Doppelgänger: An American Spy in World War Two France
Walter Schwein’s carefully ordered world as an American research scholar in Paris explodes into fragments on June 15, 1940 when the German army enters Paris in triumph. In spite of his neutrality, the SS believes he is a spy. He is badly injured in a student protest that the Nazis put down violently.
He leaves France and returns to America. In Washington, Yale classmate Jack O’Donnell, now an undercover American OSS agent, asks Walter to pose as a French citizen and go into deep cover as a “sleeper” living in France. Walter agrees. His fluent French and flawless German make him perfect for the job.
He disappears into the village of Clerques in the north of France, finds a job in a bookstore, and immediately falls in love with the store’s owner, Francine Marcel. Their passionate love affair ends early in 1944 when Francine joins the French Resistance in order to rescue downed allied airmen. She asks Walter to help; unable to explain why he can’t become involved, he refuses. She leaves him in disgust. His safe, ordered world collapses again.
Everything changes in March 1944. O’Donnell orders Walter to survey beach defenses and German military operations in preparation for the Allied invasion of France. But the OSS sends him to the beaches of Calais, not Normandy. Once Walter has gathered enough evidence, the OSS will sell him out to the Gestapo as part of Operation Fortitude, the complex ruse to deceive the Germans into believing the Allies will land at Calais.
Walter braves dangers to perform his mission well, but is captured by a Waffen SS Colonel he met in Paris, is imprisoned and tortured. O’Donnell, shamed at having betrayed his friend, sneaks into France to rescue him and is killed in the failed attempt. Walter’s only hope now is Francine, who hates him, and her Resistance colleagues.