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|Henri Alfred Eugène Déricourt|
September 2, 1909|
Coulonges-Cohan, Aisne, France
|Died||November 20, 1962
|Service/branch||Special Operations Executive|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Henri Dericourt (September 2, 1909 − November 21, 1962) was a French agent for Special Operations Executive. It is unclear whether he became a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), or was working under British instructions when he betrayed all of his comrades.
World War II
In August 1942, Déricourt deceived local MI9 agents (Escape Service) in Marseilles and was transported to Britain, where he was investigated by MI5 (Security Service). Despite the group's expressed concerns about him, it would seem that he was subsequently recruited by MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) before eventually having his name and credentials passed to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). On January 22, 1943, SOE sent him into occupied France, with the task of organising secret aircraft landing operations in the Loire district and the transport of SOE agents to and from Britain. His work brought him into contact with the Prosper Network and others, transporting over 67 SOE agents in and out of France.
In the summer of 1943, the SD arrested several SOE agents and French resistance fighters. It was soon reported to London by some of the remaining agents that Déricourt had had regular contact with senior SD officers. Senior SOE staff members and even Maurice Buckmaster refused to believe the reports and Déricourt continued his work in France until February 1944. Recent evidence[which?] makes it clear that Déricourt had indeed established secret contacts with the SD, immediately after SOE parachuted him into France in January 1943.
Déricourt's probable duplicity in the arrests of the SOE agents was revealed after the war, when war crimes investigators (including Vera Atkins) received definite information from German sources that Dericourt had been one of their agents, code-named "BOE48", and that the information he provided had led to the arrest and execution of several SOE agents.
The French authorities arrested Déricourt in November 1946. At his 1948 trial, a number of witnesses were unavailable to the prosecutors and Déricourt's own testimony was somewhat ambiguous. The prosecution case collapsed when the senior SOE figure Nicholas Bodington testified that he had authorised Déricourt to make and maintain contacts with the Germans, and Déricourt was acquitted. This revelation came as a shock to all of the other former SOE officers, and Bodington's testimony left questions that remain open today. Were Bodington's claims that the SOE had authorized Déricourt's German contacts true? Had someone authorised Bodington to give such evidence? If the testimony was true, who had really authorised Déricourt to make contact with the Germans, and why?
Déricourt claimed later that the SOE agents were deliberately sacrificed to divert attention from the Allied invasion plans. In fact, evidence has since emerged that Déricourt had indeed been run by MI6 throughout the war and that his work for SOE had been a cover to get him close to the Germans. This possibility was acknowledged by the SOE's Second in Command Harry Sporborg, who investigated Déricourt upon his return from France in February 1944. "There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Déricourt was being employed by MI6 for functions which were outside SOE's sphere of operations."
Despite his acquittal, Déricourt’s reputation was destroyed and he went through a lean spell before returning to his profession as a pilot. In the 1950s he found employment with Aigle Azur, Air Liban, and SAGETA (Société Auxiliaire de Gérance et de d'Exploitation Transport Aeriens) before becoming involved in drug-running activities in Indochina.
Officially employed by the Laotian government airline Air Laos, Déricourt flew a twin-engined Beech 18 (C-45) for Air Laos Commerciale, a concern that was often referred to by the name ‘Air Opium’. The drug trade was organized by Bonaventure ‘Rock’ Francisci of the Corsican Mafia. The loads of raw opium were picked up on dirt strips in Northern Laos and transported to drop points in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Gulf of Thailand for onward transport to the Marseilles ‘French Connection’ heroin trade.
On 21 November 1962, Henri Déricourt took off from Vientiane for Sayaboury with a load of gold and four passengers. Due to fuel starvation, the plane crashed short of the landing strip. There were no survivors in the burned out wreck.