Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS & Modern American Espionage

Author Douglas Waller discusses “Wild” Bill Donovan and his role in the OSS and modern American espionage, the subject of his new book.

Speaker Biography: Douglas Waller, a former veteran correspondent for Newsweek and Time, has reported on the CIA for six years. Waller also covered the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House and Congress. Before reporting for Newsweek and Time, he served eight years as a legislative assistant on the staffs of Rep. Edward Markey and Sen. William Proxmire. He is the author of the best-sellers “The Commandos: The Inside Story of America’s Secret Soldiers,” which chronicled U.S. Special Operations Forces, with a lineage tracing back to the OSS, and “Big Red: The Three-Month Voyage of a Trident Nuclear Submarine.” He is also the author of “A Question of Loyalty: Gen. Billy Mitchell and the Court-Martial that Gripped the Nation,” the critically acclaimed biography of the World War I general.

From the Library of Congress 2011.

The History of the OSS

How the OSS came about and its development into and the Clandestine Service known as the Central Intelligence Agency as told by those who served.

RAF Special Duties Squadrons during WW2

John Williamson continues the story of the secret RAF Special Duties Squadron based at Tempsford during WW2

Returned Halifax at RAF Tempsford

RAF No. 138 Special Duties Squadron

138 Special Duties Squadron was responsible for dropping agents, weapons, sabotage equipment and other stores by parachute inside occupied Europe and flew  as far as Poland and Yugoslavia from RAF Tempsford. There was  also a detachment serving the Middle East.

Silent film

Missions By Moonlight No. 161 Special Duties Squadron

Hugh Verity was a night fighter pilot during WWII until 1942 when he volunteered for RAF special duties and became involved in one of the most extraordinary and effective operations of the secret war. Flying a single-engine Lysander aircraft he was  landing in German occupied France delivering and collecting  SOE and SIS agents. With only the light of the moon to recognise landmarks whilst navigating hostile terrain 161 squadron had carefully selected pilots with highly developed flying and navigation skills.   

The barn on the site of former RAF Tempsford

The Barn Tempsford Airfield 2014

The barn where agents were fitted with parachutes and issued with equipment. From this barn agents who could not face the possibility of prolonged torture were given an opportunity to take with them  the   ‘L Pill’ (lethal) containing  cyanide. During their training they were informed the ‘L Pill’ would  kill them within five seconds.

British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) during WW2 (TV Documentary)

The following description was written by the History Room.

This film gives some insight into the work of the British Political Warfare Executive run by Sefton Delmer.  It is perhaps more suitable for whimsical entertainment than serious study, but it is still revealing and informative, casting some light on the murky underworld of the secret services. Note to teachers: the film contains some brief nudity. Uploaded for educational purposes only.

Lonely Courage – the story of the SOE Heroines in Occupied France. A talk by Rick Stroud

Introduction

A talk by Rick Stroud on Wednesday 11 April 2018 in The Kincaid Gallery, The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum. (see link at bottom of page)

“The French Resistance began almost as soon as France surrendered to Germany.  At first it was small, disorganised groups of men and women working in isolation but by 1944 around 400,000 French citizens (nearly 2% of the population) were involved.  The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up in 1941 saw its role in France as recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and disrupting the Germans by any means, including sabotage, collection of intelligence and dissemination of black propaganda.

Infiltrated into France and operating in Resistance circuits the basic SOE unit was a team of three: a leader, a wireless operator and a courier, many of them women.  This is the story of those women, their selection, training, dropping into occupied France and their attempts to survive on a daily basis whilst being hunted by the Gestapo.  Some survived by luck through the war, whilst others were captured, tortured and executed before the Nazis final capitulation.

Rick Stroud is a writer and television director who has directed such actors as Pierce Brosnan, John Hurt,and Joanna Lumley.  He is the author of several books including Rifleman, the story of Vic Gregg, ex 2RB.  He is currently working on a book about the kidnapping by the SOE of General Kreipe from his headquarters on Nazi occupied Crete.”(Ricard Shroud April 2018)

Talk by Rick Stroud

Odette Churchill, George Cross, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (SOE French Section)

Odette ABC News

A short video interview of Odette  shown on British television in 1980.

Odette speaks about being a prisoner in concentration camps ,  and how she coped with torture and weeks in solitary confinement under horrific conditions. 

(First shown:14/11/1980. If you would like to license a clip from this interview, please e mail: archive@fremantle.com Quote: VT23965)