Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS

Elizabeth P. McIntosh, Author US Naval Institute Press $32.95 (282p) ISBN 978-1-55750-598-9
Within the ranks of America's intelligence community retirees, former agent McIntosh is a legend. A one-time war correspondent, the young McIntosh joined the fledgling Office of Strategic Services in 1943 and plunged gamely into her assigned task of running morale operations against the Japanese in Burma and China. She went on to become a longtime employee of the CIA. After WWII, she wrote a rollicking account of her wartime experiences in Undercover Girl (1947), now long out of print but still spoken of admiringly by fellow former agents. In this new memoir, McIntosh includes others in the ""sisterhood of spies."" Recording the exploits of an international cast, she underscores how women were grossly underused in the wartime spy agency, often being relegated to mainly secretarial duties. But McIntosh doesn't skimp on the adventures of female combatants, such as the remarkable Virginia Hall, aka ""The Limping Lady"" because of the gait produced by her wooden leg. Hall was so daring she was dubbed by the French Gestapo as ""one of the most dangerous Allied agents in France."" Another notable female spy was the intrepid Betty Lussier, who was instrumental in forming an extensive double-agent network in France. Amid the tales, interesting nuggets of spy craft emerge--for instance, that Morse code transmission is like handwriting, individualized to the extent that trained recipients instantly recognize a change in the sending ""fist."" This is an enthralling tribute to the largely unsung Mata Haris who worked undercover to help win the war, told with aplomb by one of their own. 25 photos, not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-59114-514-1
Hardcover - 463 pages - 978-0-7838-9155-2
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