Office of Strategic Services Personnel Files from World War II

Office of Strategic Services Personnel Files from World War II

Before World War II, intelligence activities in the United States were mostly carried out by the Department of State, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division (MID). Hoping for greater coordination of intelligence activities, as well as a more strategic approach to intelligence gathering and operations; on July 11, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed William J. Donovan to head a new civilian office attached to the White House, the Coordinator of Information (COI). The COI was charged with collecting and analyzing information which may have had bearing upon national security, correlating such information and data, and making this information available to the President, authorized departments, and authorized officials of the government. The COI operations duplicated, but did not necessarily replace, functions carried out by the State Department, ONI, and MID.

After the start of World War II, Donovan worked with the newly created Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to place the COI under JCS control; while preserving COI autonomy, and gaining access to military support and resources.   On June 13, 1942, the COI became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  The OSS gathered intelligence information about practically every country in existence, but was not allowed to conduct operations in the Pacific Theater, which General Douglas MacArthur claimed as his own.  J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Nelson Rockefeller, the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, insisted that the OSS should not operate in the Western hemisphere.  For these reasons, the records of OSS covert operations are almost entirely confined to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The OSS established more than 40 overseas offices during World War II, extending from Casablanca to Shanghai, and from Stockholm to Pretoria.

After the OSS was terminated on September 20, 1945, by Executive Order; most records were eventually transferred to two agencies of the Federal government.  Approximately 1,700 cubic feet of Research and Analysis Branch records ended up at the Department of State, while more than 6,000 cubic feet of operational records were transferred to what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Note that the CIA was not created until July 26, 1947.

After World War II, a group of OSS veterans in the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) arranged most OSS operational records according to OSS locations, offices, and file categories.

There are a total of 23,973 personnel files from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) between 1941 and 1945. Here is a sampling of a few.

The digital copies of the selected OSS personnel files include extracts or selected highlights and do not represent the complete files. The only complete file is for Julia Child (under her maiden name McWilliams).

Ralph Bunche Bunche, Ralph – [ 51 Pages, 74.1 MB ] – Ralph Johnson Bunche was an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. He was the first African American and person of color to be so honored in the history of the prize. He was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy. Bunche was an African affairs specialist for the OSS who later served in the United Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.
William Casey Casey, William – [ 46 Pages, 131 MB ] – William Joseph Casey (March 13, 1913 – May 6, 1987) was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Julia Child Child, Julia – [ 130 Pages, 278.2 MB ] – Julia Carolyn Child was an American chef, author, and television personality. She is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her subsequent television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963. Child served as a research assistant with the OSS.
 Allen Dulles Dulles, Allen – [ 23 Pages, 23.51 MB ] – Allen Welsh Dulles (April 7, 1893 – January 29, 1969) was an American diplomat and lawyer who became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence and its longest-serving director to date. As head of the CIA during the early Cold War, he oversaw Operation Ajax, the Lockheed U-2 Program and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Following the assassination of John F Kennedy, Dulles was one of the members of the Warren Commission. Between his stints of government service, Dulles was a corporate lawyer and partner at Sullivan & Cromwell. His older brother, John Foster Dulles, was the Secretary of State during the Eisenhower Administration.
 Arthur Goldberg Goldberg. Arthur – [ 46 Pages, 44.2 MB ] – Arthur Joseph Goldberg (August 8, 1908 – January 19, 1990) was an American statesman and jurist who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Supreme Court Justice and Ambassador to the United Nations.
 Sterling Hayden Hayden. Sterling – [ 87 Pages, 143.2 MB ] – Sterling Walter Hayden (born Sterling Relyea Walter; March 26, 1916 – May 23, 1986) was an American actor and author. For most of his career as a leading man, he specialized in westerns and film noir, such as Johnny Guitar, The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing. Hayden was a film actor who left the Marine Corps to anonymously join the OSS and received a Silver Star.

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