By Lauren Linhard –

It was post World War II America was on the brink of the Cold War. Poland had fallen and the country was a mess of rubble where anyone who seemed suspicious was often shot or simply disappeared. It was in this hostile environment Stephanie Czech Rader traveled to Warsaw as an undercover spy for the United States.

Though her superiors at the Office of Strategic Services recommended she receive the Legion of Merit award when her mission was complete, it wasn’t until 2008 when the OSS’s files were declassified and the OSS Society was able to begin advocating for Rader’s consideration.

About a third of the 13,000 people who served in the OSS were women. (OSS Society via AP)
About a third of the 13,000 people who served in the OSS were women. (OSS Society via AP)

Finally, on June 1 of this year, six months after her death at 100 years old, she received the Legion of Merit posthumously with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Even Rader’s family hadn’t known about her spy days until her 100th birthday.

Having immigrated to America with her Polish parents, Rader gathered information for two government departments under the pretense of seeking news about family members after the war.

She was able to report back intelligence gathered from all over Poland over the next three months until her cover was blown in January 1946. Singled out by border authorities as she approached the German-Polish border, Rader was able to slip confidential documents to another traveler with directions to deliver them to a safe house.

She was arrested, but never detained, and put until strict scrutiny until her return to the U.S. She continued on to earn her master’s degree in chemistry and accompany her husband on his air force assignments.