William J. Donovan and the Office of Strategic Services Term Paper

Pages: 12 (4625 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Military

William J. Donovan and the Office of Strategic Services

The stakes were never so high and if things had gone just slightly different, the outcome of the Second World War might have been drastically different had it not been for the clandestine work of William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan and his cadre of intelligentsia in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). This paper provides an overview and assessment of the concepts of vision and strategic leadership as displayed by William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan in the creation and execution of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, for the United States of America during the Second World War. The major focus of the paper is an analysis of the life experiences which include family background, education, character and personality, and career path that lead Donovan to become a strategic and visionary leader. In addition, this paper provides a discussion of the creation of the Office of Strategic Services and how it worked during World War II. A summary of the research and salient findings are presented in the conclusion.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on William J. Donovan and the Office of Strategic Services Assignment

Today, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has received a lot of bad press, but the fact remains that this agency is tasked with a vitally important mission in the post-September 11 world. According to their organizational literature, "The Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act by President Harry S. Truman. The act also created a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) to serve as head of the United States intelligence community; act as the principal adviser to the President for intelligence matters related to the national security; and serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency" (About Us 2). The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 subsequently revised the National Security Act to also provide for a Director of National Intelligence responsible for the assumption of some of the roles formerly fulfilled by the DCI, with a separate Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (About Us 3). The CIA's forerunner was the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, which was the main American intelligence agency during the Second World War headed by William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan (Langford and Bruce 1), whose life and times are described further below.

The Life and Times of William J. Donovan.

William J. Donovan was born on New Year's Day in 1883, and died seventy-six years later on February 8, 1959 (Troy 23). According to this biographer, Donovan's grandparents, both were Irish Catholics who had immigrated to the United States and settled in Buffalo, New York, in a predominantly Irish neighborhood of the First Ward near the waterfront (Troy 23). "His parents," a relative of the family wrote, "also Irish and Catholic, lived in the grandparents' big, high-stooped brick house at 74 Michigan Street" (William's brother, Rev. Vincent Donovan, quoted by Troy at 23). William was the couple's first child who added the name Joseph at his Confirmation (Troy 23). William also had eight other siblings, but four of them died from spinal meningitis at early ages (Troy 23). The Donovan house on Michigan Street was a gathering spot for Irish immigrants, neighbors, and politics; "in our neck of the woods, " recalled one member of the family, "you were born and died a Republican" (William's brother, Rev. Vincent Donovan, quoted by Troy at 23).

William had some interesting influences during his early life that may help account for his career path in later life. For example, although Donovan's father never finished school ("he played hookey instead and was finally allowed by his father to go to work for the railroads and eventually wound up as a superintendent"), he became convinced that an education was the key to success. As a result, "He started building a library at home before any children were born. When they did come, they 'grew up in the midst of books.' The young William was an omnivorous reader, and he remained one throughout his life -- buying, reading, and collecting books, making notes of them in his diaries or journals, and copying out pertinent facts and quotable lines" (Troy 23). William attended the Christian Brothers' School in his early years, and entertained the idea of becoming a Dominican priest, but elected to pursue a career in law instead (William's younger brother, Vincent, went on to become a Dominican priest, though) (Troy 23). William attended Niagara University, and subsequently changed to Columbia University; there, he worked his way through school throughout the academic year as well as during summers; in spite of these responsibilities, he found time to compete on Columbia's rowing team and earned a spot on the second varsity crew as well as earning his letter as quarterback on the 1904 team (Troy 23). Not surprisingly, perhaps, William was not noted as an exemplary academician but nevertheless, he managed to graduate in 1905 and remained at Columbia to attain his law degree, which he received in 1907 (Troy 23). During this period, one of his classmates was Franklin Delano Roosevelt,.".. The Democratic Hudson Valley squire, who in the 1932 campaign "referred condescendingly to 'my old friend and classmate, Bill Donovan'"; however, William later reported he "always reminded people that Roosevelt never knew me in law school" (Ford 13 quoted in Troy at 23).

During his attendance at Columbia Law School, one of his teachers was Harlan Stone, a future Supreme Court justice (Troy 23). Following his graduation, the young William returned to Buffalo and secured a position with a small firm, Love & Keating (Troy 23). According to this author, "In 1912 he formed a partnership with Bradley Goodyear, and later that year they joined the city's leading law firm which then became O'Brian Hamlin Donovan & Goodyear. In 1914 he took himself a bride, Ruth Rumsey, the daughter of one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the city, and they would have a son David, still living, and a daughter Patricia whose death in an automobile accident in 1940 was a very great personal loss to her father" (Troy 24)

The other formative episode that took place during this period in Donovan's life was his commission as an officer in the New York National Guard. According to one biographer, "Meanwhile, he had taken up -- and it is not too far fetched to put it this way -- another bride, the military life. He did so in 1911 when he joined with others in Buffalo to organize Troop I of the First New York Cavalry of the National Guard. Even though he had hardly ridden a horse more than three or four times, he was, within six months, captain of the troop" (Troy 24). When World War I erupted in 1914, Donovan devoted as much of his time as possible to his military responsibilities, experiences which were clearly influential in his later life and way of thinking. For instance, according to Troy, "The war provided him with his first overseas service, though not as a soldier; in 1916 he was on the continent, in France, Germany, and Poland as a member of the Polish Commission which had been established under the American War Relief Commission to work with the belligerents in the distribution of food and clothing to the suffering population of Poland. In London he worked with Herbert Hoover, who was then in charge of Belgian relief. This association led to a close friendship, which turned sour, however, in 1929" (Troy 24).

In 1929, Donovan left the Department of Justice where he had been an assistant attorney general for five years under Presidents Harding and Coolidge; his departure was prompted because the new, President Hoover, had, by all accounts, reneged on a commitment to make Donovan attorney general, and Donovan, the future chief of just such a service, was leaving the government in Washington to begin a new career in Manhattan (Troy 23). During his stay in Europe, Donovan witnessed his first battles and their impact on the soldiers involved (Troy 24). He also gained some combat experience when his Troop I was activated to serve on the Mexican border to.".. curb the depredations on American lives and property of the bandit leader Pancho Villa. He hurried home to join his men and serve eight and a half months under Gen. John J. ("Black Jack") Pershing (Troy 24). It was at this point in his career, according his younger brother, Vincent, that he earned the nickname of "Wild Bill." "Reportedly, his men, collapsing after an exhausting ten-mile hike, heard their captain taunt them with 'Look at me, I'm not even panting. If I can take it, why can't you?' The answer, from somewhere in the ranks was: 'We ain't as wild as you, Bill'" (Ford 12). The nickname stuck and "Wild Bill" came to like it: "So it stayed with him, and he liked it" (Troy 24).

When the United States entered the World War, "Wild Bill" Donovan was a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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