William J. Donovan And The Term Paper

Length: 12 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Military Type: Term Paper Paper: #15468295 Related Topics: Winston Churchill, Irish Republican Army, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Meningitis
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Y. National Guard, which had been conducting a vigorous recruiting campaign (Troy 24). According to this author, "The Sixty-ninth was drafted into the Regular Army and was proud to be selected New York's representative in the newly formed Forty-second Division, the 'Rainbow Division,' where it was redesignated the 165th Regiment" (Troy 24). These events as much as any other were responsible for providing Donovan with both the experience as well as the recognition that would help propel him into future leadership positions. In this regard, Troy reports that, "It remained 'the old Sixty-ninth,' however, and for the better part of his twenty-two months of service Donovan was the commander of its First Battalion. It was in that capacity, a lieutenant colonel, that he saw combat, was several times wounded, and demonstrated such outstanding qualities of leadership and moral courage that he emerged from the war with 'more medals than any other 42nd officer'" (emphasis added) (Troy 24).

Donovan also received the Distinguished Service Cross (1918), the Distinguished Service Medal (1922), and the Medal of Honor (1923). At the end of World War II, Donovan had attained the rank of colonel in command of the 165th. During the unit's ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue to a tumultuous welcome home, Donovan was forever after popularly known as "Col. William J. ('Wild Bill') Donovan" (Troy 24). According to this biographer, "He was always "Colonel" Donovan, at least until he became "General" Donovan in World War II; the press always spoke of him as 'Wild Bill' Donovan, and everybody knew of him simply as 'Bill Donovan'" (Troy 24). The agency which endures as the CIA today is the legacy of Donovan, and his contributions are discussion further below.

Creation and Operation of the Office of Strategic Services.

Over the years, historians of the intelligence efforts that took place during World War II have been mixed in their treatment of the intelligence dimension of Anglo-American operations and the contributions of Donovan to the successful outcome of the war during this critical period in world history (Macpherson 6). Indeed, prior to the creation of the OSS, American intelligence had historically been dominated by the American military, and this military orientation to American intelligence was notably perpetuated by the critically important work against first Japanese, and then German, ciphers by the U.S. Army and Navy during the World War II (Macpherson 6). One early assessment of this work accordingly rated it far superior to the 'amateur, comic, unproductive, and self-serving' actions of OSS, a description illustrating the intensity of anti-OSS partisans (Macpherson 6).This intensity is more than matched by pro-OSS historians. Corey Ford's Donovan of OSS is a classic example of the glowingly uncritical vision of OSS founder William J. Donovan that credits him with conceiving the idea of centralized intelligence, and who is implicitly lauded for realizing an innovative American approach to intelligence by creating OSS in his own image. Likewise, Anthony Cave Brown's the Last Hero: Wild Bill Donovan largely concurs with this assessment based on Donovan's papers, while Thomas Troy's Donovan and the CIA is devoted to demonstrating the direct lineage between Donovan's ideas and what eventually became the post-war Central Intelligence Agency (Macpherson 6).

While this "direct lineage" is made clear by the abundant literature concerning Donovan's contributions to the successful outcome of the war, the precise impact of these contributions remains in dispute. What is involved in this assessment is highly subjective, and it is in truth difficult to quantity the impact of nebulous concepts such as the brand of psychological warfare that Donovan used during World War II. This point is made by Donovan himself in his preface to Anisimov's book, the Ultimate Weapon (1953), wherein Donovan writes, "The battle for men's minds gains in intensity. The chief weapon in this phase of the battle is Psychological Warfare. This weapon forged of many elements is aimed at the surrender of the mind, to force the enemy to yield rather than to resist. The Nazis exploited this weapon in World War II, but the Soviets have enlarged and perfected it" (v). Although modern historians enjoy the benefit of historical...


