handle the job. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. ..for another day. so thank you very, very much for coming. my name is marie arana, i am a writer-at-large for "the washington post". i was the books editor for many, many years, and i am now a very happy member of the board of directors of this festival. and "the washington post" is very, very proud to be a charter sponsor of the festival for so many years. .. as far as i am concerned, the
thinking person's amusement park. whether you are for -- 4 or 24 or 54104 there is something for you here at the book festival. first in our lineup of great authors today is douglas waller, veteran magazine correspondent and author of numerous books about the american military as well as american intelligence operations. in almost two decades of the washington journalists, douglas waller has covered the pentagon, congress, state department, the white house and the cia. from 1994 to 2007 he served in time magazine's washington bureau first as a correspondent, then a senior correspondent. he has also served diplomatic correspondent travelling throughout europe, asia and the middle east as well as the
persian gulf in pursuit of stories. he has carried out extensive coverage of the middle east peace negotiations and the wars in iraq. before coming to time magazine he was a correspondent for newsweek reported on major military conflict from the gulf war to somalia to haiti. he was born in norfolk, virginia, studied at wake forest university and did graduate work in urban affairs at the university of north carolina at charlotte. before joining newsweek in 1988 he served as a legislative assistant on the staff of senator william coxmeyer and senator edward marky. douglas waller is not a defense panelist for bloomberg's governance. among his many, many books a number of them bestsellers, are the commandos, the inside story of america's secrets shoulders,
error warriors, the inside story of the making of a navy pilot to, and big red, the three month voyage of a trident nuclear submarine. douglas waller's new book is a biography of an outside american character, general william wild bill donovan, founder and director of the office senior services, precursor of the modern cia. in this super biography, at once a cliffhanger and the work of the scholarship, douglas waller tells the story of a man who built a far flung intelligence organization out of absolutely nothing in the middle of one of the most brutal wars of our time. an ambitious young lawyer with political aspirations, william donovan had written to franklin roosevelt in 1942 and told him what the country really needed as it hunkered down for war was
a good spot operation. roosevelt, desperate for operation gave him the task. donovan was fearless, even reckless, always the center of attention and the story douglas waller tells is full of action on the ground and in the corridors of power. as david wise who has written extensively about the cia wrote on the pages of the washington post, "wild bill donovan," name of the book, is the first carefully researched, in-depth biography of the legendary world war ii spymaster. for anyone interested in the history of american intelligence, it is required reading. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a terrific writer and journalist, douglas waller. [applause]
before i bring him on and give him a microphone i must say we expect you to ask questions after he speaks, but i must warn you that your image if you come to the microphone which we hope you will do will be filmed and then buried in the tombs of the library of congress forever. so be careful. >> thanks. it is great to be here. we are actually sitting in a very appropriate spot for a discussion about wild bill donovan. just a few blocks from here is where his spying had its headquarters. it was up on navy hill next to the state department. his staff called it the kremlin, his headquarters. it was an abandoned public health service building. they had been doing syphilis'
research when donovan's men moved into the headquarters. there were still animals in cages on the top floor that they haven't carted out. joseph burbles --goebbels had a lot of fun with that. he sent propaganda broadcasts that the donovan's new home was for 50 professors beleaguered middle ten goats leaguer killed well guinea pigs and a sheet which was not far from the truth. wild bill donovan is three stories in one. the very compelling biography of a truly heroic figure met a lot of tragedy in his life. also a spot at story. an exciting spy story about world war ii and a story about political intrigue at the highest levels of washington which is the part that intrigued me the most because i am a journalist. i said in some talk i would have loved to be a reporter covering wild bill donovan in the 40s and
improbably would have. donovan like reporters. he liked leaking to the press. he had reporters on his staff as propagandists and spies. before he headed up the office of strategic services fee would go overseas on missions for the government or his own private industry posing as a correspondent and filing to different news agencies. he wasn't a particularly tall man. only 5 ft. 9. one of his agents, betty mcintosh thought the when he ran the oss he looked and when shapes. she told him that and he didn't appreciate it. one of his other operatives, mary bancroft said he looked like a qb doll. don't ask me what that looks like but that is what donovan looked like. he slept five hours a night would speed read at least three books week, he was an excellent ballroom dancer, he loved to
