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Donovan's Original Marching Orders

Coordinator of Information (COI), 1942, establishment of,
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CONFIDENTIAL

Donovan

 

Roosevelt Intervenes
In the meantime, Roosevelt-when forced to it-had taken steps to settle arguments. On 4 September 1941 he directed Ben Cohen--"I am not `asking' you to do this! I am `telling' you!"-he good-naturedly wrote-to "see that inconsistencies and conflicts do not arise" between Bill Donovan's organization and the new Office of Facts and Figures; the latter's establishment on 24 October ended Donovan's "morale function."49 On 15 October, Roosevelt had to step in between Donovan and Rockefeller, and he did so on the side of the latter, telling Donovan to keep. out of Latin American50 In economic defense activities, the appearance on the scene of Milo Perkins as executive director of EDB effectively closed that area to COI. As for subsequent developments in regard to "writing the peace" and postwar planning, with which State, EDB, and other agencies continued to wrestle, we must leave some loose ends lying about. Jurisdictional conflicts-involving not only COI but so many other wartime agencies-persisted throughout the war, but they are not our main interest here.
In reviewing this early history of COI's development we have been searching for indications of functions which Donovan thought or knew were his by right of the President's authorization of the memorandum of 10 June, the meeting on 18 June, and the order of 11 July. Now is the time to state some conclusions and cite sample pieces of evidence, and we will do so under the following headings:
1. Morale: This is the least troublesome area. Morale was not a part of Donovan's original plan, but the President was "struck by the thought that Donovan might take on the morale job temporarily . . ." The New Yorker apparently fell in very quickly with the idea, especially with the idea of reporting on the state of mind of the American public.
2. Economic defense: There is nothing in the record to show that Roosevelt authorized Donovan to study and report to him and the American public on the state of the American defense effort, but Donovan certainly moved early in that direction. Atherton Richards was quoted by Hall to that effect; and on 5 August, in a COI memorandum to the staff, the "Economics Branch" was authorized to conduct research bearing on "the economic problems of the United States during and following the termination of the war emergency," which the President had proclaimed in May: and at the same time the Branch was divided into three divisions: the domestic, the foreign, and the "Industrial, labor and agricultural economics division."51
3. Economic warfare: Donovan and Richards clearly discussed "the possibilities of economic warfare organization." This must have had reference at least to that passage in his 10 June memorandum wherein he wrote that "All departments should have the same information upon which economic warfare could be determined." Donovan, according to Hall, reached an agreement with Perkins whereby COI would provide the EDB "with the basic information which would be needed for postwar planning and for economic warfare." While this agreement was by no means the last word on the subject, there is no reason to doubt but that Donovan did expect that the provision of such data was within
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49 Roosevelt to Cohen, 4 September 1941, Roosevelt Papers, PPF 3509.
50 Memorandum for the Coordinator of Information from F.D.R., 15 October 1941, BOB Records, Folder 239.
51 "AR," presumably Atherton Richards, appear as initials of the originating officer on this memorandum, which was prepared for Donovan's signature.
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:38 AM
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2011 01:16 PM