Sunday, December 2, 2012
On June 11, 1944, 2000 German soldiers attacked 140 of Witherington's badly armed trainees, who held off their enemies for 14 hours, killing 86 while only losing 24. Eventually, Witherington's forces were responsible for the deaths of 1000 German soldiers, the surrender of 18,000 more, and compromising the railway system in their region more than 800 times.
Ineligible for a Military Cross because she was a woman, Witherington was awarded the French Legion of Honor and made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, though when they tried to make it a "civil" (non-military) award, she said, "There was nothing remotely 'civil' about what I did. I didn't sit behind a desk all day." So they changed it. It didn't read "in-your-face woman," but Witherington -- as well as the men and women with whom she fought so long and so hard -- knew that's what it meant.