1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very fascinating personal history.
, May 15, 2011
Edward Hymoff's book should be of great interest to anyone curious about the history of the intelligence community. He was known primarily as a TV executive, but during the war he did espionage. This volume is as revealing an insider's view of the Office of Strategic Services as any I know of and also quite entertaining.
The OSS, apparently, was a hastily constructed affair, getting started entirely too late to enter the war with any foresight. Its agents had to essentially learn the trade while they were on the battlefield. The OSS's successor the CIA is known for hiring disciplined professionals. The OSS, on the other hand often recruited malcontents, adventurers, and eccentrics. This leads to some darkly humorous anecdotes.
Hymoff is frank about the Agency's early involvement with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, and its American offshoot. They managed to successfully construct a fifth column to cooperate with Allied troops when the invasion of Mussolini's Italy finally began, though this required the US government to release and then coddle Lucky Luciano. A less successful mission involved attempts to infiltrate Tiso's Slovakia using Slovakian born Americans (including Catholic priests) as agents. Ultimately they succeeded in stirring up the Slovak National Uprising, but the cost in human life, Hymoff demonstrates was far greater then what was accomplished.
This is one of those real life stories that manage to trump novels and films in sheer incredibly. The parts about the exploits of American and American supported guerillas in Greece, and the use of seductive "honey-traps" to get information from exiles in technically neutral Istanbul read like something out of Rambo or James Bond respectively, but Hymoff provides endnotes and a bibliography to prove that it is all very real. Another fascinating tidbit: the prime opposition to the establishment of an overseas intelligence agency came from the FBI, which didn't want its own status as America's "eyes and ears" challenged. The FBI continued to have jurisdiction over Latin America throughout the entire war.
Hymoff doesn't say whether he remained in the game as the OSS was dismantled and its key players absorbed into the newly formed CIA. His own pragmatic opposition to the Vietnam War is interesting in light of the passages of this book that emphasize OSS support for Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese. For those interested in unraveling the riddles of the twentieth century's answer to the "Great Game" this volume will elucidate.