sing irish songs. he would go to broadway and pick up the latest sheet music to learn the latest musical tunes. he didn't smoke, rarely drank, enjoy fine dining which added to the weight, spent lavishly with no concept for dollar. when he was overseas visiting stations where he was most of the time and aid would always be with him with a bunch of quarters and dollar bills that donovan was always mooching off of him. he was witty but never showed -- never told a dirty joke or left out loud. never showed anger too. he let it boil up in start of him. he was rakish we had some particularly as a young man. women found him active it -- captivating. his life at a lot of tragic aspect to it. his daughter died in college in an automobile accident. his daughter in law died of a drug overdose. one of his granddaughters at 4 years old died when she
accidentally swallowed silver polish. he was born in new year's day 1883 in the irish first war. i gave a talk in buffalo and discovered all this time i had been saying donovan's name wrong. if you are from buffalo you pronounced it doonovan. he thought he might be a priest. every irish catholic family assumed one of the suns would become a priest. donovan realize he was not cut out to be a man of the cloth so he went to columbia university and was a star quarterback his senior year until a cheap tackle from princeton topple him for the rest of the season. he attended columbia law school after columbia university. franklin roosevelt was a law student with him. roosevelt liked to say he and donovan were old pal and law
school. donovan said that as a bunch of baloney. roosevelt had nothing to do with someone low on the social strata as donovan. he returned to buffalo and set up a lucrative law practice and married one of the wealthiest women in buffalo and world war i comes. he goes to war and commands a battalion in the 60 ninth irish regiment, famous new york regiment. he was awarded the congressional medal of honor during world war i for very heroic actions. his priest in the 60 ninth regiment said that donovan was one of the few men he ever met who enjoyed combat. and he really did. he would write to his wife that going out on, that was like going to treating at night. that is where heat earned the nickname wild bill. he was a very rigorous and brutal trainer of his men
because he realized there were going into a meat grinder which they were. before they went into action in france he was running over hill and under bob wire and whatever and finally they collapsed in front of him. his battalion did. he stood up and said what is the matter with you? i am 35 years old carrying the same pass as you are and you don't see me out of breath. somewhere in the back a soldier shouted out -- never figured out who it was -- we are not as wild as you are, bill. from that day on wild bill donovan stock. acclaimed in didn't like that nickname because it ran counter to the collective spot energy he wanted to project but his wife said he really did like being called wild bill. he returned to new york a hero and eventually became an assistant attorney general in the coolidge administration in a roaring 20s. his goal at that point was to be attorney general of the united
states and he thought herbert hoover made that promise to him and in fact he had. but the ku klux klan which was a very powerful political movement and was up in arms over the idea of an irish catholic becoming attorney general of the united states. he made his share of enemies and senate democrats vowed to block his nomination so hoover printed on the promise until the day he died, wild bill donovan never forgave herbert hoover for backing out on the attorney-generalship. he returned to new york city and set up a prominent law firm, made millions as a wall street lawyer and in 1932 ran for governor of new york on the republican ticket. his gold and was to be the nation's first irish catholic president and new york was the
ideal stepping stone for and achieving that. frank and roosevelt 1932 was running for his first term. donovan ended up running as much against roosevelt as he did against lt. governor herbert lehman. he said some nasty things about roosevelt on the campaign trail. at one point he accused fdr of being, quote, crafty. back then that was fighting words. kind of mild today. another time he accused roosevelt of being, quote, faker because roosevelt on the campaign trail claimed he was a simple farmer from hyde park and that was a bunch of bunk. roosevelt for his part took a shot at donovan. eleanor got on the campaign trail and started criticizing him during the election. donovan lost that election. turned out he was a horrible campaigner. if he was here talking to you in
a small group he could turn on the irish charm and heavy wrapped into what he was saying. before a large group he was a wooden stick figure. just terrible as a campaigner. is lieutenant governor, trudy davidson thought that donovan should be running for lieutenant governor and he should be running for governor because he was so loud. the reason i mention all this is it is amazing roosevelt made donovan his top spymaster in the administration considering the nasty things they said about each other in new york. but fast forward to 1940-41. roosevelt building the country up, building defenses up preparing the nation for war. donovan even though he was a conservative republican thought the new deal with a communist plot to take over america. nevertheless he was a member of the international wing of the republican party. he too believe the nation needed
to build itself up for war and the country needed to prepare for this down the road. in the summer of 1940 roosevelt sent donovan on an informal diplomatic mission to england to answer one question. can britain survive the war? donovan was given access to via@of the british government to enable intelligence over there, am i 5 and m i 6 and all wore agencies, comes back with a bag full of documents from great britain with an answer to the question that yes, britain could survive the war but would need a considerable amount of u.s. aid to do so. that came in the form of a land lease. roosevelt sent donovan on a second trip at the end of 1940 that lasted until 1941. this time he went not only to england but the balkans, the middle east and eastern europe.
