Reporter’s Pearl Harbor account runs 71 years later

Betty McIntosh was a reporter for the Hono­lulu Star-Bulletin on Dec. 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The story she wrote a week later was considered “too upsetting for readers,” so it didn’t run. The story by McIntosh, who is now 97, appeared online Thursday and is featured on the cover of Friday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

(Front page courtesy of the Newseum)


Two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, McIntosh “and other reporters in the Scripps Howard bureau in Washington were growing jealous of their colleague Ernie Pyle, whose war dispatches made him an American folk hero,” reports Ian Shapira in a June 2011 piece in The Washington Post. From Shapira’s account:

One day in 1943, while she was covering an event at the Department of Agriculture — reporting on an exhibit showcasing new sleeping bags lined with chicken feathers — an OSS official approached her.

Are you interested in a secret overseas assignment for the government? he asked.

Why yes, she was, she replied. Soon the reporter eager for foreign travel was casting off her press credentials and filling out paperwork in the mysterious Q Building. McIntosh learned to shoot a .32-caliber pistol at an OSS training facility in Bethesda that is now Congressional Country Club. She took an oath never to reveal the agency’s secrets. If anyone asked what she did, she was to tell them she was a file clerk.

In reality, McIntosh was a propagandist who worked for one of the OSS’s quirkier branches: Morale Operations. Its operatives would live overseas and concoct fake but authentic-sounding rumors, news stories and radio reports to make the enemy citizenry think their troops were losing and that they should give up.

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