The life story of the father of modern American espionage, Wild Bill Donovan Wild Bill Donovan was a lawyer and political figure who essentially created the modern American intelligence community for both good and ill. Donovan was born of Irish immigrant parents in Buffalo, New York in 1883. His father was active in local politics and encouraged his children to be ambitious and get an education. Young Bill was the star of the family attending Columbia University and Columbia Law School.
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While a law student, Donovan caught the eye of a very eminent law professor: Harlan Fisk Stone. Stone was later to be U.S. General and Supreme Court Chief Justice. He never forgot the charming young Irishman and aided his rise to fame and power in the 1920's.
Donovan returned home to Buffalo and became a successful lawyer. When the United States entered World War I, Donovan joined the famous Fighting 165th regiment as an officer eventually rising to the rank of General. He was a bona fide war hero and began a lifelong rivalry with Douglas McArthur.
In the 1920's, Harlan Stone joined the Justice Department and brought Donovan with him. Donovan was a Deputy Attorney General who supervised the fledgling FBI and began another lifelong rivalry, this time with J Edgar Hoover. The men shared conservative political views but loathed one another.
In the 1930's, Donovan resumed practicing law and ran unsuccessfully for office in New York state. His interests ran towards international affairs. He saw the Nazi threat early and worried that the United States had no intelligence service to deal with the possibility of espionage. Despite being a Republican, Donovan cultivated a former Columbia Law School classmate who just happened to be President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When war came, Donovan lobbied for the creation of a spy agency within the War Department: the Organization of Strategic Services or OSS. Once the agency was established, Donovan built an extensive spy network in Europe; especially in neutral Switzerland and Sweden. The OSS also landed agents behind the lines in France, Greece, and Yugoslavia to help partisans fight their German occupiers.
Despite his agency's successes, Donovan made enemies throughout the bureaucracy. He spent years fighting off attempts by J Edgar Hoover to assume of the spy agency's role. Donovan had cultivated a close relationship with FDR who protected him. But when Truman became President, his influence declined.
The OSS was disbanded after World War II in the general haste to demobilize. When the CIA was formed, it was staffed predominantly by Donovan's people but there was no space for the old warhorse himself. He returned to the practice of law but found it dull.
Donovan supported Eisenhower in 1952, hoping to become CIA director but it was not to be. He was briefly Ambassador to Thailand before returning to private life. Donovan died in 1959 at the age of 76.
Best part of story, including ending:
The account of the governmental infighting during World War II was fascinating.
Best scene in story:
The story of Donovan's experience in the field as an officer in the Great War.
Opinion about the main character:
He was very intelligent and loyal but too cocky for his own good sometimes.