"He stood six foot five in his leather jumping boots and weighed close to two hundred and thirty pounds. A British parachute emblem and a small American flag were neatly stitched to the sleeves of his combat jacket. There was also the conventional military insignia, and a .357 Magnum revolver strapped to this thigh. His name was John Hamilton and he was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve."1 The big blond man who wrote these words was describing himself. At twenty-seven he had already seen a lifetime of adventure. His physical description is accurate enough, but the name John Hamilton, while technically correct, is misleading. The lieutenant was much better known as Sterling Hayden--sailor, author, actor, and now a Marine with OSS.
"Did You Play Football in College?"
Sterling Walter Hayden was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on 26 March 1916. At seventeen, he quit school and went to sea aboard the sailing schooner Puritan out of New London. For the next nine years, Hayden followed the wind and waves. He began as a common seaman and ended as ship's master.2
In the late 1930s, Hayden's good looks and cocky attitude earned him a Hollywood screen test. He became an overnight sensation. But celluloid action could not compare with what he had already tasted. Although he was engaged to beautiful starlet Madeleine Carrol, Hayden
jumped at a cryptic invitation from COI Director Donovan to test his mettle at the British Commando School.*
In November 1941, Hayden sailed to Scotland with a British convoy. When he reported to the American Embassy in London, no one seemed to know what to do with him. After a week of cooling his heels, however, Hayden received orders to report to the Commando Training Center at Archnarry.
Once again his reception was muted. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Young, found Hayden's story that his acting ability might pay off as a spy somewhat dubious. But he was big and lean and tough.
So they told him to train and he trained--a pale tall figure in British battledress, minus insignia, wearing American hunting boots and no hat--all wrapped up in a Hollywood trenchcoat. He trained with Dutchmen and Poles and Belgians, and French and Danes and Norwegians, all of whom had been in combat. All were fighters, with rank and military bearing and the confidence of men who know their job . . . After a day's work in driving rain, this group would assemble in a dark beamed room, warmed by a small coal fire, for the ration of whiskey--two per man-and to learn the news. First the national anthem, and then the announcer's voice: "Good evening. This is the Home and Forces program of the BBC. Here is the news . . ." And it was always bleak."3
Hayden was a civilian novice among military experts, but he did well. After passing through the initial rigors of Commando life, Hayden was sent to the Parachute School near Manchester. He made ten jumps without incident. But in March 1942, his luck ran out. Hayden landed ion a stone quarry. When the ground crew found him, he had a broken ankle, dislocated knee, and spinal injuries. No more commando work now, only a trip back to the U.S. and his marriage to Miss Carroll.
* Hayden had met Donovan through the latter's son, who was also a sailing buff.
While his injuries healed, Hayden brooded. Donovan urged him to apply for a commission in the Navy. But the Navy was not looking for torpedo boat skippers with bad legs and dubious backs. Hayden was politely rejected. So he took a schooner and sailed her to the West Indies. There at the Shell Oil reservation on Curaçao he got rip-snorting drunk with six Marines from the security detachment. They ended up at the Americano Hotel. When the manager told Hayden he could remain, but the Marines had to go, the former actor mustered up all his commando skills and threw the manager into the street. For that he went to jail.4
Bailed out by his agent, Hayden sold his boat. Flying back to New York he made his decision. After breakfast the next day, he telephoned the nearest Marine Corps Recruiting Station. Within hours Hayden was on a train bound for Yamesee, South Caroline--railhead for the Recruit Depot at Parris Island. That evening's New York Daily News carried a photographic of Hayden enlisting as a Private in the United States Marines.5
It did not take Private Hayden long to discern a certain difference between commanding one's own schooner and taking orders from a drill instructor. He had passed Commando training, and he passed Marine boot camp too. Singled-out for officer's training, he was immediately assigned back to OSS at Donovan's request.6
Following a short period of indoctrination in Washington, Second Lieutenant Hayden received orders to proceed to Cairo.
