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America’s Secret Vanguard: US Army Intelligence Operations in Germany, 1944–47

Post-World War II Intelligence 1
America’s Secret Vanguard: US Army
Intelligence Operations in Germany, 1944–47

Thomas Boghardt

When the Allied forces invaded the Reich in 1944–45, they were accompanied by a plethora of secret service and security organizations, which sought to exert control over the occupied territory, exploit the spoils of war, learn about the intentions of their wartime partners, and deny others the opportunity of doing any of the above. “Divided Germany during the Occupation was an intelligence jungle,” recalls James H. Critchfield, an American intelligence officer who served in post-war Germany and Austria. During those years, Soviet and Western intelligence “waged the largest, most concentrated and intense intelligence warfare in history on German soil.”

The United States and its intelligence services played key roles in the defeat and ensuing occupation of Germany,  yet the historiography of American intelligence during this time period is decidedly uneven. While two particular agencies—the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—have drawn ample popular and scholarly attention, historians have largely ignored the intelligence operations of the US Army.

This is surprising as well as unfortunate since the OSS and CIA played only minor roles in the US intelligence gathering effort in early Cold War Germany. The OSS disappeared from the scene when President Harry S. Truman ordered its dissolution in September 1945. And when the US government established the CIA as America’s premier intelligence organization in 1947, Army leaders successfully demanded that the new agency defer to senior military commanders in occupied areas, including Japan and the US zone of Germany.

The period between those events left the US Army virtually alone in shouldering American intelligence requirements in a time and place that were to prove critical for the readjustment of US global strategy from world war to the Cold War. “We were the CIA, FBI and military security all in one,” reminisces a military intelligence officer who served in post-war Germany, “because those agencies weren’t functioning in Germany at the time…[c]onsidering the resources that were placed at our disposal in those immediate post-war years… and all the multitude of missions we were required to perform—espionage, black market, security, political activities—we were achieving a minor miracle every day in getting as much information as we did.”

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Posted: Oct 24, 2013 01:08 PM
Last Updated: Oct 24, 2013 01:08 PM