On a Tall Spy

Carolyn was pointlessly tall, she believed. at 6’2″ (1.88m). So was so tall that she was not able to join the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) in World War 2. This denial of service devasted Carolyn, so she sought other ways to help the American war effort. She found it. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), led by General Bill Donovan, was the pre-cursor to the CIA. Carolyn found acceptance there and began to work directly for the head of the agency as a researcher.

Her family had a background in government, and she had completed a degree in history from Smith College in Massachusetts. Spying was not her first career choice. Carolyn wanted to write, and she hoped to become a magazine writer and a novelist. But she took to the spy game because of her sharp mind and ability to solve problems. Soon, Donovan felt that she was ready for field work, so Carolyn was first assigned to what is now Sri Lanka and served as a handler for several Asian contacts the OSS had in that area. She later was posted to China in a similar capacity.

That was about the time that Donovan brought a problem to her attention. The OSS had an issue with the ordinance it had developed as an anti-submarine tactic. German U-boats had been the bane of naval and supply shipping even before the entry of the US into World War 2. This anti-U-boat ordinance had a major issue with its effectiveness: Curious sharks kept detonating it prematurely. Donovan wondered if something could be developed that would repel the sharks from coming near the ordinance.

Now, Carolyn was no cook by any means. Her family was wealthy enough to have a cook, and she never learned as much as how to boil water while growing up. However, this situation with the sharks intrigued her problem-solving personality. She set up a sort of laboratory in her apartment kitchen and working on creating something that would make the sharks stop blasting themselves (and the ordinance) into oblivion.

Her experiments worked. She concocted a powder that, when sprinkled in the water around ordinance, did indeed repel sharks. A variation of her formula is still in use today by the armed forces of the US. The agency was so impressed with her work that she received a citation recognizing her contribution to the war effort. Her OSS service record is available online for all to see and appreciate.

The other major event that happened to Carolyn during her time in Sri Lanka was that she met and eventually married another OSS agent, a guy named Paul, a man who later worked for the US Foreign Service in France. It was in France after the war that Carolyn made a return to the kitchen, this time to work creating not something repellent but rather something delicious.

You know her as Julia Carolyn Child.

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