Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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the Donovan group wishes to supplant the State Department in bringing together the military, naval, geographical, economic, and political information needed for the planning of basic foreign policy." Hall, echoing perhaps others' fears, saw this as Donovan insinuating himself between the President and the Department as did Colonel House in World War I. Next, Hall reported the belief on the part of members of COI's staff and of other agencies that "Donovan's hope is that he will be the planner of basic strategy." The mechanism for this leap to power was to be the coordination committees authorized by the 11 July order and calculated to operate at the highest level in the utilization of data in planning basic strategy. Hall threw in his, or others', estimate that Donovan's relationship with the President would tend to make him the "basic strategy advisor." Finally, Hall saw "some indications" that the Donovan organization hoped to develop as the "high strategy group," which many military and civilian people thought the defense program needed.
The last two of the eleven areas of conflict are relatively minor. Hall considered Donovan's tentative agreement with the military services to unify undercover activities abroad was "a primary accomplishment," but he feared this would interfere with Donovan's "informational strategy planning function." He also had fears about the COI section to produce propaganda motion pictures; "considerable question" could be raised, he said, about the usefulness of such films outside Latin America, and Rockefeller's organization found that such films were less appealing to Latins than commercial and informational films.
After detailing all these problems in four pages, two short paragraphs agreed that Donovan could make "definite contributions" in subversive activities and in psychological and propaganda warfare-radio broadcasting, underground messages, and leaflets-provided he stayed out of Rockefeller's Latin American preserve.
With these paragraphs we come to the end of this early organizational period in which there was so much discussion of and controversy about the legitimate functions of COI. Before trying to summarize these functions, however, it may be well to satisfy the reader's curiosity about how some of the controversies were resolved. First of all, it must be stated that the Bureau of the Budget continued for months to press for a Presidential re-statement of COI's functions. Hall's last memorandum was sent to Director Harold D. Smith, apparently with the recommendation to take it up in substance with FDR. On 14 October there was written, probably by Hall, a draft of a memorandum for the President in which "a number of basic questions" about COI's function were raised for the President's decision.46 Then, on 5 November Harold Smith, writing about COI's 1942 budget, suggested to the President that be write a letter or order "precisely defining the Coordinator's assigned area of activity."47 Finally, on 28 February 1942, Smith advised the President that such an order was "becoming increasingly necessary" and that he, Smith, was ready to draft it:48 That drafting, however, was caught up in another series of events which saw COI shorn of its Foreign Information Service and re-constituted, on 13 June 1942, as the Office of Strategic Services.
46 Memorandum to the President, "1942 Allotment Request of Coordinator of Information," 14 October 1941 (draft), BOB Records, Folder 247.
47 Harold D. Smith, Memorandum for the President, "Budget Request for the Coordinator of Information," 5 November 1941, Roosevelt Papers, OF 4485.
48 Smith to the President, 28 February 1942, Donovan Papers, "Exhibits," Vol. II, Tab UU.

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:16 PM