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.

SOE during the Second World War and British Intelligence (Full Documentary)

DISCLAIMER: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal.

As this is an American documentary most of the archive footage is American

The crew of USAAF B-17 ‘Mi Amigo’ 22 February 1944

On 20 February 1944 a B-17 bomber (Flying Fortress) which the crew called ‘Mi Amigo’ was part of the 305th Bombardment Group, US 8th Army Airforce based at Chelveston Airfield in Northamptonshire and ‘Mi Amigo’ was one of 700 American B-17 bombers involved in Operation Argument.

Operation Argument was an intensive one-week joint operation with RAF bomber command to destroy high value and  heavily defended aircraft factories and Luftwaffe airfields in Alaborg Denmark and Leipzig Germany and the bombers had to run the gauntlet of extensive anti-aircraft artillery and German fighters.

On 22 February there was heavy fog over the Luftwaffe base in Alaborg  and the target could not be seen from the air as the B-17’s were being attacked by swarms of German fighters during which three American aircraft were shot down and most of their crews were killed or captured.  Due to the fog and continuous waves of German fighters the mission was aborted; the surviving aircraft began their return to England and once they reached the North Sea, they started jettisoning their bombs.

Mi Amigo had been extensively damaged and there were concerns one or more of its engines would seize up before reaching England, but the crew managed to dump their 4,000 lb bomb load over the sea.

The crew of Mi Amigo

According to historian Paul Allonby, Mi Amigo was several miles from its base in England and its engines which had all been damaged were fading quickly as its pilot Lt Kriegshauser steered his crippled B-17 out of thick clouds and found they were over a major city in Sheffield.  As he looked for a suitable field for a crash landing, he could only see houses, roads and trees and then in the distance he saw a large field called Encliffee Park which was a public play area with thick woods behind it.

Lt Kriegshauser prepared his crew for a crash landing and started his final approach when he suddenly  saw a large group of children playing in the field and immediately aborted the landing in the full knowledge his aircraft would crash into the woods.

After crashing the wreckage of the B-17 was scattered across the hillside, the aircraft was split into two and the front section was on fire and the crew were dead.

Several eyewitnesses say the aircraft circled the park for some time and it is believed the pilot sacrificed the lives of himself and his crew to avoid a group of children in the field.

Lt Kriegshauser was posthumously awarded the US Distinguished Flying Cross.

During the crash a large number of trees had been destroyed and in 1969 a grove of American Oakes was planted to honour the crew of Mi Amigo. There is also a memorial to the crew in the park and Tony Foulds who was one of the children in the park at the time of the crash continues to personally tend the memorial.

On 22 February 2019 after a long campaign by Tony Foulds, who is now 82 years old, British and American military aircraft took part in a flypast over Endcliffee Park in Sheffield to mark the 75th anniversary of the American crew of the bomber Mi Amigo.

Tony Foulds ar 82, who was one of the children playing in the field

Further reading:

https://www.forces.net/news/tri-service/mi-amigo-10-heroes-who-fell-sky

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-46958696