Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Berg, Moe, 1902-1972
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
Moe Berg Papers
Repository:
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/08612p277
Dates:
1866-1991 (mostly 1943-1958)
Size:
25 boxes and 19 linear feet
Storage Note:
This is stored in multiple locations. Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-24 ReCAP (rcpxm): Box 25
Language:
and

Abstract

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.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

The Moe Berg Papers consists of typed and hand-written correspondence, hand-written notes loose or in notebooks or notepads, silver gelatin photographs of varying size, and miscellaneous and printed materials such as newspaper clippings, financial information, and materials on Berg collected by others. Languages in the collection include French, German, Japanese, and Italian.

Correspondence makes up the physical and intellectual bulk of the papers and relates mainly to Berg's time with the Office of Strategic Services. Most of the materials are carbon-copies of typed letters and documentation exchanged back and forth by government pouch during World War II. Drafts of cables, official orders, and scientific documentation acquired for or during Berg's many assignments are also present. Notable correspondents include Nelson A. Rockefeller, Vannevar Bush, and General Leslie R. Groves.

Berg also took copious notes from the 1930s through the 1960s in a variety of formats. Some notes relate directly to his government work. Others keep track of his social life, consisting of a vast network of friends in baseball, government and law, and society on the East Coast. Berg's continued interest in academics resulted in notes on books and linguistics. Later notes contain autobiographical accounts or remarks on his past.

A number of black-and-white photographs are included and relate to the things most commonly associated with Moe Berg: his baseball career, pre-war trips to Japan, experiences abroad during World War II, and his relationships with friends and family. Along with snapshots, there are professional press images, copy-prints from the 1980s for which the originals are not present, and many duplicates of images Berg himself favored. Notable individuals include baseball players Babe Ruth, "Lefty" O'Doul, Joe Cronin, Hollis Thurston, and physicist Paul Scherrer.

Finally, the Moe Berg Papers contain printed material, such as ephemera Berg collected abroad and newspaper clippings covering his baseball career, as well as materials collected posthumously by others on Berg. There is also financial information spanning most of Berg's active adult life.

This collection is arranged into five series with additional subdivisions.

Collection Creator Biography:

Berg, Moe, 1902-1972

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.

Collection History

Acquisition:

Gift of William Sear, 2011 . Additional gifts by Neil J. Farkas (accession numbers AR.2007.047 and AR.2011.059) added in 2012. Additional gifts by Dr. and Mrs. Arnold S. Breitbart added in 2012 (AR.2012.063 and AR.2010.130) and 2016 (AM 2016-83). Provenance for these later gifts are noted at the file or item level.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Valerie Addonizio in 2012 with assistance from Lisa Yankowitz ('13). Finding aid written by Valerie Addonizio in February 2012.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Moe Berg Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/08612p277
Location:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184