Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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every aspect of the war in Europe, particularly singled out for the President's attention the whole range of unconventional warfare activities that had been brought to the fore by the Fifth Column and British counter-measures. He must have given Roosevelt some idea, however brief, of his thinking on a new agency to handle "white" and "black" propaganda, sabotage and guerrilla warfare, special intelligence, and strategic planning.4
Donovan Proposes "Service of Strategic Information"
Eventually, probably late in May of 1941, Donovan was asked by the President to put his "proposal in writing, and this he did in a "Memorandum of Establishment of Service of Strategic Information," dated 10 June 1941. The document, which of course is fundamental in the long line of papers outlining the COI-OSS-CIA objectives and tasks, is as interesting for what it does not say as for what it does say. Since it was soon, on 18 June, to receive the Presidential stamp of approval, it is well here to take a close look at it.5 (Appendix A )
In a few words-934-Donovan laid out his argument, proceeding from general to particular, for a "Service of Strategic Information." The basic proposition was the interrelationship of strategy and information: without the latter, strategy was helpless; and unless directed to strategy, information was useless. The second proposition measured the information required in terms of total war-"the commitment of all resources of a nation, moral as well as material"-and Donovan particularly stressed the dependence of modern war on "the economic base." The third proposition was the flat assertion that despite the activity of the Army and Navy intelligence units, the country did not have an "effective service" for developing that "accurate, comprehensive, long-range information without which no strategic board can plan for the future." The conclusion was the essentiality of "a central enemy intelligence organization which would itself collect either directly or through existing departments of government, at home and abroad, pertinent information" on the total resources and intentions of the enemy.
As an example, he cited the economic field where there were many weapons that could be used against the enemy. These weapons were so scattered throughout the bureaucracy, however, that they could not be effectively utilized in the waging of economic warfare unless all departments of the government had the same information. This brief passage will appear more important, in this inquiry into Donovan's marching orders, when we touch upon the difficulty that Donovan was soon to have with the Economic Defense Board, which considered economic warfare its bailiwick.
Another brief-and apparently deliberately vague-passage is the one dealing with radio as "the most powerful weapon" in "the psychological attack against the moral and spiritual defenses of a nation." Certainly Donovan was one of the first fully to appreciate the significance of the Nazi use of the radio as an element of "modern warfare." In this memorandum, however, he contented himself with boldly stating that the perfection of radio as a weapon required planning, and planning required information, which could then lead to
4 Ibid., Chs. IV and VIII.
5 Donovan Papers, "Exhibits," Vol. I, Tab B.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:30 PM