We don’t have any actual way of proving this, but we’re pretty sure that the inspiration for James Bond came from a one-legged, prison-breaking badass bitch named Virginia Hall.
Don’t believe us?
Keep reading, and decide for yourself.
A Leg Down On The Competition
Virginia Hall Goillot was born into a wealthy family in Baltimore Maryland in 1906. Not content to simply sing “Good Morning Baltimore!” out her window every day looking on to the streets where they would one day film The Wire (those are all the Baltimore references we know), Hall decided to travel to Europe where she became fluent in Italian, French, and German.
Hall’s dream was to work as a foreign service officer but after a hunting accident1 left her legless from the knee down, she was forced her to leave her position at the US State Department and find international adventure elsewhere.2
Luckily, Hall would have plenty of opportunity for that.
War, What Is It Good For? (International Adventure, That’s What)
When World War II broke out, Virginia Hall was living in Paris. Soon after the fighting began, Hall decided to join the Ambulance Service Unit of France to do her part.
When the Nazis invaded, Hall fled to England and joined the British Resistance, which sent her right back to France, where she helped smuggle in special forces and supplies. Hall got real good real fast at undercover work – so good, in fact, that the Germans took notice of her work. History tells us the Germans were desperate to find the “limping lady” who was causing them so much trouble.3
Don’t Judge Someone Until You Walk 30 Miles in Their Wooden Leg
When Hall got word the German Gestapo was a’ comin, she led her group on an escape route that involved a casual 30-mile trek through the Pyrenees mountains into Spain. Hall, ever the badass, made this journey look easy, despite having a wooden leg that she nicknamed “Cuthbert.”
Funny story about Cuthbert: when Hall was preparing to leave France, she sent a transmission back to base saying she hoped “Cuthbert” wouldn’t be too much trouble on the trip. The British, not knowing Hall was referencing her leg, told her she should have Cuthbert “eliminated” if he caused trouble.
Essentially, the British government told Hall to throw her leg down the mountain like a disgruntled housewife.
Once she made it back to London, Hall joined an American espionage organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which sent her back to France.
This time, Hall was disguised as an old woman with a heavy skirt and shuffle walk, which helped hide her limp (since German officers were surely arresting everyone with a sprained ankle or broken heel around town). While in disguise, Hall would eavesdrop on conversations between German officers like a boss and report back her findings. While in her undercover position, Hall and her team destroyed bridges, trains, telephone lines, killed over 150 Germans, and captured over 500.4 Not bad, Hall, not bad at all.
After the war, President Truman wanted to give a public award to Hall for her successes but she refused.
Why? Hall wanted to stay undercover and work for the CIA. And stay in the CIA, she did, until she faced forced retirement age at 60 and had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the offices of her cool-ass job.
Hall died in 1982 at the age of 76.
Or did she?