Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage

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He was one of America’s most exciting and secretive generals—the man Franklin Roosevelt made his top spy in World War II. A mythic figure whose legacy is still intensely debated, “Wild Bill” Donovan was director of the Office of Strategic Services (the country’s first national intelligence agency) and the father of today’s CIA. Donovan introduced the nation to the dark arts of covert warfare on a scale it had never seen before. Now, veteran journalist Douglas Waller has mined government and private archives throughout the United States and England, drawn on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents, and interviewed scores of Donovan’s relatives, friends, and associates to produce a riveting biography of one of the most powerful men in modern espionage.

William Joseph Donovan’s life was packed with personal drama. The son of poor Irish Catholic parents, he married into Protestant wealth and fought heroically in World War I, where he earned the nickname “Wild Bill” for his intense leadership and the Medal of Honor for his heroism. After the war he made millions as a Republican lawyer on Wall Street until FDR, a Democrat, tapped him to be his strategic intelligence chief. A charismatic leader, Donovan was revered by his secret agents. Yet at times he was reckless—risking his life unnecessarily in war zones, engaging in extramarital affairs that became fodder for his political enemies—and he endured heartbreaking tragedy when family members died at young ages.

Wild Bill Donovan reads like an action-packed spy thriller, with stories of daring young men and women in his OSS sneaking behind enemy lines for sabotage, breaking into Washington embassies to steal secrets, plotting to topple Adolf Hitler, and suffering brutal torture or death when they were captured by the Gestapo. It is also a tale of political intrigue, of infighting at the highest levels of government, of powerful men pitted against one another. Donovan fought enemies at home as often as the Axis abroad. Generals in the Pentagon plotted against him.

J. Edgar Hoover had FBI agents dig up dirt on him. Donovan stole secrets from the Soviets before the dawn of the Cold War and had intense battles with Winston Churchill and British spy chiefs over foreign turf. Separating fact from fiction, Waller investigates the successes and the occasional spectacular failures of Donovan’s intelligence career.

It makes for a gripping and revealing portrait of this most controversial spymaster.
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About the author

Douglas Waller is a former correspondent for Newsweek and Time, where he covered the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, White House, and Congress. He is the author of the bestsellers Wild Bill Donovan, Big Red, and The Commandos, as well as critically acclaimed works such as Disciples, the story of four CIA directors who fought for Donovan in World War II, and A Question of Loyalty, a biography of General Billy Mitchell. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Feb 8, 2011
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9781416568056
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Military
History / Military / World War II
Political Science / Intelligence & Espionage
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The battles of World War II were won not only by the soldiers on the front lines, and not only by the generals and admirals, but also by the shadow warriors whose work is captured for the first time in Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs. Thanks to the interviews and narrative skills of Patrick O'Donnell and to recent declassifications, an entire chapter of history can now be revealed. A hidden war -- a war of espionage, intrigue, and sabotage -- played out across the occupied territories of Europe, deep inside enemy lines. Supply lines were disrupted; crucial intelligence was obtained and relayed back to the Allies; resistance movements were organized. Sometimes, impromptu combat erupted; more often, the killing was silent and targeted. The full story of the Office of Strategic Services -- OSS, precursor to the CIA -- is a dramatic final chapter on one of history's most important conflicts.
In a world made unrecognizable by the restrictions placed on the CIA today, OSS played fast and loose. Legendary chief "Wild Bill" Donovan created a formidable organization in short order, recruiting not only the best and brightest, but also the most fearless. His agents, both men and women, relied on guile, sex appeal, brains, and sheer guts to operate behind the lines, often in disguise, always in secret.
Patrick O'Donnell, called "the next Studs Terkel" by bestselling author Hampton Sides, has made it his life's mission to capture untold stories of World War II before the last of its veterans passes away. He has succeeded in extracting stories from the toughest of men, the most elite of soldiers, and, now, the most secretive of all: the men and women of OSS. From former CIA director William Colby, who parachuted into Norway to sever rail lines, to Virginia Hall, who disguised herself as a milkmaid, joined the French Resistance, and became one of Germany's most wanted figures, the stories of OSS are worthy of great fiction. Yet the stories in this book are all true, carefully verified by O'Donnell's painstaking research.
The agents of OSS did not earn public acclaim. There were no highly publicized medal ceremonies. But the full story of OSS reveals crucial work in espionage and sabotage, work that paved the way for the Allied invasions and disrupted the Axis defenses. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs proves that the hidden war was among the most dramatic and important elements of World War II.
The “first” Afghan War, a CIA war in response to 9/11, was directed by the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad. It put Hamid Karzai in power in 88 days. “If you want an insider’s account of the first American-Afghan War, you can’t do better than this…Important reading to understand where we are today” (Library Journal).

From his preparation of the original, post-9/11 war plan, approved by President Bush, through to “final” fleeting victory, Robert Grenier relates the tale of the “southern campaign,” which drove al-Qa’ida and the Taliban from Kandahar, its capital, in an astonishing eighty-eight days.

“With his ringside seat as the senior agency official stationed closest to Afghanistan, Grenier is able to describe meeting by meeting, sometimes phone call after phone call, how events unfolded” (The New York Times). In his gripping account, we meet: General Tommy Franks, who bridles at CIA control of “his” war; General “Jafar Amin,” a gruff Pakistani intelligence officer who saves Grenier from committing career suicide; Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s brilliant ambassador to the US, who tries to warn her government of the al-Qa’ida threat; and Hamid Karzai, the puzzling anti-Taliban insurgent, a man with elements of greatness, petulance, and moods.

