Before COI came into existence, America had no coordinated intelligence organization worthy of the name. If one wanted a Michelin Guide of the Haute Savoie, information on religious customs in Lebanon, or a list of key labor leaders in occupied Europe, chances were ten-to-one that none could be found without extensive research. Britain had her Secret Intelligence Service, Germany the Abwehr, but all the United States possessed was a set of parochial military intelligence sections and a woefully inadequate collection of threadbare diplomats. Donovan changed all that.
"A Pungent Collection . . ."
COI was a beginning, but only that. After the establishment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it became apparent that the normal scope of service intelligence activities--and the expertise to carry them out on a global scale--was sadly lacking. As Donovan needed the Armed Forces, so they needed him and his intellectuals. In the end, it was a "shotgun wedding" with Franklin Roosevelt fingering the trigger. On 13 June 1942, by Presidential Executive Order, the Office of the Coordinator of Information was abolished and the Office of Strategic Services created. Under the heading of "Military Order," OSS was given two broad missions:
The Office of Strategic Services shall perform the following duties:
a. Collect and analyze such strategic information as may be required by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
b. Plan and operate such special services as may be directed by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
William J. Donovan was appointed Director of OSS.
Interestingly, the appointment was announced while Director DOnovan was in London. Less surprising was his travelling companion, British Security Coordinator William Stephenson. That such news should reach this pair in the capital city of the English-speaking peoples was a fitting footnote to the new partnership between Great Britain's four hundred-year-old intelligence tradition and America's infant counterpart. "The war produced many examples of good Anglo-American relations, even if there were also some bad ones. None can have been more varied and at the same time more intimate and confidential than those which existed between 'Little Bill' Stephenson and 'Big Bill' Donovan and their respective organizations."2
OSS eventually comprised a recruitment and training organization, administrators, communicators and the usual retinue of clerks, codemen, and supply personnel found in any large military formation. But it took its character from quite a different breed. "It was a pungent collection of thugs, post-debutantes, millionaires, professors, corporation lawyers, military professionals, and misfits, all operating under high tension and in whispers."3 The "thugs" aside, all of these categories would be represented by men in the uniform of the United States Marines.
This paper is not the place for a detailed description of the OSS structure. Nor is it intended as an institutional history. But to place the story of Marines and OSS in its proper framework, one must
understand the main components of what Dr. Goebbels referred to as "Donovan's Monkey House."4
A wiring diagram of OSS would show six major branches,* but major intelligence and clandestine operations were centered in five functional areas:
- Research and Analysis (R & A)
- Special Operations (SO)
- Morale Operations (MO)
- Secret Intelligence (SI)
- Counter-espionage (X-2)
Research and Analysis Branch handled the bulk of detailed work in geographic, scientific, economic, political and of course military studies. To staff it, Donovan recruited the "best academic and analytical brains that he could beg, borrow or steal from the universities, laboratories, and museums" both at home and abroad.5
"R&A was the first concerted effort on the part of any world power to apply the talents of its academic community to official analysis of foreign affairs."6 Research and Analysis was headed by Dr.William Langer, a noted Harvard historian who would later organize CIA's Board of National Estimates. Langer's personal assistant was Marine First Lieutenant William Applebaum, a transplanted Russian Jew who spoke three languages and was described by Donovan as "a brilliant organizer."7
* Central Administration and Technical; Intelligence Service; Psychological Warfare Operations; Training; Services; New York and West Coast Offices.
Applebaum (whose original name was Wolf) immigrated into the United States at age 14. He attended the University of Minnesota, earning both his BA and MA in Geography. But business was his specialty. Bill Applebaum became one of the first men in America to apply marketing research techniques to the retail supermarket industry. He joined OSS in June 1942, and was immediately given the task of bringing order to the chaotic organizational situation in Donovan's "brain trust."
Applebaum initially attempted to secure a commission in the Army, but was rejected because of dental problems. He then turned to Langer, who suggested he try the Marine Corps, which was surprisingly cooperative in granting direct appointments in specialist categories. Dr. Langer endorsed Applebaum's application with high praise and pointed out that his aide was frequently required to travel abroad. "He will," the endorsement stated, "be distinctly handicapped unless he appears in uniform."8 On 15 July 1943, Applebaum was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve with the specialty code MSS--Strategic Services.