his mission than was not only to collect intelligence about what was going on in that region but also to deliver a private message from franklin roosevelt to the balkan and middle east leaders which was that roosevelt did not intend to let great britain lose this war. if you are deciding at this point which side you're going to be on and a lot of balkan leaders were, keep in mind that the allies are going to be the winning side. winston churchill was delighted. donovan was heartwarming. churchill supplied a british plane to fly him around the region and he had british military escorts with him to open doors for him and keep an eye on what he was doing and report back to london. one of them was even fleming, the novelist of the james bond novels. the state department, however, wasn't pleased with this mission. here you have an american
citizen who had no diplomatic standing in the american government for the british government's strong arming balkan leaders behind closed doors. the state department at one point investigated whether donovan should be prosecuted for violating -- a crime for a u.s. citizen to negotiate on behalf of the u.s. government. roosevelt was only too happy to have donovan out there freelancing. keep in mind in 1940 even into 41, roosevelt had no foreign intelligence service to speak of. you have the army and navy had small foreign intelligence units but they dumping grounds for poor performing officers. roosevelt is making major foreign policy decisions overseas, how much and how to get lease aid to great britain and circumvent congressional control. he is running against wendell willkie for a third term and is
worried he will lose the election and is making all these decisions overseas largely blind to what lay ahead of him. it worried him so much that sometimes he became physically ill. when donovan came back from the european mission that is when the spy work begins. in july of 1941 before pearl harbor, roosevelt signed an executive order designating donovan his coordinator of information. year later it is called oss, office of strategic services. in the beginning just coordinator of information. just a 1-page document very vaguely written that colonel donovan which was his world war i rank would collect information of national importance and do other unspecified things. the document was so vague that other cabinet members in the administration began scratching their heads wondering what in the world is franklin up to a.in this republican wall street lawyer to do these unusual
covert things in his administration? donovan liked to say he began his spy agency, the oss, from minus 0. just one guy. in the beginning he was a player and a pickup basketball game looking for agents and operations anywhere he could find them. the phillips plant company that solds overseas and may still be in business today, donovan arranged with the phillips and lamp company to have a salesman when they went on sales call overseas to report back to him in occupied countries, what they saw and when they heard. eastman kodak co.. they make disposable cameras today. back then they had thousands of camera clubs around the united states. donovan arranged for the camera clubs to send him the photos
that tourists had taken of militarily important things around the world. another project was project cigar. pan-american airways, there's a new series about their stewardesses. back then project cigar, donovan arranged the ticket agents for pan am in africa would report to him on movements of nazis for rob a continent to keep track of agents in africa. he cooked up all kinds of wild schemes. he was open to practically any crazy idea or at least willing to consider it. his code number which you see on the secret oss documents was 109 which happened to be the room number of his office in the kremlin. his secretaries had another code name. they called him sea biscuit because like the race course he was always running around.
