Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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placed upon a mastery of data. What is probably more relevant to some of the opposition encountered by Donovan is the fact that he did think of information in terms of strategy and was, perhaps, even more interested in the use to which information was put than in the possession of it for its own sake. Moreover, if information was the basis of strategy, strategy had meaning only when it was put into action; and Donovan really wanted to lead troops into battle. Donovan was an activist, and it is, therefore, not surprising that his eagerness to take the mass of new and old information pouring into Washington and convert it into meaningful intelligence which could give direction and strength to military, political, economic, and- psychological warfare against the Nazis should bring him smack up against all the monarchs who reigned over domains of knowledge.
This comes out clearly in the memorandum which Hall wrote on 11 September; it is his longest-five pages, single space-and details no less than eleven areas in which Donovan is allegedly exceeding his Presidential authorization, and only two in which he is doing what is his to do! Again, we cannot go into the merits or the details of these issues; we can only single out the indicators of the Donovan agreement with Roosevelt.45
The first brings us back to the La Guardia situation; the Office of Civilian Defense was about to give birth to an off-shoot-the Office of Facts and Figures, which was soon to be headed by the poet and head of the Library of Congress, Archibald MacLeish. Until that situation became clear, however, Donovan, according to Hall, "proposes to report to the President and the public" on: production for military and civilian needs, American public opinion, the attitude of the American press toward the defense effort and the administration's foreign policy, the attitude of U.S. foreign press, and foreign press opinion.
The second is "writing the peace." Hall writes of Donovan "in his original plans stressing the preparation of `the blueprints for a new world order' "; where Donovan did this, however, this writer has not discovered. On the same point, Hall wrote that Donovan's chief of research and analysis, James P. Baxter, III, "stated confidentially that Donovan would like to undertake another `peace inquiry' like the one directed by Colonel Hause" [sic] at the end of the last war.
Next are four areas in which Donovan's research and reporting activities cause trouble. On Latin America, Donovan's plans caused Rockefeller's people to fear not only that their area was being usurped, but also that they were expected henceforth to obtain all their information from COI rather than directly _from State, War, Navy, Justice, and Commerce. On the domestic defense production effort, Donovan planned a unit so as to be able to report "to the public and the President." On a related point, Donovan was described by Atherton Richards as feeling "that one of his responsibilities to the President is reporting on the status of organization for defense . . . on organizational and functional weaknesses;" Richards "anticipates that Donovan will at times recommend changes in the over-all defense organization." Despite conferences with Milo Perkins, wherein he and Donovan presumably reached agreement on their functions, "Donovan still speaks of providing the Economic Defense Board and the President with economic information" relative to postwar planning,
Hall sketched three areas in which Donovan was moving into policy-making and strategic planning. Indeed, wrote Hall "there has been some indication that
45 Memorandum from Hall to Gladieux on "Scope and Function of the Office of the Coordinator of Information," 11 September 1941, BOB Records, Folder 212.

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