General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the founder of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) said that the type of people he was looking for were “PhDs who can win a bar fight.” And in that regard, no one fit that description better than Joe Savoldi.
Savoldi was a college football star at Notre Dame. He played for the Chicago Bears, was a champion wrestler who was credited with inventing the dropkick, and was also an operative with the OSS during WWII.
OSS was the CIA’s predecessor. Many of the wartime organization’s members later joined the CIA including some directors of the agency such as Allen Dulles, William Casey, William Colby, and Richard Helms. The Operational Groups and Jedburgh Teams became the modern-day Green Berets of the Army’s Special Forces. Members of the OSS Maritime Unit along with the UDTs of the Navy were the forerunners of the U.S. Navy SEAL teams.
Savoldi was born in Italy as Giuseppe Savoldi and was raised by his grandmother until the age of 12 when he joined his parents in Michigan. He then anglicized his name to Joe, and after graduating from high school went to Notre Dame and played a backup role on the football team. He was powerfully built and his chiseled features were further developed by toting bricks up ladders for his bricklayer uncles.