I had a pretty hardcore, flesh-ripping historical badass lined up to run on the site this week. I really did. It was a man who would have been perfect not only for the Fourth of July week, but also one who would tie in nicely with Canada Day as well, thanks to his innate ability to kick human asses across two of the three countries in North America. A tough-as-shit asskicker who relentlessly obliterated all who stood before him in a frenzy of blood-soaked musketballs and left behind a wake of shattered dreams and horribly-mutilated corpses, and who did it all while charging straight-on into battle wearing his full dress military uniform.
Then, around Monday I started getting suggestions of people open-mouth begging me to write about the very-recently-deceased French WWII espionage expert Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld. And I kept getting them. And kept getting them. And ok, sure, when folks with letters instead of numbers in their Twitter Followers column start asking me to write shit I take notice, but when I finally read this guy's obit I understood why there was absolutely no way in good conscience I could leave him off the website for even one more week, even if it means posting a French dude during the week of American Independence Day and Canadian Interdependence Day (or whatever they celebrate with Canada Day).
Count Robert Jean-Marie de La Rochefoucauld was born in Paris on September 16, 1923. One of ten kids born into an over-the-top silver-spoon aristocratic family that traced their noble lineage of brain-cleaving knighthood back to the days of Charlemagne and Charles Martel and included guys like Francois de La Rochefoucald (an old drinking buddy of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, which is about as much of a 4th of July tie-in as you're gonna get this week), Robert grew up with a life of privilege, studying at posh froo-froo schools across Switzerland and Austria, rubbing elbows with the aristocracy, and once getting his check pinched by German Chancellor Adolph Hitler (this was back in 1938 when everybody still thought Der Fuhrer was just some really intense politician and not the physical manifestation of every evil thing humanity has ever done).
Rochefoucauld thought Hitler actually kind of ok right up until the time the German blitzkrieg bulldozed the scrotums of every fighting man in France at the same time and conquered the entire country in about fifteen minutes with nothing more than a handful of neverending fury and enough Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers and Panzer Mk. IVs to turn the Maginot Line into a flaming pile of twisted rubble and dead French dudes. Rochefoucauld's father was imprisoned, a couple of his uncles and aunts were executed, and Robert and his surviving family members escaped into hiding. Rochefoucauld tried organizing a resistance against the German occupation, but when he was marked for arrest/death/other horribleness by the Gestapo in 1942 he knew enough to get the hell out of Paris before some jackbooted dipshit started tap-dancing on his brains. He took on a fake name, renounced his aristocratic title, threw on some ordinary-person clothes, hoofed it into the French countryside, linked up with a couple of downed Royal Air Force pilots, and crossed the Pyrenees mountain range on foot while Nazi stormtrooper patrols swept the countryside looking for him and his RAF buddies.
As soon as Rochefoucauld and his two fugitive friends made it across the Pyrenees they were promptly arrested by the spent two months rotting in Fascist Spain's infamous Miranda de Ebro prison camp, a place that had been notorious during the recently-concluded Spanish Civil War for its brutal conditions and the ill-temperedness of its guards.
This is actually Fort du Ha, a different Nazi base this guy was also imprisoned inside.
Well after a couple months in Franco's penal system, the RAF boys got a visit from a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) – a hardcore department of badass James Bond motherfuckers who basically were in charge of every bitchin' spy, espionage, counter-intelligence, and sabotage operation the Allies attempted during World War II. This guy had come to spring the RAF pilots from the clink, but when he heard about the psycho French Count who'd kept them safe while they fled through the countryside the SOE dude bailed out Rochefoucauld, took him back to London, and told him to get his shit together and prepare to go back into France on a mission of kicking fucking ass.
As a good Frenchman, Rochefoucauld first got in touch with Charles De Gaulle – the hardcore warrior in command of the Free French forces in exile – and asked him if it was cool to work with the Brits on this. De Gaulle told him, "Even allied with the devil, it's for France. Let's go." Then they high-fived and Rochefoucauld got down to business.
Count Robert was assigned to the espionage section of SOE (awesomely-known as "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare") and was subsequently ordered by Winston Churchill to "set Europe ablaze". He was trained in airborne operations, skydiving, sabotage, safecracking, small arms, and judo chopping badassitude, personally receiving knife-fighting training from Fairbairn himself. After a few months of perfecting his James T. Kirk-style knife-hand to the throat, Rochefoucauld was strapped to a parachute, loaded into a transport plane, and sent off to parachute into his homeland and kill every Nazi motherfucker he could find there.
Robert de La Rochefoucauld dropped into France in 1943, linked up with the local Resistance, killed a bunch of Nazis, and blew up a railroad line and an industrial power substation with some high-grade explosives. His mission complete, Rochefoucauld was heading to the extraction point, but was idiotically sold out by some local dipshit and captured by the fucking SS. He was tossed in prison, interrogated hard by the Gestapo, and subsequently sentenced to death as a spy.
