Decades before becoming a famous chef, Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Ceylon and China during WWII. Her years in the OSS - the first centralized U.S. spy service - would guide her life to what it would later become.
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Chef, TV Personality

Renowned chef Julia Child continues to share her theories on healthy and happy eating, making her case for living life to its fullest.

Yet, decades before becoming a famous chef, Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Ceylon and China during WWII. February 1944, Julia left for military assignment in Southeast Asia, instructed to say she was a file clerk, sworn to secrecy and forbidden to keep a diary.

Thus began the service adventures of the woman now known as Julia Child. Her years in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the first centralized U.S. spy service - would guide her life to what it would later become.

Julia's childhood was comfortable, growing up in Pasadena, California. After high school she went east to Smith College. Soon after the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, Julia volunteered for the Red Cross and the Aircraft Warning Service.

By mid-1942, with a desire to serve her country, Julia decided to go to Washington, D.C. Friends in the OSS told Julia they needed office help in William J. 'Wild Bill' Donovan, and Julia fit the mold: a graduate of a good school with intelligence and a willingness to work hard. Julia quickly rose to a leadership position and was promoted to senior clerk. By 1943, she transferred to the Emergency Rescue Equipment, composed of personnel from several branches of government. There, she heard they were recruiting people to go to India and China, and jumped at the chance. Though Julia would later say, modestly, "I was just a file clerk," she had a high security clearance for her work, which included all classified papers for the invasion of the Malaysian peninsula. She tracked sensitive documents, dispatches, and espionage/sabotage under the South East Asia Command.

By April, when Julia arrived in Chongqing, Chiang's headquarters, there was talk of her being spy material, as she possessed both the intelligence and daring for risky assignments. Yet, the war was coming to an end and on May 9, 1945, Germany surrendered.

In a time when there were not many career choices for young women, Julia's work with the OSS allowed secret intelligence work to function. She was later extolled as one of those "ordinary Americans giving extraordinary service, heroics and sacrifice."

In one of her more portentous assignments, Julia was asked to solve a problem for U.S. naval forces: sharks would bump into explosives that were placed underwater, setting them off. Child and a few of her male compatriots literally cooked up a shark repellent that was successfully used to coat the explosives.

Once back in the United States, Julia married Paul Child and moved to Paris in 1948, where Paul worked for the U.S. Information Service. Julia cultivated her growing interest in cooking at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. In 1951, she and two French women, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, began their own cooking school.

When Julia's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was published in September 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf, it was highly praised by James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, and Mimi Sheraton. Her attention to detail was now deftly applied to cooking - a characteristic she developed through her experiences in the OSS.

February 1963, TV station WGBH put together a small budget to tape a pilot show. The result was both culinary and television history. Julia Child, without rehearsal, became a most unlikely TV star, coming to nationwide attention within weeks and subsequently becoming the first American lady of French cooking.

Her directness, warmth and exceptional good humor made Julia Child a household name. It has been said that Julia Child "eats and breathes her subject, researches every detail, can take a set of directions and understand what the result will be, (she) is totally comfortable with her subject, and is a recognized authority."

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