WW II SpyWar: – J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) vs. William J. Donovan (OSS)

" ... Hoover was particularly incensed that Donovan was close to William Stephenson, Churchill’s leading spy in the United States, who had long been an irritant to Hoover. He maintained a dossier filled with dirt about Donovan’s unseemly ties to British intelligence as well as his flagrant womanizing, while the O.S.S. chief accumulated reports that the F.B.I. director was homosexual. ... "

 

Swashbuckling Spymaster (Excerpt)

By JENNET CONANT
New York Times | February 11, 2011

Re: WILD BILL DONOVAN: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage, By Douglas Waller,  Illustrated. 466 pp., Free Press, $30.

... “The feuding fiefdoms” of the Army, Navy and State Department had little sympathy for Roosevelt’s new spymaster, but Donovan’s “most implacable foe” was J. Edgar Hoover, the ambitious director of the F.B.I., who resented the brash interloper’s meddling in his bureau, and who regarded him from the outset as a threat to his power. The central villain of “Wild Bill Donovan,” Hoover was a bachelor who still lived at home with his mother, obsessed over cleanliness and was sensitive about his height. Add to this that he was untalented at sports, earned his law degree at night school and got a draft exemption from the Army, and it’s easy to see why he felt competitive with the macho Donovan.

As the two rival intelligence chiefs aggressively expanded their empires, their run-ins grew more frequent. Waller, the author of several books on the military, writes that “it was not long before both men began keeping files on each other.” Hoover was particularly incensed that Donovan was close to William Stephenson, Churchill’s leading spy in the United States, who had long been an irritant to Hoover. He maintained a dossier filled with dirt about Donovan’s unseemly ties to British intelligence as well as his flagrant womanizing, while the O.S.S. chief accumulated reports that the F.B.I. director was homosexual.

Roosevelt, who liked playing his top advisers off one another, read Hoover’s “poison-pen memos” about Donovan’s unconventional, and often undiplomatic, methods, but refused to dismantle the fledgling spy agency. The president had been enamored with intrigue since his youth, and enjoyed reading inside information and scandalous tidbits from around the world, describing Donovan favorably to friends as “my secret legs.”

During the war years, while Donovan traversed the globe developing his spy network and becoming an influential player in international affairs, Hoover remained in Washington plotting and scheming. It was not hard to find fault with the overreaching Donovan, who was spread way too thin, a nd was seemingly willing to try almost anything; even his own aides worried that he jumped “at too many jobs and offbeat ideas.” ..

By late 1944, some O.S.S. intelligence failures, like a bungled operation in Italy, began to leak to the press, and there was speculation — stoked by Hoover — that Donovan and his O.S.S. were on their way out. 

During the war years, while Donovan traversed the globe developing his spy network and becoming an influential player in international affairs, Hoover remained in Washington plotting and scheming. It was not hard to find fault with the overreaching Donovan, who was spread way too thin, and was seemingly willing to try almost anything; even his own aides worried that he jumped “at too many jobs and offbeat ideas.”  

Soon, as Waller demonstrates, Donovan was irritating almost everyone, running roughshod over the military, and leaving a long trail of bruised egos behind him. By late 1944, some O.S.S. intelligence failures, like a bungled operation in Italy, began to leak to the press, and there was speculation — stoked by Hoover — that Donovan and his O.S.S. were on their way out. 

None of this helped Donovan when it came to the most ambitious initiative he wanted Roosevelt to approve — a future central intelligence agency with himself at the helm. Usually one step ahead of his adversaries, the O.S.S. chief was caught short in early 1945 when his secret proposal was leaked to the conservative Washington Times-Herald, and savaged as a “super spy system” with plans for a powerful domestic police force on a par with the Gestapo. Donovan tried to counter the negative press with a media blitz of his own but the damage was done, and his hopes of making the O.S.S. a permanent postwar institution were dead. 

Donovan blamed Hoover for the leak and instigated a full-scale criminal investigation to find proof. He remained bitter about the incident in later years, convinced the F.B.I. director sabotaged him in order to ensure his own position as spy czar. What Donovan never wanted to admit, however, was that in his own ruthless drive for power he had alienated too many powerful constituencies, and had left himself and his agency vulnerable to attack. When Roosevelt died, he lost his protector. The newly sworn-in Harry Truman, busy downsizing the government, did not think twice about abolishing the O.S.S. and dividing its functions between the War and State Departments. After his four years of dedicated service, Donovan was dismissed with a perfunctory form letter. ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/books/review/Conant-t.html?src=twrhp