OSS during WW2 (Timeline- the story of the formation of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. From recruitment and training to WW2 operations)

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

One thought on “OSS during WW2 (Timeline- the story of the formation of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. From recruitment and training to WW2 operations)”

  1. Part of the series narrated by Charlton Heston. Broadcast several times in the UK on Yesterday! an Forces TV!

    Diplomat David Bruce was recruited by Maj. Gen. William J. Donovan to be the general’s right‐hand man in the formation of the Office of Strategic Services. From 1943 until 1945, at the height of World War II, Bruce commanded the O.S.S. in the European Theater of Operations. I met with him much later when he led the US delegation at the Paris Conference on Vietnam, parallel to the Kissinger Le Duc Tho talks. He told me a few anecdotes about the OSS. As to Allen Dulles, who was based in Switzerland, he was a friend of the family.

    When the US was still trying to talk to the North Vietnamese, I was tasked to find if I could find people in France who might help (France of course was the former colonial power). I went to see the widow of Marshal Leclerc -he had been sacked by De Gaulle a he wanted to talk with the Viet Minh and replaced by the inept Admiral d’Argenlieu. She directed to former governor of what was called at the time Indochina Jean Sainteny. The latter said I should go and see the Aubracs, who had been major Resistance leaders. They had been close to the Communists but had cut off with them as they did not want to have to answer to Joseph Stalin, but they personally knew Ho Chi Minh. They went to see him and were well received but “uncle Ho” wanted to talk only with people in high positions. It was eventually the Pakistani head of state who succeeded on organizing a meeting. When I arrived in Annecy, the first people I met were the Aubracs: they lived about 300 yards from my new place. René Aubrac died soon after our meeting, then Sophie Aubrac did too. The street where they lived, completely remodeled, is now Rue Sophie Aubrac.

    The Aubracs told me they had been in contact with the OSS, not in France or Britain, but in Algeria, where the OSS was split between Robert Murphy, who with Bullitt and Leahy, believed Pétain was playing a double game (he wasn’t, alas, he did not obey Nazi Germany’s orders, he preceded them), and an OSS cell at the Algerian-Moroccan border, not far from Oran, who supported De Gaulle and established contacts with the Algerian nationalists. Wil Bill Donovan supported the Oran cell, but it was found they were very left wing. Murphy, Leahy and Bullitt convinced the State Dept.
    and FDR to keep Admiral Darlan -a supporter of Pétain and rabid antisemite- as governor of Algeria. A French patriot, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, who had friends in the SOE, assassinated Darlan and was immediately put on trial; found guilty and executed. A Free French tribunal immediately annulled the sentence and Bonnier de la Chappelle was posthumously decorated. I was later told by Chris Philpotts, then head of SIME (Security Intelligence Middle East), that Churchill had tried to intercede for Bonnier de la Chappelle, but not too strongly as he feared SOE knew beforehand of Bonnier’s plans (they didn’t, as far as I know).

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