Tracking the French
Pearl Harbor erupted six months after I graduated from college with a degree in piano. I had been working in a nursery school in a Washington suburb to which we had moved during my freshman year in college, when my father, a World War I flyer, accepted a job there as Operations Director at Washington National Airport. In the fall of 1941, I began working as a pianist and “helper” at a nursery school near our apartment in Virginia.
I was encouraged by a neighbor to apply for a job at the newly formed War Production Board and became a receptionist, referring people from industry to one of the three experts whose responsibility it was to give guidance to leaders from U.S industry on ways their companies might best participate in or cope with the war effort. My tasks were not very time consuming, so I was able to teach myself to type as well as to handle the routine responsibilities.
One day the consultant whose desk was nearest to mine said, “Come along with me. They are assembling a staff at a new agency, the Office of Strategic Services, in which you might be interested. After a brief interview I was assigned to a job at the OSS as assistant to the former head of the French department at a major women’s college. The position required my collecting, carding, and updating information on the whereabouts, movements, and occupations of key French citizens around the world, and responding to requests for data on them from such organizations as the Joint Chiefs of Staff.