Applebaum did indeed travel abroad. During his tenure with OSS, he would conduct "trouble-shooting" trips to England, France, Italy, Egypt, India, Burma, and China. While in Washington, he served as secretary to the R&A Executive Committee, top-policy making body within the organization. In that capacity, Applebaum was privy to the innermost workings of American intelligence during World War II. Bad teeth or no, he was, in the words of Colonel David Bruce:* "an outstanding officer of unparalleled organizational ability."9
* Bruce later became U.S. Ambassador to France (1948-49), Germany (1957-59) and Britain (1961-60).
Other Marines who served in R&A included First Lieutenant Gordon Craig, Captain George H. Owen, Captain Richard Gard, Captain Joseph Charles, and Colonel James McHugh.
Craig was born in Scotland and educated at Princeton and Oxford (Rhodes Scholar 1936-38). A Phi Beta Kappa in history, he was deeply involved in planning U.S. military resupply routes through West Africa during the early days of the war. Later he served with the Department of State and with Marine combat forces in the Pacific. The author of several books, he is perhaps best known to military history students for his contributions to Makers of Modern Strategy, which although published in 1943, remains a standard text.10
Captain Gard arrived in OSS by rather circuitous routing. Born in Vancouver, he studied Japanese literature at the University of Washington and received his MA in Oriental Studies from the University of Hawaii. Commissioned for intelligence duty in June 1941, Gard was a Second Lieutenant at Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked.
During the first several years of the war, Gard served in the South Pacific. He saw action at Guadalcanal and New Georgia before being shipped home to the Japanese interpreter school in Colorado. in 1944, weakened by constant bouts of malaria, Gard dropped out of language school and was assigned the demanding task of managing the Hostess House and Bachelor Officer Quarters at Marine Barracks, Klamath Falls, Oregon. OSS rescued Gard from this sinecure in December 1944, and brought him to Washington as a member of the task force studying the planned invasion of the Japanese homeland.* Gard's knowledge of the Asian Buddhist community
* Before entering the Marine Corps, Gard won a scholarship from the Buddhist Council of Japan and had spent a year studying the Zen sect in a Japanese monastery.
proved particularly helpful in laying the groundwork for policies of the occupation government. He was awaiting transportation to the OSS station at Kunming, China, when the war ended.11
Captain George H. Owen provides a somewhat typical profile of the lawyer turned OSS intelligence officer. Born in Germany before World War I, he grew up in Europe and was educated largely in France. Before returning to the United States for college, and subsequently law school, Owen had mastered German, French and Spanish.
From 1939 until 1942, Captain Owen taught International Law and Diplomatic History at Fordham University in New York. In April 1942, he moved to the Department of the Treasury's Foreign Funds Control Division. Here his main task was detailed investigation of Sterling Products Company, a subsidiary of I.G. Farben, which had extensive business interests in Latin America. Owen's skill in the Sterling investigation and in a later related examination of foreign banking operations, prompted his recruitment by the Special War Policies Unit of the Justice Department.12
The Special War Policies Unit was an ad hoc task force established to support the Inter-American Committee for Political Defense, a hemisphere-wide group with headquarters in Montevideo. Owen was head of the section charged with monitoring subversive activities of Axis firms in South America. Working under State Department "cover," he was the chief point of contact for a host of intelligence agencies including the FBI, Army Intelligence, British Censorship, and the like.
As draft pressure mounted, Owen sought a commission in the Marine Corps. As a personal friend of Major General Henry L. Larsen, USMC, this posed scant problem and he was appointed a First Lieutenant in January 1943.13
Despite what appeared to be a perfect background for OSS, Owen's first choice of duty was flight training. He had proven to be a capable lawyer and scholar, but as an aeronaut these skills proved to be of little value. His gangly build (6'1" -- 134 lbs.) was compounded by an amazing lack of coordination. Never having been much interested in athletics, he was at a distinct disadvantage in the rigorous physical fitness environment of pre-flight training. Lieutenant Owen "bilged out: of Naval Aviation and into the Research and Analysis branch of OSS.
In December 1943, he was assigned as Targets Officer in Algiers, the major operating base for OSS in the Mediterranean Theater. Owen's responsibilities revolved around the analysis of reports coming from agents in occupied France. He also produced "finished" intelligence products for use in the planning of Operation ANVIL, the Allied landing in southern France during August 1944.14
Joseph Charles, like Bill Applebaum, became a Marine Officer by accident. A University of Illinois Phi Beta Kappa, Charles received his MA and PhD. from Harvard. He remained in Cambridge as an Assistant Professor of History following graduation in 1936. Charles' area of specialization was Jeffersonian democracy. He joined OSS in December 1942, and after a brief sojourn in Washington, was ordered to the R&A office in London.
