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The Shadow War Against Hitler: The covert operations of America’s wartime secretintelligence service Columbia University Press Christof Mauch


30th April 2011 History Books 6 Comments

Surveying the expanding conflict in Europe during one of his famous fireside chats in 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt ominously warned that “we know of other methods, new methods of attack. The Trojan horse. The fifth column that betrays a nation unprepared for treachery. Spies, saboteurs, and traitors are the actors in this new strategy.” Having identified a new type of war — a shadow war — being perpetrated by Hitler’s Germany, FDR decided to fight fire with fire, authorizing the formation of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to organize and oversee covert operations. Based on an extensive analysis of OSS records, including the vast trove of records released by the CIA in the 1980s and ’90s, as well as a new set of interviews with OSS veterans conducted by the author and a team of American scholars from 1995 to 1997, The Shadow War Against Hitler is the full story of America’s far-flung secret intelligence apparatus during World War II.

In addition to its responsibilities generating, processing, and interpreting intelligence information, the OSS orchestrated all manner of dark operations, including extending feelers to anti-Hitler elements, infiltrating spies and sabotage agents behind enemy lines, and implementing propaganda programs. Planned and directed from Washington, the anti-Hitler campaign was largely conducted in Europe, especially through the OSS’s foreign outposts in Bern and London. A fascinating cast of characters made the OSS run: William J. Donovan, one of the most decorated individuals in the American military who became the driving force behind the OSS’s genesis; Allen Dulles, the future CIA chief who ran the Bern office, which he called “the big window onto the fascist world”; a veritable pantheon of Ivy League academics who were recruited to work for the intelligence services; and, not least, Roosevelt himself. A major contribution of the book is the story of how FDR employed Hitler’s former propaganda chief, Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstengl, as a private spy.

More than a record of dramatic incidents and daring personalities, this book adds significantly to our understanding of how the United States fought World War II. It demonstrates that the extent, and limitations, of secret intelligence information shaped not only the conduct of the war but also the face of the world that emerged from the shadows.

A thrilling look into the work of the first central secret service of the U.S.

(Stuttgarter Nachrichten (of the German edition) 3/1/05)

This excellent book…is well translated and boasts impressive research….a fine job of telling the OSS story.

(Library Journal 6/1/05)

[Mauch] offers valuable information concerning the ‘Sauerkrauts,’ German POWs who volunteered to infiltrate German lines to spread defeatism among Wehrmacht units and the SS formations in northern Italy. This is a valuable addition for graduate students and professionals in the field. Recommended.

(Choice 8/19/05)

[Mauch] succeeds in transforming his meticulous archival research into a readable and thought provoking monograph. This volume will provide significant new data for scholars and laymen alike on the OSS and its ‘shadow war’ against the Nazis.

(Jewish Book World 1/1/2006)

Mauch has not only written a superb account of OSS activities during the war, but he has also woven into his narrative the political, diplomatic, and military dynamics that framed key decisions…. It is essential reading for students of intelligence and strategy alike and would make a fine addition to the professional library.

(Raymond Millen International History Review 3/1/06)

A valuable contribution to an understanding of the postwar world.

(Freie Universitat Berlin Journal of Military History )

The Shadow War Against Hitler is an excellent read.

(Mitchell McNaylor Military Review )

Christof Mauch’s book… is a brilliant volume that expertly chronicles the epic saga of the OSS’s robust intelligence warfare against the Third Reich, with vivid narratives and critical analysis skillfully intermingled throughout the text… This is a must read for anyone who studies America’s war against Nazi Germany.

(Maochun Yu, United States Naval Academy American Historical Review )

The most authoritative single volume on the subject… Mauch brilliantly integrates both the research/analytical as well as operational histories of the OSS.

(Rorin M. Platt American Diplomacy.org )

A well-researched and balanced study.

(Steve Hewitt History: The Journal of the Historical Association )

Scholars of the Second World War should look to Mauch’s work to provide a template for analysis of this important subject.

(Patricia Kollander H-Net )

The product of a very careful examination of recently declassified OSS records combined with… extensive interviewing of participants in the events. It will, therefore, serve for years as the most reliable study of the work of the OSS as an organization and its work against Germany in World War II.

(Gerhard L. Weinberg, www.intelligence-history.org )

A thrilling look into the work of the first central secret service of the U.S.

3/1/05)

This excellent book…is well translated and boasts impressive research….a fine job of telling the OSS story.

[Mauch] offers valuable information concerning the ‘Sauerkrauts,’ German POWs who volunteered to infiltrate German lines to spread defeatism among Wehrmacht units and the SS formations in northern Italy. This is a valuable addition for graduate students and professionals in the field. Recommended.

[Mauch] succeeds in transforming his meticulous archival research into a readable and thought provoking monograph. This volume will provide significant new data for scholars and laymen alike on the OSS and its ‘shadow war’ against the Nazis.

Mauch has not only written a superb account of OSS activities during the war, but he has also woven into his narrative the political, diplomatic, and military dynamics that framed key decisions…. It is essential reading for students of intelligence and strategy alike and would make a fine addition to the professional library.

A valuable contribution to an understanding of the postwar world.

The Shadow War Against Hitler is an excellent read.

Christof Mauch’s book… is a brilliant volume that expertly chronicles the epic saga of the OSS’s robust intelligence warfare against the Third Reich, with vivid narratives and critical analysis skillfully intermingled throughout the text… This is a must read for anyone who studies America’s war against Nazi Germany.