According to Donovan, "Propaganda' -- for this is what was regarded as political warfare in the last war -- played a certain role in 1939-45. The Soviets, the Axis powers, and the Western Allies all used it as a means of influencing the people in the enemy camp, but it is very difficult to assess what effect it actually had in World War II" (Donovan v). Fortunately for historians and researchers, though, the analysis of the impact of Donovan's contributions has been aided by the fact that the archives of the OSS have been made available by the United States and a number of primary sources from this era exist today. According to Heidekinq, Mauch and Frey, the United States was the first country to open its World War II intelligence records to domestic and foreign researchers, thereby making the OSS a modern secret intelligence agency whose activities and ideologies can be studied in detail (2).

Given the abundance of primary sources available for review, it is not surprising that the Office of Strategic Services has received some mixed reviews over the years. According to Peterson and Dulles (1999), "Some of its daring penetration and paramilitary operations, and its research and analysis function, are highly regarded. But its espionage activities, morale operations, security, nonmilitary political-action endeavors, and liaison with other U.S. government agencies often are accorded modest marks" (18). Moreover, the overall effectiveness of Donovan and the OSS were criticized at the time and subsequently by a number of observers; however, these authors suggest that a great deal of this disparagement is misplaced because the OSS was created virtually overnight during the exigencies of wartime conditions (Peterson and Dulles 18). More significantly, perhaps, is the fact that much of this criticism stems from comparisons of the OSS with modern national intelligence organizations instead of its contemporaries: "The Abwehr was thoroughly penetrated by the Allies," Peterson and Dulles note, and likewise, "Soviet intelligence shares the blame for the unparalleled disaster of June 1941. The British have rightly received great credit for their part in Ultra and for gaining control of German agents in England. But one should not overlook the loss of agents at Venlo, the German control of Allied agents in Holland (operation North Pole), the Cicero fiasco in Turkey, and the presence of Philby and other pro-Soviet traitors in the British intelligence services" (Peterson and Dulles 18). From this perspective, the Dulles operation in Bern, in spite of security breaches and episodes of erroneous data analysis, represents a highlight of the OSS experience that compares favorably with other wartime intelligence entities around the world (Peterson and Dulles 18).

In fact, the OSS was tasked with intelligence gathering duties on a global basis. According to Heidekinq, Mauch and Frey (1996), "Observing oppositional forces in Germany was only one of many tasks undertaken by the OSS, which had been set up in June 1942 to collect and analyze strategic information and to plan and operate special services" (2). These biographers at least are highly favorable of Donovan's contributions to the war effort: "Under the energetic leadership of General William J. Donovan, who had been appointed by President Roosevelt as Coordinator of Information (COI) after Pearl Harbor," they write, "the OSS soon began to operate on a world-wide basis, employing about 13,000 people at its height in late 1944" (Heidekinq et al. 2). Nevertheless, the analysis of the OSS files by these researchers suggests that the military analysts in Washington, D.C. were preoccupied with German resistance issues and assigned high priority to information regarding the morale of the German home front; therefore, the OSS records provide a significant addition to the body of evidence concerning the German resistance, even though not all the reports from the outposts in London, Bern, Stockholm, Madrid and Istanbul are regarded as being truthworthy (Keidekinq et al. 2). Furthermore, the archives of the OSS provide some insights into the thinking that took during this critical period in world history by an agency that was supposed to have been the best informed governmental agency of the day; these documents suggest that there were various opinions concerning the importance of the OSS to the war's outcome among the Roosevelt administration as a whole (Heidekinq et al. 2).

According to Heidekinq and his colleagues, "In the spring of 1942, the office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) and the State Department began to grapple with the problem of devising a coherent and viable psychological warfare strategy directed against Germany. At that time the U.S. administration believed…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

About Us. (2007). Central Intelligence Agency. [Online]. Available: https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/index.html.

Donovan, William J. Preface to the Ultimate Weapon, Oleg Anisimov, Chicago: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1953.

Ford, Corey. Donovan of OSS. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

Heidekinq, Jurgen, Christof Mauch and Marc Frey. American Intelligence and the German Resistance to Hitler: A Documentary History. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

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