Noah’s Ark

Title:                      Noah’s Ark

Author:                 Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Fourcade, Marie-Madeleine (1973, 1991). Noah’s Ark: A Memoir of Struggle And Resistance. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life

LCCN:    91016460

D802.F8 F6313 1991


Date Updated:  September 8, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

An abridged version of the 1968 French edition[2], Noah’s Ark is the memoir of the leader and principal agent of one of the great espionage networks of World War II. Officially called the Alliance but called by the Germans Noah’s Ark, it was the only network to cover all of France and the only one of its kind headed by a woman. One of the first networks of any sort, it was organized by a man who was a conservative and the aide to Marshal Pétain, Praise of Fourcade and of her organization has been unstinting. David Schoenbrun wrote in the New York Times that Noah’s Ark was the most effective spy ring in World War II. Foot in Six Faces of Courage[3] selected Fourcade as one of six examples of the best of the heroes of resistance. R. V. Jones confirms the contributions of the Alliance and of Fourcade in the intelligence war against German V weapons. The SIS officer who dealt with the network says in the book’s preface that the Alliance particularly well served the Allies with information on German sub bases and rocket sites, and Fourcade he describes as made up of the qualities of a great leader: courage, knowledge of one’s profession, and an understanding of people.

This is the saga, poetic and moving in its presentation, of the network’s life. Fourcade recalls vividly the problems, accomplishments, and anguish involved in such an effort. Techniques and the specifics of what was done are subordinate to the human side of the story and the human and emotional costs incurred. Some critics wished the author had given more detail on the type of information obtained. Besides intelligence on V weapons and submarine bases, the Alliance, we are told, gave warning of the departure of the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Fourcade includes an example of a six weeks’ “take” and backlog of intelligence. Fourcade mentions only briefly the fact that the network’s being directly under SIS created friction in London with French intelligence. For those interested in rare items of intelligence history, there is the story of the British fascist who infiltrated SIS and subsequently the Alliance for the Germans. For those looking for another side of Sir Claude Dansey of SIS, there are Fourcade’s memories of her dealings with him. Finally, there are the inevitable questions about the security of a network the size of Alliance, which Fourcade herself does not miss. In a 1955 discussion with Jean Overton Fuller, which the latter recounted in The German Penetration of SOE[4], Fourcade spoke of the risks of large numbers and of new recruits to a clandestine network. Fuller had heard Fourcade’ s own security practice placed in doubt.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

The author was the leader of an espionage network in France during World War II that the Gestapo called “Noah’s Ark” because its members used animal names for their aliases. The network included about three thousand members and covered all of France. Officially called the Alliance Intelligence Service, the network obtained military information on German ground force order-of-battle, U-boot pens, Luftwaffe air order-of-battle, channel fortifications, and V-1 and V-2 launch sites in France. The network worked first for British intelligence in London and then for de Gaulle’s intelligence. The author was directly responsible for the arrangements for spiriting General Henri Giraud out of France to Algiers by submarine. This incident was one of the very few action projects of the strictly information-gathering network. The author describes the acts of sacrifice, arrests and escapes of members of the network, and the few acts of treachery. Her book is dedicated to the exposition of the members of the network. Unfortunately there is all too little detail provided on the type of information obtained by this remarkable network.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 196-198

[2] Translation of: L’Arche de Noé.

[3] Foot, M.R.D. (1978, 2003). Six Faces of Courage: Secret Agents Against Nazi Tyranny. Barnsley, So. Yorkshire: Leo Cooper

[4] Fuller, Jean Overton (1975). The German Penetration of SOE: France 1941-1944. London: William Kimber

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 145


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One Response to Noah’s Ark

  1. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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