Frank Monteleone, a radio operative for Moe Berg in Italy during WWII dies at 93.

Our condolences to the family of Frank Monteleone who passed away on April 19th, 2018. Last year in May of 2017, Aviva Kempner interviewed Frank about his time in Rome, Italy during WWII. Frank served as a radio operator for Moe Berg to send messages in code to the Allies. Berg had been sent by the OSS to interview Italian scientists on what they knew about Germany’s effort to develop the atomic bomb.

Frank Monetelone's OSS Identification Card
Frank Montelone’s OSS Identification Card

In his interview, Frank described to Aviva how he had to hide in the attic in an Italian villa with his radio equipment and first translate the messages from English to Italian and send the messages in cypher code to the Allies and then in the reverse when messages came back. Frank told Aviva that Moe Berg was a mysterious man and that it wasn’t until later he learned that Moe was a professional baseball player.

Frank's Interview Footage
Frank Montelone’s interview footage for Aviva Kempner’s film on Moe Berg.

Patrick O’Donnell in Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs describes Frank’s work in the Maritime Unit as part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) He writes that “ Frank did it all, parachuting behind the lines, infiltrating by sea on silent motorized floating mattresses, and stealthily collecting and radioing back enemy intelligence.”

Moe Berg Work in Progress Screening May 6, 2018

WORK IN PROGRESS
MOE BERG: ALL-STAR ESPIONAGE?
May 6, 2018 at 11:00 am
Edlavitch DCJCC
1529 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Dir. Aviva Kempner | 20 min.
Documentary United States 2018
Sunday, May 6, 2018 – 11:00 AM Edlavitch DCJCC 60 min. program
Morris “Moe” Berg was an enigmatic major-league baseball player who played for five MLB teams, including the Washington Senators, before joining the OSS to spy for the U.S. on the Nazis atomic bomb program.
Berg grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in Newark, NJ. This screening of this clip from Aviva Kempner’s work in progress highlights Berg’s exhibition tour with Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Japan in 1934.
20 minutes of the work-in-progress film will be shown, followed by a discussion with director Aviva Kempner, intelligence analyst Richard Willing, and Henry “Hank” Thomas, biographer of Walter Johnson (and his grandson).
This event is free to attend.

 

The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony

The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony
OSS GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 BLOG
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Morris “Moe” Berg and the 13,000 heroic men and women of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) finally received a well-deserved Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, March 21st during a moving ceremony in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. In true OSS style, the ceremony went on in spite of a Federal Government shutdown for a snow emergency.

Along with Charles Pinck, President of the OSS Society, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate delivered remarks honoring the OSS members during a live streaming of the event. Members of the OSS and their extended families came from all over the U.S. and attended receptions in their honor Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. More congressional members spoke during the Wednesday evening rooftop reception.

The medal was finally bestowed after many years of lobbying spearheaded by the OSS Society under the fine leadership of Charles Pinck, whose father had served in the OSS in China. The Congressional medal, the nation’s highest civilian distinction, was conferred collectively and recognizes the members of the OSS, the WWII intelligence agency and CIA predecessor for their superior service and major contributions during World War II. The OSS included both military personnel and civilians. Women comprised more than one-third of the OSS personnel and many of America’s leading scientists and scholars also served. One side of the medal represents the range of work undertaken by the OSS and features the inscription “OSS” with a woman, a paratrooper, and a man in a suit. The design features the dates “1942-1945” the years during which the OSS operated. The reverse side of the medal features the OSS Spearhead inscribed with code words related to important OSS missions and agents. AZUSA was one of the code words representing a mission Moe Berg participated in.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s included Moe Berg in his remarks delivered during the ceremony: Watch Here.

“As we’ve been hearing today, the ranks of the Office of Strategic Services included quite the cast of characters. There was ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the visionary leader intent on ‘sowing the dragon’s teeth’ and breeding chaos behind enemy lines. There were celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, and future celebrities like Julia Child; all-star academics, like Arthur Schlesinger…..I’m partial to the story of Moe Berg, an Ivy Leaguer turned journeyman Major League Baseball catcher who gave up trying to hit curveballs and started throwing curveballs to the Nazis. Moe parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia, and he eavesdropped on German physicists.”

