Talk about a secret recipe. It turns out that noted chef Julia Child was a spy. Previously classified files made public this past week confirm that Child participated in a secret spy network of military and civilian operatives called the Office of Strategic Services.
The vast organization was formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. Child was involved in a project to develop shark repellent to prevent sharks from exploding underwater mines. (Grilled shark steaks, anyone?)
The notion of Child as a spy conjures up many mental images. Was there a spy camera hidden in those whole chickens she often pointed at the viewing audience in her cooking studio? Did she carry tear gas in her apron pocket? No small wonder she always had sharp knives at the ready.
Joking aside, Child's years with the OSS occurred long before she became a household name. First employed as a file clerk and researcher reporting directly to OSS chief Gen. William J. Donovan, Child was later posted to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) where she met her husband, Paul Cushing Child. The couple moved to France where Child trained in French cuisine and later opened her famed cooking school.
Other high-profile Americans who worked for the OSS were White Sox catcher Moe Berg and Arthur Goldberg, who later became a Supreme Court justice. The archives also listed Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a historian and special assistant to President Kennedy, and Sterling Hayden, a film and television actor who appeared in "The Godfather" and "Dr. Strangelove." He left Hollywood to serve anonymously using the name John Hamilton.
While few of these people set out for careers in espionage, many felt it their patriotic duty to work for the OSS after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The release of these records is noteworthy because information about the OSS has been a closely guarded secret. Former employees could not confirm their activities, even to relatives. According to news reports, one agent concealed this information from his wife for 50 years.
Former OSS employees said they were surprised by the number of employees in the office, some 24,000. They had previously believed that 13,000 people worked for the agency.
Credit former Central Intelligence Agency director William Casey, himself a former OSS veteran, for his efforts to transfer millions of OSS documents to the National Archives when he took charge of the CIA in 1981. Now the history of the wartime intelligence agency can be more fully understood. It should make for some fascinating reading.