Cover image for Operatives, spies, and saboteurs : the unknown story of the men and women of World War II's OSS
Operatives, spies, and saboteurs : the unknown story of the men and women of World War II's OSS
O'Donnell, Patrick K., 1969-
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xviii, 365 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D810.S7 O36 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A history of World War II espionage and covert operations activities, presented from the perspective of OSS agents, recounts numerous secret missions that contributed to the war's outcome.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

O'Donnell, author of two books on U.S. elite units in World War II's European and Pacific theaters, turns to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and as in his previous books, writes from the perspective of the men--and in the OSS, some women--on the front lines. For the OSS, those lines were largely in German-occupied Europe, where operatives gathered intelligence and provided weapons, communications, and leadership to a wide variety of resistance organizations. The danger from the ruthless and frequently effective German forces was great, particularly for the local personnel. So, too, was the risk of being caught in factional quarrels in France and Italy and outright fratricidal slaughter in the Balkans. O'Donnell doesn't denigrate the OSS as do some other historians, who prefer other agencies and services that had turf fights with it throughout the war. Instead, he argues persuasively that the OSS made both material and psychological impacts on European resistance and, through it, on the Germans. --Roland Green Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

No longer satisfied with gentlemanly intelligence gathering, with the advent of WWII the United States changed its espionage policy and opted for more daring tactics like decoding secret messages and detonating exploding cigars. Under the guidance of decorated WWI hero William "Wild Bill" Donovan, the Office of Special Services, the CIA's predecessor, assembled a motley assortment of agents who set the stage for the Allied armies' most important missions, like the invasion of North Africa and the storming of Normandy. Through first person narratives from a slew of OSS operatives, O'Donnell explores the thrilling world of spying before satellites and computer hacking boxed agents into cubicles. The WWII OSS hauled hardened criminals out of jail to burgle enemy embassies and culled spies from the Free French who fled to England and North Africa. The sophisticated seductress "Cynthia" used her sex appeal to gather ciphers for breaking Polish, Italian and Vichy codes from high-ranking military men. Elsewhere, Virginia Hall supplied the French Resistance with arms and continually sabotaged the Gestapo while limping with a wooden-leg. The book also chronicles psychological operations by the Allied "Sauerkraut agents" who demoralized German troops by spreading rumors of defeat, disease and desperation. The chapter on the OSS' covert weapons, like exploding baseballs and umbrella pistols, vividly recalls 007's pre-mission encounters with "Q." This book is far more than a simple historical survey and reads like a satisfying cloak and dagger yarn, making it a good choice both history and mystery buffs. (Mar. 10) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

In this treatment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA, O'Donnell (Into the Rising Sun: In Their Own Words; World War II's Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat) focuses on OSS activities in Europe and Africa, the main theaters of espionage operations. While there is some narrative to provide context and understanding, the bulk of the book consists of excerpts from official reports and personal accounts. This gives the flavor of being in the action not provided by other histories, with their emphasis on leaders at distant headquarters. Included are many interesting stories, such as the Finns offering to sell intelligence about America's secretive wartime ally, the USSR. Endnotes and a useful glossary are included, but illustrations and maps are not. Those interested in this subject should also read Elizabeth P. McIntosh's Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS. The web site for the OSS Society is Suitable for all collections but not a necessary purchase. (Index not seen.)-Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Spy School
2 R&D and "The Campus"
3 Intrigue in North Africa and Iberia
4 Up the Boot
5 On Hitler's Doorstep: The OSS in Switzerland
6 Into the Balkans: Yugoslavia and Albania
7 "Smashem": Greece
8 From Frogmen to SEALs: The OSS Maritime Unit (MU)
9 Infiltrating France
10 Paving the Way for Overlord 160
11 Dragoon
12 X-2: Counterespionage
13 Approaching the Reich
14 Catastrophe in Czechoslovakia
15 Psych Ops: Morale Operations (MO) and Origins of Psychological Warfare
16 Penetrating the Reich
17 Backroom Negotiations: Sweden and Norway
18 Northern Italy
19 Final Missions and Conclusion
Selected Bibliography