Classical Spies

American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece
Susan Heuck Allen
Archaeologists and espionage during WWII


Classical Spies is the first insiders' account of the operations of the American intelligence service in World War II Greece. Initiated by archaeologists in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, the network drew on scholars' personal contacts and knowledge of languages and terrain. While modern readers might think Indiana Jones is just a fantasy character, Classical Spies discloses events where even Indy would feel at home: burying Athenian dig records in an Egyptian tomb, activating prep-school connections to establish spies code-named Vulture and Chickadee, and organizing parachute drops.

Susan Heuck Allen reveals remarkable details about a remarkable group of individuals. Often mistaken for mild-mannered professors and scholars, such archaeologists as University of Pennsylvania's Rodney Young, Cincinnati's Jack Caskey and Carl Blegen, Yale's Jerry Sperling and Dorothy Cox, and Bryn Mawr's Virginia Grace proved their mettle as effective spies in an intriguing game of cat and mouse with their Nazi counterparts. Relying on interviews with individuals sharing their stories for the first time, previously unpublished secret documents, private diaries and letters, and personal photographs, Classical Spies offers an exciting and personal perspective on the history of World War II.

"Classical Spies will be a lasting contribution to the discipline and will stimulate further research. Susan Heuck Allen presents to a wide readership a topic of interest that is important and has been neglected."
—William M. Calder III, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

An experienced archaeologist and author of many books and articles, including a volume on Frank Calvert’s discovery of Troy, Susan Heuck Allen has taught at Yale University and Smith College and is currently Visiting Scholar in the Department of Classics, Brown University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Susan Heuck Allen has produced a solid  and fascinating account of a little-known  chapter of the history of Greece and of American intelligence in the Second World War. Her book is a warm and  fitting tribute to the men and women of the OSS who did their best to help Greeks survive the hardship and horrors  of  war and enemy occupation."
    —John O. Iatrides, Southern Connecticut State University

  • "In World War II, the Office of Strategic Services or OSS was central administration for intelligence, i.e. spies The Greek Desk of the OSS  with stations at various times in  Cairo, Bari, Izmir and Alexandria, covered the eastern Mediterranean. Classical Spies is a lively, sometimes almost day by day account of the founding and work of that Greek Desk. Names of the personnel involved were kept secret until 2008, and so only then could one learn that many of the learned and kindly (for the most part) Classicists who taught Latin, Greek, and Archaeology to generations of Americans during the twentieth century  did vital, dangerous, and generally unrecognized work for the Allies.

    Their names resonate in influential studies throughout the many areas of research concerned with Mediterranean antiquity. Consider the following; Benjamin D. Merritt, T. Leslie Shear, Rodney Young (whose heroism during the Italian offensive against Greece is chronicled here) James Oliver, Virginia Grace, Missy Crosby, Lucy Talcott, Alison Frantz, John Caskey, Gerald Else, Charles Edson, Sterling Dow, Richard Treat Bruere.  I had the good fortune to know and even work with some of these scholars but I never heard a whisper concerning what they did in the years 1941-1944.

    Susan Allen has put together a documented report, rich in intimate detail and anecdote, of the trials, frustrations, and occasional successes of a highly qualified team."
    —Alan L. Boegehold, Brown University

  • "...Susan Allen's book provides a fascinating insight into the wartime activities and intrigues of some of America's most distinguished archaeologists, and is a welcome addition to the more general history of Greece under occupation."
    —Richard Clogg, Times Literary Supplement

  • "[Classical Spies] illuminates an important aspect of our contemporary history that was almost unknown, at least to the general public."
    —Anastasis Vistonitis, To Vima

  • "The newest book from archaeologist Susan Heuck Allen, Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece…is itself likely to become a classic."
    —John Leonard, Athens News

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen: UMP Author Podcast Series: Susan Heuck Allen | MP3 | 10/31/2011

Read: Q&A with Susan Heuck Allen | PDF | 10/31/2011

Media Kit

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 448pp.
  • 24 B&W photographs, 2 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11769-7

Add to Cart
  • $40.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03539-7

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  • $28.95 U.S.

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  • espionage, WWII, OSS, Modern Greece, American School of Classical Studies, Eastern Mediterranean, UNRRA/Greek War Relief, Archaeologists, spies, secret intelligence, classics, classical studies, archaeology