Feature Article – A Digital Scrapbook Tribute

Every Life Tells a Story

by Julie L.

Some life stories have been lived on a scale that we might not be aware of or expect! Below, read the story of Julie L.’s neighbor Jean, who’s life of adventure, courage, and heroism was vividly shared in the form of recollections and photos. Julie has crafted a gorgeous digital scrapbook tribute for her friend; she shares some of her layouts from her “Vintage” album with you below. Enjoy the story of Jean’s fascinating life!

You can know people for years or just a short while without really knowing them at all. It was just luck that we visited Jean and Alice the day they were going through old photos and memorabilia. It was then that we learned in bits and pieces about Jean’s experiences as a secret agent during WWII. He was only nineteen (and a freshman at Harvard) when he was drafted and immediately chosen to go undercover because he was fluent in French, English, and German. From what Jean has told us, he was given virtually no information when asked if he would be willing to serve in the British SOE. He simply said yes because he was young and adventurous and it sounded exciting.

After only three days of paratrooper training, Jean parachuted into France behind enemy lines. It was the day after D-Day. One of his teammates was Violette Szabo, who was captured and killed, and who has been the subject of books and a movie. He liked her very much, and the whole team was devastated by her capture.

Jean’s team was in France to help train, organize, supply and arm the French Resistance groups which were called Maquis. Jean was the radio operator and responsible for transmitting coded messages to London (the SOE office was at the now-famous 64 Baker Street) and decoding the messages that came in from other stations. His position was so dangerous that his life expectancy was no more than six weeks. The group sabotaged railroads and attacked convoys and did everything they could to help the Allies. Jean has said that he was kept from the most dangerous activities because of his position as the only one who knew all the codes and who could keep in contact with Baker Street.

Because Jean was young and eager, he was finally allowed to participate more and more in the sabotage activities, but for the most part he needed to coordinate the supply drops and transcribe and send messages. He was very nearly captured one day but, fortunately, he heard the German trucks in time. He grabbed his radio, codes, and false identity papers and dove out the back window. While hiding in the woods he could hear the Germans exclaiming with delight that they had found his fresh chunk of chocolate! He said that he regretted not grabbing that precious chocolate as he ran for the back window!

After the liberation of Limoges and receiving the Croix de Guerre, the Silver Star and other medals, Jean was sent to China to prepare the Chinese army to repel the Japanese. Jean survived the war. He returned to the United States and to Harvard. He graduated and eventually met his Alice and married. He continued to serve by working for the CIA. They are our friends and our neighbors and we are so glad to know them, and we feel honored to have shared in these memories. Jean will deny it, but we think he is a true hero.

Elements are from various designers – Julie would like to thank them for sharing! To see more of Julie’s WWII Scrapbook Layouts, view her “Vintage” Album in the Scrapbook MAX! Layout Gallery.