The duties of the Office of Strategic Services were to collect and analyze information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to plan, organize, and employ Special Forces at their direction. In a sense, the OSS was viewed as a purely wartime expedient which should be liquidated as soon as the immediate conflict ceased. Certainly, President Truman saw it that way. The Office was terminated on 1 October 1945 by Executive Order . As of that date, the United States was in precisely the same condition vis-a-vis intelligence as it had been in June 1941.1
A goodly number of governmental officials and private citizens like it that way. J. Edgar Hoover was particularly satisfied. He already had grandiose plans to co-opt the foreign intelligence mission for his FBI. The State Department, which under Truman's Order absorbed the Research and Analysis Branch of OSS, heaved an institutional sigh of relief and rapidly dismantled most of the analytic apparatus. Scholars were out . . . diplomats were in.
The War Department received the remaining personnel and assets of the Secret Intelligence and Counter-espionage Branches. Special Operations--the paramilitary branch which had done such yeoman service behind enemy lines--was simply scrapped.
It would be several years before the nation fully realized that its role as a legitimate Great Power made "business as usual" impossible. The Central Intelligence Agency, created by the National Security Act of 1947, was a belated attempt to reconstruct and refine the organization which Donovan had built during World War II. By then, most of the Marines who served with OSS were civilians once more.
Today it is tempting to wonder whether those men (and women) were really "Marines" at all. Any schoolboy knows that the U.S. Marines captured Guadalcanal, stormed Saipan, and raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. The Marine Corps' official histories of the war rightly concentrate on these achievements in the Pacific. Similarly, most popular historical writing focuses on the great amphibious operations to the exclusion of everything else.
Nowhere is the DOnovan controversy discussed in any detail. Only Updegraph and Ladd even allude to his role in the establishment of the Raider Battalions. Not one Marine officer in a hundred has
ever heard of Peter Ortiz, Walter Mansfield, Hod Fuller, or George Hearn. But they were Marines in every sense of the word, and thought of themselves as such.
Charles Henry Fenn, an expatriate Englishman, who served as a Marine Captain in Burma and China, and was later deprived of his U.S. citizenship for failing to maintain continuous residence in America, summed it up well:
I served with the Office of Strategic Services for a total of 23 months overseas, partly in India and the Hukong Valley of Burma but mostly in South China. I was far from the normal Marine Corps, but I never forgot that I was a U.S. Marine Officer. I was awarded the Bronze Star for establishing the intelligence network in French Indo-China and the Solider's Medal as leader of the POW rescue mission to Canton. Now my citizenship has been taken from me.
I am, indeed, most regretful to be dropped form the Marine Corps' rolls, but I realize this is inevitable for one who has been deprived of his citizenship. I reaffirm my gratitude for the lasting benefits which I received through my association with the Corps. Semper Fidelis.2
Marines take pride in having "fought in every clime and place." During World War II, some of those places were: Albania,Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria,China, Corsica, France,Greece, India, Italy, Malaya, Germany, Rumania, and Yugoslavia.
Today, inside the entrance to the Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the following words are inscribed: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Some day, perhaps, the full truth regarding the limited but important role of Marines with the OSS will be fully recounted. In the meantime, this paper is a beginning.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (13) * Next Appendix (A)