Train To Be a Spy (OSS)

A spy is a person who secretly collects information about an enemy. Being a spy during World War II was tough work and everything was secret. Some American spies in World War II worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after World War II.

The basic mission of spies in the OSS was to obtain information and to sabotage (stop or weaken) the military efforts of enemy nations during World War II.

Training was very important to teach the spies the skills that could help keep them alive and accomplish their missions. One of the training areas for the OSS was in the Catoctin Recreational Area, now known as Catoctin Mountain Park.

Watch the movie clips to learn about some of the training of the OSS and find the answers to the questions below.

Some terms used in the movie clips:

Guerrrillas - Small groups of people who fight against their enemy with irregular tactics.

Saboteurs - Groups of people who deliberately destroy something, in this case for a military advantage.


Open Transcript


Somewhere in America, the United States is developing  hundreds of recruits for this specialized service. Hand picked with the aid of Army and Navy intelligence facilities, the men are taken under guard (shown here being driven in trucks) to the secret training camp which is to be their home for the weeks to follow. The area is located high in an eastern mountain range miles from the nearest village and under constant guard by U.S. soldiers and Marines. This isolated heavily wooded terrain offers an excellent proving ground for the student of guerrilla tactics. Classes are limited to less than a dozen men thus ensuring the utmost security and providing almost individual instruction for each student.  From the moment of their induction, the identities of the recruits remain a carefully guarded secret which explains the use of masks in this film. From whence they came or for what perilous mission they're being prepared is a concern if nobody at camp. In this group there are some who speak very little English. One of them has fought in four wars, two of them are veteran guerrillas from the Spanish Loyalist forces. Several have seen their relatives and friends die at the hands of the enemy.

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1 minute, 38 seconds

OSS recruits arrive at Catoctin. Actual footage from OSS training videos produced by John Ford. To see more OSS movie clips see

Question 1. How did the men get to the secret OSS training camp?


Question 2. How many men were in a class?

A. Less than a dozen

B. More than 100

C. 30

Watch the movie clip below and answer the questions.


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After the senior instructor has delivered a short induction speech, he presents each man with an identification badge bearing a first name only. From this point onward, the students are known by officers and fellow recruits merely as student “Jack” or student “Fred” or whatever name has been assigned them. They will be confined at all times to the camp area and when they finally leave, it will be to proceed immediately and incommunicado to the conveyance that takes them to the scene of action. Every item of personal equipment is supplied by the government.The men arrive without so much as a toothbrush or pencil. During this training period, emphasis is put on close association among members of the same student groups. An expert guerrilla or saboteur must not only think can act quickly for himself, but must almost anticipate the next action of his colleague. Individual quarters are hidden in the woods and the students are taught to live in seclusion in conditions simulating those they may encounter as guerrillas behind enemy lines.

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1 minute, 11 seconds

OSS recruits arrive at Catoctin. Actual footage from OSS training videos produced by John Ford.

Question 5. What did the men live in while in camp?


Last updated: February 27, 2020

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