"Cairo, like Algiers in the western Mediterranean, had by then become an intelligence service capital. The war itself had mainly long passed it by."7 The Americans were not very comfortable there. "The city was somehow connected in their minds with Imperialism, Kipling, and all that."8
Even among the British there was much evident friction. This was particularly true of the "secret" organizations which competed among themselves with an ardor only slightly diminished from that reserved for the Germans. "The entire British clandestine bureaucracy was torn by bitter factionalism; fervent champions of competing Balkan resistance groups were united only in their equal distaste for emissaries of the Foreign Office."9
Donovan had displayed great early interest in the Middle East. In late 1942, he had sanctioned organization of a working group known as "Project 90" under the leadership of Eddy's cousin, Army Colonel Harold Hoskins. The precept of Hoskin's outfit was a somewhat naive belief that the United States could be the most effective agent in the area because it was untainted by the pecuniary interests of imperial Britain.10
Predictably, His Majesty's servants took considerable exception to this view and "Project 90" fizzled. But there was a lingering bad taste in the mouth of the British lion when the first OSS contingent arrived to set up shop in an ornate Egyptian villas which "looked like a bastard Taj Mahal."11 It was to this atmosphere that Hayden reported.
Standing at rigid attention before the Commanding Officer, cap and orders beneath his left arm, Hayden must have been a martial spectacle to behold. The Colonel looked him over and asked: "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
"I don't know sir."
"Your face is familiar, did you play football in college"?
"No sir, I never went to college."12
This line of questioning exhausted, Hayden was told to read all available reports regarding the situation in Greece. For the next few days he did little else. Finally, with no meaningful job in view, he requisitioned a jeep. Hayden drove down to the Alexandria waterfront, talked himself into the Royal Egyptian Yacht Club, and went sailing.
Hayden had been told that he was to skipper one of a number of Greek fishing boats which OSS proposed to run into German occupied territory. Instead, he was transferred to Monopoli, a small Italian port south of Bai. "With the aid of 400 Partisans, and using a fleet of fourteen schooners (supplied by the Wrigley's Chewing Gum executive who commanded the OSS Maritime Unit),k Hayden's group ran supplies through the German Adriatic blockade to the Partisan-held island of Vis."13 The average cruising speed of his flotilla was seven knots. The Germans had 35 knot "E" boats and aircraft. But the convoy system worked.
In early January 1944, Hayden took a 45-foot boat across the 80 miles of hostile water between Monopoli and Vis. Moving at night and putting into one of the thousands of Dalmatian coves, Hayden avoided detection. He reached Vis safely, dropped his supplies and started back. The water pump quit and his engine froze.
Accompanied by his assistant, Gunnery Sergeant John Harnicker, USMC, Hayden and the rest of the crew paddled to the mainland.
We hooked up with about thirty of the toughest bastards on earth. None of them had had a batch in years. All had been in the thick of the fighting and marching all up and down Bosnia and Croatia. They would only take on cigarette at a time, which they passed around in circles.14
Actor turned OSS Marine--Private Sterling Hayden as a Marine Boot, Parris Island
This Yugoslav version of the "Wild Bunch" soon learned that a German patrol boat was weatherbound a short distance away. Without a word it was clear that the vessel must be attacked. When the shooting started, Hayden had difficulty pulling the trigger on what appeared to be a crew of German naval cadets. Harnicker had no such qualms. He was "just as cool as you please, which is what you get for being a regular Marine."15 The boat soon surrendered and was commandeered by the Partisans. Wounded Germans were given what medical treatment could be provided by the guerilla corpsman who turned out to be a French surgeon. Since there was no anesthetic available, the doctor used a field expedient. After preparing the wound, he simply smashed each patient in the temple with his pistol butt. Then he operated.
Shortly thereafter, Hayden took the "prize" patrol boat back to Vis.
