Elizabeth Peet McIntosh

Elizabeth "Betty" Peet McIntosh (March 1, 1915 – June 8, 2015) was known for her undercover work during World War II for the OSS (forerunner of the CIA).

Elizabeth Peet McIntosh
Elizabeth Sebree Peet

(1915-03-01)March 1, 1915
Washington, D.C., United States
DiedJune 8, 2015(2015-06-08) (aged 100)
Lake Ridge, Virginia, United States
Spouse(s)Alexander MacDonald (m. 19??–19??; divorced)
Richard Heppner (m. 19??–1958; his death)
Frederick McIntosh (m. 1962–2004; his death)

Early lifeEdit

She was the daughter of two reporters and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.[1] While in Hawaii, McIntosh studied and learned to speak Japanese. McIntosh was near the attack on Pearl Harbor while working as a correspondent for the Scripps Howard news service.[2] She then returned to the Washington, D.C. area once World War II had begun in order to cover Eleanor Roosevelt and other government activities.[2]

Work in the OSSEdit

In January 1943, she was asked to join the Office of Strategic Services because she had become fluent in Japanese.[2] She was then sent to India where her main job was to intervene in the postcard communication that troops would send home to India while stationed in Japan.[3] She became one of the few women assigned to Morale Operations, along with future chef Julia Child who she befriend, where she created "disinformation," or fake reports, documents and postcards, which would "undermine Japanese morale."[4]

During her career for the OSS, McIntosh delivered an explosive masquerading as a lump of coal – the device was dubbed "black Joe" – to a Chinese operative of the OSS.[5] The agent took the dynamite aboard a train ferrying Japanese soldiers and waited for the opportune moment to toss it into the engine before jumping to safety. The train blew up as it crossed a bridge.[5]

Recounting the story in 2011, she confessed to some initial guilt over the many deaths. But she quickly reconsidered, saying about the TNT, "I was just the one who handed it to the guy who did the job."[5]

Later lifeEdit

McIntosh went on to work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Voice of America, the State Department, and the United Nations.[2]

Published WorksEdit

After her time with the OSS, McIntosh published her memoir titled "Undercover Girl" in 1947. She wrote two children's books as well: "Inki" (later republished as "Inky") and "Palace Under the Sea."[6] In 1958, McIntosh began working for the CIA and worked there until she retired in 1973. She also wrote Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS, first published in 1998.[7] In 2012, McIntosh was honored as one of the Library of Virginia's "Virginia Women in History".[2]


McIntosh died on June 8, 2015, in Lake Ridge, Virginia after a heart attack. She was 100 years old.[6]


  1. ^ "Elizabeth Peet '31 McIntosh." Punahou School:. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Virginia Women in History 2012 - Elizabeth Peet McIntosh". www.lva.virginia.gov. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  3. ^ Fox, Pat. "Female Spies in World War I and World War II". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2018-12-14.
  4. ^ Shapira, Ian (June 26, 2011). "Decades after duty in the OSS and CIA, 'spy girls' find each other in retirement". Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b c "Elizabeth McIntosh,: Journalist who became an agent for the Office of". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  6. ^ a b Staff (2015-06-09). "Elizabeth McIntosh, spy whose lies helped win a war, dies at 100". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-06-09.
  7. ^ Westlake, Donald E. (1998-05-31). "The Ladies Who Lied". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-14.

External linksEdit