Singer Songwriter Mark Russell delighted the ceremony audience with his rendition of “Wild Bill,” a satirical song about the leader of the OSS. The OSS was created in 1942 by the legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to coordinate American intelligence efforts, in its heyday the OSS deployed more than 13,000 operatives in addition to four future CIA directors. Pioneers of sabotage, intelligence gathering, supplying resistance movements, capturing high-value targets and infiltrating enemy strongholds, OSS agents were in Gen. Donovan’s words “glorious amateurs” who undertook “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

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Accepting the medal on behalf of all the brave OSS men and women, was William Clarke, an OSS & CIA veteran. He told the audience that around 100 OSS members are still alive.
The OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Pictured is Eugene Polinsky, navigator in the Air force special operations group known as the “Carpetbaggers.”

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Pictured is Robert Holmstrom displaying with fellow “Carpetbagger” Bill Becker the silk maps they carried to be informed about the typography of their missions.

The OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Family members enjoyed reuniting with other OSS families who had served together on their missions. The family members of Lt. Col Gerhard L Bolland met the family of William Colby, an OSS member who like others later became the head of the CIA.

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At the reception following the ceremony Representative Will Hurd (TX), who had been in the CIA, spoke about his appreciation of the clandestine nature of serving in the OSS.
At the reception many relatives of the OSS members bemoaned the fact that it took 73 years for this Congressional medal to finally be awarded, and they regretted that their deceased family members could not partake in the Congressional recognition.
The stories of these courageous OSS men and women will finally be memorialized when The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations opens in the future.

We hope the documentary film of Moe Berg will contribute to this important effort.

Click to see the National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations Brochure.

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the brave and brilliant female figures of the past – which like Moe Berg served in the O.S.S. We’d like to honor in particular the American Intelligence legend Elizabeth P. McIntosh. McIntosh’s memoir “Sisterhood of Spies” highlights her remarkable past as an O.S.S. spy as well as shares the accounts of the under-known troupe of international female combatants such as Virginia Hall (nick-named the “The Limping Lady” because of her wooden leg) or Betty Lussier, known for her double-agent network in France.

Moe Berg’s Japan Address

In February of 1942, Moe Berg was pushed into action after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He had just retired from baseball in January and had joined Rockefeller’s Office of Inter American Affairs and was about to leave on a South American mission. Prior to leaving, the U.S. Government asked Berg to address the Japanese people in their own language. By shortwave radio Berg reminded them of the friendship Americans and Japanese had previously shared and about their shared love of baseball.

(excerpt from speech)

“You loved us enough to copy our national game-baseball. We appreciated it when thousands of you gave our All American baseball team a great reception in 1934, waving American flags. I ask you, what sound basis is there for enmity between two peoples who enjoy the same national sport?”

Read more about Moe Berg’s experiences with the Japanese people in Robert Fitt’s Banzai Babe Ruth.

Spring Training or Law School? That is the Question.

Baseball Pitchers and Catchers have reported to Spring training and are back in action! MLB teams are reporting to sunny Florida and Arizona in preparation for the 2018 season. Moe Berg spent 15 years in major-league ball with most of them as a catcher.
In 1926 White Sox owner Charles Comiskey granted Berg’s request to miss spring training so he could finish the semester at Columbia law School. However, in February of 1927, Moe contacted Charles Comiskey to request permission to report late for spring training again. Comiskey wrote back ”My Dear Young Man, The time has come when you must decide as to the profession you intend following. If it is baseball, then it is most essential and important to the club and yourself that you report for spring training. Whether or not you decide to play baseball, the Chicago Club must continue, so you may rest assured that whatever action you take will make no difference to us.” Berg wrote back, unconvinced, and Comiskey’s next letter read, “should you decide that you would report for spring training, I might tender you a contract with an increase over the contract which you now have in your possession.” Berg did want to play baseball, so he got a leave of absence from the law school dean for the remainder of the academic year. As a result of reporting late, he spent the first three months of 1927 on the bench and that was when Manager Ray Schalk yelled, “Get me another catcher, quick.” Berg told the manager that the team already had another catcher – referring to Earl Sheely, but Schalk misunderstood and thought Berg was volunteering so put him in as catcher. Moe did eventually complete his law studies at Columbia (his father wanted him to be a lawyer) and received his degree in 1930.

