The officers and men of OSS came from everywhere, friends chose friends--especially in the early days--and Donovan was alleged to have told one man who expressed an interest in joining up, "Write me a memorandum saying how you can be of service to this organization, and if I agree, you're hired." In the beginning, it was said you could get a direct commission just be being a good lawyer. During the boom season, all you had to do was know one.1
"Exigencies of the Situation . . ."
OSS had more than its share of rich men, polo players, football stars, and professors, but it also numbered cowboys, communists, crusaders and just plain crazies. Once recruited, all of these had to be evaluated and trained before they could be employed against the Axis.
Although ideas popped form Donovan's brain faster than airborne soap suds from Lawrence Welk's bubble machine, organization was not "Wild Bill's" long suit. "While all wartime agencies operated in disarray, OSS had its own unique brand of administrative confusion. Young officers recruited under the most secret conditions would report for duty to a well-guarded Washington headquarters only to be asked, "Do you have any idea hat OSS might have hired you for."2
Even if the recruit knew the answer,the problem of determining whether he was suited to perform the intended task remained. OSS missions--particularly those of the operational branches--placed
special (and in some cases unique) demands on the personnel assigned. "By late 1943, the organization, then hardly a year old, was busily and somewhat haphazardly recruiting men without benefit of any professional or uniform screening process."3
In October 1943, it was proposed that OSS create a unit of psychologist and psychiatrists to evaluate the mental and emotional fitness of incoming personnel. This suggestion was enthusiastically received by both the Training and Planning Staffs since both had already experienced the headaches associated with preparing men for overseas duty who simply could not "cut the mustard."
"The locus of the undertaking was a Fairfax County country estate forty minutes outside Washington, a farm with rolling meadowland and self-respecting shade trees, massive barn and satellite sheds . . . which provided ample space for setting up all sorts of stressful situations, indoors and outdoors."4 The official name for the installation was Station "S", but most people simple referred to it as "S" school. There were only a few "faculty" in the beginning, but from the outset, one of them was a Marine: First Lieutenant John W. Gardner, USMCR.
Gardner was 31 years old in 1943. Born and raised in California, he attended Stanford University, where he excelled not only in the classroom but also garnered "All-American" honors as a varsity swimmer. Graduating with "great distinction" in 1935, he went on to earn his Masters Degree the following year and a Ph.D. from the University of California in 1938.
From 1939 to 1942, Gardner taught psychology, first at Connecticut College and later at Mount Holyoke. Shortly after the war
began, he joined the staff of the Federal Communications Commission as a propaganda analyst. It was from the FCC that John Gardner was recruited by OSS.5
Gardner applied for a Marine Corps commission in August 1943 and was appointed a First Lieutenant on 15 September. Like many such "direct" commissions, he did not get around to attending Marine Officer training until early 1944.
The task confronting the Assessment Staff was that of developing a system of procedures which would reveal the personality of an OSS recruit. This, it was hoped, would shed significant light on a man's adaptability and serve as a reliable prediction of how he might fare on some special mission behind enemy lines. The chief overall purpose was to eliminate the unfit. This proved no small undertaking since, by its very nature, OSS performed an astonishing variety of functions in a host of remote climes . . . all without the coveted "job description" which traditional evaluators found so indispensible.
This paper is not the forum to discuss in detail how the assessment staff functioned. That is covered in splendid detail by their Assessment of Men, published shortly after the war. But any Marine Officer who harkens back to his OCS days will recall evaluations corresponding to "the construction situation," "the bridge building situation," "the stress situation," or the "high wall situation." All of these had both their philosophic and practical genesis at Station"S".
OSS mounted a major effort in the Balkans during 1943 and in Italy and France in 1943-44. Even as the D-Day operations commenced, plans were already being made against the day when the focus of clandestine warfare activity would shift to Asia. In June 1944, Gardner was
transferred from Fairfax to the pleasant Southern California environs of Capistrano Beach Club, near San Clemente. Here he and other staff members established Station "WS," a facility similar to "S" which was designed to serve the needs not only of West Coast OSS recruits, but also to reassess European veterans on their way to the Orient. Eventually, assessment centers would also be located overseas at Kandy, Ceylon (Camp "K") and Kunming, China.6
If the R&A branch produced the world's first really scholarly approach to analyzing strategic intelligence, so the Assessment Staff can legitimately lay claim to pioneering applied psychology as it related to occupational selection. Of itself, this was no mean achievement.
No systematic effort had previously been undertaken in the United States which aimed at determining an individual's total personality. "The psychologists and psychiatrists who handled the program for OSS later used the techniques developed under the stress of war to establish centers for the Veterans Administration and several leading universities."7
John Gardner left the Marine Corps as a Captain. He would later become president of the Carnegie Corporation, serve as a consultant to both the U.S. Air Force and the United Nations, and author several books. From 1965-68, he was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and today heads the consumer advocate group "Common Cause."
Like assessment, the problem of training OSS recruits was a complex one. "There was no precedent in America for such an operation and it was necessary at first to piece together various fragments of seemingly relevant knowledge from other agencies of the Government,
to borrow instructional techniques from the British, and to adapt certain technical aspects of orthodox military training to the conditions approximating those under which guerilla units and resistance organizers might operate."8 Since the paramilitary part of these requirements could best be handled by active personnel of the armed forces, DOnovan began seeking instructors almost as soon as the war began. One of his first recruits was Lieutenant Colonel Philip G. Strong, USMCR.
