Julia Child is a world-renowned chef who made French cooking accessible for Americans. Through her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and popular show The French Chef, Julia fortified her reputation in the culinary world and in the hearts of millions. While she became an icon because of her passion for food, few people know that she once worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a spy agency by the United States government during World War II.

Life at the OSS

Julia Child, who at the time was unmarried and carried the surname McWilliams, wanted to serve her country when the United States joined World War II. At 6′ 2″, she was too tall for the military. Instead, Julia joined the OSS, the forerunner of today’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to volunteer her services.

She moved to Washington and worked directly under the leader of the OSS, General William J. Donovan. Julia worked as a research assistant, typing thousands of names on little white note cards to track officers.

After her office stint, Julia was assigned to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section where she contributed to the development of a shark repellent. The repellent was a valuable discovery — sharks would sometimes set off explosives targeting German U-boats when they bumped into them.

Julia was also given overseas assignments between 1944–1945, working at Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Kunming, China. During this time, she served as Chief of the OSS Registry and was privy to every incoming and outgoing message that passed through her office. During her time in Ceylon, Julia also handled top-secret papers about the invasion of the Malay Peninsula. The work, albeit dangerous, fascinated Julia.

Apart from serving her country by working at the OSS, her stint at the spy agency also paved the way for her meeting her husband, Paul Child, who was also an OSS officer. Paul was well-traveled and was the one who introduced Julia to fine French cuisine.