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Interview with Elizabeth P. McIntosh and Frederick McIntosh [11/17/2002]

Interviewer:

This interview is being conducted at Loudoun Country Day School in Leesburg, Virginia, on Tuesday, September 17, 2002. The 24 students of the 6th grade class are interviewing Mrs. Elizabeth P. McIntosh and her husband Mr. Frederick B. McIntosh. The class became acquainted with Mr. And Mrs. McIntosh after learning of Mrs. McIntosh's book, Sisterhood of Spies, and the fact that Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh live near the school. School librarian Dr. Eleanor Fall invited Mr. And Mrs. McIntosh to speak to the school last year on Veterans' Day. We'll now begin the interview. Please give your full names and address.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

My name is Elizabeth P. McIntosh and I've lived in Leesburg—Loudoun County—Virginia for about 35 years.

Frederick McIntosh:

I'm Frederick B. McIntosh. I'm Elizabeth's husband. And we moved here actually in 42 years. Just to set the record straight.

Interviewer:

Where were each of your born?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I was born in Washington, D.C. and I was raised in Hawaii.

Frederick McIntosh:

I was born in The Dales, Oregon, and was raised and educated in the San Francisco Bay area.

Interviewer:

At the time of the war, World War II, were you married to each other, and if not, when were you married?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

We were not married then, but we were married on May 26, 1962.

Interviewer:

Do you have any children?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

No, we have no children.

Interviewer:

Could you please, briefly, give your family and educational background?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

My father was a sports editor and he traveled around a great deal. He was a baseball fan. My godfather was Walter Johnson and he pitched for the Washington Senators. And we, uh, my mother was a high school teacher and I went to school at the University of Washington.

Interviewer:

In which war did you serve, and what were your dates of wartime service?

Frederick McIntosh:

This we're going to discuss primarily primarily World War II, which began for the United States, of course, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And that was where I was a fighter pilot.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

And I served in WW II also, from 1943 to '45.

Interviewer:

When you became involved with the war, where were you living at the time?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I was living in Hawaii at the time of Pearl Harbor actually. And later on I went into the OSS.

Frederick McIntosh:

I was living in Berkeley California, site of the the University of California, studying engineering.

Interviewer:

Mrs. McIntosh, at the time of the war, what was your occupation?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Well I was a correspondent for the Scripps Howard News Service and at that time I had left Hawaii and was covering the White House in Washington, DC. And I also covered Mrs. Roosevelt and other things that were going on in that town during the war.

Interviewer:

Mrs. McIntosh, how did you feel, as a woman, about becoming involved in the war effort and what options were available to you?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Well I was asked to serve in the Office of Strategic Services. I didn't know what they did until I joined them and then I was very proud to serve overseas behind enemy lines with that outfit during the war. The options... I was just invited to join OSS, and I had no idea what I was going to do but they said I was going overseas and that's all I wanted to do—go overseas and get away from Washington.

Interviewer:

What was your wartime activity, and how did you become involved in it, Mrs. McIntosh?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I was assigned to something called the Office of Srategic Services, which is the forerunner of the CIA. We operated all over the world behind enemy lines in different areas where the war was being carried out. It was a secret sort of operation. We worked behind enemy lines with the resistance groups and we also had operations where we bombed bridges and upset the enemy's plans for their operations. And, uh, My particular job was something called morale operations where we were trying to convince the enemy that they were losing the war. We had all sorts of methods of doing that which perhaps I can go into later on. I was interviewing a man once who was with a strange government organization, and he asked me if I would be interested in joining the government because he heard that I spoke Japanese. I said yes I would on the condition that I go overseas. He said, "I can promise you that, but I can't tell you what you'll be doing until you join us."

Interviewer:

Mr. McIntosh, at the time of war, were you already in the service, and if so, were you drafted or did you enlist?

Frederick McIntosh:

I was attending college. I have to add a bit: I'm a Depression child. In our high school we had ROTC and many of us joined ROTC because they gave us clothing, they gave us uniforms, and so we had a taste of military bit, if you will, in high school. So when I went to college, there was ROTC there. I joined that as well because the Navy needed pilots and I, having lived next to an airport, I wanted to fly. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, things changed, and the Army needed pilots faster and I was recruited into the Army Air Corps. And receiving my wings in March of 1943. And I'm picking up some of your questions. I stayed as an instructor and then went to England and was there for the invasion.

Interviewer:

Mr. McIntosh, if you were not already in the service, what was your occupation? Mr. McIntosh: Well, at the time I joined, as I say, I was a student in engineering, so, but, in the reserve arrangement that they had, they recalled me for the Korean War and I stayed a few more years. Here in Loudoun County I worked, still work, in aviation safety because I believe in airplanes.

Interviewer:

Mr. McIntosh, if you enlisted, why did you join the service and why did you pick the service branch you joined?