Local draft boards were not impressed with able-bodied men who stated that they engaged in "vital civilian war work," but gave no details. Since Charles was classified 1-A, he took steps to become an officer in the United States Navy.* When his application for a Navy
* Those OSS civilians who failed to apply for commissions were usually drafted. The most apparent example is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Schlessinger was also a member of R&A in London as a Private First Class. By the time the Allies had liberated Paris, he had displayed sufficient merit to be promoted to Corporal.
commission reached OSS, someone in R&A decided that he would make a better Marine (perhaps the Navy already had their quota of "spooks" for that month.) In any case, Joseph Charles became a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve in June 1943.15
Charles spent most of the war in London working with British SIS on government problems associated with the occupation of Europe. He resigned from the Corps in September 1945 to accept a position with the State Department.
R&A personnel did not usually become involved in "secret missions." One exception to that generalization was First Lieutenant Edward T. Dickinson, Jr., USMCR.
Dickinson was a e2-year-old Yale man who had started for the "Old Blue" varsity football team in1932. Prior to joining OSS, Dickinson served as Executive Director of the Planning Commission of the War Production Board. He was an expert on Factories--how to build them and naturally enough how to destroy them.
Commissioned a First Lieutenant on 4 October 1943, Dickinson was first sent to Cairo. After only a month there, he was ordered to R&A London for assignment to Special Operations Branch. His job: "technical appreciation of methods to be used in sabotaging French industry." Ed Dickinson was to coordinate all plans for bringing French factories engaged in war-related work to a standstill.16
Dickinson's undercover work involved a "dangerous and unusual mission to Sweden."17 During the spring of 1944, one of the major Allied targets for strategic bombing was the German ball bearing industry. Despite an OSS plan to buy most of the ball bearings produced by the SKF Company in Gotteborg, about 7% were being sent to Germany.
Dickinson travelled into the neutral country and played a role in determining just how many bearings were going to Hitler--a Swedish State secret. Armed with this information, the U.S. Economic Warfare Mission was able to stop all shipments.18
"Prior to D-Day, Lieutenant Dickinson was in charge of all American target planning for strategic sabotage operations in occupied Europe, including not only selection of the targets based on economic analyses but also the technical aspects of the actual sabotage operations.
"From D-Day until the liberation of France he was active in planning tactical and strategic operations for the French Maquis in support of Allied military advances."19
For his role in this operation and subsequent appreciations of industrial damage in France, Lieutenant Dickinson was awarded the Bronze Star. Later, he would serve as a member of the Strategic Bombing Section of the OSS Mission to Germany.*
Most members of the OSS eagerly volunteered for the agency, nearly all considered it a passport to either adventure or personal challenge. Very few indeed were long-service career military professionals. Colonel James Marshall McHugh, USMC, was a regular in a reserve outfit. Service with OSS was, in many ways, a personal purgatory. For if James McHugh was not damned, he was plainly in "outer darkness." The man who cast him there was none other than General George C.Marshall, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
* After the war,Dickinson held several important public posts. These included: Commissioner of Commerce for the State of New York; Deputy Secretary of the Air Force for installations; and Vice-Chairman of the U.S. National Security Resources Board.
The story of how McHugh came to OSS is inextricably bound to the American experience in China. McHugh was, even more than Evans Carlson, an "Old China Hand." Therein lay the roots of his undoing.
"Jimmie" McHugh was born three days before the 20th century began. He grew up in Marshfield, Missouri, won an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with the Class of 1922. After Basic School, young Lieutenant McHugh was ordered to the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking. With the exception of a short tour at Headquarters in the early '30s and the obligatory pilgrimage to Quantico for Junior School in 1937, McHugh spent the next twenty years in China. He loved the land and the people, became proficient in several dialects and spoke Mandarin flawlessly. Few jobs escaped his purview. guard Officer, Public Relations Officer, Company Commander, PX Officer, Signal Officer, Property Officer, McHugh became the institutional memory of Peking and Shanghai. And throughout the tapestry of jobs and titles there ran a recurrent thread--Intelligence Officer. On 30 October 1937, Major James M. McHugh was designated Assistant Naval Attaché to a China which was already at war with Japan.20
The job of an attachéis to keep his eyes open, make contacts, and report. McHugh had been doing this for years and had been frequently commended for his work. He became a close friend of both Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek and the ubiquitous Madame Chiang as well as Chiang's political advisor, W.H. Donald. "As an intimate in the palace circle, he served as Ambassador Johnson's eyes and ears, much to the irritation of his fellow attaché at the time, Colonel (Joseph) Stilwell, who saw McHugh always bustling with private knowledge and whispering to the Ambassador.21
In August 1940, Major McHugh returned to the United States for a tour at the Senior School at Quantico. He barely had time to settle in when a call came from Major General Holcomb. McHugh was to return to China and "carry out personal and confidential instructions from the Secretary of the Navy." Following three days of confidential briefings at Naval Intelligence in Washington, McHugh caught a flight for the West Coast and made connection with the Pan Am clipper for Hong Kong.22
Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel shortly after the United States entered the war, McHugh was now the Naval Attaché to the Chinese government in Chungking. "McHugh had always been fearless in making reports whenever he felt the good of the United States was concerned."23 But as Allied forces were pushed back through Burma, now-Major General stilwell began to truly live up to his nickname: "Vinegar Joe." Stilwell was a largely apolitical professional soldier. Colorful, salty, and angered by incompetence, corruption and foot-dragging, he labored with missionary zeal in a forgotten arena. As with the arrogant, suspicious, and overly-sensitive Chinese, he was out of his element. Not that he did any better with the British for whom he reserved even higher plateaus of scorn.
