Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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close friend of Donovan and he is very hot for the project and thinks that it is all wrong to be suspicious of it.20
Marshall must have gotten his point across, as is shown by the following quotation from Stimson's diary for 25 June; it is a long one, but the reader will surely find it interesting:
Either this morning or yesterday Marshall came in to voice his objections to the Donovan proposition and they were very vigorous-relating to the danger of giving to any other military man than the regular channels access to the President with military information. I had been thinking of the matter myself and had come to the conclusion that, although the purpose of getting a collection of economic, political, and other information available to check off against our present G-2 information was a very laudable and fruitful project, yet this plan of Donovan's may be not the right way to do it. So, when a little later Benjamin V. Cohen came in to see me at the suggestion of the President with a draft Executive Order for my examination and criticism, I looked at it with care and worked the thing out in my own mind, with the result that I finally told Cohen that I thought it was such bad planning from the standpoint of military administration that I should not favor it unless Donovan was kept in a purely civilian capacity; that I disapproved wholly of having him made a Major General simultaneously with this assumption of this position of Coordinator of Information. The proposed draft was full of language treating the function as if it were a military one. I told Cohen that this plainly resulted in giving the President two Chiefs of Staff; one, the regular one and one, an irregular one, because no military man could go to the President with military information without giving at the same time some views in the nature of advice based upon that information. I told Cohen that I thought the thing might be worked out if the Coordinator were kept purely as a civilian. I told him also that I was a friend of Donovan's and that I sympathized with his ultimate ambition to get into the fighting if fighting came and that I would have no objection to recommending him at that time as a Major General; but that I was wholly against combining in his person the function of being a- Major General and being a Coordinator of Information.
Cohen seemed to realize the strength of my argument and said he would go over it and take the military phrases out. I suggested particularly that they should also add a phrase to the effect in substance that nothing in the duties and responsibilities of the Coordinator of Information should in any way interfere with or impair the duties and responsibilities of the regular military and naval advisers to the President as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.
Later in the morning I called up Knox who had been very warmly seconding this project to put Donovan into this position and I told him of my views on the subject as thus expressed. Knox, who had been quite rampant on the subject in favor of immediate action on behalf of Donovan saw my point and cooled down.21
The Navy Secretary may have "cooled down," but he did not remain quiet. The same day that he talked with Stimson-whether before or after is not known-he asked the President to send a letter to Secretaries Hull, Morgenthau, and Stimson and to Attorney-General Jackson "outlining just what the Coordinator of Strategic Information will do." He explained that all those regular departments "have their hackles up over the danger that somebody is going to take something away from them." He also indicated that he had "already encountered some misunderstandings in the Navy Department over the premature publicity given out concerning Bill Donovan's new job." Nor was he "able to completely convince the Navy people that the major project" the President had in mind "was one of coordination, analysis and digestion of information
20 Ibid., 24 June 1941.
21 Ibid., 25 June 1941.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:36 PM