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OSS Oral History Project

 Collection
Identifier: GTM-220705

Scope and Contents

The OSS Oral History Project collection comprises the records of a Georgetown University-based project funded by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Center for the Study of Intelligence. In 1996 and 1997, under the leadership of Dr. Christof Mauch, a team of scholars conducted oral history interviews with over thirty former members of the Office of Strategic Services, a World War Two American intelligence agency. Interviewees included former CIA director Richard Helms, US Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, and chef Julia Child. The collection is split into four series: the first contains background materials relating to the project, including project proposals, correspondence between Mauch, project scholars, and interviewees, and records relating to project expenses. The second series, containing edited and bound interview transcripts, draft transcripts, materials relating to the interviewees and their time in OSS, and correspondence between project scholars and interviewees comprises the bulk of the collection. This series is arranged alphabetically by last name of interviewee. The third series is made up of interview audio cassette tapes, also arranged alphabetically. The fourth and final series contains computer disks including digital material relating to the interviews. This collection will provide material for researchers interested in the history of OSS, not only for information about its management and strategic missions, but also for insight into its day-to-day operation from a range of different perspectives within the agency. The collection will also be useful for research on the history of US intelligence more broadly, women’s experiences in intelligence, World War Two, and US foreign relations.

Dates

  • 1997 - 1998

Historical Note

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was a wartime intelligence agency of the U.S. federal government that existed from 1942 to 1945, under the leadership of William J. Donovan (1883-1959).

OSS was the successor to Donovan’s Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI), the US’s first peacetime, non-departmental intelligence organization created on 11 July 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt intended to coordinate intelligence services through the COI, which had until then been the preserve of the military and the Department of State. After the US entered the Second World War in December 1941 the government reconsidered the role of the COI and eventually on 13 June 1942 President Roosevelt divided the COI in two. One half became the OSS, placed under the control of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During the war, OSS was active across multiple theaters, including Nazi-occupied France and Yugoslavia, North Africa, China, Thailand and Burma. OSS provided support to military operations through a number of different functions. Some 900 scholars employed by OSS produced reports through strategic research and analysis. Special operations campaigns provided support to guerilla campaigns especially in Nazi-occupied zones, working closely alongside the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). OSS also carried out disinformation campaigns, cultivated networks of secret agents, and developed its own counterintelligence branch, X-2. At its peak, OSS employed nearly 13,000 staff, three-quarters of whom were military personnel, mainly from the US Army. OSS also employed 4500 women.

President Truman dissolved the OSS as of October 1, 1945, as part of demobilization efforts after the conclusion of the war. Many of the components of OSS were reorganized within the Central Intelligence Agency, created by the National Security Act in 1947. Former OSS members made up a large number of CIA staff, including four CIA directors.

[Source: Michael Warner, The Office of Strategic Services: America's First Intelligence Agency (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency, 2002)]

Biographical Note

Born February 9, 1960, in Sindelfingen, Germany, Dr. Christof Mauch is a German historian and Professor and Chair for American Cultural History and Transatlantic Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

Mauch studied History, Religion, Theology, Philosophy, Drama, and Languages as an Undergraduate and Graduate student at the University of Tübingen, King’s College London, Leo Baack College London, and the Universidad de Salamanca. He received a doctorate in Modern Literature from the University of Tübingen in 1990, and habilitated in Modern history at the University of Cologne in 1998.

Mauch served as an assistant professor at the University of Tübingen (1990-1994), the University of Bonn (1994-1996), before directing the OSS Oral History Project at Georgetown University from 1997 to 1998. Mauch served as director of the German Historical Institute, Washington D.C., from 1999 until 2007. He then moved to LMU where he has also served as the director of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society since 2009. He has published books on the peace movement, Swiss poetry, US Intelligence during World War Two, and Environmental History.

[Sources: "Prof. Dr. Christof Mauch," American History, Culture and Society, LMU, accessed July 11, 2022: https://www.en.amerikanistik.uni-muenchen.de/personen/professoren/mauch1/index.html; "Prof. Dr. Christof Mauch," Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, accessed July 11, 2022: https://www.carsoncenter.uni-muenchen.de/staff_fellows/directors/christof_mauch/index.html]

Extent

4.4 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Title
OSS Oral History Project
Author
Adam Teece
Date
2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Contact:
Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057