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OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency Paperback – August 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592287298
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592287291
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The best book about America's first modern secret service . . . Smith, combining the style of a journalist with the scholarly approach of the political scientist, has provided an excellent overview of the role of OSS during the two-front war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan . . . Tracing the names, the half-submerged links between the intelligence community and what Richard Rovere has called the American Establishment, is what makes Smith's book so fascinating and valuable."--Washington Post Book World

"Smith's absorbing book is really an introduction to what the OSS and its crew of generally exceptionally able and imaginative employees was all about."--Foreign Service Journal

"He describes how the OSS figured in, and was related to, the whole diplomatic and military history of the war."--Annals

About the Author

Richard Harris Smith began writing this history of the OSS after resigning from the CIA in 1968. He now deals in rare and antique American books and lives with his daughter in California.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 15 customer reviews
Paragraphing is poor.
Ward W. Miller
The stories were well written and really make the reader reflect on how that part of the war was won!
jeanine peterson
I was pleasantly surprised to even find this book as I thought it was out of print for many years.
Andrew

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Victor S. Alpher on March 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a student of the Second World War, I simply had to read this treatise on the OSS, which was dissolved at the end of the War. It took the U.S. several years to gear up to form the CIA, but as many know, some of the early CIA top echelon came from the OSS. And where did the OSS get its early operatives? They came from the top levels of American business, society, and old school networks--in short the "real" Americans who own this country (recall the film "The Good Shepherd" with Matt Damon, which is about the early OSS? In a scene from that film, Damon's character goes to the Jersey shore to recruit an Italian-American (played by Joe Pesci) in the early 1960s. JP's character asks, in short, all of the immigrant groups have something to gather around--what do you, the Yale graduate, the old-school boys have? "We have the United States of America" is the answer. And so it probably is today, or at least before the last administration--and probably is so deep within the present CIA.

On yhr original book's dust jacket, the question is asked, "What did Stewart Alsop, John Birch, Julia Child, Allen Dulles, John Gardner, Arthur Goldberg....and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. have in common?" They were in the OSS! Wild Bill Donovan may have recruited just about anyone for the OSS, even avowed Marxists and Communists, in the drive to defeat Fascism, but the effects of his methods linger on today worldwide. This book is a well-documented, well-written, and important history lesson. As the old saying goes, "you reap what you sow"--and we are still reaping what the OSS did during the Second World War.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jeanine peterson on March 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a female veteran of the Korean conflict this book was a wonderful part of American history and the part played by both young men and women who were willing to take chances. Most young people as well as older folks know very little about this part of history. The stories were well written and really make the reader reflect on how that part of the war was won!
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32 of 43 people found the following review helpful By El Cutachero on December 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
This work was the first genuinely scholarly work on the OSS. The author, an academician, wrote it way back when most OSS works were memoirs or compilations of tales of derring do or sensationalistic political acreeds concerning intelligence matters; although the still interesting memoirs and tales were fact based, those early books were based solely on memory and not on sound documentation. In addition many sensational critiques of intelligence agencies and the CIA msntioned some OSS activities. The date of 2005 given is that of the reprint, not the original 1972.
The former files of the OSS remained in use by the OSS's two successor agencies: the State Department's Intelligence Bureau (INR) and the War Department's Special Services Unit (SSU), which carried on the OSS's HUMINT clandestine operations. SSU in turn was folded in 1947 into the newly estabished CIA, which continued to use the classified OSS files and added to them. The former OSS files then continued in use for many years; in the eighties, the CIA finally weeded out sll the long since unecessary files concerning operational, organizational and procedural matters and sent them to the Nationsl Archives. Thia action resulted in a huge quantity of memoirs being written by veterans of OSS (c.f. Elizabeth MacIntosh's study of women in the OSS, "Sisterhood of Spies"), in technicals studies (c.f. John Brunner's "OSS Weapons" and in organizational histories (c.f. Yu's "OSS in China"). All of these and many similar recent studies I have reviewed on this site.
This pioneering work by Harris is necessarily sketchy due to lack of sources, being based on a few scattered memoirs and incomplete and undocumented popular publications and interviews, snd riddled with omissions and errors, has been overtaken by events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ward W. Miller on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This republished version begins with an essay of how wonderful the author feels about what he wrote many years ago. It was totally unnecessary. The original book itself was obviously written by an amateur. It is choppy, jumps around, is not smooth to read. Far from being a page-turner I would expect from the title. Sentence structure is sloppy, often with misplaced modifiers. Many sentences are excessively long. Paragraphing is poor. I'm surprised he claims it was professionally edited.

I'll admit I finally gave up while in the early part of the book. It was an awful read. I sincerely regret paying $9.09 for the Kindle version. A rip off. I wish I could get my money back.

In my 86 years, I can count on my two hands the books I did not finish reading. I'm sad to add this one to that count. I am astounded some readers gave this 5 stars. I charitably rated it 2 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Capt. Jack on June 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With a subject that is so intriguing, why isn't this book a page turner? Somehow, I find it tedious to read. The first part required self discipline to get through and then I finally got into the book to a somewhat greater degree. I think the reason is that it comes off as a laundry list of many characters who were involved in very interesting missions but the author has little time to delve into the individuals themselves. What I learned was that there was much more infighting among the allies than I was aware of. We must have lengthened the war by at least a year due to turf protection and misunderstandings, as well as our desire to set prior colonies free and the British desire to regain their empire after the war. All that waste of effort gave the Nazis more time. The other interesting point is that even though the way to enter the OSS often was to be an alum of an Ivy League school, there were quite a few interesting characters who got in via language/cultural know how or friendships with well connected people. Capt. Peter Ortiz is one of the most interesting. A Marine officer with prior service in the Foreign Legion, he spoke fluent French and knew his way around the German controlled area. His brave and very daring actions would fill a book. Another Marine who might have served in the Pacific was instead running a small sailboat fleet to supply Yugoslav partisans in their efforts against the Nazis. That was the actor Sterling Hayden.
The book appears to be very well researched and contains information not found in other books I have read. It does a thorough job of demonstrating the somewhat valid yet frustrating nature of our disagreements with the British and French over policy, strategy and even tactics. I just wish that the author had edited the material down and focused on key points rather than attempting to cover everything more shallowly.
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