Lieutenant Hayden (Hamilton) was also involved in the savage fighting which raged around Vis and the neighboring islands of Hvar, Zbrac, and Solta. These operations were directed against the crack German 118th Jaeger Division. In addition the Partisans, there were British troops from "2," "43" and "40" Commandoes--the latter two being Royal Marine outfits.16
He was bombed by Stukas, chase by patrol boats, ambushed ashore and afloat. Hayden took his boats into Albania,the Adriatic islands, and mainland Yugoslavia. He was at it for a full year. During these days, he developed "a tremendously close feeling" for Tito's men. Sent to the Yugoslav interior as part of a rescue team for downed Allied airmen, he remembered that "the crews of planes would
leave their shoes, anything they could spare, with the Partisans . . . We knew they were COmmunists, we knew they had commissars, but there was very little discussion of that."17
"Most OSS officers who worked with TIto's guerillas were not political ideologues. They saw Tito's troops only as courageous and dedicated fighters against a common enemy. Other Americans, like Seitz and Mansfield had taken a similar view of the Chetniks."18
When Hayden returned to the United States in November 1944, he wore the red, white, and blue striped ribbon of the Silver Star Medal. His marriage was "on the rocks," but his war was not yet over. Within the next few months, he would dine with Eleanor Roosevelt, enjoy a thirty-day leave, and make first contacts with the Communist Party of the United States.19
By February 1945, Hayden was back in europe, this time as a member of the OSS section attached to the First Army in France.*
During the spring of 1944, Lieutenant Hayden had bene involved in the rescue of 26 Americans (including eleven nurses) whose plane had been forced down by engine trouble over Albania. This craggy, small country--wedged uncomfortably between Yugoslavia, Greece, and the Adriatic--offered a guerilla warrior's paradise. Unfortunately, it also provided the normal Balkan resistance situation: Germans, royalists, and communists.
The Albanians, regardless of their political ilk, were a nasty lot. Known for cupidity, courage, cruelty, and blood feud, they spoke
* The remainder of Hayden's Marine career will be discussed in a later chapter of this paper.
a language known as Shqip, and referred to themselves as Shqipetars, which means roughly "sons of the eagle." Anthropologists tell us that a nation's character is often vividly expressed in its folk music. One popular Albanian ballad began: "Let us fight, as is our custom." Another, "Tell mother that her son got married; and if she asks what kind of bride, tell her he got three bullets in the chest."20
Before the war, Albania was nominally ruled by King Zog the First (and last). The King fled when the Italians invaded, leaving the country ripe for civil war. Because resistance groups spent most of their time and effort fighting each other, U.S. policy was to limit the supply of weapons and ammunition provided to any one faction. By November 1943, the Communist National Liberation Front (FNC) controlled most of the country and was the only effective force known to the Allies. Led by Enver Hoxha, "a fat, pudgy, self-indulgent fellow with a white face," the Communists were to be backed by OSS because they appeared to be "the best of a very bad lot."21
The first OSS mission to Albania was codenamed TANK. This was a three man team landed by British motor torpedo boat on the night of 17 November 1943. TANK's radio operator was Gunnery Sergeant Nick R. Cooky, USMC. "The British SOE mission to Albania had refused to cooperate with OSS agents, unless they accepted British command and used British communications. The three men therefore, with FNC support, established themselves independently in a cave by the sea."22 From there, Cooky began sending a series of intelligence reports to the Cairo-based SI Balkan Section headed by 1st Lieutenant Harry Harper, USMCR.
Despite some initial success the TANK mission encountered problems with both their health and the enemy. In February 1944,
the team was forced to evacuate when the Germans began a systematic campaign to clean out guerilla units in the nearby Shushica Valley.
Another OSS team was infiltrated the next month, and in July, Cooky, now a 2nd Lieutenant, USMCR, was parachuted back into the Albanian mountains.23 During the next five months, he would see plenty of action as the Communist guerillas cooperated with the Red Army's drive toward Tirana, the capital city. From September onward, Cooky commanded a field unit, supplying some of the best hard intelligence to come from a thoroughly confusing situation. He proved to be "uniformly successful in maintaining amicable relations with the Albanians and was equally adroit in culling factual information from the welter of rumor and half-truth that surrounded any Balkan situation."24
Tirana, a city of mud walls, mosques, muezzins, and minarets, was light years away from Cooky's hometown of Dilles Bottom, Ohio. For the former miner and truck driver serving as the United States intelligence officer in such an alien setting it proved a challenge. But Lieutenant Cooky met it. His commander would later write of his service, "In more than a year of service in the field, some of it under extremely hazardous and difficult conditions, Lt. Cooky has an unexcelled record."25
Comrade Hoxha delayed for some time the permanent establishment of a complete "city team." Finally in February 1945, the Communists permitted OSS to set up an eleven man unit. "An interesting move by the Provisional Government was the refusal to accept U.S. civilians. This order effectively prohibited the entry of the principal OSS expert on Albania (until he later joined the Consular Staff)."26
Until official State Department representatives arrived in June, OSS provided the only link between the Government of Albania and the United States. The Tirana team remained in Albania until October 1945. Lieutenant Cooky was among the last to leave. On 28 September, in a brief, simple ceremony Captain Thomas E.Stefan, Field Artillery and Second Lieutenant Nick R. Cooky, USMCR, were decorated with the Partisan Star by Albanian Foreign Minister Omer Nishani.
