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August 14, 2008


Her spy days pre-date her cooking days. Can't remember if she was married to Paul Child when she was in the OSS -- it's where they met -- but she took up cooking, post marriage, at a school in Paris.

Oh, the things I learn from having read the Julie/Julia blog, and then getting my own copy of MTAOFC

It must be election time. We've got the obligatory news post about how the darkies are taking over.

Every election year.

Every time I think I reach maximum cynicism...

This is an action/comedy movie waiting to happen.

She discusses it in My Life in France.

Hasn't this been known for a good long while?

slaney: not by me, but then that doesn't mean much. If she discusses it in My Life In France, I suppose it's old news.

I just read it and had this lovely set of mental images of Julia Childs luring people to give up their secrets with rich buttery sauces, all the while cooing at them in that inimitable voice.

Her spy days definitely predated her effort to master the art of French cooking -- which she first started in the 1950s when, I believe, her husband was stationed in Paris by the State Department. If memory serves correctly, she began her career for the government in Burma, but in any event, somewhere in that part of the world, and that's where she met her husband. She is originally from California.

I think Burma is right. I remember this from a biographical documentary some years back.

Berg's story is told in The Catcher Was a Spy, by Nicholas Dawidoff.

Dawidoff repeats the standard joke about Berg - that he could speak a dozen languages, but couldn't hit in any of them.

From recently reading My Life in France my recollection is that she and her future husband Paul Child met while serving with OSS in Burma and later in China, but I think it misleading to label either a "spy" as I understood that both were serving in support roles. This isn't to diminish in any way their jobs, after all information has to be got speedily to the people who need it, but I understand the word spy to mean a person generally posing as someone else who gathers information not readily available and oftentimes under very dangerous circumstances. My understanding is that Julia and Paul analyzed and expedited. Of course the problem with talking about people who worked for OSS is that they worked for OSS, and therefore shouldn't necessarily be believed.

Was this during Operation Save the Giblets?

Berg, IIRC, was given the job of whacking Werner Heisenberg while the latter was speaking in Switzerland if it looked like it would be necessary to derail the German atomic program.

I saw the same article, but as usual, I was more interested in what they didn't discuss, which was what percentage of multi-racial families or people they expect to see in the coming decades.

Now did you know she created (helped create?) a shark repellent for floating mines while working at OSS. Apparently NASA still uses it...


Yes, in 1944. He was supposed to shoot Heisenberg right in the middle of his presentation (or maybe a little higher) if it sounded like he was working on an atomic bomb. Berg had a gun and a cyanide capsule for himself.

Dawidoff makes the reasonable point that by then any Nazi A-bomb project would not have depended on Heisenberg, and doubts that he would have been allowed to go to Switzerland at all if he had been involved in such work.

How certain are you guys about this Heisenberg story?

now_what: I can't wait. I'm white married to to an American Indian. Maybe when the US turns brown we can have some peace between the races. I might say though that there will always be people who will judge others by their appearance even if the only difference is the color of their eyes.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, that Mark Bittman fellow looks a little shifty. And that whole "Iron Chef" cell...

I'll never be able to watch the Food Network the same way again.

How certain are you guys about this Heisenberg story?

Oops. Almost answered that. Caught it just in time.

Did you hear about Heisenberg getting stopped for speeding?

The cop asks him,

"Do you have any idea how fast you were going?"

"No," he says, "but I know exactly where I am."

I'm surprised that there hasn't been anything here about the murder of the Arkansas Democratic party chair. I know there's not really a lot to say about it (yet), but still, surprising that it hasn't warranted a mention, unless I simply missed it (which is always possible).

With all due apologies to Dan Ayckroyd's classic Julia Child sketch, my reaction to learning that she was an OSS agent was to say to myself in an appropriate falsetto, "Oh, dear, I appear to have cut the dickens out of this enemy agent's throat..."

"Julia Child was a spy. Seriously."

This is news that came out decades ago. Not surprising in the slightest. Here's a piece from 2002. Another old piece. It was in every obit when she died.

