Roger Hall, 89, who wrote
You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger
, a wry memoir about World War II spycraft that became a cult classic in intelligence circles and appealed to a wide audience for its irreverence, died Sunday at his home in Wilmington. He had congestive heart failure.
Mr. Hall's 1957 bestseller was based on his time in the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime precursor to the CIA. The appeal was in Mr. Hall's narrative as a man of nerve battling the enemy and his pompous superiors.
He described himself as an ideal match for the OSS, which was interested less in formal military expertise than in recruiting agents who could use their wits and innovation in sticky situations to win the war.
"There were no parameters, and you did what the hell you wanted, up to legal and military limits," he told the Washington Post in 2002. "The more creative you were, the more they liked it."
One of his favorite OSS stories involved a colleague sent to occupied France to destroy a seemingly impenetrable German tank at a key crossroads. The French resistance found that grenades were no use.
The OSS man, fluent in German and dressed like a French peasant, walked up to the tank and yelled, "Mail!"
The lid opened, and in went two grenades.
Mr. Hall learned guerrilla warfare at Maryland's Congressional Country Club, which the OSS had taken over for training, and infiltrated a Philadelphia circuit-breaker plant on a test run.
Mr. Hall spent much of the war in Britain. Ultimately, he arrived in a war zone, Norway. One of his tasks was to oversee the surrender of thousands of Germans to his small contingent. He said the colonel who surrendered to him pulled out a ceremonial dagger and told Mr. Hall that his men were like blades - temporarily sheathed.
Mr. Hall grabbed the dagger and broke it on the ground with his feet, one of his proudest dramatic moments.
He spent most of his life in New York as a free-lance writer and editor. - Washington Post