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"A major asked me this question, "Defourneaux, how would you like to go back to the old country before everyone else?' And I said, 'And how you propose to send me there?'" (Audio Interview, 5:21)

   Rene J. Defourneaux
Collection image
René Défourneaux, detail from group photo of "Deer Team" with Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap [1945]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army; Army
Service Location: European Theater; Pacific Theater
Rank: Major; Major
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He was born in France and emigrated to the U.S. just before World War II broke out in Europe. René Défourneaux wound up back in France when the OSS recruited him for his language skills. He found working with his old countrymen surprisingly difficult; they seemed to resent the Americans who came to save them from the Nazis. Late in the war, Défourneaux parachuted into the China-Burma-India Theater, where he almost died from a severe case of hepatitis and met a rising political leader named Ho Chi Minh.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (24 min.)
»Photo Album  (7 photos)
More like this
»Intel:In Harm's Way
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
After Pearl Harbor, most of Defourneaux's friends and co-workers enlisted, and he was all alone. (00:39) About to depart for the invasion of North Africa, but selected for intelligence work because he was a French native. (00:26) In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, offered the chance for clandestine service in France. (00:27)
Part of a group sent to the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) for assessment. (01:11) Dropped in the wrong place, Defourneaux was able to join up with the Maquis-French guerrilla fighters. (00:47) Found the French to be resentful of the Americans, even though he was risking his life for them. (01:08)
Did not make friends with the French he operated with in Southeast Asia. (00:33) While working in Vietnam under an assumed name, his dealings with Ho Chi Min. (01:30) 

Home » Rene J. Defourneaux
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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