Canadian spymaster Sir William Stephenson, known as Intrepid, who directed British Security Coordination for the Western Hemisphere said that Amy Thorpe Pack Brousse, an American citizen, was “the greatest unsung heroine” of WW 2. By her own admission Amy Brousse was extremely restless and loved excitement; she had a very active mind and action helped quell it.
Amy Brousse was born in 1910 and into a family that travelled extensively as her father’s career as a marine included numerous postings. She was educated in Switzerland and America. And, her later marriage to Arthur Pack took her to Britain, Spain and Poland where she became fluent in Spanish and Polish and frequented diplomatic soirées. In 1938 she overheard that Hitler was going to invade Czechoslovakia from an officer in the Polish Foreign Office. She repeated this — unknowingly to the an agent of her Majesty’s Secret Service. Asked by them if she could acquire more intelligence, she said yes, and in so doing, she became Cynthia, a MI6 agent for British intelligence.
MI6 instructed her to move to Washington, D.C., hold diplomatic dinners and reconnect with an old friend who was an Italian naval attache in Washington. Her mission was to obtain the code to Italy’s secret naval cipher from her friend’s office which she executed. This allowed the U.K. to decipher Italian fleet excursions and eventually to seriously cripple Italy’s powerful navy.
Brousse’s dexterity with people and capacity for espionage was proved once again when in 1942, she was asked by the British and the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (listen to Jennis’ OSS story, IW episode 8) to obtain the key to Vichy France’s naval ciphers. In succeeding she helped change the course of the war. To read about other MI6 women agents click here.