OSS Personnel Files Released
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently opened over 35,000 files on more than 24,000 employees of the Office of Strategic Services. This affords the public an unprecedented, detailed look at the wartime lives of those who served in America's first all-purpose, strategic-level intelligence organization. (Learn more about the OSS from our monograph, “The Office of Strategic Services: America's First Intelligence Agency” and our Featured Story, “The Office of Strategic Services: The Forerunner of Today’s CIA.”)
Information about specific OSS officers has been randomly available in secondary sources, previous records releases, and scattered documentary collections. But the approximately 750,000 pages now available at NARA's College Park (Maryland) facility describe the everyday worlds of the individual operators, analysts, technicians, administrators, and support personnel who comprised OSS Director William J. Donovan's "unusual experiment -- to determine whether a group of Americans constituting a cross section or racial origins, abilities, temperaments and talents could meet and risk an encounter with the long-established and well-trained enemy organizations."
The documents include the mundane paraphernalia of bureaucracy – applications and recommendations; training and work assignments; pay, leave and travel records – as well as performance evaluations and commendations that describe outstanding intelligence achievements and acts of heroism under fire.
Overall, the collection depicts an exceptional workforce drawn from all walks of life – with a mix of skills and an esprit de corps – that soon became part of CIA's legacy from the OSS and helped establish intelligence as a central element in national security decision making and war fighting.
The newly released records are available in the main research room at NARA's College Park facility. Archival information about the collection can be found on NARA's public Web site at http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc [external link disclaimer] by entering the number 1593270 in the search box.