Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs : The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of World War II's OSS
The battles of World War II were won not only by the soldiers on the front lines, and not only by the generals and admirals, but also by the shadow warriors whose work is captured for the first time in Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs. Thanks to the interviews and narrative skills of Patrick O'Donnell and to recent declassifications, an entire chapter of history can now be revealed. A hidden war -- a war of espionage, intrigue, and sabotage -- played out across the occupied territories of Europe, deep inside enemy lines. Supply lines were disrupted; crucial intelligence was obtained and relayed back to the Allies; resistance movements were organized. Sometimes, impromptu combat erupted; more often, the killing was silent and targeted. The full story of the Office of Strategic Services -- OSS, precursor to the CIA -- is a dramatic final chapter on one of history's most important conflicts.
In a world made unrecognizable by the restrictions placed on the CIA today, OSS played fast and loose. Legendary chief "Wild Bill" Donovan created a formidable organization in short order, recruiting not only the best and brightest, but also the most fearless. His agents, both men and women, relied on guile, sex appeal, brains, and sheer guts to operate behind the lines, often in disguise, always in secret.
Patrick O'Donnell, called "the next Studs Terkel" by bestselling author Hampton Sides, has made it his life's mission to capture untold stories of World War II before the last of its veterans passes away. He has succeeded in extracting stories from the toughest of men, the most elite of soldiers, and, now, the most secretive of all: the men and women of OSS. From former CIA director William Colby, who parachuted into Norway to sever rail lines, to Virginia Hall, who disguised herself as a milkmaid, joined the French Resistance, and became one of Germany's most wanted figures, the stories of OSS are worthy of great fiction. Yet the stories in this book are all true, carefully verified by O'Donnell's painstaking research.
The agents of OSS did not earn public acclaim. There were no highly publicized medal ceremonies. But the full story of OSS reveals crucial work in espionage and sabotage, work that paved the way for the Allied invasions and disrupted the Axis defenses. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs proves that the hidden war was among the most dramatic and important elements of World War II.
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March 03, 2004
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Excerpt from Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs by Patrick K. O'Donnell
A Gestapo dragnet was closing in on the abandoned farmhouse in northern France where agent Ren Joyeuse was busy on his radio. He was feverishly reporting the exact location of an underground V-1 rocket factory and a German oil refinery when his last sentence was cut short by the glare of a very powerful flashlight. "The house was surrounded. So I told the resistance fighters with me, 'We're surrounded, let's get out of here fast!' I was picking up my Colt .45 lying on the table when four German hand grenades were thrown into the room.
"The blasts from the grenades violently threw me on the ground twice. Miraculously, I wasn't wounded.
"We dashed into the alley and reached a small service staircase in the back of the house. We succeeded in leaving the house at the moment that the Germans entered through the garden gate.
"We were continuously attacked from 10 meters behind by grenades and submachine-gun fire, and blazing torches lit up the night. I attempted to cover our retreat with my Colt but it jammed on the fourth shot. With Colt in hand I arrived in front of a big wall separating the Secours National Park from a neighboring property next to the railroad tracks by a freight station. We all tried to scale this wall. I made two unsuccessful attempts and told the FFIs [Resistance fighters] that I wasn't going to make it and would try the wall further down. They kept trying and I never saw them again.
"I was able to scale the wall about 20 meters down. At this moment the Germans, who were posted on both sides of the block near the tracks, fired at me at a distance of 10 meters and missed me. I came upon a patrol. Seeing a running man passing them, they fired on me with their machine guns at point-blank range. They still missed me. I crossed all the tracks and came to another gate leading to a street on the side of the station. I climbed over. At this moment, two other Germans with machine guns woke up to what was going on and fired. Luckily, in climbing over the gate, I had fallen flat on my face behind a small cement parapet which caused all the bullets to ricochet. When their magazines were empty, I got up again and ran off in the direction of nearby houses. After about 200 or 300 meters of painful progress, since I was wounded in the right foot and hand, the left kneecap, and had suffered numerous contusions, I got into a house where the gate was half open and met a women who, seeing that I was going to bring her a lot of grief, told me, 'Don't come in here! Beat it! Get out of here!' I threatened her with my pistol, begging her to 'shut up!', and went up to the fourth floor by a back staircase. I dropped down to a door to another apartment, which seemed to belong to a woman who was an informer for the Gestapo! I stayed there, near the door, the whole time holding in one hand my Colt and in the other my potassium cyanide pill [L-pill, or lethal pill]. I decided to use one or the other on myself if I were surrounded. The dragnet continued for me all night, all the nearby houses were searched, with the exception of the one I was in."