Boston Globe:

Julia Child's exploits working overseas for a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency grabbed headlines again today when the National Archives released a trove of previously classified documents. In fact, the Cambridge chef's tenure with the Office of Strategic Services was about as top secret as her recipe for Coq au Vin.

Child met her husband, Paul Child, working for the OSS in the 1940s. The Globe published a story in 1981 about how people met their spouses, and Child recalled meeting Paul in Ceylon, which is present day Sri Lanka. The article noted that Child had hoped to be a spy when she joined the agency during World War II but was relegated to clerical work.

Child's time at the agency was discussed in dozens of articles as she gained fame as a chef. Her time there was also documented in the 1998 book by Elizabeth McIntosh, "Sisterhood of Spies." There were prominent references to her service in the OSS in obituaries that ran of her in the Globe and the New York Times after her death in August 2004.

In December 2007, the CIA published an account on its website about Child and the OSS:

A Look Back ... Julia Child: Life Before French Cuisine

Julia Child is probably best known for bringing French cuisine into America�s mainstream. But, few know that she had a dynamic career as an intelligence officer before she became a cooking icon.

She was born in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 15, 1912. Arriving at Smith College in 1930, Julia was an active student throughout her college career. She was a member of the Student Council, played basketball, and worked for the Dramatics Association. Julia experienced her first culinary moments at Smith, as chairwoman of the Refreshment Committee for Senior Prom and Fall Dance. After graduating from Smith in 1934, Julia wrote advertising copy for W. & J. Sloane, a furniture store in New York City.

Soon after the United States entered World War II, Julia felt the need to serve her country. Too tall to join the military (she was 6�2�), Julia volunteered her services to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the forerunner of today�s Central Intelligence Agency. She was one of 4,500 women who served in the OSS.

She started out at OSS Headquarters in Washington, working directly for General William J. Donovan, the leader of OSS. Working as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, Julia typed up thousands of names on little white note cards, a system that was needed to keep track of officers during the days before computers. Although her encounters with the General were minor, she recalled later in life that his �aura� always remained with her.

Julia then worked with the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, where she helped develop shark repellent. The repellent was a critical tool during WWII, and was coated on explosives that were targeting German U-boats. Before the introduction of the shark repellent, curious sharks would sometimes set off the explosives when they bumped into them.

From 1944-1945, Julia was sent overseas and worked in Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka, and Kunming, China. During these last two years in the OSS, Julia served as Chief of the OSS Registry. Julia -- having top security clearances -- knew every incoming and outgoing message that passed throughout her office, as her Registry was serving all the intelligence branches. During her time in Ceylon, Julia handled highly classified papers that dealt with the invasion of the Malay Peninsula. Julia was fascinated with the work, even when there were moments of danger.

Not only did Julia contribute to the efforts of the OSS, but during her time of service, she met her husband. Paul Child was also an OSS officer. He was well traveled, and it was he who opened Julia�s eyes to appreciate fine French cuisine. The two married in September 1946.

Paul was assigned with the U.S. Information Agency in France in 1948, and this is where Julia�s studies of the culinary arts began, at one of France�s most prestigious cooking schools, Le Cordon Bleu. Her cooking career has a place in American history, as many remember her as an enthusiastic and opinionated chef. With her many television series and cookbooks, her legacy still lives on to this day.

Her contributions and eagerness to serve her country are well remembered and appreciated by the OSS family. Julia died at the age of 91 in 2004, two days before her 92nd birthday.

"Yes, in 1944. He was supposed to shoot Heisenberg right in the middle of his presentation (or maybe a little higher) if it sounded like he was working on an atomic bomb."

No, he was supposed to shoot him afterwards, when he exited, unsurprisingly.

No, he was supposed to shoot him afterwards, when he exited, unsurprisingly.

According to Dawidoff Berg told Earl Brodie, an agent he was working with, that "his job was to shoot [Heisenberg] right there in the audience."

Dawidoff's footnoting scheme is unclear, but this seems to have been based on an interview with Brodie.

Besides, my version leaves room for a little joke.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been anything here about the murder of the Arkansas Democratic party chair.

Apparently when you're unemployed, you're supposed to shoot liberals. I must have missed that email.

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