What do Julia Child, Moe Berg and Alice Marble have in common? At a time when the Nazis threatened the world, they all shared a secret. They served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner to the CIA, created during World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt. From movie stars to athletes, the OSS boasts an impressively long list of famous secret agents. Here is our list of surprising spies throughout history:
World famous entertainer Josephine Baker is most widely known for her legendary dancing and singing career. Aside from being one of the most successful entertainers in France, Baker also worked as a spy for the French resistance during World War II. Baker was an ideal candidate for the job. As an entertainer, she always had a reason for frequent traveling. Foreign officials were so taken by Baker's star power and fame that they did not examine the sheet music she carried across country lines, sheet music that contained smuggled orders and maps written in invisible ink.
Many German and foreign officials attended her performances, and no one ever guessed that the scantily-clad Baker was listening intently for political information. When she heard something valuable, she wrote it down, pinned the note to her underwear and relayed the information to Jacques Abtey, the head of the Deuxième Bureau, France's military intelligence in Paris. After the war, Baker performed at Buchenwald for the starving inmates and was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her service.
Before she was a world famous chef and TV personality, Julia Child was a top secret researcher for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to the CIA. At six feet, two inches, she was too tall to enlist in the Women's Army Corps during World War II, joining instead the huge spy network created by President Franklin Roosevelt. During her time at the OSS, Child was not busy in the kitchen ensuring all of the secret agents were well versed in the culinary arts and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." On the contrary, she helped to develop a vital shark repellant needed so sharks and other sea creatures would not set off underwater explosives targeting German U-boats.
Dutch dancer and courtesan Mata Hari was accused by the French of being a double agent for Germany during World War I. Hari traveled extensively across international borders, leading French agents to suspect her of espionage. She was arrested in Paris after French intelligence officers intercepted a coded radio message suggesting Hari was working for the Germans. In, 1917, she was found guilty and was executed by a French firing squad later that year. Hari maintained her innocence throughout her trial and imprisonment, and she remains the legendary epitome of the femme fatale.
A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, major league baseball catcher Morris "Moe" Berg was once described by baseball Hall of Famer Casey Stengel as "the strangest man to ever play baseball." Berg spoke at least seven languages, including German and Japanese, allowing him to participate in various espionage projects. Few of his accomplishments came from the outfield, and the back-up catcher had a batting average of just .243, yet Berg remains the subject of numerous biographies, magazine articles and legends. In 1934, Berg traveled to Japan as part of a major league all-star time with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig. He brought back home movies and footage that were later used in General Doolittle's planning of the 1942 Tokyo bomb raids.
After retiring from the game in 1942, Berg later accepted a position with the Secret Intelligence Branch with the OSS. His first mission brought him to Latin America on behalf of Nelson Rockefeller's Inter-American Affairs Committee. He was later dispatched to German-occupied Norway, where he met with Norwegian guerillas and gathered intelligence about a German plant that had been constructed for Nazi atomic-power experiments. Berg was assigned to evaluate Nazi Germany's atomic capabilities, and is speculated to have been part of a potential mission to assassinate Werner Heisenberg, the director of the Nazi atom-bomb research program. Berg determined that the possibility of a Nazi atomic bomb was negligible, and the assassination plot was called off. He remains one of the most colorful double agents in the history of the OSS and CIA, and is theonly major league baseball player whose baseball card is on display at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
Former World No. 1 American tennis player Alice Marble may have made a name for herself by winning 18 Grand Slam titles, but Marble is known for much more than her backhand. In 1945, after the athlete had recuperated from a suicide attempt following the death of her husband Joe Crowly, she agreed to spy for U.S. Intelligence. Her mission was to renew contact with a Swiss banker and former lover in order to obtain Nazi financial data. Marble's mission ended when she was nearly killed after a Nazi official shot her in the back.
The story was told only after her death when her second autobiography "Courting Danger: My Adventures in World-Class Tennis, Golden-Age Hollywood, and High-Stakes Spying" was published. In 1964, Marble was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In the 1940s, "The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies" was more interested in espionage than being Hollywood's leading man. During World War II, actor Sterling Hayden worked as a marine for the OSS. Hayden's (or John Hamilton, his pseudonym) reconnaissance missions included sailing from Italy with supplies for the Yugoslov Partisans, a resistance movement in Yugoslavia, as well as parachuting into Fascist Croatia. The actor was awarded with the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest combat medal, for "recognition of his gallantry in action" for his undercover work in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. He left active duty in 1945, when he returned to the silver screen to appear in iconic films such as "Dr. Strangelove" and "The Godfather."