The Office of Strategic Services

General Overviews

L - R

Liptak, Eugene. Office of Strategic Services 1942-45: The World War II Origins of the CIA. Oxford: Osprey, 2009. [pb]

According to the publisher of this brief, popular treatment (64 pages), this "story of the origins and development of the American espionage forces covers all of the different departments involved, with a particular emphasis on the ... teams operating in the field. The volume is illustrated with many photographs, including images from the film director John Ford who led the OSS Photographic Unit and parachuted into Burma in 1943."

MacPherson, Nelson. American Intelligence in War-Time London: The Story of the OSS. London: Cass, 2003.

From publisher: "Based on OSS records only recently released ... and on evidence from British archival sources, this is a thoroughly researched study of the Office of Strategic Services in London.... MacPherson puts the activities of the OSS into the larger context of the Anglo-American relationship and the various aspects of intelligence theory, while examining how a modern American intelligence capability evolved."

Marquardt-Bigman, Petra. "Project Communication: An Oral History of the Office of Strategic Services." Intelligence and National Security 12, no. 2 (Apr. 1997): 161-162.

In a project sponsored by the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence, a team will be interviewing a representative sample of surviving staff from the various OSS branches.

Mauch, Christof. Tr., Jeremiah Riemer. The Shadow War Against Hitler: The Covert Operations of America's Wartime Secret Intelligence Service. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Kirkus Reviews, 1 Mar. 2003, finds this to be "[a] careful study that draws heavily on declassified archives"; it presents "illuminating research on the WWII era and modern military intelligence." The author concludes that "the OSS contributed materially to the Allied cause ... by, among other things, targeting and exploiting weak points in the German economy, identifying bombing targets, disrupting civilian and military morale, and spreading misinformation that helped pin down Wehrmacht and SS units that might otherwise have gone into battle against the Allies."

For Kollander, H-German, H-Net Reviews, Mar. 2006 [], the author has "produced a work that skillfully illuminates the history of the ... OSS.... Although the OSS was handicapped by its haphazard organization and by the fact that it was often ignored by the President, it[s] ... operations helped to shorten the war in Europe.... This exhaustively researched book ... is as much a history of the origins of the CIA as it is a history of secret operations against Hitler."

McDonald, Lawrence H. "The OSS: America's First National Intelligence Agency." Prologue, Spring 1992, 7-22. Also, Special Warfare 6, no. 1 (Feb. 1993): 24-32.

McIntosh, Elizabeth P. Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998. 2009. [pb]

Jonkers, AIJ 18.1&2, notes that McIntosh "joined OSS in 1943 and was part of operations against the Japanese in Burma. After postwar assignments with VOA and the State Department she joined CIA in 1958 and remained there until her retirement in 1973." This is "[a]n entertaining book, with many photos." For Waller, Intelligencer 9.3, the author "serves history well with her book.... Sisterhood of Spies provides an authentic picture of women at war in the demanding field of intelligence." Bates, NIPQ 14.4, recommends this "interesting and worthwhile book." The "author's writing style is delightful."

Chapman, IJI&C 11.4, comments that "The Women of the OSS is a good read. It's fascinating, highly informative, and I learned a lot. My minor criticism is that in parts, where McIntosh deals with spectacular stuff, it's so one-foot-in-front-of-the-other factual that I wished there was more pizzaz to describe the operations of several heroines."

To Westlake, NYTBR, 31 May 1998, McIntosh tells her stories with "brisk polish. Unfortunately, she brings to her task a ... compulsion toward completeness rather than a storyteller's compulsion toward narrative." Smith, Military Review, Jan.-Feb. 2000, regrets that the author "focuses predominantly on civilian women" within OSS, "not the smaller military contingent." Nonetheless, this is a "fascinating book ... [that] combines historical narrative, case studies and oral histories to trace both the development of the OSS and women's expanding roles within the agency."

Hamilton, H-Minerva, H-Net Reviews, Aug. 2002 [], comments that this "book is an interesting look into OSS activities during World War II, including how the OSS started and how it evolved into the CIA." It is, however, "less useful as an in-depth study into women's roles, either in how these activities opened up new roles for women or how women were perceived in these roles. The book touches on these ideas, but only in passing, as they are not central to the book's purpose."

See also the author's earlier work, where she relates her own wartime adventures in OSS Morale Operations in the Far East: Elizabeth P. MacDonald, Undercover Girl (New York: Macmillan, 1947).

Meszerics, Tamás. "Undermine, or Bring Them Over: SOE and OSS Plans for Hungary in 1943." Journal of Contemporary History 43, no. 2. (Apr. 2008): 195-216.

"[T]his article reconstructs the planning process [of SOE and OSS for special operations in Hungary] between March 1943 and March 1944.... The restrained rivalry between the American and British organizations was .. clearly observable in the Hungarian case.... Possibly the most persuasive explanation lies in the organizational characteristics and history of the two agencies. OSS was given a comprehensive mandate for secret intelligence, special operations, counterintelligence, and morale operations. This was an advantage over SOE, which after 1942 had to focus on sabotage and subversion alone."

O'Donnell, Patrick K. First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging of America's Most Elite Unit. Boston: DaCapo, 2014.

Mattingly, Proceedings 141.6 (Jun. 2015), finds that the author "tells[s] of the successes and the contribution that OSS MU [Maritime Unit], Navy underwater demolition teams, and naval combat demolition unit operators made to defeat the Axis powers. He also candidly discusses their failures." O'Donnell "provides the reader with the history of the inception of Navy special operations."

O'Donnell, Patrick K. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WW II's OSS. New York: Free Press, 2004.

According to Seamon, Proceedings 130.4 (Apr. 2004), the author "lets the men and women" of OSS "tell their stories in their own words. For the most part, these stories are straightforward accounts." Bath, NIPQ 20.4 (Dec. 2004), sees the author giving readers "a comprehensive picture of the OSS from its inception." He has produced "a highly readable story" that "is less a book for the serious student of intelligence than for the non-specialist."

Laurie, Studies 49.1 (2005), notes that the author focuses on the reminiscences of 300 OSS veterans. This "is a useful contribution to the existing literature, and one that many will find fascinating. Unfortunately, these wonderful oral histories are poorly packaged.... [T]he portrait of the OSS presented here is one dimensional, telling only the well-known, often over-romanticized 'cloak and dagger' aspect of the Service's history that perpetuates the popular myth that this is all that intelligence agencies do."

Pickering, John. "The Jedburghs." Everyone's War 18 (2007): 65-67. [Capet]

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