Julia Child Dished Out ... Spy Secrets?

Personnel files for the famed chef, athletes, future officials released.

ByABC News
August 14, 2008, 10:32 AM

Aug. 14, 2008— -- We knew her as a popular TV personality and a master of the culinary arts. But Julia Child was also a spy -- sort of.

Maybe she wasn't a master spy, but she worked during World War II for the Office of Strategic Services, the huge spy network created by President Franklin Roosevelt. The OSS was the forerunner of today's CIA.

The National Archives today released 750,000 pages from previously classified personnel files, including records concerning 24,000 spies who served the wartime intelligence agency.

In addition to Child, who died in 2004 at the age of 91, former OSS operatives included future Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., baseball star Moe Berg and actor Sterling Hayden.

The world has known for some years of Julia Child's service, from the PBS documentary series "American Masters" and from her memoir, "My Life in France," co-written with her grandnephew Paul Prud'Homme.

But not until today were her classified files made public.

After Pearl Harbor, Julia McWilliams (her birth name) tried to join the Navy. But she was turned down because, at 6 feet, 2 inches, she was considered too tall. The Office of Strategic Services did not care how tall she was.

She began as a typist but her boss wrote, "Because of Miss McWilliams's education and her previous experience outside the government, we feel she is better qualified to fill a more responsible position."

According to her personnel file, however, she admitted losing her job at an ad agency because of inexperience.

"Fired," she says, "and no wonder."

Nevertheless, she became a top secret researcher for the director of the OSS, the legendary William "Wild Bill" Donovan. And, later, she worked to reduce the threat of U-boats, the deadly Nazi submarines.

After the war, she received an award for her service, which cited her many virtues, including her "drive and inherent cheerfulness."

That sounds just like the Julia Child we saw years later on TV.