View Full Version : The Office of Strategic Services in WWII

phil b
06-12-2007, 11:14 PM
Here is an excellent website concerning the OSS Operational Groups (http://www.ossog.org/index.html) that is a good resource. It has descriptions of the different missions in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Norway, France, and China; personnel rosters; and a memoir of one OG soldier's experience (http://www.ossog.org/france/patrick_johnson.html) during WW2 including his two missions: the first in occupied France and the second in China.

The French mission:

There are five of us in the belly of the B-24 Bomber, parachutes on, gear and side arms in place. Our rifles are secured in the containers in the bomb bay. We aren't the only plane heading for France; four other B-24's are in the formation. We are all at 10,000 feet headed for the drop zone into our assigned area at Eguzon, France, 400 miles behind German lines. Our assignment—to work with the French Underground, called the Maquis or F.F.I. [French Forces of the Interior]; first, to capture a hydro-electric plant, then to harass the Germans, and also to collect intelligence to be radioed back to London Headquarters. The French are expecting us because our contact has been there for several months making plans to receive us. His code name is "Hugh". It was the night of August 14th, 1944 and we had been sent to support operation "Anvil"—the southern invasion of France.

The China mission:

This mission was to formulate, train, and equip a detachment of 20 Chinese Commando Units that could work behind the Japanese lines. Meetings had already taken place in January of 1945, just two months before our arrival, between Col. Cox, of the O.S.S., General Wedemeyer and General Chaing-Kai-Shek. These three agreed that well trained Chinese, with the help of combat veteran Americans, could work effectively behind Japanese lines to extract intelligence and thwart the work of the enemy. It was interesting to learn that the army high command kept fighting us, thinking that the regular army troops could do this job. We were specialized in this field and had the know-how to carry it off...

Our assignment in China was completely different from that in France. In France we jumped into an existing underground network that was already functioning. What we became was the catalyst, providing the means and the technique to make it operate effectively and gathering the intelligence necessary to help the Allied invasion forces. In China we had to start from square one to recruit, train and operate an underground espionage group to function behind enemy lines...

Steve Blair
06-13-2007, 12:40 AM
Good stuff! Well worth remembering.

02-20-2008, 02:27 PM
Hat tip to Kent's Imperative for the lead to this interesting site:

Guardian Spies: The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard and OSS in World War II (http://www.guardianspies.com/)

....The history of the Office of Strategic Services (http://www.osssociety.org/) has been well documented throughout the years. What is little known, however, is the relationship between the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and U.S. Coast Guard, including the formerly Classified history of the Coast Guard men attached to the OSS during World War II in Europe and the China, Burma, India (CBI) Theater of Operations.

The story begins with the creation of the office of Coordinator of Information (COI) and its use of Coast Guard signals intelligence intercepts, and then moves to the SECRET “Philadelphia Plan” negotiations. This important dialouge facilitated possible OSS cooperation with the Coast Guard as a source for training its newly-created Auxiliary and a goal of enhancing domestic port security operations. Even less known, many of the Coast Guardsmen recruited for their swimming, diving, boat handling and signaling skills were at the heart of OSS Maritime Unit (MU) and Operational Swimmer Group (OSG) operations.....

06-26-2008, 03:46 PM
Simple Sabotage Field Manual — Strategic Services (Provisional) (http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/p4013coll9&CISOPTR=307&filename=308.pdf), 17 Jan 44 (Declassified)

Office of Strategic Services
Washington, D. C.
17 January 1944

This Simple Sabotage Field Manual — Strategic Services (Provisional) — is published for the information and guidance of all concerned and will be used as the basic doctrine for Strategic Services training for this subject.

The contents of this Manual should be carefully controlled and should not be allowed to come into unauthorized hands.

The instructions may be placed in separate pamphlets or leaflets according to categories of operations but should be distributed with care and not broadly. They should be used as a basis of radio broadcasts only for local and special cases and as directed by the theater commander.

AR 380-5, pertaining to handling of secret documents, will be complied with in the handling of this Manual.

William J. Donovan
I especially enjoyed (12) General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion in section 5, Specific Suggestions for Simple Sabotage:

(a) Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.

(b) Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.

(c) Act stupid.

(d) Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.

(e) Misunderstand all sorts of regulations concerning such matters as rationing, transportation, traffic regulations.

(f) Complain against ersatz materials.

(g) In public treat axis nationals or quislings coldly.

(h) Stop all conversation when axis nationals or quislings enter a cafe.

(i) Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks.

(j) Boycott all movies, entertainments, concerts, newspapers which are in any way connected with the quisling authorities.

(k) Do not cooperate in salvage schemes.

01-21-2009, 08:26 PM
Here's an interesting site detailing the organizational structure and missions of the OSS - and the COI, which was eventually transformed into the OSS. It includes correspondence between offices discussing collection needs, personnel requirements, and analytic support to operations:

OSS - The Psychology of War (http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/oss/oss.htm)

The Office of Strategic Services was America's first "central" intelligence and covert action agency. Pioneered by a maverick Wall Street lawyer named William "Wild Bill" Donovan, the OSS seemed to take on his personality. Donovan was interested in results, had no patience for bureaucracy, and was willing to try any new idea. As a result, the work of the OSS ranged from the enlightened to the absurd.

While the OSS' mission may have been laudable, its hard-hitting methods set unfortunate precedents for future conflicts. Civilians were organized into partisan militias, and psychological terror was considered a weapon just like any other in the military's arsenal. These files offer a rare and uncensored view of the Second World War that you won't find in any history books.