Happy Birthday Julia Child. Hero? Yes. Very few people knew while she was alive that Julia Child was a high ranking member of the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) during World War 2. Today, take a moment to remember an American who wanted to serve her country.
Child joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) after finding that she was too tall to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) or in the U.S. Navy’s WAVES. She began her OSS career as a typist at its headquarters in Washington, but because of her education and experience soon was given a more responsible position as a top secret researcher working directly for the head of OSS, General William J. Donovan.
As a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, she typed 10,000 names on white note cards to keep track of officers. For a year, she worked at the OSS Emergency Rescue Equipment Section (ERES) in Washington, D.C. as a file clerk and then as an assistant to developers of a shark repellent needed to ensure that sharks would not explode ordnance targeting German U-boats. In 1944 she was posted to Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where her responsibilities included “registering, cataloging and channeling a great volume of highly classified communications” for the OSS’s clandestine stations in Asia. She was later posted to China, where she received the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service as head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. For her service, Child received an award that cited her many virtues, including her “drive and inherent cheerfulness.” As with other OSS records, her file was declassified in 2008, and, unlike other files, her complete file is available online.
While in Ceylon, she met Paul Cushing Child, also an OSS employee, and the two were married September 1, 1946, in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, later moving to Washington, D.C. A New Jersey native who had lived in Paris as an artist and poet, Paul was known for his sophisticated palate, and introduced his wife to fine cuisine. He joined the United States Foreign Service, and in 1948 the couple moved to Paris when the US State Department assigned Paul there as an exhibits officer with the United States Information Agency. The couple had no children.