Fuck that. As the truck was driving to the site where they were going to unceremoniously cap him in the head, Rochefoucauld jumped out the back of the moving transport and ran for it with his hands still bound in front of him, somehow managing to get into the safety of the trees despite the notable problem that two pissed-off Nazis with full-auto submachine guns were spraying bullets at him as he ran. Rochefoucauld evaded the enemy patrols, doubled back into the city, ran to the local headquarters of the Gestapo (you know, the Fascist secret police force who had just sentenced him to death), stole a Nazi limousine while the driver was taking his smoke break, led the Germans on a high-speed chase through the streets of the city, crashed through an SS roadblock, ditched the car, evaded the enemy on foot through the city, and finally linked up with the local Resistance office. From there he got on a passenger train, hid in the cabinet beneath the sink in the bathroom for twelve hours, made it back to Paris, met up with some family members he'd thought had been executed, and laid low for a while to recover. Once he was back on his feet and ready to kick ass, Rochefoucauld got to Calais, took a fishing boat into the middle of the Channel, boarded a British submarine, spent three days on patrol, survived a depth charge attack from a German destroyer, arrived safely in London, hooked up with a couple hot British babes, and prepared to grab a few fresh magazines and do it all over again a few weeks later.
I'll just borrow this...
Rochefoucauld's next mission took place in May 1944, just one month before the D-Day landings. His task was simple – single-handedly blow up the biggest weapons and ammunition manufacturing factory in France. It was heavily-fortified, air-tight security, and patrolled by a ridiculous number of gun-toting German guards. No problem.
Robert de La Rochefoucauld's plan was ridiculously simple and ingenious – he dressed as an employee, single-handedly smuggled 90 pounds of military grade explosives into the factory by concealing it inside hollowed-out loaves of bread, set it up strategically around the structural supports of the building without being detected by security, set the timers in the middle of the night, climbed a wall, and rode off in slow motion on his fixie bicycle while the Germans' primary artillery shell manufacturing plant erupted in a massive earth-shattering detonation that rocked the countryside and could allegedly be heard from ten miles away. Rochefoucauld didn't look back at the explosion, and instead just rode to the Resistance safe house and got trashed on weapons-grade Bordeaux wine.
The next day Rochefoucauld, hungover as shit, ended up getting captured at a German checkpoint while riding his bike to the extraction point. He was tossed into a medieval fortress known as Fort du Ha (pictured above), locked in a dungeon, and left to rot while the Gestapo decided on what would be he best way to slowly torture him to death as painfully as possible.
No problem. Count Robert faked an epileptic fit, spazzing out like crazy, and when the Nazi guard came in to check on him Rochefoucauld sprung up, clubbed that asshole in the dome with a broken-off chair leg, snapped his neck while he was dazed on the ground, put on the dude's uniform, and Castle Wolfenstein-ed it out of there B.J. Blaskeiwicz-style, walking into the main office, capping both dudes in there, then walking straight out the front door like he fucking owned the place. By the time the Nazis figured out how the fuck this one French aristocrat had managed to single-handedly escape from a goddamned medieval prison castle, Robert de La Rochefoucauld was already making his way out of the city disguised in a nun's habit.
Anyone else remember this shit?
With D-Day imminent, Rochefoucald didn't extract back to London – he stayed in France to help the Resistance kick ass and overthrow their German overlords New Caprica-style. He carried out dozens of sabotage and espionage missions throughout the Normandy campaign (including a mission in April 45 when he blew up a coastal defense position by himself, taking out a couple guards in the process), as the Allies relentlessly pushed the Germans back to Berlin. During one mission, he was captured by the SS, dragged out to a field to be executed by firing squad, but right when the Nazis were getting ready to pull the trigger Rochefoucald's Resistance buddies opened up on them with heavy machine guns, buying Robert time to get the fuck out of there.
Rochefoucald had to quit adventuring after taking some mine shrapnel to the knee near the end of the war, but he still made the trip to Berlin after V-E Day and got kissed straight-on the mouth by Russian mega-badass Georgy Zhukov, making him one of the only people in history to have his face touched affectionately by the overall military commanders of Nazi Germany, Free France, and the Soviet Union.
After the war Rochefoucald was made a Captain in the French Army, received a colorful assortment of medals for heroism, led some commando raids against the Viet Minh during the Indochina War, parachuted into the Sinai during the Suez Campaign, ran a banana company in Venezuela, lived in Cameroon, published his memoirs, and was the mayor of some town I've never heard of before. He died on May 8, 2012, at the age of 88, one of the great unsung badasses of World War II.
Western Australia Today Obit