Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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purchasing equipment. Of course we are not going into these ramifications of the early history of COI; they would carry us well beyond our narrow concern with the content of the agreement reached on IS June by Roosevelt and Donovan. This organizational development is but the context out of which we must pluck the indicators of Donovan's understanding of his assignment.
These indicators first show up in the reports of the 16 July conferences which were written by William O. Hall, the Budget officer who handled COI matters extensively and who will be quoted frequently in the next several pages.37 We will single out from Hall's memoranda three topics which raise the question of Donovan's area of jurisdiction: "the morale function," postwar planning, and economic warfare.
The business of morale, as has been mentioned, had long been agitating many of Roosevelt's top advisors. For them some organization and activity were needed. La Guardia and the Office of Civilian Defense were finally settled upon, but the boundaries of activity were apparently clear in nobody's mind, least of all the President's. Hence it was that on the 16th the subject of morale came up in a discussion of COI's need for "country experts," and in that connection the name of Robert Lynd, the author of Middletown and Middletown in Transition, was mentioned. According to Hall, Griffith of the Legislative Reference Service then "stated that he ( Lynd) was an authority on domestic sociological problems, but that he had no knowledge in the foreign field." Hall then adds:
Donovan stated that this would fit very well into the President's plans. The President has told Donovan that he is to investigate the state of domestic (U.S.) morale and formulate plans for the domestic morale program. These plans will then be forwarded to Mayor La Guardia (civil defense) for execution. Accordingly, Griffith should plan to set up a Domestic Morale Unit and Lynd would be a good man to head that unit, according to Donovan.
So much for the time being for COI's morale function; let us turn to the second topic singled out: postwar planning. This is another large topic that had been agitating people inside and outside of the government. The thinking ran roughly like this: in 1919 Versailles had not ushered in a new world; instead, the settlement simply generated and aggravated economic conditions which made another war inevitable; now, in 1941, history must not be allowed to repeat itself; therefore, a start must be made on planning the economic rehabilitation of the world once Nazism has been destroyed. The big question was who should do the planning, and how he should proceed. Donovan clearly had thoughts on the matter. Hence, on the 16th, Atherton Richards, who was then apparently slated to head COI's economic division, a major component, was asked by Donovan "to state the needs of his unit for postwar planning." Richards, an Hawaiian-born businessman admittedly without experience in government research, was not too clear on his requirements; he did know that the chief of the division would get $9,000 per year, two assistants would each get $7,500, and nine special assistants would be hired at $6,500 each. What is most significant from our point of view is the fact, however awkwardly stated, that "these men would be assigned on the basis of general divisions of our economy to developments in the various departments and agencies in postwar planning and to coordinate the efforts of government, industry and labor."
37 BOB Records, Folder 212. These reports are all dated 16 July 1941; it is possible, however, that one of the conferences occurred on 15 July.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:13 PM