Frederick McIntosh:

The standards for the Navy were so high I couldn't meet them but the Army would take anyone who walked in the door. I took advantage of their broad-mindedness.

Interviewer:

What was your branch of service, division, and highest rank served?

Frederick McIntosh:

That's easy. I was in what became the Air Force, the 56th fighter group, stationed in England. We were active in the war with Germany.

Interviewer:

Mr. McIntosh: What was your particular job or assignment and did you ever work with other service branches?

Frederick McIntosh:

Beyond combat flying, in peace time, I worked locally—in Baltimore—with the rank of Lt. Colonel and we designed and built the airplanes that the Air Force would need, such as the forerunner for the U-2.

Interviewer:

Did either of you become involved in the war just to prove a point to someone?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

No never.

Frederick McIntosh:

Only to the Japanese and Germans.

Interviewer:

What kind of activities did you perform, how did you perform thee, and what did you like and dislike about your work?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I was in Morale Operations, i.e. disinformation. We were trying to convince the enemy—the Japanese—how to get them to think differently. We used rumors, false documents, leaflets.....we even got some of their mail and put false messages in them. People back in Japan thought they were losing the war in Burma and they were starving and not getting ammunition—things like that— just to upset the people in Japan. It was a fascinating job. As a newspaper writer I had been taught that everything had to be right and correct and we were changing everything to make people think differently.

Interviewer:

What kind of training did each of you receive for your wartime activities and what were the different personalities of your instructors?

Frederick McIntosh:

Flight training in those days was 9 months. You began with light airplanes made of fabric and wood and eventually graduated to single or twin engine aircraft. In my case I was fortunate to be sent to instructor school and then spent a year teaching before I went into combat.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

We were sent to different kinds of schools before we were sent overseas. We were taught how to trail people and how to assume false identities. I went down to Richmond. My false identify was being a stenographer—although I couldn't type very well. At other places, we had other schools where they tried to find out about us and how we would react under certain circumstances—if we were captured. Then we went to Congressional Country Club to learn how to shoot—we shot up the greens—I used a machine gun.

Interviewer:

What were your missions like, at what times of day were they carried out, and what were the challenges?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Our mission was to get the Japanese to surrender and we carried it out as I described, even using a fake radio station which appeared to be coming from the Japanese but we were really sending it out. We had wonderful people like Marlene Dietrich singing these wonderful songs but they changed the words a bit to make them very unhappy and very sad.

Frederick McIntosh:

If you were on a morning shift, flying, we would escort bombers that were going into Europe, particularly to Germany. In the afternoon we would be bombing military depots, etc. When the invasion occurred, we supported the troops which came in for the invasion. I arrived the night before the invasion.

Interviewer:

In what locations did you both serve and could you please describe those areas?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I served for a time in India—New Delhi and Calcutta—when I was waiting for orders to go to China. They didn't want women to come into China at that time so I had to wait 4-5 months to go to Chin Ming (sp?). We had to fly the "hump" which was a very dangerous flight over the Himalayan Mts., which was behind the Japanese lines and it was kind of a country-type place. There weren't too many fortifications. We were in little camps there. We were completely safe though because we had American soldiers guarding us. We worked out of little tents. It was very exciting and also very interesting.

Frederick McIntosh:

With flying fighters in those days, the trick was to stay in pairs so each protected the other. Two pairs went together. A mission was anywhere from 4-6 hours.

Interviewer:

Was your work classified top secret and, if so, has it been declassified?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

It was top secret in those days and only in recent years has it been de-classified—6 or 7 years ago.

Frederick McIntosh:

Our flights were classified only until the Germans saw us coming!

Interviewer:

Did you have a lucky charm—or hat or uniform, etc.—and how did it help you?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I had an Irish friend who had 3 gremlins in Washington who said that I could have one and he would save my life if I traveled with him. They were Nick, Vick and Chester. I selected Chester, so I took him overseas with me and he got me to India after a rather exciting flight. Then when I was waiting to go to China I got friendly with some pilots and I told them about Chester. One time we were at a dance, and the music stopped and a man came over to the mike and said, "Is the owner of Chester here?" I went over and said, "Yes, I'm the owner," and the pilot said, "We're facing some real bad weather tomorrow to fly the 'hump,' so we wondered if we could borrow Chester?" So he became part of my life in China and he also brought me home safely and he's still with me.

Interviewer:

Did either of you receive any combat or service-related injuries, or if not, did any of your close friends or colleagues?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Luckily I didn't receive any but my friends did—the ones who were working behind enemy lines. John Birch was one of them who was killed and another one, Joe Coolidge, was the 1st casualty of the Vietnam war. He was going into Saigon and they thought he was French. He's now at Arlington.

