caucasians, Blacks, Native Americans, and Asians that served America in WWII.

While Americans are familiar with the larger stories of U.S. involvement in the war, many are unaware of the relevant histories of other nations' citizens fighting the Axis Powers, especially UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Nancy Wake's Homeland

I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid.

— Nancy Wake via IMDB

From High Society to War Hero

Nancy Wake of New Zealand was the upper crust wife of a wealthy industrial tycoon in 1940 when Adolph Hitler was in France in 1940. No one suspected that she might be or become a spy.

In 1940, Ms. Wake was in Marseilles, France when Hitler invaded. By 1945 and the end of World War II, she had become the most decorated military woman in the war as a British Agent in the French Resistance. She was awarded a total of 9 medals for bravery from various countries.

She was recognized for:

  • Aiding Jewish refugees escape to Spain, the French military having held them for shipment to Hitler's concentration camps (new films about this released 2011 - 2012),
  • Aiding Allied troops scape to Spain, and
  • Leading 7,000 people of the French Resistance against 22,000 SS troops.

Nancy Wake showed courage and resourcefulness in fighting for freedom. Having died in 2011 at the age of 98, she is an important hero from New Zealand that served the entire world in a horrible war. We recognize her as an integral player in WWII that helped America and all the Allies preserve freedom.

Wake's husband, the rich Frenchman Henri Fiocca, was arrested, tortured, and executed by the German Gestapo, but never revealed anything of Nancy's whereabouts or missions before his death. He and Nancy both served the cause of freedom.

Wellington, New Zealand today.

Wellington, New Zealand today.

Medal Recipients Include all Races

  • Japanese American Medal of Honor Winners
  • Native American Medal of Honor Winners: Many Native Americans served in the US Military Services during WWII and won the Medal of Honor and its associated pension. Not all Native American Servicemen were Code Talkers and not all Code Talkers were Navajo.
  • NMAI Code Talkers: Navajo were not the only Code Talkers. The code was recently declassified and interesting to see.
  • Official Site of the Navajo Code Talkers: Known as Navajo Code Talkers, they were young Navajo men who transmitted secret communications on the battlefields of WWII.
  • Tuskegee Airmen Website: A foundation dedicated to preserving the history of America's first black military airmen. Provides history and information about the airmen.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on September 08, 2011:

Excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT!!!! I like the credit you gave to her spouse as well. I feel that often the partner of an activist is the essential cog that keeps life, her cover, etc... working so that the other is freed to do the heroics.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 07, 2011:

What a woman!! This was quite the interesting read.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on September 05, 2011:

Your Labor Day is similar to our Heroes Day here in Jamaica, celebrated October 18, every year. I am really looking forward to it, one of my favorite holidays.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 05, 2011:

I'm not as slick as the White Mouse, but then, I've not been in such a vital position! - perhaps I would become even more secretly invisible than I am today. Anyway, she is a hero to me, Earth Angel.

Thanks for these lovely comments on the holiday!

In my part of the Midwest, we visit the cemeteries on Labor Day and pay repsects to loved ones and veterans resting there. I guess we do this on all holidays.

On Labor Day, the veterans' groups usually have special events as well, including parades and picnics with live music. Then the Native American Indian Association in my city sponsors a large regional Pow Wow on Labor Day as well, with an honor guard of native veterans.

This is one of my favorite holidays and I like learning about veterans from other countries. Hubber jimmythejock has pointed out several of them on HubPages.

Have a safe and pleasant Labor Day!

Earth Angel on September 05, 2011:

Blessings and greetings to you Gentle Soul on this Labor Day !

What a lovely tribute to White Mouse! Thank you so very much for bringing this less told story to light!

You are the best! And a White Mouse yourself! Earth Angel!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on September 05, 2011:

I saw a movie some time ago similar to Nancy Wakes story. Not quite sure if it was based on her and I can't remember the name of it either. Thank you for another enlightening hub Patty. Any country should honor their war Vets because without them our country would not have been afforded the freedoms we now have.

Charlene Mariano on September 05, 2011:

Great hub! I remembered my grandfather while reading this hub. You see my grandfather too was part of the bolo men (a resistance group of Filipinos in the Ilocos Norte, Philippines against Japanese occupation in WWII. He told me stories when I was a child about WWII and how he and his comrades had to kill so that their families could survived from Japanese Oppression. Sadly, here in my country, some war veterans like my grandfather was never compensated for their sacrifices after the war.

PETER LUMETTA from KENAI, ALAKSA on September 05, 2011:

Patty, what wonderful tribute to a great patriot, and the many patriots who served in the war. We need to remember them and what they did so we don't repeat this tragedy again. These are the people we come from and we need to honor their memories by keeping freedom alive and well. Thanks Patty,

Peter

FloraBreenRobison on September 04, 2011:

My grandparents and their siblings were in WWII either in battle or oat home-both sides of my family (one side American, one side Canadian). Both of Dad's parents, and all aunts and uncles are dead with the exception of a much younger sibling of my grandfather. My grandmother will likely die before she turns 93 and she is the last of her generation on my Mom's side. All of dad's family was in battle. But on mom's side, one uncle was working in a factory making planes and another member was a flight instructor.

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