OSS – the invisible front of American intelligence during World War II

US State Department, Army, Navy, and Treasury… Each department had its own intelligence service in the early 1940s. But there was a lack of coherence and efficiency. On June 13, 1942, a single Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was created, following the example of the British MI6.

Confusion in the collection of information… This is what the United States faced when it entered World War II. And to follow the strategy of the victorious country in the fight against Hitler’s Germany, it was necessary to have an intelligence service that worked as well as, if not better than, the British MI6. Fortunately, there was something to start from, since intelligence services were already in the State Department, Army, Navy, and Treasury. But they didn’t exchange information with each other. The White House decided to strengthen the “weak link” with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). And the advice on what the organization was to become was given by the English millionaire spy William Stephenson.

Triumph of strategy

Perhaps one of the biggest successes of the OSS was its work in Switzerland. In 1943, the German anti-fascist and diplomat Fritz Kolbe sought contact with British intelligence. However, the British were afraid of his excessive idealism and refusal of royalties. OSS agent Allen Dulles (the future director of the CIA) was the next person the anti-Nazi fighter turned to. Kolbe gave the Americans 16 copies of top-secret documents. It was a detailed analysis of the mood of the Reich, the subversive work against the Nazis, and the negotiations behind Hitler’s back about the future of the German nation. Then it was recognized that American intelligence was more successful than the actions of the British. Since MI6 and OSS worked closely together during the Second World War, the Americans, of course, shared Kolbe’s exclusive information with the British. But in their hearts, the US intelligence officers were elated, as they were more successful and were able to bypass the British “on the turn.”


Among the employees who were recruited in the OSS, there are quite well-known names now. Among them, for example, Julia Child, who later became the author of cookbooks and the prototype of the heroine of the film “Julie and Julia” (2009). Julia was played by Meryl Streep.

There were, of course, foreigners in the ranks of the US special services. One of them was a native of tsarist Russia, Prince Sergei Obolensky. He received the order for preventing (together with the partisans of France) the explosion of the power plant, which the Germans planned to destroy during the retreat.

Irish-American film director John Ford also served in the OSS. He is known for the films “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Searchers” (1956), and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962). He was awarded six Academy Awards, including four in the category “Best Director.”

After World War II

The mystery of why the OSS, despite the success, ceased to exist is revealed simply. On April 12, 1945, US President Franklin Roosevelt died. He was succeeded by Harry Truman – an ardent opponent of his predecessor. Everything that was done by Roosevelt was changed. Against this background, the Office of Strategic Services was also dissolved. Its functions were divided in half by the State Department and the Pentagon. In 1946, Truman established the Central Intelligence Group, which in 1947 became the US CIA, headquartered in Langley.

Sometimes, out of ignorance, there can be confusion between the CIA and the FBI. Unlike the FBI (transcript – Federal Bureau of Investigation), which is responsible for internal security, the CIA (transcript – Central Intelligence Agency) is mainly engaged in foreign intelligence, partly responsible for domestic intelligence and counterintelligence. However, the National Security Agency is responsible for intelligence abroad. Among the specializations – electronic intelligence. Today, the scope of American intelligence services (almost all of them) is so broad that it often intersects with the interests of a particular country. In particular, in January, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Alexei Navalny and his story with poisoning attracted the attention of the US president. Joe Biden instructed the country’s intelligence agencies to analyze all the information to “hold Russia accountable.”

Today, a direct descendant of one of the OSS units is the “Special Operations Division” of the CIA. And, by the way, uses the same tip design on its insignia, as a tribute to its indirect origin.

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Graduated from Stanford University. Previously, he worked in various free news media. Currently, it is a columnist of the economy section in the Free News editors.
Function: Reporter
Yuliya Maltseva

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