Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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Donovan was to "supervise" and "digest" other department's reports for the President: "To what extent should [Donovan] . . . develop such original research reports?"
Whatever the reason was for not forwarding this memorandum to the President, it certainly was not lack of concern on the part of the Budget Bureau. Before August was out, Hall wrote his boss, Bernard L. Gladieux, a memorandum on "Functional Confusion" in COI in which he outlined five areas of conflict with other agencies, cited the causes, and suggested some "correctives for the situation."39 As might be expected, the domestic defense effort and postwar planning were two areas of conflict: here COI was seen to be running into the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the National Resources Planning Board, the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, the Office of Production Management, and, of course, the Economic Defense Board. A third area, research on propaganda and undercover activities in South America, wrote Hall, had been "assigned to Nelson Rockefeller," the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. A fourth area was "the coordination of domestic counter-espionage and counter-subversive activities programs" which had been "assigned" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is the fifth area which may strike the reader as the most remarkable function which Donovan allegedly thought was his, namely, "the writing of the peace." which, wrote Hall, had been "assigned" to the Department of State and the EDB. On the margin of this memorandum Gladieux wrote and initialed this most interesting indirect quotation: "Milo Perkins [EDB's "most able, adroit, and energetic"40 executive director] told me that Donovan claims the President told him to `write the Peace' [sic], and he certainly is proceeding accordingly." We will see more of this function when we come to consider Hall's subsequent and much longer memorandum of 11 September on COI's conflicts with other agencies.
All this confusion was attributed by Hall to the "general character" of the 11 July order, to the "oral instructions to . . . Donovan from the President, with which we are not familiar," to the "conflicting newspaper reports and ... rumors" about COI's functions, and to the use of the President's son James as the COI's Liaison Officer with the defense agencies. The 11 July order certainly was not helpful, and the "oral instructions" we do not know to this day. The President's son James was detailed by the Navy, run by Donovan's very good personal friend Frank Knox, to work with Donovan; just how this was accomplished we do not know, but Hall cannot be far wrong when he observed that the young Roosevelt made "it possible for Donovan's assistants to gain entre [sic] to any of the defense agencies." Certainly there was confusion both inside and outside the government; the press thought Donovan was going to "digest intelligence reports;" one Senator denounced COI as an OGPU or Gestapo; Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle warned Under Secretary Welles against Donovan making foreign policy with his propaganda service; elsewhere in State, Secretary Hull was being warned that Donovan's activities in the field of postwar planning would result in "an intermingling of war and post-war problems;" and the Administrator of Export Control was telling his staff that "if rumors are true
39 Memorandum from Hall to Gladieux on "Functional Confusion in the Office for Coordination of Information," 28 August 1941, ibid.
40 Dean G. Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (N.Y.: Norton, 1969), p. 41.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:14 PM