"I never intended to hide anyone," says Maria Gulovich Liu. She was a young schoolteacher living in the village of Hrnova in Czechoslovakia during World War II when she was asked to shelter a Jewish woman and her 5-year-old son who were fleeing the Germans. "My sister brought the woman's brother and he was crying and I'm a softie. And he said, 'Would you hide her just for a few days until she finds something else?' She never did. I was stuck with them." And there began her own harrowing odyssey as a courier for the European underground, then as a guide for several American intelligence operatives trying to get out of what was then Slovakia. Those who survived owe their lives at least partially to her ingenuity in ferreting out shelter and food. Liu was one of hundreds of Americans and European partisans who worked with the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. wartime intelligence agency that was created in 1941 by Gen. William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan. The mystique of the OSS is now firmly entrenched in World War II lore, and many who contributed to that history were women. "The Ladies of the OSS," as they were rather quaintly called yesterday, were honored yesterday with a lunch at the Watergate and a black-tie dinner at the Washington Hilton hosted by the Veterans of OSS. Their duties ranged from the mundane to the exciting; some never left Washington. Some were relatively safe, even overseas; some lived in constant danger. Dolly Corbin Stone was headquartered in a villa in Algiers that was once the home of Napoleon III; Maria Liu sometimes lived in an old mine, always sleeping fully clothed in case she had to run in the middle of the night. Stone and her sister Edy Corbin Bruce both joined the OSS but only Stone went overseas. "We were a general's daughters," says Stone, sitting next to her sister at lunch. "There was a war going on." For them, it was either OSS or the WACs. "I didn't like uniforms and I thought intelligence would be more interesting than the WACs," says Stone, laughing. In Algiers, Stone, who spoke fluent French, helped prepare French and Spanish agents with contacts and information before missions into southern France. "The only time I was in danger was when I was on leave," says Stone, and the two sisters break into guffaws. "Wait, what am I talking about?" Stone suddenly says. "I almost got killed flying from Austria to Italy over Yugoslavia. General Mark Clark loaned us his plane. The pilot came back white as a sheet and said, 'We're running out of gas and we're lost. I'd like to put it down in Trieste but if we go down to have a look we might run into a mountain peak.' I remember I was playing gin rummy and I thought, 'No one will ever know I was winning.' " As with many OSS agents, some of the women came from prominent families -- they were often proficient in foreign languages and well-traveled. Evangeline Bruce, the Washington socialite and widow of Ambassador David Bruce, created false papers for American military personnel being dropped into France. "It was a real me'lange of people," says Elizabeth McIntosh, who wrote a book about her experiences with the vintage title "Undercover Girl," and later worked for the CIA. She recalls that a common nickname for the OSS was "Oh So Social." Last night at dinner, it was clear that a sampling of Washington society intersects with veterans of the intelligence community. Guests included Evangeline Bruce; Kenneth Crosby, an OSS veteran of undercover work in Argentina and Cuba; and such nabobs of the intelligence community as former CIA director Richard Helms and current CIA Director William Webster, who sat next to Sophia Casey, the widow of former CIA director William Casey, an OSS man as well. Crosby's longtime OSS friend Aline Griffith, now known as the Countess de Romanones by virtue of her marriage to a Spanish count, had introduced Crosby to her sister Peggy, who became his wife nine years ago. De Romanones is fairly well known in OSS veteran circles, particularly for her book about her exploits in Spain, called "The Spy Wore Red." "I was decoding part time and other times I was trying to find out who was Himmler's special agent in Spain," says De Romanones, who is New York-born and spoke no Spanish when she first got the assignment. Chef and author Julia Child is another OSS veteran. Child, who was unable to attend the event last night, was a research analyst in China. McIntosh worked there in psychological warfare -- disinformation targeted at weakening the enemy. Child had yet to develop her culinary talents. "She didn't know one thing about cooking," McIntosh recalls, laughing. "She couldn't even boil an egg." Maria Liu hid the young Jewish woman and her child in the schoolhouse where she taught, handing over her living quarters to the refugees and sleeping in the classroom. She hid them from April 1944 to the following July when she found a way to move them to safer haven in the mountains. But while she was hiding them, someone reported Liu to the authorities. "And the person who came to investigate was working for the underground," Liu recalls over breakfast at the Washington Hilton yesterday. "Lucky for me. Otherwise we wouldn't be here." That summer she carried messages from her village to Bratislava, the capital. "I had some real close calls," she says. Once, while smuggling a shortwave radio in her suitcase, the Gestapo stopped the train and began methodically checking all the passengers' luggage. "There was a bunch of Wehrmacht officers sitting in a compartment and one started flirting with me -- which I gladly returned," says Liu, who 40 years later still possesses a Slavic elegance. "They said, 'Fraulein' -- I spoke German at the time -- 'would you sit with us?' They made a seat for me in the compartment and the officer carried my suitcase into the compartment with him. The Gestapo came by, saluted, and went on." At the time Liu also spoke Russian, Hungarian, Slovak -- and a little English. She was doing translating work when she met with a couple dozen members of an OSS team fleeing approaching Germans in Slovakia. They went into the mountains, and for several months in the end of 1944 she served as their guide. As a native of the region, she could check out contacts. Sometimes she would get in touch with relatives for help -- often moving each night to another place, sometimes hiding in a mine, sometimes a barn. They suffered through lice and frostbite. Liu's right foot was so frostbitten that people begged her to go to a hospital. "It never occurred to me to go," she says, "because I knew I would never come out. The Germans had my number. I thought, better to die on my feet than in a concentration camp." In December, they found a little hunting lodge to stay at for two weeks. One day, two Americans, two British and Liu went to an inn for an expected drop of provisions and medical supplies. While they were gone, the lodge was raided by Germans and those hiding out were captured and later executed. "We never thought for a minute we were safe," she says. Generally she would concoct a story when she approached a villager -- "I would say I was looking for my brother or we had had to evacuate ... And depending on the answers, I would know whether to keep talking or say, 'thank you,' and move on. Ironically if someone was a communist, I knew I could trust them." Of course, she never knew for sure. Once she got word of a minister's family that was willing to give shelter. Some spent one night there and then returned to where Liu and the rest were hiding. A few more passed the next night there and then returned to Liu and the original group. And on the third day, a couple of Americans -- "a darling man" she says of one and looks away -- went to the house simply to take a bath. They never returned. The next day, Liu and a Navy officer who was traveling with the group made their way to the house. Liu demanded that the minister's wife tell her what had happened to the two Americans. "I don't know if she was scared or lying but she denied she knew of any Americans. She wouldn't even let us in the house. And when she saw Lieutenant Gaul {the Navy officer} she started crying. And I said, 'Was it you who called the Germans?' To this day I think they called." Liu eventually came to the United States, where she won a scholarship at Vassar. "I was so out of place," she says. Early on, she, like her classmates, was assigned rotating duty in the kitchen. "My first night there, I broke down and cried when I saw the food they were throwing out. I saw in my mind the jillions of hungry, starving people -- my family included." She points to the crumbs of danish on her plate. "We wouldn't have let this go." Liu, who graduated from Vassar, is married and lives in Oxnard, Calif., where she sells real estate. She was awarded the Bronze Star in a West Point ceremony in May 1946.