With suspense and insight, Grenier details his very personal struggles and triumphs. 88 Days to Kandahar is “an action-packed tale, rich in implication, of the post-9/11 race to unseat the Taliban and rout al-Qaida in Afghanistan” (Kirkus Reviews).
“A fantastic book, one of the very finest accounts of wartime spookery” (The Wall Street Journal)—a spellbinding adventure story of four secret OSS agents who would all later lead the CIA and their daring espionage and sabotage in wartime Europe from the author of the bestselling Wild Bill Donavan.

They are the most famous and controversial directors the CIA has ever had—Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby, and William Casey. Before each of these four men became their country’s top spymaster, they fought in World War II as secret warriors for Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services.

Allen Dulles ran the OSS’s most successful spy operation against the Axis. Bill Casey organized dangerous missions to penetrate Nazi Germany. Bill Colby led OSS commando raids behind the lines in occupied France and Norway. Richard Helms mounted risky intelligence programs against the Russians in the ruins of Berlin. Later, they were the most controversial directors the CIA has ever had. Dulles launched the calamitous operation at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. Helms was convicted of lying to Congress over the CIA’s role in the ousting of President Salvador Allende in Chile. Colby would become a pariah for releasing a report on CIA misdeeds during the 1950s, sixties and early seventies. Casey would nearly bring down the CIA—and Ronald Reagan’s presidency—from a scheme that secretly supplied Nicaragua’s contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran for American hostages in Beirut.

Mining thousands of once-secret World War II documents and interviewing scores, Waller has written a worthy successor to Wild Bill Donovan. “Entertaining and richly detailed” (The Washington Post), Disciples is the story of these four dynamic agents and their daring espionage and sabotage in wartime Europe.
A major addition to the history of the Civil War, Lincoln’s Spies is a riveting account of the secret battles waged by Union agents to save a nation. Filled with espionage, sabotage, and intrigue, it is also a striking portrait of a shrewd president who valued what his operatives uncovered.

Veteran journalist Douglas Waller, who has written ground-breaking intelligence histories, turns his sights on the shadow war of four secret agents for the North—three men and one woman. From the tense days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861 to the surrender at Appomattox four years later, Waller delivers a fast-paced narrative of the heroes—and scoundrels—who informed Lincoln’s generals on the enemy positions for crucial battles and busted up clandestine Rebel networks.

Famed detective Allan Pinkerton mounted a successful covert operation to slip Lincoln through Baltimore before his inauguration to foil an assassination attempt. But he failed as General George McClellan’s spymaster, delivering faulty intelligence reports that overestimated Confederate strength.

George Sharpe, an erudite New York lawyer, succeeded Pinkerton as spymaster for the Union’s Army of the Potomac. Recruiting skilled operatives, some of whom dressed in Rebel uniforms, Sharpe ran highly successful intelligence operations that outpaced anything the enemy could field.

Elizabeth Van Lew, a Virginia heiress who hated slavery and disapproved of secession, was one of Sharpe’s most successful agents. She ran a Union spy ring in Richmond out of her mansion, with dozens of agents feeding her military and political secrets she funneled to General Ulysses S. Grant as his army closed in on the Confederate capital. Van Lew became one of the unsung heroes of the war.

Lafayette Baker was a handsome Union officer with a controversial past, whose agents clashed with Pinkerton’s operatives. The unscrupulous Baker assembled a retinue of disreputable spies, thieves, and prostitutes to root out traitors in Washington, D.C. But he failed at his most important mission: uncovering the threat to Lincoln from John Wilkes Booth and his gang.

Behind these secret operatives was a president, one of our greatest, who was an avid consumer of intelligence and a ruthless aficionado of clandestine warfare, willing to take chances to win the war. Lincoln’s Spies, as Waller vividly depicts in his excellent new book, set the template for the dark arts the CIA would practice in the future.
A hands-on, practical survival guide from retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson—adapted for civilians from actual special forces operations—to eluding pursuers, evading capture, and surviving any dangerous situation.

In today’s increasingly dangerous world, threats to your personal safety are everywhere. From acts of terror to mass shootings, and from the unseen (and sometimes virtual) matrix of everyday crime, danger is no longer confined to dark alleys or unstable regions. Potentially life-threatening circumstances can arise anywhere, anytime, and Clint Emerson—former Navy SEAL—wants you to be prepared.

100 Deadly Skills contains proven self-defense skills, evasion tactics, and immobilizing maneuvers—modified from the world of black ops—to help you take action in numerous “worst case” scenarios from escaping a locked trunk, to making an improvised Taser, to tricking facial recognition software. With easy-to-understand instructions and illustrations, Emerson outlines in detail many life-saving strategies and teaches you how to think and act like a member of the special forces.

This complete course in survival teaches you how to prevent tracking, evade a kidnapping, elude an active shooter, rappel down the side of a building, immobilize a bad guy, protect yourself against cyber-criminals, and much more—all using low-tech to “no-tech” methods. Clear, detailed, and presented in an easy-to-understand and execute format, 100 Deadly Skills is an invaluable resource. Because let’s face it, when danger is imminent, you don’t have time for complicated instructions.
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