Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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in Chief, "it should be issued as a Military Order." Be that as it may, it appeared officially, and so it appears today, simply as an undenominated Presidential act "Designating a Coordinator of Information." (Appendix B)
On the second point raised by Smith there is no ambiguity or room for argument:
While both the Army and Navy objected to our original title for Colonel Donovan of Coordinator of Strategic Information or Coordinator of Defense Information, I think either of these titles is preferable to the one used in this Order as now presented. "Coordinator of Information" is vague and is not descriptive of the work Colonel Donovan will perform.
The statement which Smith had readied for the press was a combination of three bland and one strong announcements. The first simply iterated the functions of COI as the collection, assembling, and collation of data bearing on nation] security and the fulfillment by Donovan of such extra activities as the President might from time to time request of him. The strong assertion was the assurance given the General Staff, the regular intelligence services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and all other government agencies that Donovan's work "is not intended to supersede or to duplicate, or to involve any direction of or interference with" their own activities. This was also intended to blunt the expected opposition of some Congressional critics of the Administration.
The line about the extra activities Donovan might be asked to render caught the attention of FDR's press secretary Steve Early before he passed it on, and so he wrote the President: "Is this sentence necessary? It won't be clear to many and will lead to much questioning." Harry Hopkins agreed "with Steve that [the sentence] should be eliminated from [the] release." 32
Smith's letter to the President also stated that his Bureau was preparing letters to the various departments requesting their cooperation with Donovan, as Secretary Knox had asked several days earlier. This letter, which was sent to 16 departments on 14 July-three days after COI was officially established--reiterated the points made in the press release, that he was going to coordinate data and not going to upset anybody else.33
Although the work of drafting was completed on the 3rd, it was not until the 11th that the President actually signed the document. There is no indication of the reason for the delay, and it is assumed here that simply the press of the Presidential calendar accounted for it. There had of course already been some public expectation of a forthcoming announcement, and the coverage in the New York Times provides us with a contemporary view of what COI looked like. On 6 July the Associated Press reported that Colonel Donovan was "slated for a big post." The only clue to its character was "the reports for some time that ... Donovan would head a new anti-spy agency." According to these reports, Donovan was to "coordinate a staff of investigators" in the justice, Treasury, State, and military and naval departments. The rest of the article tied the expected job in with spies, the FBI case load, and Donovan's own investigations of the Fifth Column the year before.34
32 Early 's notation appears on the press release Smith sent the President, and Hopkins appended his note to Smith's letter.
33 BOB Records, Folder 210.
34 New York Times, 6 July 1941, p. 16, cols. 2-3.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:12 PM