Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: From Reporter to Spy

Wartime Wednesday: From Reporter to Spy

One of my favorite research books is Sisterhood of Spies written by Elizabeth “Betty” Peet McIntosh. She highlights the exploits and bravery of women who served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and I didn’t realize until I’d reached the end of the book that she also served.

Born in Washington, DC to parents who were both reporters, Betty was raised in Hawaii and learned to speak Japanese. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Washington in 1935, she worked as a correspondent with the Scripps Howard news service. Stationed in Hawaii, she was in Honolulu during the attack at Pearl Harbor. Shortly, thereafter she moved to Washington, DC where she covered Eleanor Roosevelt and governmental activities.

In 1943, knowing of Betty’s fluency in Japanese, she was recruited to join the OSS by a family friend

who asked her if she “wouldn’t like to do something more interesting than the work you’re doing.” Her response: Only if she could go overseas. The man assured her he could guarantee her wish, but the word spying didn’t enter the picture until after she signed on. Once her training was completed, she was sent to India, then also stationed in Burma and China. In all three locations, she was part of Operation Morale, where along with future chef Julia Child, she created “disinformation,” documents, and postcards aimed at undermining Japanese morale. She also developed propaganda leaflets.

One site told about an assignment during which she helped create a radio script for a popular Chinese fortune teller. Part of the script said, “something terrible is going to happen to Japan. We have checked the stars and there is something we can’t even mention because it is so dreadful and it is going to eradicate one whole area of Japan.” Later that day, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, an event McIntosh and her team had not known about prior to writing the script. Later, she would be involved in a mission to deliver “black Joe,” an explosive disguised as a lump of coal. Her responsibility was to pass the “coal” to an operative who smuggled it onboard a train ferrying Japanese soldiers.

Pixabay/DiGiFX Media
She remained with the organization when it became the CIA and met her husband, a “dashing young pilot” while in Asia. They married in 1962. She continued to work until her retirement in 1973, indicating that the atmosphere at the CIA was different than that in the OSS: “There was a little bit of bureaucracy, which had set in like rigor mortis above us, and some people were sort of…they didn’t have imaginations…they didn’t want to do things as we did in the OSS.”

She passed away in 2015 three months after her one-hundredth birthday.


Will a world at war destroy a second chance at love?

Estelle Johnson promised to wait for Aubry DeLuca, but then she receives word of his debilitating injuries. Does she have the strength to stand by him in his hour of need?

Aubry DeLuca storms the beaches at Normandy, then wakes up in the hospital, his eyes bandaged. Will he regain his sight? Will the only woman he’s ever loved welcome him home or is he destined to go through life blind and alone?

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