For thirty-two months during World War II, the mission of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Bern, Switzerland, was an American observation post at Hitler's doorstep. It transmitted thousands of messages to Washington, many of them bearing evidence of the personal involvement of Allen Dulles, mission chief. OSS Bern constituted a virtual Central Intelligence Agency in itself, with operations ranging from the gathering of battle order information, to running espionage networks in enemy territory, to orchestrating unconventional military operations. Dulles ventured far beyond the usual domain of intelligence, offering his own views on grand strategy and psychological warfare.
The historical significance of the Bern episode is multifaceted. We see in action one of the important figures of twentieth-century American statecraft at the height of his powers. The messages also offer a new perspective on the history of World War II, providing rich detail and insight and a bridge between diplomacy and intelligence. The Bern operations and the views of Dulles deserve a place in the final analysis of the political/military course and outcome of the conflict. With regard to the evolution of American intelligence, the Bern documents indicate the emergence of institutional cohesiveness and proficiency in tradecraft. One stands at the moment of OSS transition from old-fashioned political intelligence-gathering to more sophisticated techniques of the modern era.