The most authoritative single volume on the subject… Mauch brilliantly integrates both the research/analytical as well as operational histories of the OSS.

A well-researched and balanced study.

Scholars of the Second World War should look to Mauch’s work to provide a template for analysis of this important subject.

The Shadow War Against Hitler: The covert operations of America’s wartime secret intelligence service










  • 6 responses to "The Shadow War Against Hitler: The covert operations of America’s wartime secretintelligence service Columbia University Press Christof Mauch"

  • jorge robert
    13:22 on April 30th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    As a student of the Second World War, I simply had to read this treatise on the OSS, which was dissolved at the end of the War. It took the U.S. several years to gear up to form the CIA, but as many know, some of the early CIA top echelon came from the OSS. And where did the OSS get its early operatives? They came from the top levels of American business, society, and old school networks–in short the “real” Americans who own this country (recall the film “The Good Shepherd” with Matt Damon, which is about the early OSS? In a scene from that film, Damon’s character goes to the Jersey shore to recruit an Italian-American (played by Joe Pesci) in the early 1960s. JP’s character asks, in short, all of the immigrant groups have something to gather around–what do you, the Yale graduate, the old-school boys have? “We have the United States of America” is the answer. And so it probably is today, or at least before the last administration–and probably is so deep within the present CIA.

    On yhr original book’s dust jacket, the question is asked, “What did Stewart Alsop, John Birch, Julia Child, Allen Dulles, John Gardner, Arthur Goldberg….and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. have in common?” They were in the OSS! Wild Bill Donovan may have recruited just about anyone for the OSS, even avowed Marxists and Communists, in the drive to defeat Fascism, but the effects of his methods linger on today worldwide. This book is a well-documented, well-written, and important history lesson. As the old saying goes, “you reap what you sow”–and we are still reaping what the OSS did during the Second World War. Any student of history, American history, the War, and international politics (which includes war, or politics by other means) would do well to read this book and heed the inherent warnings within; it was written as the edifice of nationalism in the United States began to wither, in the early 1970s, and we are seeing the effects of these attempts to further erode our national sovereignty now. The freewheeling OSS may have been part of the beginning of that destruction–or, at least, deconstruction.

  • HPBlue
    23:09 on April 30th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Recent archival research has partly superseded “OSS,” but it remains a valuable survey of America’s main undercover service in World War II. As a pioneering history, some facts inevitably have been supplemented and/or corrected, but the overall outline presented here is quite valid. The OSS collected intelligence and executed some useful operations, along with a few blunders (e.g. Allen Dulles’s peace feelers to Nazi Germany, which outraged the USSR and briefly imperiled the alliance). But their efforts were largely peripheral to the major ground, air and sea campaigns. The book’s main value now may be to suggest topics and raise questions for future research. It also contains a more subtle message in documenting the idealism and (often) progressive sympathies of citizen-soldiers dedicated to fighting Japanese and German tyrannies. Smith’s 1972 publication reflected the backlash against the CIA and US militarism during the Vietnam War era. His vision of a clandestine outfit which actually promoted positive change, and respected expertise, offers hope in our current time of troubles. A CIA that routinely violates the Geneva Conventions with torture and kidnapping, and chickenhawk officials who pervert information-gathering in their rush to disaster overseas, are unworthy heirs of OSS veterans and the leaders of their time.

  • KarlMarx
    3:10 on May 2nd, 2011
    Reply to comment

    FDR seemed to have a natural interest in spies. Before World War II started he had contacted William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan and asked him to set up a foreign intelligence agency along the lines of what the British were doing. He formed just what FDR wanted and it was called the Office of Strategic Services, a non-descript name that could have meant anything. ==The OSS was a crazy agency that grew like crazy, eventually reaching some 10,000 people. All in all, the OSS provided some useful intelligence. They performed some useful operations during the war. They trained some very good people. This book will give you all the details. ==This whole concept was done over the intense opposition of J. Edgar Hoover who fought with every skill he had to prevent what he considered competition with the FBI. ==After FDR died, Truman and Donovan didn’t get along all tht well. Truman shut down the OSS, but shortly thereafter realized that the Navy, the Army and the FBI along with all the others didn’t play well together so he set up the CIA a few months later. ==Of course 9/11 taught us that none of them play well together now.

  • loxoloxox
    7:57 on May 3rd, 2011
    Reply to comment

    As a female veteran of the Korean conflict this book was a wonderful part of American history and the part played by both young men and women who were willing to take chances. Most young people as well as older folks know very little about this part of history. The stories were well written and really make the reader reflect on how that part of the war was won!

  • Markita Heras
    2:30 on May 4th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book is a must for anyone interested in the part Intelligence plays in the history of
    our country- and its ramifications in the rest of the world . It is well researched, factual,
    and presented to the readers clearly. Not only does it throw light on the importance of the
    work done by the OSS during WW2, but lessons can be learned about the present time, especially
    about the relationship between the different branches of our Intelligence System , as well
    as that of Great Britain’s . It is a great reference book, as well as a challenging one.
    The roles played by the different heads of the Intelligence Agencies , even to petty
    competing among them, are quite interesting – and give much food for thought. Recommended
    reading , easy but revealing .

  • bgetch
    7:37 on May 5th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Although I believe most of the info within is factual, I also believe the author has a political agenda. Makes me wonder whats been left out. No shortage of detail. Still a good read.

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