Amazing Women in World War II: A Censored Journalist Turns Spy

Last week was the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among the amazing women in World War II was a reporter whose story of the bombing of Honolulu was so vivid the editor wouldn’t publish it. She went on to become a spy.

women in World War II

Reporter Betty McIntosh was working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on December 7, 1941, when the bombs started falling. Pearl Harbor was the main target–and the one everyone remembers–but the city felt the attack, too. Civilians, including children, were among the casualties.

A week later, Betty wrote an article recounting the recent horrors. Her goal was to warn women what might be coming in other places, now that the U.S. was at war. But her editor killed the article, saying it was too graphic. That’s according to the Washington Post, which finally ran the article, in full, 71 years later.

“For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.”

That’s just the beginning. She goes on to recount that as soon as she heard the news on the radio that Sunday morning, she reported to work. (Click here to hear a radio broadcast announcement from Honolulu to the mainland, announcing the attack.)

Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

She saw the planes diving into the harbor and plumes of black smoke. Then, a nearby rooftop shot into the air.

“For the first time, I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you. It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.”

(Click here to see images of the London Blitz, and here to see intense images from Pearl Harbor at the Huffington Post website.)

In the article, Betty goes on to describe the destruction to her neighborhood business district, and the chaos at the emergency room which she was assigned to cover. The aftermath wasn’t a calm after the storm, either:

“Sunday after dusk there was the all-night horror of attack in the dark. Sirens shrieking, sharp, crackling police reports and the tension of a city wrapped in fear….Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, buy pinworm medication there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy.”

Video Interview: Betty looks back at Pearl Harbor

The Response of Women in WWII

At the end of the article, Betty describes the frantic calls that began pouring in to the newsroom where she worked. They were from women, “wanting to know what they could do during the day, when husbands and brothers were away and there was nothing left but to listen to the radio and imagine that all hell had broken out on another part of the island. It was then that I realized how important women can be in a war-torn world.”

Betty McIntosh, reporter, spy, CIA employee

Betty McIntosh, reporter, spy, CIA employee

She ends by saying, “There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do,” and names the Red Cross, canteens, and evacuation areas as places that needed women’s help. What Betty didn’t name was what she decided to do next: become a spy.

Witnessing the bombing of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor changed Betty, says the Washington Post. She became “restless,” wanting to do something different. So she joined the Office of Strategic Services and used her literary talents and knowledge of Japanese to spread misinformation to the enemy, including to enemy soldiers, to make them want to surrender more easily.

After the war, Betty went on to work for the CIA until she retired. You can read her biography, here. She died at age 100 in 2015.

What a story. What a woman!

“There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do.” – Betty McIntosh

5 Posts to Help You Put Together Your Own Gripping Family Stories

Did you notice the many different sources threaded through this story? Images, news articles, oral histories, a YouTube interview, a radio broadcast clip? Your own family stories can often be fleshed out with all these different types of media. Click below for inspiring tips and how-tos.

1. A Shocking Family Secret–and 3 Powerful Newspaper Search Tips from Lisa Louise Cooke, author of How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

2. Create Your Own Family History Videos

3. How One Genealogist Used YouTube with Astonishing Results

4. Use Internet Archive for Genealogy (that’s where I found the radio broadcast clip)

5. Using Google Images to Find Photos: tips from Lisa Louise Cooke, author of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (which has a chapter on YouTube, too!)

(Click here to read a local history or here to learn from oral histories about life in Honolulu after the war began.)

How One Genealogist Used YouTube for Family History with Astonishing Results!

Here’s a gem of a success story about using YouTube for family history. This woman found footage of her daddy racing his 1959 El Camino.

youtube genealogy

One of my favorite places to teach classes is at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree, where they know how to have a great time AND pack in top-notch family history learning.

Are Your Ancestors on YouTube?

Just before one of my sessions at the 2016 Jamboree, Robyn came up to me and introduced herself. Then she proceeded to accuse me of keeping her up all night!

It turns out that she had attended my class the day before on the subject of finding your family history on YouTube. The tips and examples I shared in that lecture came from chapter 14 of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which is devoted to YouTube. The session inspired her to stay up late that night and try it herself.

finding old home movies on YouTube toolbox-book-youtube

It can seem so far-fetched buy medication canada legal when I first tell the audience that they might find amazing footage relating to their families on YouTube. But results don’t lie.

The Search on YouTube for Family History

Robyn reported a thrilling find! She searched YouTube for Cleves, Ohio:

cleves-oh-youtube-for-family-history

The Results

“Up came a video that was Edgewater sports park, which was where my father drag-raced when I was a little girl,” she said. “There was a picture of him racing his 1959 El Camino! It was so exciting!”

