Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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in the writing and re-writing of the Presidential order. We cannot go on to that work without first calling attention to the pious hope with which it ended: "The work of the Service should not require an unusually large staff. . ."
Actual drafting began with two drafts, testing whether the final order should be an Executive Order establishing the agency in the Executive Office of the President, or a Military Order designating Col. Donovan to perform certain functions. The former established a "Strategic Information Service" in the President's Office, based the order on the President's authority as derived from the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and did not specifically mention Donovan. According to the Military Order, "Colonel William J. Donovan" was "hereby designated as Coordinator of Strategic Information," and this was done by virtue of FDR's position as President and Commander-in-Chief. Under both orders, Donovan had the same three functions: (1) to collect, review, and analyze information bearing on "national defense strategy"; (2) to interpret and correlate such "strategic" data and to make it available to the President and other agencies of the government; and (3) to carry out, when requested by the President, "such supplementary activities as may facilitate the securing of strategic information not now available to the Government." Incidentally, these "supplementary activities," about which there was no argument, referred to the open collection or purchase through agents of information to be used in conducting a psychological counteroffensive, and to subversion and sabotage to be carried out in wartime against the Axis military, political, and industrial machine; the term did not refer to a worldwide secret intelligence service, which, as a matter of fact, Donovan did not undertake to establish until so requested by the Army and Navy in September 1941. Finally, both orders provided that other agencies would make available the data required by the Coordinator, and that the Coordinator could appoint such advisory committees as he thought necessary.
In following these preliminary drafts through to the final paper, it may help the reader to single out beforehand the recurring problems as well as the "nonproblems." In this last category, the provisions for ensuring access to data and the appointment of advisory committees caused no problems; this is also largely true of the three functions except as their description was tailored to ease a concern of the Army's. What did bother people were: the type of order, the name of the new service, the kind of reference to Donovan-his name, title, his status as civilian or military-and the relationship to the military services.
While it now is anybody's guess, it appears that Blandford and his associates made a choice as between the two orders and then submitted that choice, a Military Order, to Ben Cohen on the 23rd. (Fig. 2) On that day Blandford and Cohen revised the document, and on the 24th Blandford sent his co-worker several clean copies of the revision.17 The chief, and perhaps only substantive, revision may have appeared to them as half style and half the necessity of establishing the military character of Donovan's position. Instead of starting out with "Colonel William J. Donovan is hereby designated as Coordinator of Strategic Information," the revision began, after the preamble, with "There is hereby established the position of Coordinator.. .," and was then ended with this brand new line: "William J. Donovan, United States Army, is hereby designated as Coordinator of Strategic Information." The military, however, were soon to
17 Memorandum from Blandford to Cohen, 24 June 1941, ibid.

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