Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sub Rosa: The O.S.S and American Espionage by Stewart Alsop and Thomas Braden

Sub Rosa: The O.S.S. and American Espionage. Stewart Alsop and Thomas Braden. Open Road Media. June 2016. 237 pp. ISBN #: 9781480446014.

The O.S.S. was the spy agency that enabled many of the victories in WWII in Europe and the Far East.  This is the story of how the institution began, its creation by William J. Donovan, its policies and practices.  Learning from the British, Donovan realized what was needed and set about picking prime candidates to supervise the practices of resistance, find and communicate information about planned attacks, and spread propaganda to frequently spread false information that would cause the Germans and Japanese to change their plans of attack.  

A lively account of a certain spy, “Billy,” provides the reader with the mystery behind each mission.  Every spy had certain reasons for his or her total dedication to the cause and Billy was no different.  Without giving away the entire story, suffice to say that at certain times, leaders were uncertain as to whether Billy spied on the right side or even was a double agent.  Communication often faltered or was delayed because of unforeseen circumstances and this was the case with Billy who manages to complete his job and return unscathed and confident, leaving his superiors with an increased understanding about all the obstacles that could and did arise in each delicate circumstance. 

We read about how many of these men and women lost their lives and the realization is stark in learning about the relentless and formidable dangers ever-present for those who succeeded and failed.  The latter are honored as much as those who succeeded.

Many more Operations are described and the OSS was placed under the Army but the records of these notable operations was kept and has provided much material for those carry out similar roles in different conflicts and wars.  More notes are added such as the fact that the information from OSS – 60 per cent to be precise – enabled the eventual invasion of Southern France that led to the end of the war.  The reality is that OSS members were deeply tied to the military events that changed the course of what might have been a German and Japanese takeover of the world.  This weapon of warfare, OSS, is still being evaluated and appreciated in diverse ways. 

Stewart Alsop and Thomas Baden have described a wartime group that was more than worth the money spent, recounted actions that were worthy of decoration but more often were silently allowed to pass into the annals of history but are now being noted for their intelligence in both peace and war.  Nicely done and recommended reading!

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