A friend recently shared what he called “the most bad ass obituary ever” and I have to agree. Over the summer a Frenchman named Robert de La Rochefoucauld died at the ripe old age of 88. Here are some highlights but I encourage you to read the full story over at the NYT.
- Belonged to one of the oldest families of French nobility
- Was mayor of a small town in France for 30 years and had the title of “count”
- At age 15, while a student in Austria, recieved a pat on the cheek from Hitler
- Fought with the Allies and La Résistance in WWII as a British spy
- Escaped France in 1942 with two downed British airmen after Hitler invaded France and the Nazis took his father hostage
- The British rescued Count Robert and the two airmen and brought them back to England.
- The Brits were so impressed with The Count’s boldness and ingenuity that they asked him to join Churchill’s clandestine Special Operations Executive (S.O.E). He did.
- The Count proved to be a valuable asset to the Brits. Apparently “the courage and skill of the British agents is without equal. It is just that their French accents are appalling”
- The British trained him to jump out of airplanes, set off explosives, and kill a man quickly using only his hands
- The British parachuted him into France in 1943. There, he destroyed an electric substation and blew up railroad tracks but was captured and condemned to death by the Nazis
- While being taken for execution he jumped from the truck he was on, dodged bullets, ran through the streets only to end up right outside a German headquarters. There he spotted a limousine with swastikas on it, the driver nearby, and the keys in the ignition. He stole the car and ended up catching a train to Paris, hiding in one of its bathrooms
- The S.O.E evacuated him to England via submarine but by May 1944 Count Robert parachuted back into France
- Dressed as a workman he smuggled explosive into a huge German munitions plant, hiding them in hollowed out loaves of bread. He blew up the plant and fled on a bicycle only to be caught by the Nazis again
- In his cell he faked a seizure and killed the guard who came in to check on him. He took the guard’s uniform and pistol, shot two other guards, and escaped
- Desperate to avoid recapture he dressed up like a nun and sought shelter with the French underground
- After the war the S.O.E was disbanded, Count Robert was knighted in the French Legion of Honor, received France’s Medal of Resistance, and he was decorated for Bravery by the British
Talk about a life well lived.