Biography and History

Morris "Moe" Berg was a member of Princeton University's class of 1923 where he distinguished himself as a student and as an athlete, graduating magna cum laude and earning the title of captain of the baseball team his senior season. Following graduation Berg played major league baseball with a number of teams, finally retiring in 1939. During the Second World War he was an agent for the Office of Strategic Services, operating in Europe on projects investigating Nazi resistance in Yugoslavia and German rocket engineering. Moe Berg died in 1972.

Source: From the finding aid for AC326

Biography and History

Morris "Moe" Berg was born on March 2, 1902, in Harlem, New York, to Jewish immigrants, Rose and Bernard Berg, but spent the majority of his childhood in the Roseville section of Newark, New Jersey. Berg developed an early interest in the two passions that would define most of his life: academics and baseball. After a promising stint on the Barringer High School baseball team, Berg went on to play shortstop and study seven languages at Princeton University as a member of the Class of 1923.

Immediately upon his graduation, Berg was offered both a teaching position and a Major League Baseball contract in June 1923. He accepted the offer from the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers) and went on to play catcher for four Major League teams. Berg also studied at the Sorbonne and later got his law degree from Columbia University in 1930, studying between seasons. Berg was better known as "Professor Moe," the most learned man in baseball, than for his exploits on the field, though he did accompany Babe Ruth to Japan for an all-star exposition tour in 1934.

In January 1942, after nineteen years in baseball and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Berg left baseball to put his language skills to use under Nelson A. Rockefeller in the Office of (the Coordinator of) Inter-American Affairs. Soon after, in 1944, Berg was accepted into the Office of Strategic Services under General William "Wild Bill" Donovan, and would spend the next two years as a spy in Europe.

In December 1944 Berg underwent his most well-known mission: attending a lecture by the German theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg – long suspected of playing a major role in the development of an atomic bomb for Germany – and to assassinate the scientist upon hearing any evidence that a bomb was imminent. He did not shoot. Berg also reported on any and all scientific advancements being made by Germany and Italy, most especially those concerning radar, biological and chemical warfare, and torpedoes. One of Berg’s last official duties was to contact the German refuge physicist Lise Meitner, long-time associate of Otto Hahn.

After the war, Berg returned to the United States and spent the next twenty-five years drifting from place to place, socializing with friends and colleagues but ultimately living with his siblings Samuel and Ethel in Newark. Berg did try to revive his espionage career with the Central Intelligence Agency, first in 1952 and again in 1966. Both endeavors were ultimately unsuccessful. Other than consultant work for the NATO Advisory Group for Aeronautic and Research and Development in 1958, Berg did no more significant government work.

Moe Berg never married or held another full-time job. He continued a secretive and solitary lifestyle until his death in Newark on May 29, 1972.

Source: From the finding aid for C1413

Occupations

  • Intelligence officers -- United States -- 20th century..
  • Moe Berg Papers. 1943-1958 (bulk), 1866-1991 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1413

    Morris "Moe" Berg (1902-1972) was a Major League Baseball player, linguist, and lawyer who became a spy in World War II. The papers are comprised of correspondence, notes, photographs, and miscellaneous and printed materials covering all aspects of his life and work, but relating primarily to Berg's work with multiple government agencies.

  • Moe Berg Papers. 1943-1958 (bulk), 1866-1991 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1413

    Morris "Moe" Berg (1902-1972) was a Major League Baseball player, linguist, and lawyer who became a spy in World War II. The papers are comprised of correspondence, notes, photographs, and miscellaneous and printed materials covering all aspects of his life and work, but relating primarily to Berg's work with multiple government agencies.