Office of Strategic Services

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Office of Strategic Services

To be an effective spy one must have all of the fancy gadgets there are, right? Well, no. But the spies from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) did. They included a uniform button that was really a compass, a 16mm camera shaped like a matchbox, and a deck of playing cards that concealed a map which would be revealed when the top layer was soaked off.

"As another European war loomed in the late 1930s, fears of fascist and Communist "Fifth Columns" in America prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ask for greater coordination by the departmental intelligence arms. When little seemed to happen in response to his wish, he tried again in the spring of 1941, expressing his desire to make the traditional intelligence services take a strategic approach to the nation's challenges--and to cooperate so that he did not have to arbitrate their squabbles.

A few weeks later, Roosevelt in frustration resorted to a characteristic stratagem. With some subtle prompting from a pair of British officials--Admiral John H. Godfrey and William Stephenson (later Sir William)--FDR created a new organization to duplicate some of the functions of the existing agencies. The President on 11 July 1941 appointed William J. Donovan of New York to sort the mess as the Coordinator of Information (COI), the head of a new, civilian office attached to the White House."

When America entered into World War II in December 1941, it caused new thinking about the place and role of COI. Donovan, and his newly acquired office, with its $10 million budget, 600 staffers, and its charismatic director, brought heavy hostility from the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigators) and the G-2 (War Department's Military Intelligence Division).

The new Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) initially shared this distrust, regarding Donovan,