These Famous People Were also Spies or Intelligence Agents

Roald Dahl with American actress Patricia Neal, his wife of thirty years before they divorced. Library of Congress

2. Roald Dahl spied for the British – in the United States

The author of James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, did much more than create memorable characters for children of all ages. Well-educated and athletic, as well as over 6’6” in height, Dahl was a decorated fighter pilot in World War II before injuries caused him to be invalided home in 1941. In 1942 he was assigned to the British Embassy in Washington. From his post there he became active in Washington’s social scene and met Eleanor Roosevelt, who made him a frequent guest at the White House. The introduction was no accident, Dahl was in Washington to forward intelligence information to William Stephenson (the man called Intrepid) and directly to Winston Churchill.

“My job was to try to help Winston to get on with FDR, and tell Winston what was in the old boy’s mind”, Dahl later wrote. His frequent visits to the White House, and later to FDR’s home at Hyde Park in New York, gave him the opportunity to have several private conversations with Roosevelt, as well as with other senior members of the administration. He provided detailed and meticulously prepared reports for his handlers in Washington, and in his letters to Churchill which traveled to the Prime Minister via the diplomatic pouch. Dahl also worked with other writers, including C.S. Forester, the creator of Horatio Hornblower, to produce anti-German propaganda articles for American periodicals and films.