Looking Back: OSI’s first woman special agent…maybe Published March 21, 2022 By Robert Vanderpool OSI Command Historian QUANTICO, Va. -- The month of March is observed annually within the United States as Women’s History Month. Officially dating back to 1987 when Congress passed the first public law formally designating March as Women’s History Month, the tradition of honoring the contributions women have made to American history dates back to at least the early 1900s as various private, local, or state entities have conducted day, week, and month long observances. At the federal level, the first observance occurred in 1980 as a result of a Presidential proclamation. Today, a total of 868 women serve on active duty, in the reserves, or as civilians within the Office of Special Investigations. This number represents 27percent of the total Office of Special Investigations work force (Note: Contract personnel demographics were not available at time of publication). From that number, a total of 486 women are currently serving as special agents. The elusive question of who was the first woman to serve as a special agent is one that comes up often. Over the years quite a bit of historical research has been conducted by historians, special agents, professional staff, and others within and outside the organization to try and find a definitive answer. On August 1, 1948, the Office of Special Investigations was first declared to be officially operational. While the total number of women was quite small in comparison to the numbers of men, women have served within the organization from the very beginning. The names of women can be found in the duty rosters, history reports, and other publications that date back to the first days, weeks, and months of the Office of Special Investigations coming together. Unfortunately, in most of these early historical documents it was largely vague as to what roles these named women served within the organization. This makes determining who the first woman was to serve as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations all that much harder. The first sets of orders transferring personnel from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division and Counterintelligence Command to the Office of Special Investigations in 1948 did not include any women designated as special agents. Women have attended the Office of Special Investigations Academy since its inception 1949; however, it was a standard practice back then to also send support personnel and professional staff to the academy for familiarization and also as an incentive for retention within the organization. Graduation documents from the early classes didn’t indicate what positions within the Office of Special Investigations that the women who attended the academy held. Even during subsequent historical interviews, General Joseph F. Carroll, the first commander of the Office of Special Investigations who served from 1948 to 1955 in that role, could not personally recall any women being assigned to the organization as special agents during his tenure. So who was the first woman was to serve as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations? We really don’t know with any certainty. Quite frankly, it may be something we will never know for sure. This may be one of those mysteries that is forever lost to history. Despite the soberness of this potential realization, the combined research effort has not been all for naught. We don’t have a definitive answer but we do have a well-researched, educated, pretty good guess. To date, the first woman KNOWN to serve as a special agent within the Office of Special Investigations was Major Catherine M. Moran who was most likely assigned to the Office of Investigations sometime during the first half of 1949. Moran, who went by the name Kitty, was born on March 22, 1908, in Pennsylvania. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp on July 10, 1942, at the age of 34. Prior to enlisting, Moran was employed in private industry as a stenographer and typist. She also worked for a period as a housekeeper for a family in Pittsburgh. She entered the military with one year of university education on her resume. Due to her lack of experience and education, she was probably not immediately commissioned as an officer meaning that she worked her way up from enlisted to the rank of Major in no more than seven years. Moran, transferred into the Office of Special Investigations from the Army’s 441st Counterintelligence Corps Detachment. She was serving as a special agent with the Army at the time of her transfer. The 441st Counterintelligence Corps Detachment was first organized in Australia in late 1944. Agents assigned to this unit typically wore Army uniforms but without any rank or insignia. Due to the secretive nature of their mission, if asked what unit they were assigned to agents would often respond only that they worked for the War Department. In November 1944, the 441st moved to New Guinea. Following the formal Japanese surrender to the Allied nations on September 2, 1945, the first agents from the 441st arrived in Tokyo to assume occupation duties and establishing its headquarters there. It is currently unknown what the exact date was that Moran was assigned to the 441st. It is also currently unknown what the exact date was that Moran transferred from the 441st into the Office of Special Investigation; however, based on other corroborative evidence, her transfer likely occurred during the first half of 1949. The Far East Air Forces Office of Special Investigations was established on June 1, 1949, with the mission to provide a centrally directed investigative service for all subordinate commands assigned to the Far East Air Forces. The Far East Air Forces Office of Special Investigations was organized into a criminal division, counterintelligence division, operations division, a records division and eight district offices. District 6, to which Moran was assigned, was activated in Tokyo, Japan. Moran is recognized by available historical records as being the first Operations Division Chief of District 6. It has been stated by special agents who served with her during that time, that Moran was the only woman they were aware of that was assigned to operational and investigative duties. Her professional military background was with human intelligence and it was this experience that was likely the reason she was transferred into the Office of Special Investigations. During her tenure as a division chief, she was most likely involved in and oversaw intelligence missions throughout the entire Far East area of operations. In the 1980’s, during a historical interview with an individual who had served with Moran in Japan, the retired special agent recalled: “It would appear that women were assigned to the Office of Special Investigations in some capacity, but not likely an operational one – with the exception of Major Moran in Tokyo.” Little else is currently known regarding Moran’s career path after she completed her service with District 6 other than that she retired from the Air Force still at the rank of Major in the early-to-mid 1960s. Her name never appeared on any of the rosters for having completed the Office of Special Investigation Academy, though it was not uncommon during the early years for experienced special agents who transferred into the organization from other services to bypass this training. Entering military service with just one year of university education, Moran earned both a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters degree while she was on active duty. One of her first jobs after leaving the Air Force was serving as the Dean of Women and also as an Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College located in Tifton, Georgia. She relocated to Florida in the late 60s or early 70s where she continued her lifetime of service to others working for a local community center. Catherine M. “Kitty” Moran passed away on November 24, 1989, at the age of 81. Her body was interred at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Palm Beach, Florida. Was Moran the first woman to serve as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations? As stated before we may never know that answer to any certainty. Historical research will continue in the hopes of finding yet uncovered evidence which could provide additional clarification or even perhaps reveal a new candidate for the designation of having been the first. What we do know is that Moran was one of the first and that she is but one of the many women throughout the now nearly 74 year history of the Office of Special Investigations that have contributed and who continue to contribute to the history and success of the organization. Former Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Welsh III, who served in that role from 2012-2016, used to frequently comment how those who serve within the Air Force in modern times stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them. Whether or not Moran was indeed the first woman to serve as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations is really less important than recognizing her for her overall military service and for her contributions to the early history of the Office of Special Investigations. She may or may not ever own the firm designation of being a “first” but there is no doubt that she is and will always be one of our giants.