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Grant number: FZ-250439-17

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FZ-250439-17

Matthew Avery Sutton
Washington State University (Pullman, WA 99164-0001)

FDR's Army of Faith: Religion and Espionage in World War II

A book on religious activists and missionaries who served as US spies in China, Germany, Italy, and North Africa during World War II.  Sutton's work tells the stories of John Birch in China; Felix Morlion, a Belgian Catholic who spied for the OSS in the Vatican; William Eddy, a missionary's son who organized intelligence in Northern Africa; and Moe Berg, a Jewish professional baseball player sent behind the lines to interrupt work by German scientists. 

FDR drafted ten million people to serve in World War II. And he drafted God. Or at least some of God’s most valuable earthly agents. During the war the US government sent a small but influential group of missionaries and religious activists around the globe to work in covert operations and espionage. Their stories have remained hidden—until now. This analysis of religion and espionage is significant for the following reasons. (1) It illustrates how religious activists’ entwining of faith and patriotic duty made them some of the nation’s best spies, willing to sacrifice everything to execute their missions. (2) It highlights the little-known role that religion played in World War II. FDR pushed Americans to see global religious freedom as fundamental to American security for the first time. (3) It reveals how the government and the work of religious activists facilitated the rise of a new religious nationalism ostensibly grounded in the championing of global freedom of religion.

Project fields:
Cultural History; History of Religion; U.S. History

Program:
Public Scholar Program

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2017 – 7/31/2018