Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Cloak and Dagger and Spangles: World War II Spies and Secret Agents by Stuart A. Kallen

World War II's fields of battle are famous in many accounts, photographs, and film. But there was another war, one fought in secret by mostly unknown and unnamed agents, who fought, not just with weapons, but with with their wits and special skills to bring the war to its end in 1945. Some of these shadowy warriors planted explosives and staged assassinations behind the lines, but other agents worked in secret, unknown, moving among the enemies themselves. Great Britain drew upon the students or graduates of their most elite universities, Cambridge and Oxford, and the United States similarly recruited quite a few young men educated at Harvard and Yale.(/p>

But some of these secret agents were women, most unusual women indeed.

Josephine Baker began her career as a chorus girl in the mid-1920s at the Cotton Club in New York. But soon her ambitions took her to France in 1925, where she became the toast of Paris for her exotic dancing at the Folies Bergere, at times with her pet cheetah, and later opened her own successful nightclub. But when the Germans invaded and occupied Paris, Baker volunteered to work undercover against the Nazis.

"The people of Paris have given... me their hearts, and ... I am ready, Captain, to give them my life," she said.

After joining the French Intelligence Service, Josephine Baker pretended to cooperate with the Nazis, traveling to performances all over European countries under German control. Attired in glamourous furs and jewels, as a star Baker was able move freely with her entourage, acquiring information about troop movements and concealing it in invisible ink within her usual sheet music arrangements as she moved from city to city. She even smuggled photos of defenses and troop movements, if need be, on her own body at great risk. Another brave but quite different woman was spy Viginia Hall, of the British Office of Strategic Services (the famed OSS), known to the Nazis only as "The Limping Lady," worked closely with the French Resistance movement, training battalions of fighters, setting up safe houses, communicating stealthly with her handlers in London, and earning the Distinguished Cross for her heroism.

One spy for the OSS who ultimately gained fame for his service with British Naval Intelligence was Ian Fleming, whose missions broke codes, stole documents dealing with secret weapons, and kidnapped a coterie of Nazi scientists who eventually cooperated fully with the British. Ian Fleming became a novelist after the war, and after a success with the children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, turned his exploits as a secret agent into his famed series of James Bond novels. And like Fleming, wartime undercover agent Graham Greene also became a celebrated author of best-selling spy stories.

Not one of the usual dapper spy sorts, another unlikely secret agent was Morris (Moe) Berg, a third-string catcher who played on several major-league teams with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in off-season exhibition games in Japan before the war. Berg photographed significant governmental and industrial places in Japan, and his information guided U.S. bombers to many strategic targets during the war.

In Stuart A. Kallen's World War II Spies and Secret Agents (Heroes of World War II (Alternator Books ® )) (Lerner Books), readers will meet several colorful and yet crucial secret agents whose bravery and special skills helped military forces win World War II. In fascinating stories of quite unusual and courageous people, this short non-fiction book gives middle graders a look at an important period and the personal history of the unlikely people who helped end the war for the rest of the world. Writes School Library Journal, "A perennial favorite time period among students receives a fresh treatment."

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