Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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Wallace, who was to head the Board, wanted to know how Donovan's plans for "extensive economic defense activities" squared with EDB's charter.15
In conclusion, then, our earliest accounts of FDR's meeting with Donovan on 18 June show the President endorsing the appointment of a "Coordinator of Strategic Information" with a vaguely-worded mandate to coordinate information, do something with radio, carry on all forms of intelligence including sabotage, have something to do with domestic propaganda, and to be somehow involved in economic defense matters. This vagueness of function did not bedevil the drafters of the COI charter, simply because the President and Donovan had apparently agreed to put precious little in writing. How little was put in writing we will see when we review the drafting of the order.
The Drafting Stage: 19 June - 3 July 1941
The business was in the hands of Cohen and the men from the Budget Bureau-Blandford, Stone, and Gladieux-and was coordinated chiefly, if not solely, with the military, especially the Army, and of course with Donovan himself. The process of drafting lasted from 19 June to 3 July when the drafters' handiwork was forwarded to the President for approval and signature. It would be most useful if the surviving documents showed clearly all the changes that were made and by whom they were made; as it is, the record, while instructive, is incomplete.
The process began with a "Brief Outline of a Service of Strategic Information Based on Memorandum Submitted by Colonel Donovan."16 There is no need to recapitulate this, except for one point, because it is basically a re-organization of Donovan's paper in terms of an order to be signed by the President and also because all the items will show up more clearly as the drafting process is reviewed. The one exceptional point is the relatively lengthy gloss on the six units which, according to Donovan's chart, were to be set up in COI. This gloss adds a few words which must have emanated from the Roosevelt-Donovan meeting. Mail, radio, and cable interception required a special unit "because of the need of especially close and immediate cooperation with the radio and postal authorities"; and the "specialized character" of codes and cyphers also required a special unit. So also with "A Unit of Economic Warfare Materials" which was being set up to provide all agencies concerned with such warfare "the widest and most comprehensive range of informational materials"; it was pointed out that the Coordinator would not coordinate such activities, "but his work should greatly facilitate such coordination." The supplementary activities unit would handle activities "not now being covered by any service or department"; and these activities "would probably involve principally activities in foreign countries calculated to assist friendly elements and to retard and undermine hostile elements. Such activities necessarily would have to be conducted along unorthodox lines, but with the greatest possible circumspection."
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this review of the six units is that no mention of the business of intercepting communications, of codes and cyphers, of economic warfare, or of the. delicate nature of special operations will appear
15 "Memorandum for the President," 30 July 1941. See Note 38, infra.
16 BOB Records, Folder 210. While undated and unsigned, the document clearly originated at the time mentioned.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:33 PM