he kept $2,000 in his desk drawer to pay off sources for information when he went crawling around washington. i don't think you will find cia director who keeps that in his office now and petty cash. he had a research and development chief named stanley level who invented all the spy gadgets. donovan call him his professor moriarty after the sherlock holmes character. stanley made things like cameras that spies use. incendiary devices and -- used as explosive as. donovan was very interested in truth drugs. fascinated by the use of truth drugs in interrogation. stanley lovell had one of his officers test the truth drug on a new york mobster named little
augie. this was a new york city cop that worked for the oss. he had him up to his apartment for some smokes and a chat and he started puffing away on this cigarette laced with the truth drug, puffing away and gets a silly grin on his face and starts telling the officer about all the mob hits he had carried out, working for lucky luciano and all the congressmen--his favorite was donovan. he could never bring him to court. other ideas he had. one time he propose to franklin roosevelt he had a button at his desk he could push at any time and it would put him in instant communication with every radio in america so he could warn people in los angeles the japanese were attacking or people in new york that the germans were attacking. roosevelt ignored that idea but roosevelt was open to everyone of donovan's idea.
the president was a spot above himself. he liked intrigue. he liked the idea of espionage. one time stanley lovell trusted the idea of sitting back -- that were going to tie incendiary devices around the back. the idea was that you would fly over japan, drop the bats down and they would fly into the paper would houses and set the incendiary device off and burn down japanese cities. are am not making this up. is really happened. terrific idea. eleanor roosevelt heard about it. she passed it on to franklin and he thought it was kind of cool and gave it to donovan and he had stanley lawll check out. they loaded the plan up with a
bunch of bats with incendiary devices around them and flew over somewhere in some desert area, drop the bats. guess what happened to the back? they sank like stones. the idea didn't work. but donovan was willing to try it. one other spy operation scheme he had once stanley lovell had female hormones. if they could find hitler's vegetables they would inject the hormones in the vegetables and make his mustache fall off and give him a lot falsetto voice which would be a real bummer to the viewer. eventually donovan build a spy organization and over 10,000 covert operatives and espionage agents and research analysts support personnel scattered in stations all over the world. again a remarkable achievement considering we started with one guy, wild bill donovan.
they mounted the for operations in north africa during the porche campaign in 1942. they have extensive operations in sicily and italy. in the balkans they aided the guerrillas and yugoslavia and "wild bill donovan" -- and greece with wide-ranging operations. in asia they were limited to burma and china. interestingly enough general macarthur of the southwest pacific theater didn't want any part of donovan's force. he didn't think he would have any use for him. admiral chester nimitz, commander of the northern pacific forces didn't think much of donovan's force and wouldn't let him in. the most extensive operation came in northern france and southern france. they mounted a good bit of research into targets in france and germany. they also infiltrated and
parachuted in commandos during that operation. donovan liked to go in on landings, the beach landings. he went into sicily and italy and started to worry his own staff because they thought all those secrets in his head, last place you want to miss at the front where he might be captured and be a valuable target. george marshall, chief of staff of the army thought he had donovan banned from going in to normandy and so did dwight eisenhower. they had it prohibited that he would stay in england. donovan managed to talk his way aboard the heavy cruiser and land the second day of the utah beach landing. had a great time. he was on the beach on a jeep, a deron message met -- diving into the -- he marches in land five miles and gets pinned down by a german machine-gun, reach into the pocket of his field jacket
to look for a suicide pill because of u.s. officers carried a suicide pill including donovan, realized he left it at the hotel in london and was all worried. had an aide radioed back that he feared an aide might mistake for an aspirin. it took almost two years for donovan to build up his spot organization. may seem like a long time during a war but took the u.s. army quite some time to build up its force and become a credible force in the war. eventually became very proficient and turned into good intelligence. like all intelligence agencies its effort failures too. one of the most striking failures was the vessel case. donovan thought he had a silver bullet agent planted in the vatican. the code name was vessel. he was supplying him people
transcript of conversations that pious was having with foreign leaders, japanese on voice and his own on voice on peace initiatives particularly in asia. turned out vessel was an italian pornographer with a very vivid imagination who had a talent for writing dialogue. he snookered all of donovan's staff. this was also a story of political intrigue too. donovan liked to say that his own enemies in washington were as fierce as adolf hitler was in europe and that was the case. he had for russia's fighters with j. edgar hoover. he thought donovan's organization was the biggest collection of amateurs he had ever seen and in the beginning it was a big collection of managers. hoover had his fbi spot donovan and collect information. they spied on oss officers. he had moles in donovan's organization. donovan spot on hoover and had
