OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency by R. Harris Smith

OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Though it fails to realize its declared goal -- ""a reasoned and thoughtful critique of the excesses of clandestine bureaucracy"" -- this compilation does offer a rich file of facts, vignettes, and who was who in the OSS, the chief intelligence agency during World War II. A heavy emphasis on personalities produces piquant sidelights on the diverse political opinions and backgrounds of OSS recruits. Leftists like Paul Sweezy, Carl Manzani, and Herbert Marcuse worked with corporate executives, investment bankers, and establishment academics in operations which in turn involved all stripes of antifascists as well as tainted figures like Admiral Darlan of France and Mihailovic of Yugoslavia who can hardly be included in the anti-fascist camp. Unfortunately Smith neglects the political crosscurrents of the war, confining this book to rather narrow organizational parameters. He also takes pains to trace the postwar roles of OSS operatives -- a good many became university presidents, international traders, money dealers, and corporate executives. The book documents OSS dealings with the Declaration of Independence-quoting Ho Chi Minh, who apparently believed the U.S. had no imperial designs on Southeast Asia. In a postscript on the OSS evolution into the CIA, Smith decries the McCarthy assaults which purged many liberals like William Sloane Coffin from CIA ranks and concludes ""There are still sensitive, progressive men in the CIA, but they are becoming scarcer by the moment."" Since most of the OSS stories are already in currency, the book cannot be acclaimed as expose; but the emphasis on personalities and organizational details gives it utility as an early CIA family album.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1972
ISBN: 1592287298
Publisher: Univ. of California Press