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Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 8, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 263 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, February 8, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Waller brings to his latest biography the high skills as a biographer that he brought to A Question of Loyalty: Gen. Billy Mitchell and the Court-Martial That Gripped the Nation (2004). Donovan, the head of WWII�s Office of Strategic Services, was a New York Irishman who won the Medal of Honor in WWI. Between the wars, he became successful on Wall Street and a personal friend of FDR. When President Roosevelt was looking for someone to head an intelligence agency not controlled by either the armed forces or the FBI, he called on Donovan. Donovan was at daggers drawn with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the service intelligence branches, and also recruited too many Ivy Leaguers, but the OSS did pull its weight in wartime intelligence. Donovan also drank too much, chased too many women, lost too many relatives at early ages, and generally did not fit into the postwar world, where the CIA replaced his OSS. Exhaustively researched but not exhaustingly written, this will probably stand as the definitive biography of a seminal figure in the history of American intelligence. --Roland Green


"Entertaining history...As [Waller] amply shows, Donovan was a combination of bold innovator and imprudent rule bender, which made him not only a remarkable wartime leader but also an extraordinary figure in American history."--The New York Times Book Review

"Contemporary history is seldom as relevant and engaging as Douglas Waller's new biography, Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage, which is -- by turns -- fascinatingly instructive and thoroughly entertaining." --L.A. Times

Wild Bill Donovan, the founding father of American espionage, jumps off the page in Douglas Waller’s superb biography of one of the nation’s most important and least understood leaders of the 20th Century. Waller marvelously evokes an era when a matinee-idol character like Donovan could turn Washington into his own secret playground even as he ended America’s naivete about the necessity of stealing the secrets of other gentlemen. Waller takes us back to a time, long before bureaucratic sclerosis set in at the Central Intelligence Agency, when American spies lived in technicolor.”

-- James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

“Whether fighting on the battlefield during World War I, leading the OSS during World War II, or prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, William Donovan’s service to his country was historic and extraordinary. In Wild Bill Donovan, Douglas C. Waller’s impressive research and riveting writing bring the ‘Father of American Intelligence’ to life, drawing the reader into one of the most thrilling and remarkable periods in American history.”

--Lee H. Hamilton, former Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

"This superb, dramatic yet scholarly biography, tells a great deal about the man who built a far-flung intelligence organization from scratch in the midst of World War II." --The Washington Post

“In this fast-paced, entertaining and engrossing biography, the author delivers a portrait of a hard-driving, Type A extrovert willing to take on political enemies…A well-calibrated assessment of Donovan and the impact of the OSS on the war…The book is replete with fascinating anecdotes ...and tales of derring-do.”” -- the Associated Press

In Wild Bill Donovan, Douglas Waller brings the larger than life William J. Donovan – a World War I Medal of Honor winner, Office of Strategic Services founder, CIA architect, and one of the 20th century’s most compelling figures – to life. Waller's impressive skill as a journalist, his expertise about the U.S. intelligence community, and a remarkable writing ability complement one another in this fascinating and insightful portrait of Donovan the man, not the myth, and enhances our appreciation of his remarkable legacy. General Donovan attributed much of the success of the Office of Strategic Services to “good old fashioned intellectual sweat.” This informative, enjoyable, and important book deserves the same compliment.

--Charles Pinck, President, The OSS Society, Inc.

“An extraordinary portrait of an extraordinary figure in 20th century American history, a man beyond the power of fiction to invent. Wild Bill Donovan is brilliantly researched and beautifully told, as evocative and enlightening as it is entertaining.”

--Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle

“Douglas Waller gives us the definitive portrait of the fascinating, creative, disorganized, brave man who—starting from nothing during our biggest war—created our modern capacity for human intelligence and covert operations. A must for all who would understand American intelligence.”

--R. James Woolsey, Chair, Woolsey Partners, LLC and Director of Central Intelligence, 1993-1995

“In a time when espionage consists largely of technicians in windowless rooms, far from the battlefield, collecting signals and pictures from satellites and drones, it is both refreshing and fascinating to read Doug Waller’s story of the man behind World War II’s spy organization, the OSS. Long before there was a CIA, there was Major General “Wild Bill” Donovan, and Waller’s extensively researched and highly entertaining book takes the reader back to the days when spying meant sending dedicated agents behind enemy lines to risk their lives to steal secrets and help win the war.”

