Book Reviews

Book review: Wild Bill Donovan – The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage.

Few North American have heard about Bill Donovan, yet he is, in circles of the intelligence community, a much admired and debated individual. Scholars attribute much of the collapse of the Nazi regime and its allies in World War II to his espionage successes.

Bill Donovan was the director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) the first national intelligence agency of the U.S.A., which eventually evolved to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) of today.

W.J. Donovan was the son of a poor Irish Catholic parents. He married into Protestant wealth and fought heroically in World War II where he earned the nickname “Wild Bill” for his intense leadership, and prompted his superiors in the army to award him the Medal of Honor for his heroism. His soldiers adored him for his leadership, heroism, and intense discipline in training.

He studied law and made millions as a Republican lawyer, until F.D. Roosevelt, a democrat, tapped him to be his strategic intelligence chief.

At the time FBI, under the legendary J. Edgar Hoover, was starting to be a “force’ in espionage, Donovan built up OSS, started to collaborate with the British, learned techniques they had developed, hired many talented and sometimes unsuitable agents, and/or informers, contacted Chinese generals who were willing, or who pretended to share intelligence, and infiltrated Italian and German armed forces employing maneuvers never employed before.

He traveled incessantly all over the world to gather more useful intelligence and hired agents to help win the war effort.

He negotiated with FDR to obtain funds that were at the discretion of the president, and had the right to use of army transportation vehicles that allowed him to fly wherever he wanted.

His frequent absence from home contributed to a “failed” marriage with Ruth, but the couple agreed not to separate or divorce for social reasons.

This superbly researched book reveals details of World War II espionage never made public until now.

The author Douglas Waller worked as a correspondent fro Newsweek and Time. He is considered to be an authority on military and foreign policy.

This is a fascinating book about World War II, espionage that helped the Allies to defeat the Nazi regime.

After World War II, The OSS was disbanded and turned into CIA in an attempt to consolidate the flow of information. Donovan wanted to be the first director of the CIA, but alas, political intrigues prevented him from achieving his lifelong dream.

This is a book to study, and from which to gain a lot of information.

Highly recommended!

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