Espionage is part of the picture when it comes to war. Nations would send ordinary-looking, unexpected people to gather intelligence reports and information that they could use to get a few steps ahead of the enemies. There were even double agents who worked as spies pretending to be spies of the enemy. It was a whirlwind of lies and deception that it was really hard to tell who was working for the government with a secret agenda and who genuinely wanted to help. As proof, here are some wartime secret agents that you didn’t really expect:

Graham Greene

Graham Greene
Graham Greene in 1975. (FOTO:FORTEPAN / Magyar Hírek folyóiratCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The English writer and journalist regarded by man as one of the 20th century’s leading English novelists who wrote “Brighton Rock,” “Our Man In Havana,” and “Dr. Fischer of Geneva,” and some more well-known books turned out to be one of the secret agents for MI6 once, in 1941. For more than a year, he stayed in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to search for ships sailing from Africa to Germany, find out if diamonds and other documents were being smuggled, and monitor Vichy forces in French Guinea. These experiences of his in West Africa helped him write his best-selling novel “The Heart of the Matter.” In 1943, he went back to London and worked for MI6 under the supervision of Harold “Kim” Philby, the British spymaster who turned out to be a long-term mole that was exposed in 1963.

In 1957, he played a small role in helping the revolutionaries after Fidel Castro began his final revolutionary assault of the Batista regime. He worked as a secret courier for warm clothes that the rebels hiding in the hills needed so much during the Cuban winter.

Josephine Baker

Joséphine Baker
Joséphine Baker photographiée par Paul Nadar. (Paul Nadar , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The American-born French entertainer who also became the first black woman to star in a major film called “Siren of the Tropics” in 1927, as it turned out, was a French Resistance agent.

Freda Josephine McDonald, her given name, was born in St. Louis and grew up in a poor family. She was married at a very young age, just during her early teens. She found her fortune when she went to the United States as a part of her dance tour with the vaudeville troupes, where they performed on Broadway before moving to Paris. Her fame immediately reached the heavens, and people started knowing her as Black Venus. Baker was also given the opportunity to act and sing in movies. The next thing she knew, she was a major celebrity in Europe, an iconic symbol of the 1920s Jass Age. Baker, however, scorned Hiter and the Nazis. When she was recruited as an operative for the French resistance, she didn’t hesitate to agree. Who would’ve suspected a celebrity traveling around Europe to be actually one of the secret agents smuggling intelligence secrets written on invisible ink on her sheet music? She also helped hide Jewish refugees in her chateau and weapons for the people who believed in their cause. After the war, Baker dedicated herself to becoming an American civil rights activist while caring for her 12 children that she all adopted from different parts of the globe, whom she called her Rainbow Tribe.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl. (Carl Van Vechten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Before his famous books “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” Dahl first joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 and took his training as a fighter pilot. He was sent to a number of combat missions before he was forced to stop after suffering from an injury during a crash in the desert of North Africa. His military flying career ended, but his espionage activities started when he was recruited as part of the British spy ring in Washington, DC. He was appointed as assistant air attache before he was recruited to be a part of a spy network called the British Security Coordination (BSC.) The group included the would-be creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming.

And so Dahl was tasked to plant propaganda and carry out other covert activities to persuade the US to join the conflict and fight against Germany.  He also became an undercover agent tasked to gather intelligent reports about the US political situation. He did so by befriending the movers and shakers of the capital, politicians, journalists, corporate tycoons, socialites, and even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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