Famous people who SPIED on the side
These famous people were successful at something else…..espionage
Julia Child: The world knows her as a successful chef, wrote books on art of French cooking and even had her cooking show on TV. She joined the CIA in 1942, after discovering that, at 6’2”, she was too tall for the Women’s Army Corps. One of her earliest assignments was to cook up a shark repellent that would protect underwater explosives from being accidently set off by curious sea creatures. Later she was sent to Sri Lanka and then to China where she worked as Chief of OSS Registry. The CIA remains mum about what Juila did in that capacity. It was in Sri Lanka that she met her husband Paul Child, a fellow OSS officer. After they married, she quit her job, but her husband continued to work for the government. She took up cooking to occupy her time. The rest is culinary history.
Ian Fleming: Mention James Bond and this author should come to mind. Although his life wasn’t quite as exciting as his fictional creation, he did work for the British Naval Intelligence during WW2. He managed communications between British Admiralty and the branch of intelligence dealing with sabotage between the enemy lines. Fleming was asked to create an American organization focused on international intelligence gathering. He did manage to witness one actual break-in that became the inspiration for his first Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’. He watched as British operatives sneaked into Japanese Consul General’s office at Rockefeller Center in New York. The operatives cracked a safe and made copies of Japanese codebooks. Now that’s worthy of James Bond himself.
Roald Dahl: The author of the children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, was first a pilot for the British Royal Air Force during WW2. He was later sent to the US and charmed his way into high society to spy for the British Intelligence. They came up with a plan to have Dahl seduce powerful women and use them to promote Britain’s interests in America. The plan worked. Not only Dahl rally support for the British cause, was able to pass stolen documents to the British Government. Incidentally, it was during his work writing propaganda for American newspapers that he discovered his talent for writing. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.
Charles Luciano: As head of the Genovese crime family, this “lucky” mobster managed to turn organized crime into a well-oiled crime machine. In 1936, Luciano was jailed for 50 years for prostitution. When the French ocean liner Normandie caught fire and sank in 1942, American government suspected sabotage. The dockworkers wouldn’t talk because they were all under the control of mobsters. Luciano persuaded the dockworkers to reveal their information and later continued to aid America in the war efforts. As part of the agreement Luciano was released from prison early, returned to Sicily never stepped foot on US soil again.
Harry Houdini: At the beginning of his career, Houdini walked into police stations and demanded they lock him up and cuff him. Naturally, this publicity stunt bolstered his reputation, so much that he caught the eye of Scotland Yard and British intelligence agencies. These agencies recruited him to sneak into jail cells throughout Europe to gather information for them. Houdini agreed to do this only if the agencies in turn agreed to help him furthering his career. William Melville, Head of Scotland Yard, had to get Houdini auditions with London Theater Managers before the magician consented to do some spying.
Morris Berg: He was called “the brainiest man in baseball” and “the strangest man ever to play baseball”. He was recruited to spy on the Japanese in 1934 as part of the American All-Star Team, Berg took home movies of Tokyo Harbor, military installations and industrial areas. In 1944, he was sent on a dangerous mission to Germany to collect intelligence on Germany’s efforts to build an atomic bomb. He had orders to shoot the lead physicist, if he thought the scientist was close to developing nuclear weapons. Fortunately, Berg concluded that that the Germans were years away from accomplishing this.
Noel Coward: He was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit and flamboyance. He used his celebrity status to deliver top secret information to top levels of government, including President Roosevelt. He did his job so well that he allegedly appeared on the Nazi black-list of individuals. Coward himself wrote in his diary that ‘my disguise would be my reputation as an idiot’.
Marcel Petiot: During the WW2, the US operated the second spy agency besides OSS. It was known as the POND and dealt with unsavory characters. This Parisian doctor who worked for the Pond as a source for Nazi intelligence was actually a serial killer. He lured his victims with a promise of safe passage, instead would inject them cyanide and incinerate the bodies in a pit of quicklime. The jig was up when the Gestapo picked him up on suspicion that he was using his office as an escape route, the very thing he pretended to do so in the first place. When the war ended, he was convicted and guillotined. Petiot was believed to have murdered as many as 63
Robert Baden Powell: He founded the Boy Scouts and made a name for himself during the Second Boer War. While stationed in South Africa he managed to defend his territory with cunning and deception. His small army of soldiers were poorly outfitted, but General Powell managed to deceive the opposing forces by pretending to plant fake mines on the edge of the town and pretending to avoid barbed wire to fend off the enemy. After returning home to England, he used his notoriety to jump-start the scouting movement, all the while working as a spy in the military.
James Hart Dyke: He was a successful landscape painter and followed Prince Charles on royal tours. He received a mysterious phone call followed by a series of meetings in which he was asked to work within M16 as an artist. He was given complete access to M16 and the lives of its employees. He wanted to convey the claustrophobic world of M16 spies and his paintings had dream-like quality. He experienced boredom and anxiety of travelling to shadowy locations while keeping his job secret. Dyke returned to civilian life in 2011, glad his job with M16 was over.
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