Nobody knows whether they will be heroic or cowardly when faced with the ultimate test of war. No one imagined Andree de Jongh, a petite 24 year old Belgian woman, would risk her life so recklessly and selflessly. But she was one of the bravest heroines of the Second World War.
1940. Belgium. Dédée, as she was known by all, had a successful career as a commercial artist in the border town of Malmedy. Then the Nazi Blitzkrieg crushed Belgium in 18 days.
Angry, wanting to be proud of her country again and determined to do something, she went home to Brussels. First, she became a Nurse for the Red Cross tending wounded allied soldiers left stranded at Dunkirk. But this was not enough for Dédée. Incensed at the German brutality, she was determined to find a way to take them on. Being tiny she had no chance of wrestling burly German paratroopers to the ground but she could outsmart them, and she did
Realizing after Dunkirk what remained of the war was in the air, she developed an amazing escape route to return downed fliers to the fight. She set up a 1000 mile escape route from Brussels through occupied France and on foot over the daunting Pyrenees to Spain. The Comet Line as it was called for its speed, was her brainchild and her baby. Her whole family and many of her friends joined her. Every day she felt the pressure of being responsible for their safety. This was a rollercoaster life alternating between success when the airmen got home and failure when her friends and family were captured by the Gestapo. She lived a life of constant danger. Not only to her body, but to her heart and soul.
Her extraordinary will gave her the strength to endure the arduous physical journeys and the constant fear of capture. Her Father, Paul, supported her with forged passes and cover stories. The man she loved but could not have, Baron Jean Greindl, bravely filled her shoes in Brussels when she was forced to move to Paris. This is a story filled with amazing true characters Florentino, the big Basque guide, who while drinking copious amounts of Cognac, never put a foot wrong as he guided to safety hundreds on foot over the Pyrenees. The de Greef Family, who used their access to the Nazi's in the south of France to forge travel papers and sell goods to them on the black market, essentially getting them to pay for the escapes. And Franco who wanted to be a priest but had to become a warrior first and a great leader of the Comet Line.
Dedee personally guided, with awesome bravado more than 120 airmen to the safety of the British consul in Spain. But in the end she was betrayed, captured and tortured. Despite her repeated confessions that she alone was the organizer and leader of the Comet line, the Gestapo would not believe that someone as frail as Dédée could have masterminded such an audacious enterprise. She was imprisoned in a concentration camp, but the Comet line kept on delivering airmen back to the fight. By D Day, when allied forces landed in Normandy, Dédée's team had daringly repatriated over 800 airmen to carry the fight to the Nazis again. What happened to Paul, to her love the Baron to the de Greefs to Franco and the other brave members of the Comet Line, and what happened to DeDee? A Thousand Mile Path is being developed as a major motion picture and it will tell you. It is a tribute to an extraordinary unsung heroine of WWII, imagine a 24 year old woman, who helped turn the tide of the war.