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Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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CONFIDENTIAL

Donovan

action by appropriate agencies. There was no felt need to spell out the role of radio in psychological warfare and clandestine communications.
In terms of secret activities, the most revealing part of this Memorandum is not the text but the organizational chart accompanying it. Where one would expect frankness, he gets obscurity, and vice versa. Hence, the coordination of information-the main subject of the paper-is entrusted to directors of "Collection and Distribution" and of "Classification and Interpretation"; and the radio weapon is the province of the "Director of Supplementary Activities"; whereas the chart shows what the text nowhere mentions, namely, the two directors of "Mail, Radio, Cable Interception (Censorship)" and of "Codes and Cyphers." Only the "Director of Economic Warfare Material" accurately reflects its textual counterpart.
Presumably Donovan sent this Memorandum to the President on or shortly after 10 June. At least on the next day FDR told Grace Tully that he wanted to see Ben Cohen, old friend, adviser, and legal draftsman, before he returned to his London post and "also Bill Donovan."6 Presumably again, at least in the light of subsequent events, the President wanted to see both men on the same matter. On 13 June, Donovan told Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who wanted Donovan to take the full-time job of running the Treasury's Bond Drive in New York State, that he first wanted to tell the Secretary "something about the President."7 Again, on the 17th Donovan told the importunate Secretary that he was in Washington "today because I'm supposed to have a date this morning . . ." to which the Secretary interjected the knowing "uh uh" and Donovan replied with "That's the reason you haven't heard from me."8 Actually, it was not until 12:30 the next day that Donovan and Cohen, accompanied by Secretary of the Navy Knox, met with the President.9
What went on in that meeting? Unfortunately, there is no nice transcript of the proceedings; nor is there any indication as to how long or detailed and orderly the proceedings were. Indeed, given the reputation of meetings with the President, there could have been a good deal of what Robert Sherwood called "wildly irrelevant" talk.10 Still, there are four accounts within the first two days of the meeting, and these show that all went well for the Colonel's plan and provide us with basic information on just what the President and Donovan agreed the latter was to do.
President Roosevelt Agrees
Surely the most important is the note which the President dashed off on the cover sheet of the Memorandum and addressed to "J. B. Jr.," who was John Blandford, Jr., the Acting Director of the Bureau of the Budget: "Please set this up confidentially with Ben Cohen-military-not O.E.M." It was initialed
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6Memorandum from Roberta Barrows to Gen. Watson, 11 June 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.) PPF 6558 (William J. Donovan ).
7 Transcribed telephone conversation between Morgenthau and Graves, 13 June 1941, Henry J. Morgenthau, Jr., Diary (Roosevelt Library), Book 408, p. 4 (CLOSED).
8 Telcon between Morgenthau and Donovan, ibid., Book 408, pp. 151-52.
9Composite Presidential Diary, Roosevelt Papers.
10 Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (Harper, New York, 1950, p. 265).
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:31 PM