The CIAs oldest living spy celebrated her 100th birthday in a ceremony at CIA headquarters in Virginia on Sunday.
Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh is a reporter-turned-operative who was involved in high profile cloak-and-dagger operations for over 40-years, including creating “black propaganda” – fake stories made to deceive the enemy.
Many of her fellow spies in the OSS’ office of Morale Operations were artists and writers who created fake stories.
Stationed in India, she helped mock up forged Japanese government orders that purported to inform that country’s troops that it was permissible to surrender, which had long been viewed as an unacceptable and shameful act. To get the order in the hands of the Japanese, McIntosh got a Burmese agent of the OSS to kill a Japanese courier traveling through the jungle and place the forged document in his knapsack.
When the troops discovered the courier’s body, they found the order and assumed it was authentic, according to a profile of McIntosh on the CIA’s website. Many of the soldiers subsequently surrendered to American forces.
Another time, she delivered what she assumed was an ordinary chunk of coal to a Chinese operative of the OSS waiting near a train station in the city of Kunming.
It was actually “Black Joe,” a fake lump of coal stuffed with dynamite.
The agent took it with him on a train full of Japanese soldiers. As the train crossed a bridge over a lake, he “threw the coal into the engine, jumped out, and as the train crossed the bridge, the train exploded,” McIntosh told The Washington Post.
Later, she was flown behind enemy lines with future famous chef Julia Child on a small plane into China, where she worked in a “black radio station,” writing scripts intended to confuse Japanese listeners.
Sometimes the scripts weren’t that far off the truth. The day US forces dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, the station’s fortune-teller read from McIntosh’s script, predicting that “something terrible is going to happen to Japan … to eradicate one whole area of Japan.” It was just a coincidence because McIntosh actually did not know about the top-secret plans to drop the bomb.
After the war she returned home, got married, and wrote for fashion magazines, which she found so boring that she persuaded the CIA to hire her. Though she has written several books about her time in the OSS, her years at the CIA remain a mystery because she swore an oath to never reveal her work for the agency.