Beloved Children’s Author Revealed As a Spy!

Roald Dahl, author of many classic children’s books including James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, worked in Washington, DC during World War Two as an intelligence agent for the British government and in that capacity spied on the United States.

Ostensibly an assistant air attache at the British Embassy, Dahl actually worked for William Stephenson, better known in history by his code name, Intrepid. Stephenson was the chief of an immense and mainly clandestine intelligence organization set up in the US by the British before America’s entry into the war. The organization was known as British Security Coordination and had a large suite of offices in Rockefeller Center. BSC also engaged in a well coordinated and highly effective public relations campaign on behalf of the British and did everything possible to sway American opinion to the British side.

Source: The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant (three stars). Reviewed below.

Dahl was a decorated RAF fighter pilot whose wounds in battle were such that he could not longer fly operationally. He spent the years from 1942 to 1945 in Washington, DC. His wartime exploits both vertical and horizontal, are detailed in this well researched and interesting book. Dahl was 6’6″, unusual now but even more unusual then, especially among the English. He could barely fit into the cockpits of the different planes he flew. But he was a different sort.

Writes the author:

A courageous officer wounded in battle, smashing looking in his dress uniform, he was everything England could have asked for as a romantic representative of that imperiled island. He was also arrogant, idiosyncratic, and incorrigible, and probably the last person anyone would have considered reliable enough to be trusted with anything secret.
OK, he wasn’t Mr. Perfect. And while he was a man any woman could bring home to mother, he would not have had the time to meet all the mothers of all the women he seduced. Like James Bond, many of Dahl’s most successful missions were under the sheets.

Nonetheless, his charm and winning personality allowed him to mix at the highest level including weekends at Eleanor Roosevelt’s country home. This was a man who got around and in doing so produced a lot of valuable intelligence for the British. For reasons known only to Sigmund Freud, people in high positions often told him everything they knew.

Dahl also began to write in America, selling stories to American magazines. This launched his writing career although it was somewhat accidental. Someone suggested he write up a few of his adventures, which he did, and people clamored for more. Altogether, he was a fascinating man if something of a rouge.

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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