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A Dubuque native's death near the dawn of the CIA is shrouded in mystery nearly a century later

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

In 1948, Dubuque-native Jane Burrell died in a plane crash in France, making her the first Central Intelligence Agency officer to die in the agency’s service.

The newly-published book Wise Gals: The Spice Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage, tells Burrell's story along with those of four other female agents who were critical in helping build a new organization out of World War II, which we now know as the CIA.

In the latter half of the show, River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times-bestselling author Nathalia Holt about the women who were smart, courageous, and groundbreaking agents at the top of their class, instrumental in both developing innovative tools for intelligence gathering and insisting that they receive the credit and pay their expertise deserved.

Before that conversation, University of Iowa's Ambassador in Residence and associate professor Ron McMullen shares about his recent visit to the partially-recognized state of Kosovo, located in southeast Europe.

McMullen provided workshops and simulations at the Kosovo Center for Diplomacy, a non-profit looking to help the state gain broader diplomatic recognition, with the eventual aim of becoming a full member of the United Nations and the European Union. McMullen also details Kosovo's close ties with Iowa, as the Iowa National Guard has had a sister-state partnership since 2011.


  • Ron McMullen, University of Iowa Ambassador in Residence
  • Nathalia Holt, author
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.