What makes a good missionary makes a good American spy, or so thought Office of Special Services (OSS) founder “Wild” Bill Donovan when he recruited religious activists into the first ranks of American espionage. Called upon to serve Uncle Sam, Donovan’s recruits saw the war as a means of expanding their godly mission, believing an American victory would guarantee the safety of their fellow missionaries and their coreligionists abroad.
Drawing on never-before-seen archival materials, acclaimed historian Matthew Sutton shows how religious activists proved to be true believers in Franklin Roosevelt’s crusade for global freedom of religion. Sutton focuses on William Eddy, a warrior for Protestantism who was fluent in Arabic; Stewart Herman, a young Lutheran minister rounded up by the Nazis while pastoring in Berlin; Stephen B. L. Penrose, Jr., who left his directorship over missionary schools in the Middle East to join the military rank and file; and John Birch, a fundamentalist missionary in China. Donovan chose these men because they already had the requisite skills for good intelligence analysis, espionage, and covert operations, skills that allowed them to seamlessly blend into different environments. Working for eternal rewards rather than temporal spoils, they proved willing to sacrifice and even to die for their country during the conflict, becoming some of the United States’ most loyal secret soldiers.
Acutely aware of how their actions conflicted with their spiritual calling, these spies nevertheless ran covert operations in the centers of global religious power, including Mecca, the Vatican, and Palestine. In the end, they played an outsized role in leading the US to victory in WWII: Eddy laid the groundwork for the Allied invasion of North Africa, while Birch led guerilla attacks against the Japanese and, eventually, Chinese Communists. After the war, some of them — those who survived — helped launch the Central Intelligence Agency, so that their nation, and American Christianity, could maintain a strong presence throughout the rest of the world.
Surprising and absorbing at every turn, Double Crossedis an untold story of World War II spycraft and a profound account of the compromises and doubts that war forces on those who wage it.