Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency

Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency

Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency

Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency


As conceived, this history was aimed at satisfying the need of employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially new or young professional ones, for a comprehensive and detailed account of the agency's origin. It was completed in 1975, classified SECRET, and reproduced in sets of two volumes each.

The security classification has recently been reviewed, and the manuscript, shorn of no more than six typewritten pages of material, is now declassified. Thus released for leisurely reading outside the office, and printed in one volume, this history should better serve its original purpose.

It has, of course, been re-edited. For reasons of accuracy and clarity, and because of changes in judgment, I have added or deleted some words, phrases, and a sentence or two in the text. I have been permitted by the family of the late James Grafton Rogers to add a score of lines from his unpublished diary. I have not felt it necessary to revise or rewrite this history, although I know it would read differently here and there if it had been written at the end, rather than the beginning, of the last several years of accusations, revelations, investigations, and reforms that have centered on the CIA and American intelligence generally.

The work has not otherwise been revised. There are, consequently, three matters which particularly need updating here as a result of additional research or recent developments.

The first of these is the unexpected decision of President Hoover in 1929 not to appoint the then Colonel Donovan as Attorney General in the new administration. The text says (p. 26) that the reason had “something to do with Donovan as a Catholic.” It is clear from Hoover's own handwritten statements, which I have reviewed at the Hoover Library in Iowa, that the explanation is complex, personal, and even contradictory rather than simple as the text suggests and as has hitherto been proposed.

While Hoover and Donovan were reputedly long-standing personal friends, the new President felt for a variety of reasons touching Donovan—his “immaturity of mind, ” administrative inexperience, pressure tactics involving religion, philosophical and policy differences on prohibition, and political liabilities agitating powerful senators—that Donovan could not be brought into the Cabinet either as Attorney General or as Secretary of War, an alternative position often considered open to him.

At the same time, however, Hoover offered Donovan, as a substitute, the governor-generalship of the Philippines, which was, wrote Hoover, “the greatest position at the disposal of the President—greater than any Cabinet position”; but he felt he was doing so “at great personal risk in case through immaturity he (Donovan) should fail.” Clearly this was a decision which needs greater study than can be given here.

A second subject requiring comment is the role of Sir William S. Stephenson as Britain's intelligence chief in the United States in World War II. His story was first told in H. Montgomery Hyde's The Quiet Canadian or, in its American edition, Room 3603. It has been recently retold, more successfully but not more reliably, in A Man Called INTREPID by the homonymously-named William Stevenson. The story, an impressive and fascinating one, has never been told, however, on the basis of publicly available primary sources, and consequently many claims or details remain undocumented. Two of these need mention here.

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