Ann Todd presents "OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman’s Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army"
5:00 p.m. Reception | 6:00 p.m. Presentation | 7:00 p.m. Book Signing
OSS Operation Black Mail is the story of a remarkable woman who fought World War II on the front lines of psychological warfare. Elizabeth “Betty” P. McIntosh spent 18 months serving in the Office of Strategic Services in what has been called the “forgotten theater,” China-Burma-India, where she met and worked with characters as varied as Julia Child and Ho Chi Minh. Her craft was black propaganda, and her mission was to demoralize the enemy through prevarication and deceit, and to ultimately convince him to surrender. Betty and her crew ingeniously obtained and altered personal correspondence between Japanese soldiers and their families on the home islands of Japan. She also ordered the killing of a Japanese courier in the jungles of Burma to plant a false surrender order in his mailbag. She obtained the complete cooperation of a surly enemy prisoner of war to craft that order, copies of which were clutched in the hands of Japanese soldiers walking out of the jungle in 1945.
By the time Betty flew the Hump from Calcutta to China, she was acting head of the Morale Operations Branch for the entire theater, overseeing the production of thousands of pamphlets and radio scripts, the generation of fiendishly clever rumors, and the printing of a variety of faked Japanese, Burmese, and Chinese newspapers. Her strategy involved targeting not merely the Japanese soldier but the man within: the son, the husband, the father. She knew her work could ultimately save lives, but she never lost sight of the fact that her propaganda was a weapon and her intended target, the enemy.
This is not a typical war story. The only beaches stormed are the minds of an invisible enemy. OSS practitioners of black propaganda suffered no battle fatigue beyond frustration and impatience. Often a great deal of time and effort was expended in conception and production, and rarely was it known if even a shred reached the hands of the intended recipient. The process was opaque on both ends: the origin of a rumor or radio broadcast obscured, the target elusive. For Betty and her friends, time on the front lines of psychological warfare in China-Burma-India rushed by in a cascade of creativity and innovation, played out on a stage where a colonial world was ending and chaos awaited.
Ann Todd has been a contributing author and consultant for the National Geographic Society, given presentations in national parks about OSS operations, and worked as a historian for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. She served in the US Coast Guard, and lives in Dripping Springs, Texas.
This program is free and open to the public, and is presented by The Institute for the Study of War and Democracy with generous support from the Strake Foundation.
For more information or to register, call 504-528-1944 x 412.
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