3 Hugh O'Flaherty, the Priest Who Was Born Without the Ability to Give a Damn
Despite the Germans bombing Dublin every now and again, Ireland managed to stay neutral for the duration of World War II. Too bad nobody told Irish priest Hugh O'Flaherty, who set about transforming his life into a giant middle finger pointed right at the Third Reich.
Hugh O'Flaherty Memorial Society
Nazi trolling was his favorite hobby, other than golf.
While priests from Axis countries had to evacuate the Vatican after the entire country was surrounded by an Axis power, priests from neutral countries were allowed to remain hassle-free. However, after Italy surrendered in 1943, things started to get messy. Allied POWs in POW camps were now technically free, but stranded -- and it looked like the German forces were marching in to take them back. They needed someone to help them -- someone with shining moral character, a heart of solid steel, a haircut some would describe as "a drunken cloud," and a bitchin' orange silk cloak. Someone who could possibly be described as "the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican."
O'Flaherty sprang into action, accepting every POW (over 4,000 of them!) who came to the doors of the Vatican. From there, he began smuggling them out of Rome using his gigantic network of contacts, helpers, and disguised safe houses.
Pima Air and Space Museum
Sometimes he disguised refugees as priests. Or cattle.
When the local German forces began to suspect O'Flaherty, did he abandon his hasty life of heroism? Oh no, he kept right on, wandering Rome in disguise, dodging assassination attempts -- he even had the balls to walk POWs right down the stairs of the Vatican in full view of the SS battalion watching from just outside the border. The last one, unsurprisingly, got him a bounty on his head. Despite being in the cross hairs of the SS and apparently priest-hatin' bounty hunters, O'Flaherty still managed to get every last one of the POWs who came to him to safety. When the war was over, O'Flaherty visited the very man who ordered him killed, Colonel Herbert Kappler, in prison. After what we have to assume were more than a few awkward conversations full of hateful pauses, O'Flaherty converted Kappler to Catholicism.
We're not even sure how that's a burn, but we are sure it's a pretty friggin' sweet one.
2 Berthe Fraser, Housewife/Mastermind of the Resistance
Berthe Emilie Vicogne-Fraser was born French, but married a British dude, because really, who could resist all those thinly veiled innuendos and polite misunderstandings? Then World War II broke out, Germany invaded France, and Fraser dropped the terrible British dinner she'd been preparing for her husband and instead opted to prepare a little blood pudding for the Krauts.
Served without spotted dick.
Fraser organized an underground network that channeled British soldiers and spies to the coast, where she would hide them until they could be transported back to England. By day, Fraser was known as an ordinary housewife, but by night, she was the mastermind behind the underground network of the French Resistance. She plotted hidden paths and trails for British agents, devised distractions and cover stories -- hell, the woman once shuffled a man out of France in a hearse. We're pretty sure we saw that in a Bond movie.
In 1941, Fraser was betrayed and sent to a Belgian prison for 15 months, but she wasn't just playing at war hero hausfrau. She wasn't about to be dissuaded by a paltry year and change in a brutal enemy prison. Upon release, she went right back to organizing her network. She spent another three years saving numerous lives until she was betrayed again in 1944.
By one of the agents she had just saved.
Turns out he wasn't a coffin fan.
She spent six months in solitary confinement at Loos. There, she was tortured every day -- flogged, stripped, and beaten -- but would not talk. Eventually, she was condemned to die, but Fraser's life really was scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter: On September 1, right before her scheduled execution, Allied forces stormed the prison and rescued her, to which she coolly replied: "Thank you, boys, you are just in time."
Presumably followed by an embarrassing cheek pinch and some hot cocoa.