In late 1942, Chiang began lobbying for a change in the China-Burma-India command structure. His champion was general Claire Chennault, boss of the famous "Flying Tigers." McHugh reported these machinations directly to Knox, adding some of his personal observations about Stilwell's inability to "get along" with the Chinese government. In October, Chennault draft a letter to President Roosevelt (which was hand-carried by Wendell Wilkie) claiming that air power could win
the war in Asia, and that only Stilwell stood in the path of full cooperation between the United States and China.
It seemed that Vinegar Joe's days were numbered, but the axe fell instead on the neck of the messenger.
Chiang Kai Shek and Madame summoned McHugh to lunch and emphasised the benefits to the Allied cause of replacing Stilwell with Chennault. McHugh heartily endorsed the suggestion in a report to Secretary Knox in which he stated that Stilwell's insistence on the recapture of Burma was a personal ambition resulting from his defeat there. . . . Secretary Knox passed the report on to Secretary (of War) Stimson who showed it to (General) Marshall who was infuriated.24
McHugh was due to return to the United States for consultations. Marshall demanded that he not be allowed to return to Chungking or anywhere else in China . . .
McHugh's tour in limbo began. He reported to the Director of Naval Intelligence in December 1942. In February he was transferred to an engineer Battalion at Camp Lejeune. May found him with orders to Quantico Meanwhile, General Donovan entered the picture. After some exploratory discussions, OSS requested that McHugh (who had since been again transferred--this time to the Navy's Logistics Planning department) be assigned to R&A.25
When this request reached Headquarters Marine Corps, it went straight to Commandant Holcomb. Unfortunately, the enclosure to the OSS request contained the verboten word "China" in the same paragraph as "overseas."
Holcomb called Knox. Knox called Donovan. Views were exchanged. Two days later, the Secretary of the Navy wrote a personal memorandum to Lieutenant General Holcomb.
With reference to our conversation concerning Colonel McHugh, who is on duty with the Navy, I have talked further with General Donovan and have been advised that there is no intention of sending him to foreign duty, and that his services are desired by General Donovan here.
Under these circumstances, I should like to have McHugh relieved and proper orders issued to have him report to General Donovan.26
What Donovan had in mind for McHugh was eventual elevation to a fairly senior position in either R&A or SO. Whether this became known to Headquarters or was further discussed with Secretary Knox is unclear. Whatever the stimulus may have been, the response is plain. After only a few months at OSS, McHugh was again transferred, this time to Hawaii. His odyssey was not over yet.
Now stuck in the Service Battalion of Fifty Amphibious Corps, McHugh wrote to Donovan stating that he wanted to return to OSS. Donovan replied that he "would be glad to have him."27 Meanwhile, Stilwell had been detached from his duties in China, thus leaving the way somewhat more open for McHugh's renewed employment there.
Assistant Director of OSS, Charles Cheston, became the intermediary in an attempt to resecure McHugh. On 12 December 1944, McHugh's transfer was once again requested in writing.28 Soon afterward, he was back in the "cloak and dagger" fold, this time as assistant to Brigadier General John Magruder, Deputy OSS Director of Intelligence. It was a convenient arrangement, as Magruder happened to be McHugh's brother-in-law.29
James McHugh's story does not have a happy ending. As late as the spring of 1945, he was still trying to return to the China where he had spent virtually his entire adult life. On 16 February, McHugh called on Stilwell in Washington and "expressed regret over certain
passages in the report concerning him" . . . Stilwell told him to "forget it.30 A few weeks later, the Foreign Economic Administration invited McHugh to become their special representative with Ambassador Hurley's staff in Chungking. On 7 March 1945, Hurley personally approved this arrangement subject to concurrence by General Vandegrift. The Commandant also gave his qualified blessing to the arrangement and sought approval by the Secretary of the Navy based on McHugh's strenuous assertion that the "appointment would be directly to F.E.A. and in no sense a loan or 'plant' by the OSS."31 Approval was not forthcoming. General Marshall was as powerful in March 1945, as he had been in December 1942.
