Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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a subject which may surprise the modern reader, who is accustomed to CIA's absorption in foreign activities
"Cohen has tried to keep the [domestic] morale function separate from strategic information. However, the President has apparently been struck by the thought that Donovan might take the morale job on temporarily or at least for exploratory purposes. He will cooperate with La Guardia on the morale and propaganda aspects. At least we do not need to take La Guardia and his activities into account in setting up this service."
This, of course, is not the place to tell the story of the establishment of the Office of Civil Defense, and of the appointment and activity of New York's Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as that Office's first Director. Suffice it to say that "the morale function" and civilian defense had long been bruited about in the upper echelons of the government as needs that the President had been slow in satisfying, Donovan, along with others, had been considered for the job, although he may or may not have known it. Even so, Donovan apparently took quite readily to the idea of responsibility for domestic morale, inasmuch as his concept of what needed to be done was not, at least at this time, divided into the foreign and domestic fields. This was total war, and there had to be unity in the response. Hence, his memorandum of 10 June had spoken of his proposed "central enemy intelligence organization" collecting information directly or indirectly through other government departments "at home and abroad"; and, as will be seen, he had the same unified approach to the subject of economic defense information.
Conflict with New Economic Agency
This can be seen, albeit dimly, in the next two paragraphs from Gladieux; these raise the question of the relationship between COI and a new agency to handle economic defense, which, like civilian defense, had long been agitating some of the President's advisors. Wrote Gladieux:
We were particularly concerned about the relationship of this new agency to the Office of Economic Defense, since so much of the strategic information required will relate to economic defense problems . . . Cohen believes that there is nothing here to interfere with the setting up of the economic defense agency. He believes, however, that the Office of Economic Defense would get much of its information from this service.
Even so, Cohen was worried; in the next paragraph: "Cohen agrees that it would be unfortunate if this proposal were to preclude the establishment of the Office of Economic Defense, and thinks that the present Economic Defense Order should be approved." It was; six weeks later, on 30 July, the President signed the order establishing the Economic Defense Board (EDB) ; and what kind of functions were given this organization whose future was at one time put in doubt by the appearance of Donovan's COI? The list is impressive, if one thinks of them as somehow subsumed under the umbrella of the Coordinator of Information: advise the President on economic defense measures; coordinate the government's activities in this field; develop integrated plans and programs for coordinated action by the agencies of government; advise the President on the relationship of economic defense measures to postwar economic reconstruction; and review and recommend economic defense legislation. As late as the day FDR signed the EDB order, Gladieux was reporting that Vice President

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:32 PM