By Matthew Avery Sutton, Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of History and department chair
William Alfred Eddy did not look the part of super spy. No movie mogul would have cast him as a James Bond or a Jason Bourne. In his mid-40s, he had a limp, a receding hairline, a pudgy face and an expanding waist. Though he had served as a Marine in World War I, he dedicated his life after the war to the cause of peace. He became a missionary, sharing the Christian gospel with students in the Muslim world. But when the United States returned to war in the early 1940s, he again responded to his nation’s call to serve.
Eddy was one of dozens of missionaries recruited to help launch the United States’ first foreign intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Eddy was sent to Morocco, where the missionary could put his knowledge of the Quran, years of practice speaking Arabic and partnerships with Muslim leaders to good use preparing the way for Operation Torch, the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. As one of the most effective OSS field operatives, he soon became the target of Axis intelligence agents. Eddy’s American bosses warned him to take the greatest precautions or he would be returning home in a box, but he had other things in mind.