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    Office of Strategic Services established

    Office of Strategic Services established

    Courtesy Photo | OSS Secret Intelligence personnel in France, 1944... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence

    by Fiona G. Holter, USAICoE Staff Historian

    On June 13, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Throughout the Second World War, this wartime intelligence agency operated in every theater (albeit minimally in the Pacific), collecting and analyzing information as the nation’s first centralized intelligence service.

    In July 1941, Roosevelt formed the Coordinator of Information (COI) as an intelligence agency to collect and analyze information and to coordinate intelligence efforts across various civilian and military intelligence organizations. After the U.S. joined the war in December 1941, the nation needed a more centralized intelligence agency to handle covert propaganda, strategic intelligence, and special operations. As a result, Roosevelt established the OSS under the command of Colonel (later Maj. Gen.) William J. Donovan on 13 June 1942.

    Throughout the war, the mission of the OSS was to collect and analyze strategic information and to sabotage the enemy’s wartime efforts. To do so, the OSS employed more than 13,000 men and women, approximately 65 percent of whom were U.S. Army and Army Air Force personnel. These individuals were recruited for their range of skills and backgrounds that would contribute to the organization’s many branches.

    The Secret Intelligence (SI) branch demonstrated the breadth and scope of OSS activities during the war. The SI branch was primarily responsible for gathering human intelligence and transmitting it back to the Allies over the radio. To do this, SI work involved sabotage, espionage, covert radio communication, and paramilitary operations. Often, SI personnel operated on their own, but they commonly formed small teams of two to four people when sent into enemy-controlled regions. For example, in 1944, 29 two-person SI teams participated in a joint operation known as SUSSEX with British and French intelligence agencies. SUSSEX was a mission to infiltrate and collect valuable intelligence on German military operations in occupied France.

    By 1945, the SI activities had evolved beyond running operations in enemy-controlled regions to actually infiltrating the Germany army. The London SI team, led by William J. Casey, recruited German prisoners of war as informants. After training the recruits, the SI team returned the prisoners to cities like Munich, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, and Berlin to collect intelligence on German military movements. By the end of the war, thirty-six of these informants had been caught and killed by German troops; however, the information they gathered for the Allies proved significant for Allied assaults on Germany in the final months of the war.

    With the traditional downsizing typically accompanying the conclusion of combat operations, the OSS was dissolved on 1 October 1945. The State and War departments divided the branches and personnel of the organization; however, the continued need for a centralized intelligence agency remained. The War Department retained the SI branch and the OSS counterintelligence branch, the X-2, and created the Strategic Services Unit. By 1947, this unit evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency.



    Date Taken: 06.13.2022
    Date Posted: 06.13.2022 11:40
    Story ID: 422791

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