What Moe's Early 1930s Daring-Do Did

by Nat Bodian


Moe Berg, one of Barringer High School's most illustrious graduates, enjoyed dual careers, first as a major league baseball player, and later, during World War II as a spy for the OSS.

However, an unrelated feat of daring-do in the early 1930s was perhaps one of his greatest, but largely unheralded accomplishments.

It happened in 1934 when Berg visited Japan as a member of an all-star baseball team. He was a master linguist and had learned to speak Japanese prior to a previous visit to Tokyo in 1932 when he coached a Japanese baseball league.

During his 1934 visit, he entered St. Luke's Hospital, a seven-story building with a bell tower at its top. It was the tallest building in Tokyo.

Gentleman Bearing Flowers

In his arms, he carried a bouquet of flowers and told the receptionist he was bringing them to U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew's daughter, who had recently given birth to a daughter. He was directed to take the elevator to her fifth floor room.

But, instead of going to her fifth floor room, Berg took the elevator to the top floor, and then climbed the bell tower stairs to the top.

There, he removed a camera that he had concealed under his kimono. It was a Bell and Howell automatic movie camera that had been supplied to him by Movietone News, a newsreel company, to be used for photographing his famous teammates during their Japanese visit.

Sweeping Tokyo's Skyline

With the camera, Berg did a 21 second sweep of the Tokyo skyline and other important parts of the city.

It was revealed after the end of World War II that the film Berg took that day had been used by the U.S. military for the fire bombing of Tokyo on March 9th and 10th in 1945.

That raid, reportedly, had been more devastating than the raids on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.



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