Was Noble Prize John Steinbeck a CIA Agent?

“Do you suppose you could ask Edgar’s boys to stop stepping on my heels? They [FBI] think I am an enemy alien. It is getting tiresome.”

John Steinbeck  — 1942 letter to United States Attorney General Francis Biddle

“If during this period I can be of any service to yourself or to the agency you direct, I shall be only too glad.”

John Steinbeck  — Letter to then-Director of Central Intelligence William Bedell “Beetle” Smith

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

John Steinbeck

American author John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” Steinbeck has been called “a giant of American letters,” and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2012 indicate that Steinbeck offered his services to the Agency in 1952, while planning a European tour, and the Director of Central Intelligence, Walter Bedell Smith, was eager to take him up on the offer.

What work, if any, Steinbeck may have performed for the CIA during the Cold War is unknown.

We know for certain that before Steinbeck took a months-long tour of the Mediterranean region two years earlier, he volunteered for such serious work in a letter to then-Director of Central Intelligence William Bedell “Beetle” Smith:

“If during this period I can be of any service to yourself or to the agency you direct, I shall be only too glad.”

And we know from Smith’s response, available in the CIA’s online archives, that Steinbeck’s offer was welcomed. We also know from KGB archives that when Steinbeck visited the Soviet Union in 1947, the Soviet spooks suspected he might use his prestige and contacts to discredit the USSR or spy on it.

(One of Steinbeck’s first visits on that trip, as it happened, was to the U.S. ambassador in Moscow at the time, the same William Bedell Smith who took over the CIA in 1950 and built it into an effective organization.)

John Steinbeck gives Nobel Prize Speech (Stockholm, December 10, 1962)

REFERENCES

John Steinbeck — Wikipedia

Did Novelist John Steinbeck Spy for the CIA in Paris? — Daily Beast

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Was Noble Prize John Steinbeck a CIA Agent?

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