It was a black and white video. She sent it to her brother to share–and came back to my class the next day to report her success and see what else she could try.

Thanks for sharing, Robyn! Here’s the video:

More Ideas for using YouTube for Family History

Want more inspiration and ideas for using YouTube for family history? Click the image below to read about 6 fantastic ways to use YouTube for family history!

YouTube for family history

Use Facebook for Family History: Gather Memories

Here’s an innovative way to use Facebook for family history. It comes from my downloadable video class, Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.facebook family history crowdsource memories

Are you using Facebook to gather family history from your relatives? You can! It’s a version of “crowd-sourcing,” or using the internet to ask lots of people at a time for help. Here are two specific examples:

riser reunionI posted this first photo in my husband’s family reunion Facebook page, after being given a ton of photos from past reunions. I couldn’t identify anyone in the picture and I couldn’t tell what was happening, but it looked like something special. After I posted it, one person commented, “Boy that’s an old photo of me”–which identified someone in the picture! Then an aunt commented that this was a bridal shower held during the annual family reunion. Yay! The mystery photo was captioned.

grandpa on facebook (1)In this second example, I asked for more than just a photo caption. I posted a yearbook photo of my grandfather and two newspaper articles about him in our family Facebook group. In the accompanying post I asked, “Does anyone know anything about his time in the military? All I know is his entry/release dates, that he was in the Navy and a radar tech.” I tagged several close relatives so they would see it. (This was in our closed Facebook group. You can tag people by typing the @ sign and then their names in the post or in a comment below it.)

The response was fantastic. My aunt said grandpa served on a ship in the Atlantic and mentioned a rank she thinks he achieved. My uncle said he had some related papers and would send them to me (yay!). Even better, some younger family members commented how much a sibling or son looked like grandpa at that age. A cousin snagged what I’d posted for her daughter’s family history project. So even those younger relatives who couldn’t tell me about grandpa could benefit from the online conversation.

BONUS TIP: I get the best response when I post an image or video along with my questions. Pictures and videos will catch people’s interest, jog their memories and sometimes prompt additional comments. This is a good way to remind people of your interest in the family stories and to share what you already have.

This story collecting tip came from my video class: Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.

Do You Have These 5 Free Family History Apps? You Should!

custom_app_icon_15153Looking for family history apps? Check out these recent recommendations.

Recently Diane Haddad over at Family Tree Magazine featured 5 fun family history apps on the Genealogy Insider blog. She kindly shared them with us. (Thanks, Diane!)

1. Today In History provides headlines, quotes and images of important historical events from today’s date in history. It’s available for iPad and Android (Diane had to keyword-search its creator, Downshift LLC, to find it in the Android App Store).

2. Streetmuseum from the Museum of London lets you see the streets of your London ancestors. Select a destination from a London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location from years ago on your screen. Information buttons give you historical facts. It’s available for iPad and Android.

Battle app3. Civil War Battle Apps from the Civil War Trust are GPS-enabled guides to 17 well-known Civil War battles. Use them at the battlefield for a self-guided tour or remotely for a virtual tour. The battle maps show your location on the battlefield, and many have time-phased maps that show where Union and Confederate units were located at key moments. You also can see videos with experts and hear accounts from those who fought. These are available for iPad and Android.

4. Biblion: The Boundless Library from the New York Public Library draws on the library’s records, photos, ephemera and other archival collections to take you on a tour of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. (A second edition of Biblion covers the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)  Available for iPad.

5. History Here, a location-based app from the History Channel, lets you learn about thousands of historical places all over the United States. You can let your GPS set your location to learn about nearby historic sites, or choose any location in the app. Available for iPad and Android.

ipad for genealogy FTM kitWe love these family history app recommendations! Family Tree Magazine sells a great Maximize your iPad for Genealogy Kit on their website, which includes a webinar I did for them called “iPad: Your Ultimate Genealogy Tool” and an e-book version of my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

More Resources from Genealogy Gems on Mobile Genealogy:


mobile genealogy bookMobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research (2016 print book)

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

Video: Genealogy on the Go with the iPad (Premium website subscription required)

The Victorian Bicycles Your Ancestors May Have Ridden

victorian-bicycles-featured-imageVictorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.

Victorian Bicycles About Town

Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.

Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling

Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”

Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:

And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):

Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies

A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.

“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”

This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems

this-victorian-lifeLearn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!

Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)

victorian-secretstrue-ladies-and-proper-gentlement-sarah-chrisman first-wheel-in-town-sarah-chrisman

genealogy book club family history reading

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