Most helpful reviews. 4. 0 out of 5 stars Highly Interesting and Highly Obscure. By El Cutachero on December 12, 2005. This contemporary memoir of MacDonald's wartime OSS service is quite interesting as a contempory first-hand account. Originally published in 1947, it is extremely rare to find in libraries. When I first heard a mention circa 1989 that the work was to be reprinted in the Time-Life Classics of World War II reprint series concerning intelligence and clandestine operations.
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The news came from the author herself, when I ran into her at the National Archives. She is now McIntosh (c. my review if her "Sisterhood of Spies" on this site). So I began to seek it out. Somewhere in the period when the publisher Time-Life moved from Alexandria, Va, the issuance of "Undercover Girl" was suspended. As their many series were marketed almost exclusively through mail subscriptions, this book, being one of the last to be issued supposedly, in the Classics of WW II series, did not appear in any quantity, if all.
When Time-Life Books was located in Alexandria, and employees were allowed to carry off overstock, practically every local DC area used book store had multiple copies of varous volumes in the publisher's many series. The characteristic mail distribution pattern of individual series resulted in the diminuation of press runs of later volumes to fit the numbers needed for fulfilling subscriptions. And many subsribers did not continue to series completion. The typical subscriber took four volumes a year. For example, this meant that the last in the voluminous WWII series, and the lengthy Vietnm series were very scarce, in bookstores while the beginning volumes appeared frequently. I immediately contacted Time-Life and also looked it up in "Books in Print", but I was quite unable to determine if it hsd ever been reprinted. Judging from the lack of listings on seller's sites of the new(?) printing and the exorbitant price listed herein, it appears Time-Life never actually printed it off.
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(The date given here of 1998 is long after the relocation and long after I ceased to search for it. ) I finally obtained a copy by interlibrary loan and made a machine copy.
Ironically, I much later found while redding up that I had had a long forgotten hard copy. A person of today will find the social attitudes described concerning the utilization of women in the war effort reflect the times. Women were overlooked and held down in pay grade (no equal pay for equal work then) even though many of the OSS women were women of the world, highly educated snd multilingual. And often better qualified than the men put over them. Things had changed in the federal government by the time I came on board in 1963 and later federal legislation resulted in reducing gender prejudice in the civil economy as well; the "glass ceiling" has long since been moved to the top corporate floor. Those born in the last rhirty years have no concept of how highly qualified and educated women were put down and held down back then. Be that as it may, those ancient attitudes are not a hindrance to enjoyable reading and do not prevent deriving much historical material on training and field operations.
The only reason for four stars is the lack of contemporary documentation, which would not have been available to her then; however, the book was published close enough to the war to be considered in "real time". The author was one of the few civilian women who were sent overseas by the OSS. She served in India and China. Though not right in the front lines, she and other women were to be found in headquarters and other rear area kocations.
MacDonald served in the Morale Division of the OSS, folks tasked with propaganda. No, that term is not pejorative, it simply means official pronouncements. The predecessor of the OSS, the federal broadcasting and information agency was split in 1942 to become the civilian Office of War Information and the military OSS. I hope that either Time-Life finally finishes the series, or the rights are obtained by the Naval Institute Press, which is producing an open ended series on clandestine warfare.
Go find a copy, you will not waste your time.