Stephanie Rader

Stephanie Rader was an undercover U.S. spy in Europe after WWII.

She was born in Toledo in 1915, the daughter of Polish immigrants, and grew up in Poughkeepsie. Her parents did not speak English at home, and her first exposure to English was when she went to school. Her Polish language skills would later serve her well in her work.

She was an excellent student and she received a full scholarship to Cornell, where she received a BS in chemistry in 1937, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. Although she had a hard time finding a job in her field, she became a scientific translator, librarian, and researcher for Texaco Oil Company in New York City.

When the U.S. entered WWII, she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps). She impressed her superior officers with her academic accomplishments and her Polish language skills. She was selected to participate in officer candidate training, and she was eventually recruited to the Office of Strategic Services (later the CIA), and began her intelligence work in Warsaw in 1945.

Her cover was that she was a U.S. embassy employee looking for family members she had lost touch with during WWII. This was a dangerous assignment because Poland was in shambles following the war and anyone who aroused the suspicion of the Soviets was at risk of being kidnapped and murdered.  She said that the OSS “gave me a gun, but I never carried a gun. I thought ‘what the heck was I going to do with a dumb gun?’” She collected information about Soviet troop operations in Poland and other things she observed.

She died in 2016 at the age of 100.

Here is a Vanity Fair article from 2016 about 5 other women who worked as spies during WWII: “Five Badass Female Spies Who Deserve Their Own World War II Movie.” It profiles Vera Atkins, Krystyna Skarbek, Nancy Wake, Pearl Cornioley, and Virginia Hall.

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