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THIS IS AMERICA - June 24, 2002: Women Spies - 2002-06-20


VOICE ONE:

Throughout American history, women have aided the United States and its allies by spying. A show organized by the National Women’s History Museum tells about these female intelligence agents. I’m Sarah Long.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Shirley Griffith. We report about women spies on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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VOICE ONE:

Thousands of women have served as intelligence agents for the United States and its allies since the nation began. The National Women’s History Museum tells about some of these women. The show is called “Clandestine Women: The Untold Stories of Women in Espionage.”

Many people are visiting this exhibit in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. It will be shown through December at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery.

VOICE TWO:

The exhibit especially honors the sixtieth anniversary of the Office of Strategic Services. This was America’s first central organization for gathering intelligence. The office served during World War Two. It was established on June thirteenth, nineteen-forty-two and operated through nineteen-forty-five.

At one time, it employed thirteen-thousand people. More than four-thousand of them were women. The women worked as spies and guerrilla fighters. They served as communications and propaganda experts. They studied enemy codes – secret forms of communication.

The current United States Central Intelligence Agency developed from the Office of Strategic Services. The C-I-A began operations in Nineteen-Forty-Seven.

VOICE ONE:

Linda McCarthy organizes exhibits for the C-I-A. She also organized the exhibit about women spies. A visit there helps people understand the secret world of these intelligence agents. Information in glass cases describes the women and their service. The cases also contain some of the devices they used at work.

Visitors stand a long time in front of the cases. They read the histories and talk about the weapons and spy tools. For example, there is a Sauer handgun. It was used during World War One, from nineteen-fourteen to nineteen-eighteen. The gun could easily be hidden under women’s clothing. One visitor commented that it looked small, but very deadly.

The exhibit also shows listening devices and a small spyglass called a monocular used during the same period. Secret agents watched enemy troops and equipment with this monocular. There is even a piece of brown metal that looks like dog waste. It was really a radio-transmitter.

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VOICE TWO:

Virginia Hall was one of the bravest and most successful spies for the Allies during World War Two. She was born in nineteen-oh-six to a rich family in Baltimore, Maryland. She studied foreign languages while attending Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Barnard College in New York City.

In nineteen-thirty-one, Virginia Hall took a job at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Then she served in embassies in Estonia, Austria and Turkey. In Turkey, Virginia Hall suffered a tragic accident. Her gun accidentally fired while she was hunting. The bullet severely wounded her leg. Doctors removed the leg to save her life. After that, she wore a wooden leg. Her injury forced her to resign from the State Department. But she did not let it stop her from serving the Allies.

VOICE ONE:

Virginia Hall was in Paris, France when World War Two began. She joined the French Army and drove a medical vehicle. Before long, however, she had to leave to escape the invading German soldiers. Later, in England, she was invited to join a secret British organization. The job of this agency was to organize resistance. It helped form military teams in parts of Europe occupied by Germany.

Miss Hall learned weaponry, communications and security. Then she was sent to occupied France. She established communications with the French Resistance movement in Lyon. From there, she successfully plotted the escape of many allied airplane crews and prisoners of the Germans. She saved many lives.

Later she escaped from France over the Pyrenees Mountains during winter. After a time in Spain, however, Miss Hall again spied in France. This time she was working for the United States Office of Strategic Services.

VOICE TWO:

Virginia Hall dressed as a farm worker. She reported German troop movements and organized Resistance groups while caring for goats. She tried to hide her wooden leg under heavy clothing. By now, the Germans knew who she was. Some called her the most dangerous enemy agent in occupied Europe.

The Resistance fighters she organized gained great success. As the Germans withdrew from France, the fighters killed many enemy soldiers. They took hundreds of prisoners. They exploded four bridges. They destroyed communication lines.

The United States honored Virginia Hall with a Distinguished Service Cross medal when the war ended. She was the only female civilian in the war to receive this medal.

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VOICE ONE:

Women also served as spies much earlier in American history, during the Revolutionary War against Britain. For example, General George Washington used information from a woman known only as “three-hundred-fifty-five.” That number meant “woman” in the secret language of American Revolutionary War spies.

Historians believe she was the daughter of a family loyal to Britain. She probably gathered intelligence at social events and communicated it to General Washington. Sadly, the British seized her in seventeen-eighty. She died as a British prisoner, shortly after giving birth to a son.

VOICE TWO:

During the next century, former slave Harriet Tubman demonstrated all the requirements needed for a Civil War spy. This brave African American woman had escaped from her owners in Maryland in eighteen-forty-nine.

Later she led hundreds of other escaping slaves to freedom. They fled to states that did not permit slavery. Miss Tubman led almost twenty of these trips. At one time, anyone finding her was promised forty-thousand dollars for catching her dead or alive.

The Civil War between the northern and southern states began in eighteen-sixty-one. After fighting began, Harriet Tubman went into enemy territory to spy for the North. She provided the Union armies with information about southern troop movements. People sometimes called her “General Tubman.”

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VOICE ONE:

Josephine Baker was an African American dancer and singer. She was born in nineteen-oh-six in Saint Louis, Missouri. She was praised for her beauty and artistry. But she believed that racial prejudice would always limit her work in the United States. So she moved to Paris in nineteen-twenty-five. There she gained international fame as a performer.

Miss Baker started working for the French Resistance movement when World War Two began. She carried orders and maps from the Resistance into countries occupied by Germany. The orders were written in disappearing ink on pages of her music.

She probably did not need to hide secrets in disappearing ink, however. Foreign officials were so pleased to meet a famous performer that they often failed to examine what she carried.

VOICE TWO:

Julia Child is one of America’s most famous cooking experts. She joined the Office of Strategic Services during World War Two. Missus Child helped solve a problem for the United States Navy while working for this agency.

Sharks had been swimming into American bombs placed under water. The bombs exploded before they could sink their targets -- German U-boats. Julia Child created a substance that frightened sharks away from explosives.

VOICE ONE:

Sheila Martin serves as a guide at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Missus Martin joined a Navy women’s organization during World War Two. She was twenty years old at the time. She helped try to change coded Japanese weather information into English.

A visitor asked Missus Martin why she thought women would work as intelligence agents. She said, “We women just wanted to help.”

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VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Shirley Griffith.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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