Yesterday, we brought you part one of the story on Hilaire
du Berrier, who grew up in Flasher. Du Berriers life was one adventure
after another from running his Du Berrier Flying Circus,
to fighting for Haile Selassie in Ethiopias fight against Mussolini,
to becoming a spy for Spains exiled King Alphonso XIII. Twice the
enemy captured him twice he escaped.
In the 1930s, du Berrier lived in Paris, where he frequented Paris cafes
sporting a cane and wearing spats and a monocle. His friends were other
American expatriates like Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray and Louise Bryant.
He was writing for the French newspapers when one of his flyboy buddies
told him the Chinese and the Japanese were mixing it up. It was just the
sort of adventure he loved; he headed to China to fly for Chiang Kai-shek.
Soon, he was running a Nationalist spy ring in Japanese-occupied Shanghai,
making covert radio transmissions to Chungking twice a day. He operated
his spy ring from a large house in the French quarter of Shanghai. To
save on costs, he rented out a first-floor room to an actress who one
day disappeared. She later reappeared as the new wife of Mao Tse-tung.
To protect himself, du Berrier joined, and trained with, an ultra-secret
alternative wing of French intelligence. Everything changed on December
7, 1941. One morning, du Berrier said, I was awakened
by a telephone call from John, my No. 1 Chinese agent. He said, Youd
better get out. The Japanese have just declared war on America.
I said, Youre crazy, John, its just another Chinese
rumor. I went back to bed, but the noises in the street didnt
sound right to me, so I got up and looked out the dormer window.
As far as I could see were trucks, unloading the Japanese naval
landing party, he said. Blue-uniformed Navy men who looked
like toy soldiers, each the same height, each with the same wooden expression.
One group was putting sandbags on the streets at intersections. Others
were drawing a rope across the street so that they could paralyze traffic
if the siren sounded. And I [thought] about the gravity of the situation:
me with a transmitter and receiver in my place, me running this ring and
at the same time being paid a retainer by Chiangs general.
The French sent a car to spirit away the transmitter, but it was just
a matter of days before du Berrier heard the heavy steps of soldiers coming
to his door. He was captured and taken to a POW camp near the River Kwai.
After about six months, he said, the men from the Kampeitai,
the secret police, came and took me away to the torture house. I was in
a cage. And day after day, between sessions, I would sit on the concrete
floor and look at my shoes they had taken my shoelaces and
I would ask my feet how they brought me there.
For 18 days, Japanese interrogators tortured du Berrier, but he never
broke everybody in his spy network would have been executed if
he had. However, the experience left his face partially paralyzed, and
his flying days were over.
Du Berrier was liberated from the camp on this date in 1945. The Chinese
Nationalists gave him a special citation, and the French awarded him the
Croix de Combattant Voluntaire and the Croix de Combattant de la Resistance.
They even gave him a military pension.
Du Berrier returned to Paris, where he continued working in espionage.
When he was discovered for his part in attempting to overthrow Charles
de Gaulle, he escaped to Monaco, where he continued his career as a writer.
Source: Lucier, James P. Hilaire du Berrier: Spy
From North Dakota. Insight on the News. 4 Jan, 1999.
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