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The Archaeologist Was a Spy: Sylvanus G. Morley and the Office of Naval…

von Charles H. Harris

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Sylvanus G Morley (1883-1948) is widely known as an influential Mayan archaeologist. This intriguing book shows that he was arguably the greatest American spy of World War I. Morley came to the attention of the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1916, when reports that German agents were establishing a Central American base for submarine warfare first surfaced. Morley's field research provided the ideal cover for reconnoitring throughout the region. He made several extended research/intelligence-gathering trips along the Caribbean coast of Central America starting in 1917 and forwarded detailed reports and maps to ONI. While he found no noteworthy German activity, his activities permit the authors of this book to reconstruct the way ONI identified, recruited, placed, and debriefed field agents, nearly 150 of whom, many with academic ties, were funnelling data to ONI by the close of World War I. In a final chapter, Sadler and Harris extend the story of academic participation in intelligence work through the 1930s into the founding of 'Wild Bill' Donovan's Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the beginning of World War II.… (mehr)
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When I got this book, I was afraid it would be all thriller, no facts. Having read it, I would characterize it as all facts, very few thrills. It seems to be exhaustively researched and is fairly well written. Not light reading, but an interesting perspective on Central America during World War I. ( )
  jjlangel | Aug 9, 2010 |
This is an interesting examination of how intelligence work used to be carried out and something of a period study, via the focus of examining the career of Mayanist Sylvanus Morley during World War I. That said, the sad thing about this book is that it's marred by heavy-handed accusations of lack of patriotic fervor in the last few chapters; both against the noted social scientist Franz Boas and against the Academy of today. I don't know enough about Harris and Sadler to accuse them of bad faith, but the snide tone they adopt is best left to the world of live journals. This is not to mention that while Boas may not have been "100-percent American" enough for World War I America, even a cursory examination of the issue at Wikipedia would suggest that the men who tried to purge him from the social science establishment of the time were not exactly professionally disinterested either. No sense of this is given by Harris & Sadler and it makes one distrust the rest of their interpretation. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jan 6, 2006 |
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Sylvanus G Morley (1883-1948) is widely known as an influential Mayan archaeologist. This intriguing book shows that he was arguably the greatest American spy of World War I. Morley came to the attention of the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1916, when reports that German agents were establishing a Central American base for submarine warfare first surfaced. Morley's field research provided the ideal cover for reconnoitring throughout the region. He made several extended research/intelligence-gathering trips along the Caribbean coast of Central America starting in 1917 and forwarded detailed reports and maps to ONI. While he found no noteworthy German activity, his activities permit the authors of this book to reconstruct the way ONI identified, recruited, placed, and debriefed field agents, nearly 150 of whom, many with academic ties, were funnelling data to ONI by the close of World War I. In a final chapter, Sadler and Harris extend the story of academic participation in intelligence work through the 1930s into the founding of 'Wild Bill' Donovan's Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the beginning of World War II.

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