Frederick McIntosh:

Yes... concussions. The Germans were firing at us from the ground and managed to loosen every tooth I had in my head and also put my ears out of commission for a few days. But the teeth were rather valuable. Many years ago I managed to lose them all.

Interviewer:

Did any of your friends or colleagues die, and if so, how did you honor them?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Well yes, John Birch was honored after his death. The ones that died were usually sent to Arlington Cemetary, and we still are having ceremonies for them.

Frederick McIntosh:

In the flying game you have 3 possibilities. You have someone who was injured in flight, managed to get home, but then died. You have the terminal arrangement, where you've seen someone shot down and you've seen them crash and you know they did not survive. And then you have the ones you know were able to survive and ended up in a prisoner of war camp. War in many ways is kind of simple and mechanical. If you don't get back to your base, we'll mentally remember you. In several occasions, we collected the remains where we could and put them in a temporary holding cemetery until we contacted the people back home to see whether they wanted the remains home or to leave them in a common cemetery. Outside of Cambridge, England, is a piece of ground considered American because 100 and some odd airmen of some description are buried there.

Interviewer:

Did either of you receive any medals or special service awards?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

After the war I was awarded a special service award from Gen. Donovan—the head of the OSS.........quite an honor.

Frederick McIntosh:

I usually don't bring these when talking to folks like you because of the ego intent, but I'm very honored with this presentation and the medals you see me displaying are medals that are unique to WWII. In order of seniority you will find the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 8 clusters, and in the middle is the Legion of Merit. Above are Command Pilot Wings.

Interviewer:

How did you feel about the attack on Pearl Harbor specifically?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I happen to have been there. It was a bright sunny morning on Sunday, the 7th of Dec. I was making breakfast, listening to some music, and they said "The islands are under attack." At that point I was working as a correspondent. It was something like 9/11 today—something of disbelief— especially when I went to the harbor the next day. The bubbles from the Arizona were still coming up. There were something like 2000 men in that ship and there was still smoke in the Pearl Harbor area. I remember the birds that had been flying—the doves, minah (?), sparrows—were all dead on the ground because of the concussion. That was terrible.

Interviewer:

Do you recall your very first days in the service, and if so, what did they feel like?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

The OSS is a little bit different, but when I was told to report for duty, I had to get my fingerprints done, getting a false name.... I was supposed to be able to keep my cover. On my papers when I was traveling I was a 2nd lieutenant serving with the Army, which wasn't quite what I was doing. But it was an interesting transition, being a reporter.

Frederick McIntosh:

Your first days in the Army Air Corps were like most everywhere else: you didn't walk, you ran. It was part of the physical education and training. We were sent to a rendezvous point where we were given intelligence tests. What they did was ask you a bunch of questions and they evaluated it. If you could balance your checkbook and could do mathematics, they made you a navigator. If you could repair your bicycle and could add 2 and 2, they made you a bombardier. We had what was called a Norton (?) bombsite which required math and dexterity. If you weren't capable of doing anything well, obviously they made you a pilot. WWII was intense. We had people who only had 100 hours ahead of us, so they too were learning as we were learning to fly. I couldn't believe what the US could put together in terms of trained personnel and equipment [in such short time]. They'd been pumping gas 9 months before and then be out flying and defending our country. It was a remarkable experience.

Interviewer:

As the war proceeded, did you worry that our side might not win?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Both: no, never.

Interviewer:

Would you feel comfortable describing some scary incidents, whether or not they were life threatening, and how you handled them?

Frederick McIntosh:

Airplanes are designed to stay in the air, otherwise they're not doing their job. At one time when we were firing at targets on the ground, I was shooting at a school bus that was loaded with German soldiers. I wasn't paying too much attention and I flew through a row of trees. After I was back up in the air I realized what I had done because I could see parts of trees sticking out of the wing. It was a little scary.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

There was a civil war right after the war had ended. There was a lot of shooting where I was. I had a cocker spaniel. He got away one day— running to a general's house where his girlfriend was. I ran after him but was shot at and had to crawl back home.

Frederick McIntosh:

Later during the crisis between Formosa and China, I was scheduled to fly back from Tawain to headquarters in the Philippines on a courier aircraft. At the last minute, I had a job to do in Taiwan and I gave up my seat. That plane crashed two hours later.

Interviewer:

Were either of you imprisoned during the war?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Neither of us were.

Interviewer:

Did you stay in touch with your family, and if so, how?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

We had V-mail which was always censored. One time I did sent a picture home. It was with a group of Japanese. We weren't supposed to tell people where we were. I went with this group of Japanese friends and took a picture in front of the Taj Mahal and sent it home. My dad ran it on the front page of the paper he was working for. About 2 days later we were called by security and were told to never do that again.

Interviewer:

How did you and your colleagues relieve the stress of war?