Philip Grandin Strong was a banker by profession and a Marine by avocation. Born in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1901, Strong grew up in the comfortable circumstances associated with life among New York society. His father, Benjamin Strong, was Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and young Philip was educated at the Hill School. After missing World War I, Strong entered Princeton in 1919, but left after two years to take up banking himself. In early 1926, he joined the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve as a Second Lieutenant.
A crack shot, Strong was active in the Reserve marksmanship program during the late 1920's and early 30's. In both 1935 and '36, he captained the USMCR Rifle Team at the National Matches.
During this period it was unusual for a Reserve officer to attend formal Marine schools, since order to such courses were at the individual's personal expense. But Captain Philip Strong was an exception. In 1936, he graduated from the Junior School "with distinction," ranking 7th in a class made up almost entirely of regulars.
In August 1940, Strong was promoted to Major and ordered to active duty as Assistant to the Director of the marine Corps Reserve. By December he had a new job: Marine Corps Representative to the Strategic Information Section of the Navy's Foreign Intelligence Branch.9
It was in this job that Major Strong caught the eye of William J. Donovan.
On 16 January 1942, Donovan wrote to Secretary Knox requesting Strong's transfer to COI.10 This query was passed to Major General Holcomb who opposed it. So did Admiral King who in a reply directly to Donovan cited the recent transfer of COlonel Eddy as an example of "poaching" by the Coordinator's office.11 As usual, "Wild Bill" was not intimidated. After a second personal memorandum to Knox, the issue was settled. Strong was ordered to report to Donovan's headquarters on 18 February.12 He was there for less than a week.
On 23 February, Strong and several others reported to the British SOE sabotage school in Canada. He returned to Washington in late March and was appointed Chief Instructor and Executive Officer of OSS Training Branch. By May, Strong was off again, this time to observe command and paramilitary training in Britain and Scotland.13
It was during this period that OSS set up its initial training program. Strong and his Commanding Officer, Colonel Preston Goodfellow, an Army Reserve Officer, were the chief architects. The concept was simple. Basic training normally required about 3 weeks to complete. It was largely military in nature, stressing such subjects as map and compass reading, small arms firing, demolitions, and camouflage techniques. Following this introduction, recruits received more specialized instruction and field work designed to prepare them for branch assignments.
The JCS was always concerned with Donovan's ability to train the personnel which he frequently recruited straight from civilian life.
In July 1942, Walter Bedell Smith, then-Secretary to the Joint Chiefs, requested a report from COI which detailed not only the administrative functioning of the organization but also its operational program and training methods.14
Donovan's staff prepared a 30 page reply, which provides the best early synopsis of the general functions, organizational outline, and projected employment of COI/OSS. This document was forwarded to the Joint Chiefs on n17 August 1942.15 In it, training was extensively discussed. Goodfellow and Strong recommended that the program be structured to include:
- Preliminary School (2 weeks)
- Basic School (2-3 weeks)
- Advanced Training School (2 weeks)
- Parachute Course (1 week)
- Maritime Training School (1 week)
- Industrial Sabotage Course (3-4 weeks)
- Localized Social School (3 weeks)
To accomplish the training objectives, qualified military and civilian instructors were being assembled. The bulk of these were to be drawn from the armed forces, and thus JCS support was deemed essential.
Obviously, an ambitious training program such as that outlined by Goodfellow and Strong required considerable chunks of terrain. By July 1942, COI had secured four major operating areas. All were within easy reach of Washington.
Areas "A" and "C" were located adjacent to the Marine Corps base at Quantico on land formerly utilized by the Civilian Conservation
Corps. Comprising nearly 9,000 acres, these were used for basic military and communications training. Today most of Areas "A" and "C" form the Prince William Forest Park.
Area "B" was of similar size. It spread over the vicinity of Catoctin Mountain in Maryland, currently the site of Camp David, the presidential retreat. Area "B" was for advanced training.
RU-11 (the "Farm") was located in Maryland, about 20 miles from downtown Washington. This was the location for intelligence training.
Later in the war, OSS would acquire and open several more training areas, including Area "E" across the Potomac from Quantico, and Area "F" at the Congressional Country Club in suburban Maryland. In 1944, a West Coast facility was briefly established at Camp Pendleton. Later, this was shifted to Catalina Island opposite San Pedro.
Strong was not involved in OSS training programs when these developments occurred. During August 1942, considerable friction developed between the military members of COI training and the headquarters staff, which was still largely civilian. Disgusted with what he viewed as "meddling," and anxious not to spend his war in Washington, Strong requested a transfer to combat duty. After a short tour at the Headquarters of I Amphibious Corps, he fought the remainder of the war with a Navy Battleship Division in the Pacific as Fleet Marine Officer.
Lieutenant Colonel Strong participated in 19 major operations, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his work as advisor and intelligence officer with Battleship Squadrons Six and Two.16 He was promoted to Colonel in 1948, and retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Brigadier General in 1957.
Throughout the war, OSS never fully implemented a comprehensive training policy. Some personnel were sent overseas without any p[articular indoctrination because it was assumed that their roles would be primarily administrative. "In some instances where the exigencies of the situation in the field made it necessary for them to be transferred to more active duties, the lack of training constituted a handicap."17 On balance, given the chaos which surrounded OSS throughout its organizational life, the initial plans laid out by Strong and Goodfellow worked remarkably well. When the Allies launched their major European offensives in Italy and France, graduates of OSS schooling proved equal to the operational challenge.
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