Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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knock out the "United States Army," as well as other military aspects of the Order. Indeed, the Army was to strip it of any military character.
To see how that happened, we must turn our attention away from the draftsmen to Colonel Donovan and some of the top people in the Army and Navy. On Friday, the 20th of June, Secretary of the Navy Knox informed Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War, that the President was "going to appoint Donovan as coordinator of all military, naval, and other intelligence," and that he, Knox, favored it. Stimson, an old friend of Donovan's, a person who enjoyed discussing the military strategy of the current war with him, noted in his diary that "I told him [Knox] that I was inclined to favor it because I trusted Donovan.18 Two days later, on a Sunday afternoon, Donovan talked with Stimson about what the latter described as Donovan's coming appointment as "Coordinator of Intelligence." They talked for two hours; Donovan explained his plan; Stimson read "his analysis of what he intended to do," and noted that "I think there is a good chance of very useful service." Stimson further observed that he was "particularly glad that the President has landed on a man for whom I have such respect and confidence as Donovan, and with whom I think we can work so satisfactorily in respect to our own intelligence branches in the Army and Navy." 19 Trouble and doubt, however, lay just ahead-two days, in fact.
Marshall Objects
On 24 June, Stimson had an early conference with his Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, who then told him "about a subject which has evidently been worrying him very much and making him extremely angry." That, of course, was Donovan's appointment as "Coordinator for Intelligence." Here it must be interjected that for three months there had been considerable talk within the services, the FBI, State, and other agencies that Donovan was pushing such a project, and there was unanimity among the concerned agencies that such an eventuality ought to be sabotaged. It is, in fact, interesting to note that FDR, in making his decision to set up Donovan as COI, did not consult any of the interested parties, with the possible exception of Donovan's friend at court, Secretary of Navy Knox. Hence, when Marshall is described as having been "worrying very much," it is reasonably safe to assume that he had long been familiar with the rumors circulating in the corridors and that the announcement of the fact simply brought things to the proverbial head. Be that as it may, Stimson tried to re-assure Marshall that "the project did not seem to be so bad." He chewed the matter over in his diary:
But it has come to Marshall evidently in the wrong end to, and he saw behind it an effort to supplant his responsibilities and duties in direct connection with the Commander-in-Chief. There is certainly a danger in this proposition in case both men are not tactful and fair to each other but I think it probably can be avoided-- those risks I mean-and certainly the proposition of checking up the Intelligence which we get from our military G-2 and Navy Information Service [sic] ought to be accomplished. I mean there are many economics and other bits of information through the world which would bear directly upon the military intelligence and its accuracy which comes to us. I afterwards had a talk with Knox about it. He of course is a
18 Henry L. Stimson Diary (Yale University, New Haven, Conn. ), Vol. 34, entry for 20 June 1941.
19 Ibid., 22 June 1941.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:44 PM