Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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"FDR."11 (Fig. 1. ) Thus, the President underwrote Donovan's 934 words and the chart; and then he added that the new Service was to have a military flavor and was not to be part of the Office of Emergency Management, which had been set up a year earlier as a framework for running the numerous new war agencies.
The next two accounts come from Donovan, the first directly, and the second indirectly. On the 20th, Donovan called Secretary Morgenthau in order to establish liaison with the Treasury's intelligence department and prefaced his request with this awkwardly worded explanation: "I just wanted to tell you myself that along the lines that you and I talked, the President accepted in totem (sic) . . ."12 We shall see as we go along that Donovan was firmly convinced that he and FDR had agreed on many things that were not explicitly put forth in the original Memorandum.
Even before this conversation with Morgenthau, indeed, some time on the 18th itself, Donovan had given a more substantive briefing on the day's proceedings to a very interested observer. This was William S. Stephenson, a Canadian who was serving in the United States as His Majesty's Director of British Security Coordination (BSC); actually he was the head of British intelligence in this country. Moreover, he had played a major role in persuading Donovan to recommend and take on the job of running America's first foreign intelligence establishment. Donovan, with a Presidential mandate in his pocket, so preoccupied as to forget to call the impatient Morgenthau, and hustling off to New York on a 3:30 flight, nevertheless found time to talk with Stephenson, who that night cabled London: "Donovan saw President today and after long discussion wherein all points were agreed, he accepted appointment. He will be coordinator of all forms [of] intelligence including offensive operations equivalent SO-2 [sabotage]. He will hold rank of Major General and will be responsible only to the President." Here at last is a direct statement of Donovan's function as an intelligence chief; what is meant by "all forms [of] intelligence" must be gathered from Stephenson's own organization, which he had in mind in his dealings with Donovan, and BSC was responsible for "secret" intelligence, counterintelligence, propaganda, and "special operations." Here also is the first reference to Donovan as Major General, a promotion which, as we shall see, the military managed to forestal1.13
The last fresh account comes indirectly and largely from Ben Cohen, but it also reflects John Blandford's understanding of what the President wanted done. Cohen had been directed, on the 18th, to work with the acting director of the Bureau of the Budget, who, in turn, was personally directed on the morning of the 19th to work with Cohen. Consequently, later that morning Cohen met with Blandford and two of the latter's subordinates, Donald C. Stone and Bernard L. Gladieux. It was Gladieux who summarized the conference.14
Three paragraphs are particularly worth quoting, because they shed additional light on what the President had discussed with Donovan. The first raises
11 Records of OSS, Bureau of the Budget, Box 23, Folder 211. These records referred to hereafter as BOB Records.
12 Telcon between Morgenthau and Donovan, Morgenthau Diary, Book 411, pp. 67-71. " "COI," Ch. VIII.
13 Memorandum of "Conference with Ben Cohen on Strategic Information." BOB Records, Folder 210.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:31 PM