moles in hoover's organization. when i was doing the research i wondered when they had time to spot on the enemy when they were spying on each other. the pentagon wanted no part of donovan's office of strategic services. george marshall thought this was a plot to take over army and navy intelligence which is exactly what donovan had in mind had franklin roosevelt let him do it. marshall eventually comes to accept donovan's oss but senior intelligence officers never did. they fought donovan's organization throughout the war. at one point toward the middle of the work is military intelligence even formed their own secret espionage unit behind donovan's back. it was nicknamed the pond and its job was only to spy behind donovan's back but to spy on
donovan and his officers and collect information on the wives of oss officers. in any war you have general on the same side fighting among themselves. world war ii was no different. the british and american senior officers were constant battling among them. in donovan's case the fights were even more intense because the conventional admirals and generals did not know what he was all about. he started talking about propaganda and espionage operations and a little augie and incendiary devices. conventional admirals and generals found that disturbing and not the american way of war. donovan brought a lot of problems on himself by his operating style. he had a habit of never taking note for an answer so the commander in front of him said you can't do this he would make an end run a ben that superior
officer to make this reversed which doesn't win you friends in the pentagon. one time he was at a cocktail party in washington chatting with an admiral and had his men burglarize the admiral's office. and bring the documents to the cocktail party to show the admiral with his agents could do. there's nothing in the record that shows what the admiral's reaction was but it is pretty well nonplused about it. donovan had a penchant for showing up at meetings at the pentagon, usually late keeping the above her admirals and generals waiting. he was made a major general in the army. his uniform would be very carefully tailored and he would come in to the room with only the medal of honor ribbon he had won stalin on to his uniform. as a not so subtle reminder that he had the only medal in the
room that counted. eventually donovan couldn't overcome his political enemies. he had drafted a plan for a postwar central intelligence agency and he wanted to lead it after the war. walter scrohan of the washington times herald which was part of the mccormick patterson newspaper chain which also owned the chicago tribune, republican newspaper chain strongly anti roosevelt, they despised roosevelt and roosevelt despised the chain, got leaked to him donovan's copy of his secret plan to set up a post war cia. they edgar hoover most likely leaked the document but that could never be proven. anyway, he published the article in the washington times herald and chicago tribune verbatim the secret order that donovan had drafted along with a very highly inflammatory story that accused
donovan of wanting to set up an american gestapo in the united states. back then if you accuse any organization of being gestapo like organization you killed it politically. it did what franklin roosevelt, basically shelved the plan. harry truman comes into office. j. edgar mover had one of his agents plant a nasty rumor with truman's top military aide that truman was having an affair with his daughter-in-law. they played hard ball back then. i had to run that to the ground which was not pleasant and found that it wasn't true. donovan was very close to his daughter in law but only as a daughter in law. even so donovan had a number of affairs over the years and a number of mistresses. was common knowledge in buffalo,
in washington and among oss circles and military intelligence. had no problem getting to the fbi and passed on to truman. that is not what sunk reorganization with harry truman. what probably killed it was a 59 page report that the pond, the secret espionage unit managed to get to truman's desk through an army officer in the white house serving as a conduit. that 59 page report accused donovan's agency of all manner of misdeed and malfeasance and blown operation and corruption. at one point in accused oss officers of staging a sex orgy in india which i found no evidence was the case. truman also didn't like donovan. on the one hand you had a successful wall street republican lawyer and on the other you had a haberdasher who was a die-hard democrat. there was never going to be good
karma between these two guys. in october of 1945, truman shutdown the oss. he wasn't naive to the threats overseas. he knew he was facing an impending cold war threat and needed an intelligence service but didn't want donovan's organization or the oss having any part of it. truman in 1947 formed the cia central intelligence agency patterned after the vision and the idea that donovan had. he lobbied to make himself cia director but truman wanted no part of that particularly since donovan said nasty things about him on the presidential campaign trail. dwight eisenhower comes into office in 1953. donovan thinks this is the best chance to become cia director. he was a republican and fought a lot of his work in europe.