Cooky later received the Bronze Star Medal from the United States. For previous service behind the lines in Italy, he was awarded the Merit Cross of War and the Order of the Crown.27
First Lieutenant Harper, the Balkan SI Chief, was also involved in the liberation of an exotic capital. His was Sofia.
Harry Harper was 34 years old in 1944. Born in Chicago, Harper attended public schools and later graduated from Yale. In 1934, he went to work as an editor for Reader's Digest. Soon after the war began, Harper enlisted in the Army and was assigned to a Tank Lighter Company at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. In November 1942, he was transferred to Fort Ord in California. When OSS began recruiting volunteers for "dangerous and secret operations," Harper volunteered. He became a member of theoutfit in August, 1943.28
As an Army Specialist 4th Class, Harper suffered an endemic problem for OSS enlisted men. His skills outdistanced his "horsepower." Consequently, he applied for a direct commission in the Marine Corps "for service with the Office of Strategic Services." Harper became an "instant Marine Officer" on 21 January 1044. His assignment was waiting. The next month he was sent to Cairo, where he was directed to become an "expert on Bulgaria."
The Bulgarians are a glum and unlucky race. "Through no desire of their own . . . they have had their national name attached to the Bogomil heresy which taught that Satan was Christ's brother, and to the ugly sin of buggery (bulgary). All of their neighbors detest them."29 Just about every misfortune which can befall a people has been inflicted on the Bulgars. During World War II, they naturally picked the wrong side and ended up losing their always shaky independence.
In late August 1944, OSS dropped a two man team to Greek guerilla forces which were harassing the German and Bulgarian troops withdrawing from Thessalonika. This team was to accompany the advancing Greek forces toward Sofia.
The German rearguard fought a skillful and deliberate delaying action. This combined with a series of riotous welcomes in nearly every town to seriously impede the Allied advance.
OSS was anxious to reach Sofia in order to safeguard and expedite removal of more than 300 POWs--most of whom were American flyers. Lieutenant Harper was directed to head a four man team which would drive by civilian car from Istanbul straight to the capital city. Once there he was to negotiate with the Bulgarian government for immediate custody of the prisoners.30 Incredibly, this "cut and paste" approach succeeded. On 7 September, having bluffed his way right through an enemy country, a Marine lieutenant calmly set down to negotiate with the Bulgarian General Staff.
It turned out that the Bulgarians had 342 Allied POWs at a camp near Shumen. Harper demanded their immediate release and transport to safety. On 9 September, a special train was despatched to Shumen with orders to bring the airmen to Sofia.
The situation was confused and complicated by the fact that Harper's four men constituted the sole Allied "occupation force." While the train was steaming toward Sofia, the lieutenant learned that a heavy German bombing raid was scheduled to hit the main rail yard. Although he spoke little Bulgarian, Harper managed to locate the express and have it sidetracked at Gorna Orekovista, some thirty miles away. The air attack arrived on schedule and plastered the Sofia station . . . minus the train. The next day, Harper telegraphed Istanbul and arranged for the POWs to enter neutral Turkey. For his audacious and diplomatic coup, First Lieutenant Harry H. Harber, USMCR, received the Legion of Merit.31
After the Red Army occupied Sofia, Harper returned to Cairo. He was transferred to OSS headquarters at Caserta, Italy, in February 1945 and subsequently was involved in OSS activities in Austria following the German collapse.
Since Marine Officers were involved in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria, only Rumania was without proper sea soldier representation. Captain William L. Cary, USMCR, filled that slot.
Bill Cary, like Harper, was a Yale Man (AB '31, LLB '34). Not content with a total "Old Blue" image, he also attended Harvard Business School, graduating magna cum laude in 1938.
