EVERY SPY A PATRIOT

By Harry Covert

It’s no secret that Alexandria, Virginia, has one of the largest populations of taxpayers who are either retired or active spies.  Many have played extraordinary roles and distinguished themselves in defending America and its allies.

These folks have had a lifetime of working behind the scenes, out of the glare of public recognition.  That’s part of the game and they keep their oath not to talk out of school.  Only as the years pass do details leak.  Usually friends and neighbors are surprised and amazed at what can be described as derring-do among those with whom they’ve lived, shopped and raised families.

The afternoon came when my office telephone rang.  The voice on the other end was forceful and direct.  “What do you know about a sheriff’s association in Texas?”

“Pardon me?” I said.

OSS Veteran Anne Mary Ingraham

“I always get these letters asking for money and I like to know about them before I give any money,” she interrupted.  “I live in Old Town and thought you’d know.”

Okay, another crank on the phone or somebody who just wants to talk.  I tried to explain that I was partial to the Alexandria Sheriff’s Association and the National Sheriff’s Association.  “Well, I know about some of this stuff.”

I was trying to humor her along and not to appear unconcerned.

Wild Bill’s Formidable Driver

“With a name like yours you ought to know something.” We chuckled.  I asked how she knew so much about sheriffs and police.  We were off to the races and talked for over an hour.  The then 85-year-old Anne Mary Ingraham of Royal Street, Alexandria, explained she was born and raised in Scotland.   At the beginning of World War II, she worked for an aircraft company.

In 1942, she joined the motor pool of Services of Supply (SOS) driving all vehicles, including a half-track and was assigned a two-and-a-half-ton truck.

In October 1944 she was recruited by the London-based Office of Special Services (OSS) and became a driver for General William (Wild Bill) Donovan, founder of the OSS, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  She later was assigned to the OSS in Washington.

As Mrs. Ingraham took control of our conversation, I “Googled” the OSS Society.  She gave me the full and accurate details.

She invited me to come by for a visit and talk with her o ne of these days.  I suggested she’d be a great subject for a newspaper story or broadcast interview.  “No, we did what we had to do and there were lots of people who did their duty.”

She had been, and was then, a senior vice president of the McLean-based OSS Society.  She had been a 30-year resident of Alexandria and was an active life member of the city’s American Legion Post 24. One of her favorite activities was representing the OSS and Post 24 in Alexandria’s yearly President’s Day parade.

Ms. Ingraham, a horsewoman, was also an active member of Alexandria’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the mother of one daughter, five grandchildren and eight grandchildren.

I never dropped by her house for a visit much to my regret. She died at her home at age 88 on Dec. 12, 2009.  She was a treasure trove and one of the unexpected callers who make life exciting and right at home. © Harry Covert 2011

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Originally published in The Alexandria Gazette. Used with permission.