Jerry Sage

Jerry Sage '34

world war II hero

inducted 1997

Hero is a word born not on the gridiron, but on battleships and battlefields or, as in the case of North Central graduate Jerry Sage, behind the barbed wire of Nazi POW camps.

After graduating from North Central, Sage attended Washington State College, where he starred as an end on the Cougar football team in the late 1930s.

In 1941 he volunteered for the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), the forerunner of the CIA. There Sage learned the art of the “shadow trade” and was dubbed “The Dagger” for his skill at hand-to-hand combat. He first plied his new covert profession as a saboteur in North Africa, slowing down Nazi General Erwin Rommel’s infamous Afrika Corps.

But it was after being captured by the Nazis that Sage displayed his indomitable spirit, spending his entire three years as a POW planning and attempting escapes. Doing so came with a cost, as evidenced by his moniker, “The Cooler King,” given for his lengthy stays in solitary confinement following his many escape attempts. His persistence paid off in 1945, when he escaped for good.

Sage’s exploits were immortalized in the classic 1963 film The Great Escape. The film’s protagonist, portrayed by Steve McQueen, was based largely on Sage’s experiences as a POW. In 1985 the retired Colonel Sage penned his autobiography, titled Sage: "Dagger" of the O.S.S.

Jerry Sage suffered his greatest war-related heartbreak in 1968, when his son, Captain Terence F. Sage, was killed in Vietnam. Jerry Sage died in 1993 at the age of 75. (Text courtesy of