--James Bamford, bestselling author of Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416567445
  • ASIN: B0054U5CQI
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #922,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Drawing on newly available research, former TIME diplomatic correspondent Doug Waller has written an exciting, fast-paced biography that focuses on Medal of Honor recipient Bill Donovan and his remarkable exploits in forging the OSS during World War II into the most innovative and imaginative operation to defeat the Nazis and Japan. Donovan led from the front. He convinced Franklin Roosevelt that the country needed an operation like this. Roosevelt agreed and Donovan was off and running. He recruited from the Army and Wall Street. He was willing to try anything. I'm not going to give away the amazing exploits that Waller describes -- why spoil the fun? If you submitted a script for a James Bond movie based on some of them, the producers would say, "hey, Bond does pretty wild things, but these are over the top." That was Donovan. Some of OSS's ideas worked brilliantly, others never got off the ground, but it's refreshing to see how the predecessor to the CIA got started and got things done. Waller is an experienced writer -- and a very good one. Others have written about Donovan, and I've read most of the other books. Helped by extensive research and access to previously classified information, this book combines two great strengths. The scholarship is superb. And it's a great read.

Submitted by James Farwell
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The history of espionage and especially its role in history had been acknowledged long ago. Any respectable historian cannot afford to ignore this particular field of study because intelligence has indeed played a significant role in the process of policy making everywhere.
This point is relevant when one is interested to know more about the history of WWW2 and the Cold War. The release of ten of millions of declasssified documents pertaining to intelligence matters has yielded a tremendous number of studies, monographs and histories on this fascinating angle of human history.
Some spies became legendary many years after their demise, but Bill Donovan was one of thoes whose name was famous already in his lifetime, creating the OSS-the Office of Strategic Services, after Roosevelt, who had been a political opponent of Donovan in the 1930s, approved Donovan's original idea about establishing this service.
Donovan came from a poor Irish family but later marrried into wealth. His wife, Ruth,who was daughter of a very rich family in Buffalo,was a chronic depressive and Donovan's frequent cheating on her hardly helped Ruth cope with her disease. Rumours said that he had even slept with his daughter-in-law, Mary, but soon this proved to be a blatant lie spread by the malicious tongues of Donovan's opponents. Donovan had to fight bureaucrats from the army and the State Department all his life. His most severe foe was none other than another legendary figure,that of J.Edgar Hoover, the chief of the FBI, who accused Donovan of being soft on Communists.
Donovan was a hero of WW1 and was decorated for bravery on the battlefields of France. He was given his nickname "Wild Bill" by his men because he put them through grueling training for battle.
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Format: Hardcover
To say you served under him was to hitch your wagon to a movie star. If there ever was a 20th century man's man, that man was Wild Bill Donovan, a name given to him affectionately by the men who served under the Medal of Honor Winner and Colonel of the Rain Bow Division during World War I. Author Douglas Waller has captured the essence of the man in this REMARKABLE biography of one of America's truly REMARKABLE men. Born Irish on the wrong side of the tracks as far as Buffalo, New York society was concerned, Donovan used brains and charm to work his way to the top. Trained as a Columbia University lawyer, this man perhaps more than any other could be called a master of networking.

He knew who, and what he had to know in order to high speed it to wherever he wanted to go, and to the top is where he wanted to be. There would be tradeoffs all along the way. He would marry wealth, join the right clubs, and make the acquaintance of all the right people. He would risk life and limb during World War I, and be idolized by his men. It would be left to others to boast of him and persuade a reluctant army to award Donovan the Medal of Honor some four years after the war ended. Others wanted to perhaps Court Martial him for the same actions.

There are 389 pages of narrative divided into 34 chapters, followed by 51 pages of source notes. The 17 page index has also been done well. Douglas Waller the author spent six years reporting on the CIA for both Newsweek and Time Magazine. He has penned five additional books involving the military and foreign policy. It is obvious in reading this book that he has taken a liking to the man we now call the father of American intelligence, and it shows right through in this work.
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Format: Hardcover
I wanted to take just a moment to post a note regards to the latest work by Douglas Waller entitled "Wild Bill Donovan," which is being published by Free Press, a division
of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

My take on his book is that the book has been both well researched and written and that it should also to be on the 'must read' list of everyone who has even a passing interest in the OSS and the man who ran the organization. The book touches on many personal aspects of Donovan's life, as well as on a number of the other details of Donovan's career besides just as head of the OSS. I for one especially found the
information concerning the time Donovan spent as Ambassador to Thailand and what he
was secretly sent there to do by President Eisenhower most enlightening.

On a scale of 1-10 I'd rate this book a solid 10.
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