Before the war, Cary practiced law in Cleveland, served with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Seattle, and, in 1940, became Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. In February 1942, he began a stint as legal specialist on the staff of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in Rio de Janeiro.32
Cary applied for a Marine Corps commission in late November 1942, and was brought on board as a First Lieutenant Public Affairs officer in January 1943. After completing the Reserve Officer Indoctrination Course, he became Public Relations Officer of MCAS Cherry Point. This mundane job did not satisfy Cary's urge for more important and stimulating assignments. In December 1943, he volunteered for OSS.33
In the Spring of the year, having finished his indoctrination to Donovan's world, Cary was assigned to SI Branch for service in the Mediterranean Theater. He initially flew to Algiers and moved from there to Caserta, Italy, with the rest of the 2677th OSS Regiment.
At Caserta, Cary was designated Executive Officer for the OSS team scheduled to participate in the liberation of Bucharest. Cary's C.O. was Commander Frank G. Wisner, USNR, another lawyer who later became Deputy Director of CIA.*
The "Czar of Russian once sneered: 'Rumania is not a country, it's a profession.' In the days prior to World War II, Rumania was a striking testimonial to the old Balkan prover: 'The fish stinks from the head first. The government was lazy, crooked, unreliable and unbelievably avaricious."34
Yet the Rumanians were good soldiers. After their country joined the Axis, they fought well against the Russians, thereby earning a special spot on the Red Army's "Most Wanted" list. When that passel of avenging angels began to approach their borders, the Rumanians promptly deposed immoral, selfish, and stupid King Carol; replaced him with his
* Wisner committed suicide in 1965.
son Michael; and declared for the Allies. A week later, the first OSS team--21 men in a B-17--flew directly to Ploesti airfield.* Nearby were POW compounds housing over 1,000 American flyers, most of whom had been downed in the great air offensive against the nearby refineries.35
Wisner and Cary's mission flew into Bucharest directly from Italy. It was early September and the Red Army was nearing the outskirts of the city. Cary later remembered:
We went over in a bomber while the Germans still occupied the Yugoslav coastal area but their anti-aircraft fire was rather ineffective. I handled all sorts of administrative problems and intelligence activities in conjunction with the late Henry Roberts,later Professor of History at Columbia. Our principal job was political intelligence until the United States Mission arrived in late December, but we also handled a lot of problems involving pilots who had been shot down when bombing Ploesti.36
OSS gained quite a haul in Rumania. Particularly significant were the complete State Records of the previous administration and "some ten thousand dossiers from the Nazi Party . . . From these sources and from sixty former Axis agents (some of them acting as doubles) OSS X-2 identified over 4,000 Nazi intelligence officials and agents, more than one hundred subversive organizations,and some 200 commercial firms used as cover for espionage activities."37
Captain Cary remained in Bucharest until January 1945. He then returned to Italy for a new assignment. Predictably it involved another Balkan capital: Belgrade.
* Nearly all of the POWs were flown out in B-17s of the 15th Air Force. Transport aircraft were unavailable because of their concentration for the upcoming Arnhem operation in Holland.
By the autumn of 1944, OSS had fifteen separate teams attached to Tito's partisans. The senior American officer was Major Charles W. Thayer, a "witty, pipe-smoking officer . . . with one major political prejudice--a strong anti-Soviet bias, acquired during years of diplomatic service in Stalin's Moscow." Cary flew to Belgrade to become Thayer's Exec.38
Unlike Bucharest, the Yugoslav capital yielded little good intelligence on the Germans. Partisan cooperation with the Anglo-American allies began decreasing as the Soviets approached. "Political coverage," which was Cary's field, "was somewhat better. OSS maintained contacts both in the various ministries and with the more or less silent opposition groups. Since the State Department did not arrive for several months, these reports formed the only U.S. coverage of Yugoslav political developments."39
Cary's war ended in Belgrade, but his OSS service did not. When the mission was withdrawn in July, he proceeded to Paris and subsequently to Frankfurt,where he worked on the massive evidentiary collection effort aimed at German war criminals.*
OSS was directly involved in the liberation and initial American representation in four Balkan nations. Marine Officers play a part in each.
* Cary was Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Kennedy Administration. He currently teaches law at Columbia, the alma mater of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and William Donovan
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