DONOVAN OF OSS by Corey Ford


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George Washington set up the first known American intelligence agency at the outset of the American Revolution. The second such espionage operation in our history (forerunner of today's CIA) was the Office of Strategic Services, conceived, organized, and directed by Major General William J. (""Wild Bill"") Donovan (1883-1959). The grandson of Irish immigrants in Buffalo, Donovan left a prospering law career to become the most decorated soldier of WW I (later he became the first American ever to receive all of the nation's top honors). Unsuccessful in his campaigns for state office, he had better luck with federal appointments, working for Coolidge as Assistant Attorney General, serving in the Thirties as FDR's eyes and ears abroad. It was these overseas missions that alerted him to the importance of accurate intelligence, and FDR welcomed his suggestion and his stewardship of a single agency to collect information, organize counterpropaganda, and train ""special operators."" The high point of Corey Ford's competent biography is the wartime account of the OSS in action, which is nicely balanced between details on Donovan's activities, operational and strategic developments, and spy stories of deviousness and derring-do. Ford draws on his personal acquaintance with Donovan, his access to the General's files and papers, and interviews with family and friends to recount Donovan's life. Though he confesses at the close that a clear sense of the inner man still eludes him, Ford has produced a highly readable record of a distinguished public career.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1969
Publisher: Little, Brown