Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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that he [Donovan] is going to take over the La Guardia office, he will be pretty busy."41 This last comment reminds us that Donovan intended, indeed, to be "pretty busy," and that the vigor with which this dedicated man, armed with a Presidential mandate, embarked on a varied program dear to his thinking and heart undoubtedly sowed both confusion and apprehension among settled bureaucrats and able newcomers in other agencies.
Hall's "suggested correctives" for the situation were two: "a letter or confidential order from the President to Donovan setting forth in clear terms the area in which he is to function;" and "a competent administrative assistant" to end COI's internal confusion which Hall also found troublesome but with which we have not been concerned in this paper. Gladieux made a second note on this memorandum, and it is another "corrective" for the situation: "Consolidate him [Donovan] with the Economic Defense Board." This recommendation is, retrospectively, most significant as probably the first written suggestion that the newly-born COI be aborted; the suggestion was to recur, in one way or another, to such an extent that one can almost say that COI's major success was to have survived.
It may be appropriate here to stress the fact that COI was an unwanted child. The Army, the Navy, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had made it quite plain to the President that they saw no need for such an organization.42 There was also no rush on their parts to channel their information, per the 11 July order, into COI in-boxes .43 This uncooperative attitude makes quite plausible Stephenson's claim that his organization provided COI, before Pearl Harbor and for several months after, with the "bulk" of its secret intelligence.44 The other side of the coin of hostility to supplying Donovan with information was Donovan's own strong determination to get control of that information. His memorandum of 10 June, and indeed the very vagueness of the 11 July order-with its sweeping authorization "to collect and analyze all information . . . which may bear upon national security"-show how much stress this omnivorous reader, this corporation lawyer, this military strategist
41 The reference to the unnamed Senator is in a memorandum from Early to Roosevelt, 1 August 1941, Roosevelt Papers, PSF (Donovan) (Closed). Berle's warning is in his memorandum to Sumner Wells, 25 July 1941, in Records of the State Department, National Archives, RG 59, File 103.918/2541. The warning to Hull is in a Memorandum from Pasvolsky, "Proposal for the Organization of Work for the Formulation of Post-War Foreign Policies," 12 September 1941; this can be found in U.S. Department of State, Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation, 1.939-1945 (Washington, GPO, 1949), pp. 464-67. The remark by the Administrator is found in the Records of the Economic Defense Board, National Archives, RG 169, Misc. File, Box 6, Information Division Minutes.
42 "COI," Chs. VII and VIII.
43 Here is a sample of this attitude: On 26 December 1941, Captain T. S. Wilkinson, USN, asked Secretary of the Navy Knox, in a memorandum, if Colonel Donovan should be allowed to see the "Daily Bulletin" issued by the joint Intelligence Committee of the Joint Board.
Knox advised Wilkinson "to dig out the executive order" establishing COI and he would find therein "instructions for both Army and Navy to provide Colonel Donovan with all information in their possession. Under these conditions, it hardly seems necessary for me to instruct you to add his name to those who receive the bulletin. If you feel better about having such instructions, regard this as instructions to that effect." Found in Navy Records, CNO Central Classified File, Folder A8-3EF13, Secret.
44 H. Montgomery Hyde, The Quiet Canadian: The Secret Service Story of Sir William Stephenson (London: Hamilton, 1962), p. 156.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:15 PM