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While looking up something on Wikipedia I noticed an entry

by Ziks511 / May 4, 2009 10:07 AM PDT

about Moe Berg multi-talented baseball player. He had degrees in Romance languages from Princeton and the Sorbonne, a law degree from Harvard, and was a spy for the US from 1930 to 1941 and then a translator and intelligence person through the war. I mentioned that to a friend of mine who is a baseball junkie only to be presented with a copy of his biography. What a guy. Fluent in 12 or more languages. Picked up Japanese during a month long tour of Japan with Babe Ruth and various other major leaguers to the point that he was able to correct native Japanese speakers grammar. He appears to have been incredibly well liked by everyone he came in contact with, and an episode of the radio program Information Please was set up to stump him with 7 very difficult questions. Berg got them all.

The book makes him seem like someone I'd love to have known.


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He was a remarkable man.
by Paul C / May 4, 2009 6:31 PM PDT

Many years ago, I read the book Moe Berg: Athlete, Scholar, Spy. It went into great detail about Berg's intelligence work. That book was published in 1976; there's a later biography available as well.

Most interesting to me was a story which shows just how far we were prepared to go to prevent Nazi Germany from obtaining nuclear weapons. Berg was sent to Zurich, Switzerland to attend a lecture by Werner Heisenberg, noted German nuclear physicist and the head of Germany's efforts to develop nuclear arms. Berg's orders were simple: If after hearing Heisenberg speak, if Berg had any certainty that Germany was close to developing nuclear weapons, he was to kill Heisenberg. Berg determined that the Nazis were nowhere near having these weapons, so Heisenberg was spared; postwar investigation in fact determined that the Germans were in fact nowhere near developing the atom as a weapon.

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Yep, that's the book that I've been lent. (the 1976 one)
by Ziks511 / May 5, 2009 9:08 AM PDT

and it's a delight. What an extraordinary man, and just the sort of guy that appeals to me, all the languages and the absorption of cultures. Just terrific.


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The story keeps getting better. Berg was the primary
by Ziks511 / May 7, 2009 1:22 PM PDT

American spy concerned with the German atomic program. He travelled extensively in occupied Europe, toured a factory in Germany dressed as an SS officer, and murmured warnings that "Berlin is not happy with the production of this factory". Meanwhile he was checking out all the details of production at the factory. Subsequently he went armed to a lecture by Werner Heisenberg in Switzerland, prepared to kill him if the results of the lecture indicated that the German atomic program was progressing in such a way that a weapon might be produced before summer of 1945. Heisenberg stated that Germany was 2 years away from producing a weapon and Moe hung around among the Gestapo men at the after-lecture to listen to discussions and pick up more information. It's a hell of a story.


He also had a newspaper fetish all his life. He read newspapers from most European countries and from Japan and I believe China, and divided the papers into the "live" piles which he hadn't read yet, and the "dead" pile which had been read and therefore other people were allowed to touch. There are a number of very funny stories around this fetish culminating with the coach of the Boston Red Sox deliberately messing up the stacks because there wasn't a chair left in the room. Moe was rooming with Dom Dimaggio, and Dom returned to find all Joe's belongings and newspapers moved out of their room, and a letter from Moe. "Dear Dom, You're a wonderful person and a great roommate. You've just got too many damn' friends. Moe"

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