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Which British Author Spied on the U.S. During World War II?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 17, 2024
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You probably know Roald Dahl as the author of children’s books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The BFG, as well as numerous works for adults. But you may not know that the Welsh-born writer was also a World War II fighter pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force. Even more surprising is the fact that Dahl was recruited as an undercover spy for a wartime espionage network formed by MI6.

His job was to provide behind-the-scenes information about the Brits’ most reliable ally – the United States – from his embassy office in Washington, DC

The down-low on Dahl:

  • As a novice RAF pilot in 1940, Dahl was forced to crash-land his Gloster Gladiator biplane in an Egyptian desert when he became lost and low on fuel. Dahl suffered a fractured skull that dogged him with crippling headaches and blackouts.

  • In 1942, Dahl was reassigned to a diplomatic post at the British embassy in Washington, D.C. As an assistant air attaché, he was assigned to plant pro-British and anti-Nazi stories in the American press to rally a reluctant United States into joining World War II.

  • After the war, Dahl focused on writing some of the most popular books of the 20th century. The former spy also worked on adapting Ian Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice into a screenplay for the 1967 James Bond movie.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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