Elizabeth Peet McIntosh OSS
ELIZABETH P. MCINTOSH, a reporter and the daughter and wife of reporters, was working for two Honolulu newspapers when the Japanese brought the United States into World War II by bombing Pearl Harbor. She became a war correspondent, and by 1943 had been recruited into the Office of Strategic Services, the O.S.S., the less louche forerunner of the own C.I.A. There she worked in the blandly named Morale Operations, the home of so-called ”black” propaganda,” which today is often called disinformation.
Elizabeth McIntosh died at the age of 100 in 2015, conjured lies in the line of duty for the US Office of Strategic Services, and, as an author wrote about the women who used their brains, and sometimes their bodies, to help the spy agency in the Second World War.
The daughter of a sportswriter, McIntosh, grew up in Hawaii and followed her father into journalism. She reported on women’s issues for the Scripps Howard news service but grew restless after having witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. A family acquaintance with connections to the OSS, which later became the CIA, asked her, she recalled, “‘Wouldn’t you like to get into something interesting like…’ You know, he didn’t say ‘spying’, but he just said, ‘more interesting maybe than the work you’re doing.'”
A Washington, D.C. native, Betty was born on March 1, 1915. After graduating from the University of Washington, School of Journalism, Betty moved to Hawaii and worked for several news outlets, including the Honolulu Advertiser, Star-Bulletin, and San Francisco Chronicle. Betty was working as a reporter in Hawaii when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Betty covered the event first-hand and soon left Hawaii to work in the Scripps Howard bureau in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth Peet McIntosh OSS
During talks with CIA Historians on May 2, 1997, and June 24, 2002, Betty explained how she came to work for OSS. In 1943, Betty’s supervisors wanted her to write a story on a man named Atherton Richards, who had been the head of a firm in Honolulu, working on the mechanization of sugar cane harvesting. Richards also happened to be one of the top officials serving under General William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, the then-chief of the OSS.
“He was a friend of my father’s,” Betty recalled. “It was challenging to get in to see him, but I finally managed to. After our interview, he said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to get into something interesting like’ …, you know, he didn’t say ‘spying.’ Still, he just said, ‘more interesting maybe than the work you’re doing,’ although I was covering [Eleanor Roosevelt at the} White House and that wasn’t too bad. I said I would be interested if it meant going overseas. He said, ‘I can promise you.’ So that’s how I joined OSS.”
Fluent in Japanese, Betty was recruited in 1943 to join the OSS, CIA’s predecessor, and the nation’s first intelligence agency.
Betty was one of the few women assigned to OSS Morale Operations (MO). “Eventually, I was introduced to the MO group in Washington, and then I was informed about what my duties were.”
The MO branch was in the business of creating rumors that our foreign adversaries would believe. In other words, black propaganda. Betty worked for the Far East division, while the other MO branch serviced Europe. “They taught us how to utilize material tailored for specific targets in the Far East. We had to learn to disseminate the material, a mix of truth and fantasy; we were taught how to get rumors started, for example.” It was at this point that Betty learned basic tradecraft, the same time-honored skills taught to intelligence officers today, talents that served her well in a post-war career at the CIA.
Betty’s first assignment was in the summer of 1943. After completing her OSS training, she was sent to India. Betty helped produce false news reports, radio messages, and other propaganda designed to spread disinformation that would undermine Japanese troops, who were already demoralized and retreating from their defeat by Allied forces on the Imphal Plain. This included efforts to distribute forged Japanese government orders to Japanese troops in Burma.
“The Japanese government told their soldiers that if they surrendered, they would lose their birthright and would not be able to go back to Japan,” explained Betty. “So consequently, very few Japanese surrendered. They cost us a great deal because they fought to the very end and many of our people, too, were killed. So the idea was to try to get them to give up without feeling that they had lost their identity.”
To undermine the notion that surrender was unacceptable, Betty and her team crafted a forged order permitting Japanese troops to surrender under certain conditions. This was a believable scenario because there had recently been a leadership change in the Japanese government, which led to a window of uncertainty. Elizabeth Peet McIntosh OSS
Betty and her team enlisted a Burmese OSS agent to kill a Japanese courier en route through the jungle and insert the forged order into his knapsack. This “wily little killer” then reported to the Japanese on the whereabouts of their dead courier. Predictably, and according to plan, the Japanese retrieved their man with his mailbag and found the order that they concluded was authentic.
Betty was among several OSS women who joined the CIA after the OSS was disbanded. “I think that OSS, as the forerunner for CIA, laid the groundwork for what is now CIA,” said Betty. “Without the OSS, I don’t think they could have created such an agency.”
Betty found the culture at the CIA a little different than what she had experienced at the OSS. “There was a little bit of bureaucracy, which had set in like rigor mortis up above us, and some people were sort of… they didn’t have imaginations… they didn’t want to do things as we did in OSS.”
Betty served overseas on several assignments. While serving in Asia, she met a dashing fighter pilot, Fred McIntosh, and married him in May of 1962. After 40 years of service to her country in the field of intelligence, she retired in 1973.
Betty has endeavored to maintain contact with her OSS colleagues over the years. “There’s not many of us left now,” she noted. Her 1998 book, Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS, is an homage to the brave women who served in the OSS as part of “Donovan’s Dreamers,” those “glorious amateurs” who laid the foundation for the most important intelligence organization in history.
“I’m glad I was in OSS,” Betty said when asked to sum up her experience as an intelligence officer. “It was a wonderful experience, and I cherish it as the most exciting part of my life.”
And finally, here you can see her passport from 1975.
FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट
1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
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