The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The OSS was formed in order to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines for the branches of the United States Armed Forces.
. From 1942-1945, America's first centralized intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), converted Chopawamsic's sleepy summer camps into secret training Areas "A" and "C". For 4 years, thousands of military men and everyday citizens came here to learn the art of spying and survival behind enemy lines.
With some 12,000 staff members, the OSS collected and analyzed information on areas of the world in which U.S. military forces were operating. It used agents inside Nazi-occupied Europe, including Berlin, carried out counterpropaganda and disinformation activities, produced analytical reports for policy makers, and staged special operations (e.g., sabotage and demolition) behind enemy lines to support guerrillas and resistance fighters. Many of its functions were later assumed by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 1942 OSS established the Secret Intelligence Branch (SI) to open field stations, train case officers, run agent operations, and process reports in Washington. Headed from 1943 on by international executive and lawyer Whitney H. Shepardson, SI by the end of the war had become a full-fledged foreign intelligence service, with stations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, excellent liaison contacts with foreign services, and a growing body of operational doctrine.
the United States and Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, were once allies. Indeed, during the last year of World War II, American spies in Indochina found themselves working closely with Ho Chi Minh and other anti-colonial factions—compelled by circumstances to fight together against the Japanese.
The men of General William Donovan’s newly-formed Office of Strategic Services closely collaborated with communist groups in both Europe and Asia against the Axis enemies. In Vietnam, this meant that OSS officers worked with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh, whose ultimate aim was to rid the region of all imperialist powers, not just the Japanese.
The OSS, the United States’ first full-service intelligence organization, left a legacy of daring and innovation that has influenced American military and intelligence thinking since World War II. In fact, today’s Central Intelligence Agency derives a significant institutional and spiritual legacy from the OSS.
In the last two years of the war, the Office of Strategic Services trained Kuomintang troops in China and Burma, and recruited Kachin and other indigenous irregular forces for sabotage as well as guides for Allied forces in Burma fighting the Japanese Army.
The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ask for greater coordination by the departmental intelligence arms. On July 11, 1941, the President appointed William J. Donovan to tackle the problem as the Coordinator of Information (or COI), the head of a new civilian office attached to the White House.
One key OSS informant during WWII was an anti-Nazi German Foreign Office official named Fritz Kolbe, who carried many hundreds of documents with him on frequent visits to Switzerland, where he met with OSS officials. Kolbe, codenamed George Wood, became Allen Dulles's best source in Bern during 1944 and 1945, a story well known to intelligence historians.
Working knowledge of a foreign language was a priority consideration advanced in the recruiting promotions, though candidates with other special skills or foreign area knowledge were also considered for recruitment. Soldiers with language skills in Norwegian, Italian, French, Greek and German were the primary languages being sought.