On 1 October 1945, OSS was officially disbanded and its personnel shifted to either the War or State Departments. A total of 52 Marine officers who were still on OSS rolls received a blanket Marine Corps Special Order covering their administrative transfer to one of the new custodians of U.S. strategic intelligence.32 Senior man on the list was Colonel James M. McHugh, the highest ranking regular Marine to serve with Donovan's Dreamers. A few months later, McHugh retired.
Another OSS China analyst's story has a happier ending. Major C.D. Gower was a University of Chicago, PhD. who had been teaching anthropology at Lingnan University in Canton when World War II began. After the Japanese occupied Canton, Gower had moved to Hong Kong. There "the professor" went into captivity during December 1941. All of this comprises part of the unique story of Marines with OSS, but of greater interest is the fact that Gower's first name was Charlotte and she was the only known distaff leatherneck on Donovan's staff.
Charlotte Gower was nearly forty years old the day she entered the Marine Corps recruiting station in Kanakee, Illinois. A stout lady with graying hair and glasses, she hardly appeared to be the ideal candidate for commissioning in the Armed Forces. But Charlotte Gower was the type of person who belied looks and could be counted upon to do a job and do it correctly.
Born and raised in Illinois, she had attended Smith College and later earned her advanced degrees at Chicago. A woman of wide experience, she spent two years in France working on prehistoric archaeological digs for Yale and alter was appointed Director of the American School of Prehistoric Research.
Between 1928-30, Gower carried out an intensive study of peasant life in a Sicilian community near Palermo. During this research, she demonstrated an outstanding ability to collect, analyze, and present material of a technical nature.33 Upon her return to America, Gower became Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1938, Charlotte Gower was recruited by Lingnan. There she served as head of the Anthropology Department and as Dean of Women. After her capture in Hong Kong, she spent some months in a Japanese internment camp and was repatriated along with other U.S. civilians in 1942. In his letter of recommendation to Headquarters Marine Corps, Dr.Robert Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago, called her "an exceptionally capable and brilliant woman."34 The Marine Corps soon concurred fully with that assessment.
Commissioned a Captain in the Marine COrps Women's Reserve on 29 January 1943, Gower reported directly to Headquarters for duty.
Without benefit of any particular military training, she was immediately assigned to a series of recruiting trips designed to secure applicants for Woman Marine officer screening.
Major Gower (then a Captain) was one of the original staff of the Corps' Women's Reserve. She was selected by the Director of Reserve to organize and supervise all of the training for Marine women with particular emphasis on specialist recruitment and training. The excellence of the results of her work is attested to by the highly satisfactory activities to which they are assigned.
On 17 November 1943, in addition to her other duties, Major Gower became the Officer-in-Charge of the Women's Reserve Section. In this capacity she had supervision of the entire activities of the Women's Reserve. She also headed the board which selected all Women candidates for officer training.35
The early days of the Women's Reserve program were complicated by the fact that much of the training was done in Navy schools and Navy recruiters frequently were used to select candidates. This naturally led to a situation where the Marine Corps got what amounted to leftovers. Major Gower completely reversed this trend,utilizing a fine mix of diplomacy and firmness. By March 1944, she had a smoothly running system which could be turned over to the M-5 Section of Headquarters' Plans and Policies Division.
Charlotte Gower did not have much time to search for a new challenge. On 17 April 1944, her services were specifically requested by OSS. The qualifications were obvious. Not only did Major Gower speak Chinese, she also spoke French and Italian. More importantly, she had spent considerable time overseas and had seen the Japanese operate firsthand. The Division of Reserve "very reluctantly relinquished her services."36
On 1 June 1944, Major Gower reported to OSS for duty. She finished the war as an analyst with R&A and was demobilized late in 1945. One of the first 8 women officers to claim the title "Marine" was also one of the last to be demobilized. After the war, Charlotte Gower went back to teaching, but she retained a strong interest in the Marine Corps and remained active in the Reserves. She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, without pay, in the early 1960's.
Today there are a number of Women Marines--both officer and enlisted--in the intelligence profession. Charlotte Gower of OSS was the first.37
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