eisenhower makes alan bell cia director which is disappointing to donovan. he thought dulles would screw up the cia. he had been a station chief in switzerland and done a terrific job. ironically dulles thought donovan had done a lousy job running the oss and he could run the agency better. let me end it there. we can talk about his life afterwards and discuss his legacy and what you see today in the cia. [applause] >> my name is max gros. i read quite a few books about the oss and donovan and one thing and never understood that you didn't bring out yourself, there was no intelligence oversight committee. i had never known congress's regarding the oss and how did he
get paid for it? >> the first one, there was any congressional oversight of the operation the short answer is no. at one point and harry truman had sent requests to get information about what the oss was spending its money on. truman was in charge of the government efficiency committee during the war and marshall came and talked him out of it and truman backed off. senator harry byrd tried to find out what the oss officers were getting paid. they were paid a pretty high salary and he wanted to cut that back. as far as funding for the oss it can initially out of two accounts. roosevelt in the beginning had a private slush fund that was called and voucher money which wasn't accountable to congress that he could pay whenever he wanted so he paid oss --
donovan's organization out of the private fund. ray hennessey good black intelligence unit run by a washington parliament named john franklin carter who did domestic espionage work. this was not overseen by congress. eventually part of donovan's budget expanded into hundreds of millions or more came from appropriated funds from congress but even then congress wasn't doing a lot of oversight on what he was doing overseas. he was free to operate on his own. >> i wonder if you could say something about the sources used for this book. for example are all the oss archives available? do you think they are complete? they using some of it may have been deleted at some point? >> the good news is all the oss
documents have been declassified. the bad news is practically all the oss documents have been declassified because it runs in millions and millions of pages. and oss's own office and i went through that material, at the kremlin he had something on the order of 170,000 documents that were under his control which took me about a year to go through. his personal papers from his log and other sources, letters to his family are at the army military history institute in carlisle, pennsylvania. i also had to go for a three presidential libraries, fdr, truman and eisenhower library. good bit of the oss information in those libraries. they are scattered in libraries all over the country, different parts of the donovan story and the oss story. i had to go to england to the
british archives because the british spent a lot of time monitoring donovan's organization. they have officers spy on donovan's organization and they knew donovan was spying on him. you could go there for special operations executive papers which are expensive and the churchill library had some too. it took a little over two years to go through and vacuum up everything. >> thank you. in a glut was an enormously successful operation. what i learned is donovan had no relationship whatsoever with that. was he aware of enigma? did he have any control? >> actually he did. this was the codebreaking case.
the british and german diplomatic -- donovan was given access to that codebreaking capability. he had some of his officers stationed in lesley park and involved in the codebreaking and was given direct a. ironically, donovan was not given direct access to magic which was the army navy code breaking capability of japanese military diplomatic traffic. marshall didn't trust donovan's organization and thought he would lead to all-out. after the war he had a close relationship with the british codebreaking capability than his own american code breaking capability. he recognized throughout the war that this was really the key intelligence with the most value in the organization. >> i just finished reading the
book last weekend it is one of the best bios i ever read. i have two questions. the donovan law firm created several years ago. i wonder if you could explain to the audience what the relationship was with mr. donovan and the law firm because the earliest travel on behalf of the law firm and the second question is the cia, i came from -- this was a gang that couldn't shoot straight. i wondered how the story line of the oss would tie into the fiascos. >> the donovan leisure law firm was formed after he came back from the coolidge administration. it got going in the middle of the depression. it was highly successful.
donovan unfortunately spend a lot of law firm money saying he had no concept for a dollar and use a lot of the law firm accounts to fund his travels overseas. he later was ambassador to thailand 1953-54 and traveled in the region on the law firm account. he came back after world war ii to the law firm and after his ambassadorship to thailand broken and the law firm was not doing well at that point at that point he became a rainmaker for the firm. he wasn't really dry parchment lawyer. he was good at drawing business. as far as the legacy of the oss carries over to the cia, the question i get asked is what difference did the oss make in the war? did win the war? short answer is no. did it shorten the war for the
allies? again the answer is no too. but you are setting the bar awfully high when you establish that benchmark because there were broader factors at work that were winning of the war for the allies. the fact that we could amass more men and machines against the axis than they could against us. they were much more valuable than the oss and donovan recognized that. one value of the oss is it became the petrie dish for future leaders of the cia. a lot of future directors, richard helms, william colby and phil casey all served under donovan and became future cia directors.