 

Moe Berg

From a new collection of poems “If God Invented Baseball”
By E. Ethelbert Miller

What man doesn’t have secrets?
What man doesn’t wear a mask?

Every catcher hides his signs
from the man on second
and from the rest of the world.

If Moe Berg was a spy
he was our spy
protecting home.

Behind every catcher
only a lonely umpire
calling the game like God.

Moe Berg Feature Film to Premiere at Sundance Film Festival

November 30, 2017

The Sundance Film Festival yesterday announced its lineup for 2018, which included the feature film about Moe Berg, The Catcher Was a Spy. The film, directed by Ben Lewin, will have its world premiere at the festival, which takes place annually in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This feature film on Moe Berg, which is loosely based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Dawidoff, stars Paul Rudd as Moe, Sienna Miller as Estella (Moe’s love interest), Jeff Daniels as Wild Bill Donovan (the head of the OSS who recruited Moe), Mark Strong as Werner Heisenberg (who we know Moe met with to determine the status of the German nuclear project), and Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as physicists Moe interacted with.

We are so excited to see this feature adaptation of Moe’s story. Looking forward to seeing Paul Rudd sport Moe’s usual dark suits!

Read more about the Sundance lineup and the Moe Berg feature film at this link.

Bobby Doerr, Red Sox Hall of Fame Second Baseman and Former Teammate of Moe Berg, Dies at 99

November 15, 2017

Bobby Doerr, the Hall of Fame second baseman dubbed the “Silent Captain” of the Boston Red Sox by longtime teammate and friend Ted Williams, has died. Doerr died on Monday October 13 at the age of 99. He played on the same Red Sox team as Moe Berg in the 1937, 1938, and 1939 seasons and was one of the players Moe coached on the Red Sox in the 1940 and 1941 seasons.

In the statement released by the Red Sox on Tuesday October 14, Red Sox owner John Henry said: “Bobby Doerr was part of an era of baseball giants and stood out as one himself. And even with his Hall of Fame achievements at second base, his character and personality outshined it all. He will be missed.”

Bobby Doerr pictured in 1942 (Source: NBCNews/AP)

Doerr was signed out of the old Pacific Coast League in 1937, where he had played for the San Diego Padres with Ted Williams, who was signed to the Red Sox out of the same scouting trip. In 1938, Doerr became a regular in the Red Sox lineup as their second baseman. Doerr played 14 seasons with the Red Sox and joined his old friend Ted Williams in the Hall of Fame in 1986. He had a .288 career average, helped the Red Sox to the 1946 World Series, and was a nine-time All-Star.

In 1988, the Red Sox retired his No. 1 jersey at Fenway Park and the team honored Doerr with a 2004 World Series ring after breaking their 86-year championship drought.

Doerr, who was known for being modest, finished his career with 2,042 hits, 223 home runs and 1,247 RBIs. His six seasons with at least 100 RBIs was not matched by another second baseman for 25 years. He was frequently cited one of the best AL fielders.

After retiring as a player, Doerr returned to the Red Sox first as a scout from 1957-1966 and then as the first base coach from 1967-1969. He then became the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-1981.

Doerr’s friendship with Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio is well known and commemorated in a statue unveiled at Fenway in 2010. He also played on the team with Hall of Famers Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove.

Doerr retired to Junction City, Oregon with his wife, Monica Roseman Terpin, and their son, Don. When asked if he wished he played “now,” in 1990, Doerr responded: “No. I know the money is better, but I just feel fortunate to have played then. I think we had more fun. We played the game hard, but there is so much pressure on these guys.”

Bobby Doerr was the oldest living Major League Baseball player and was the last living person who played in the major leagues in the 1930s. We join the baseball community in mourning his passing and remembering his legacy as on of the Red Sox greats from the Golden Age of baseball.

For more on Bobby Doerr and his legacy, see this link.

a film by Aviva Kempner