Frederick McIntosh:

Depends on whether you were male or female. In England, we went to London—we were only 70 miles from there—when we could get away. Great Britain, of course, is a very historical country. Hollywood would send movie stars and orchestras over. There were two clubs, the Reindeer and Rainbow club in London. All we had to do was get there. The food was a little better. On a certain night the ladies could come in and we could have a dance. The town where we were stationed had a little theater and every week they put on a different play. It was all free to service personnel.

Interviewer:

Did you keep a personal diary?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

We were not allowed to do so in OSS. Some of our friends kept them in code, but that was not allowed either.

Frederick McIntosh:

We were not allowed to either. You see them presenting them nowadays on the History Channel. That was illegal, too, but thank heavens they did so there's a good historical record.

Interviewer:

Please tell us about the day your service ended and was it the same day the war officially ended?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

My service ended later on when I was sent back to Wash. I had to stay in China for about 3 months to get records together. The day it ended, there was a great celebration in China. They had these huge firecrackers that were like great big zippers that they dropped from the top of the buildings and they went bang, bang, bang. I later got out of the service in Washington, DC,

Frederick McIntosh:

We collected German aircraft at the end of the year. Those that were flyable we brought back so we could fly them in the U.S. I came back with 10 men and a dog in a 4 engine German airplane. We flew it back. Then we had a 2 week leave and went home. The European war was over but the Japanese war was still going on. I went home to my family, and went with my then wife and rode the railroad from California back to New Jersey. And as we got off the train in New Jersey and headed to the hotel in a taxi, we noticed they were putting up barricades on the street and fixing it up. Obviously they were going to have a parade. I asked the cab driver what was happening. He said, "where have you been?" I said, "I didn't know you folks knew we were coming!" He looked at me like I was an idiot. The war was over in Japan and we hadn't received word yet. We ultimately flew the German airplanes to Ohio and then went home.

Interviewer:

What did you do just after the war and your service ended and what did you go on to do for a career afterwards?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

The war was so exciting; it wasn't going to be like when I was in the war. I worked for Glamour Magazine for a year and then I went over to the Voice of America, then the State Dept and then the UN. My husband at that time died and then I joined the CIA. That was my career.

Frederick McIntosh:

I did what I was doing while I was going to school, working for the local gas company, which I had done ever since I got out of high school. Every other weekend I was in the reserves until the Korean war and then they called me back into the Air Force.

Interviewer:

Did you expect war to be as it was and did you have worthwhile experiences because of the war or do you regret becoming involved?

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I didn't really expect the war to be the way I served but I was very proud of what happened all the time I was in it and it was worthwhile. I never regretted having becoming involved.

Frederick McIntosh:

This question is a little difficult to answer namely because of the regimentation you're involved with when you're involved in the military. Whether you like it or not, there's a military method which causes you to think along certain lines. It was fun to learn to fly and fly different aircraft but when you actually go into combat it becomes very real, very suddenly. It can turn into a very personal operation. I had a good friend who came back from Africa and was shot down. He said you fly the best equipment in the world, fly the best tactics in the world and you paired off and you'll be going on this mission and someone says there are bandits—enemy fighters—and you can almost hear the gun switches. You go up there and pretty soon you make contact. Pretty soon you'll see an airplane with the largest, blackest cross you've ever seen. Then you'll understand that the person flying that aircraft has only one thing in mind and that's to kill you. The war gets awfully personal at that point. So I for one looking back on it think that even a psychologist couldn't prepare you for what you would run into. In retrospect, we had the best equipment, best training, but that ,too, is a product of our way of life in the U.S.

Interviewer:

Did you make long-lasting friends and do you or did you stay in touch with them.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

Yes, all through the war and then right until today we're still in touch. We call ourselves the OSS Society. We're gradually disappearing. We're down from about 24,000 to 2,000 now. I write an OSS newsletter; that's how we keep in touch. It's rather nice to hear what everyone's doing. It was a great life.

Frederick McIntosh:

Like everyone else, we have an association. This cap is from the 56th fighter group association. We meet every 2 years or so. Hopefully, with the diminished group, we can go on a few more years. I received word that the Indian crew chief I had has passed away.

Interviewer:

Are you proud to be a veteran?

Frederick McIntosh:

Yes, I'm very proud to be an American veteran.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I agree.

Interviewer:

Is there one thought about your wartime experience that you want to share with future generations?

Frederick McIntosh:

I think in today's newspaper (the times, not a given issue) that the affairs and problems of today highlight just how great democracy is. Of course, ourjobistokeepitthat way. Democracy does not come cheap. We have to pay for it periodically. Often times it means paying for it with the blood of our citizens. From my own personal experience, I assure you it's worth it. These medals and things I showed you are the presents and something Democracy shared with me and I'm honored to accept it as such. You're in the right place, the right country, working under the right philosophy.

Elizabeth P. McIntosh:

I can't add to that. That's perfect.

[End of Transcript]

 
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