Office of Strategic Services (OSS)


Office of Strategic Services (OSS) interview with Mr. Jim Fletcher. This veteran battled the Japanese behind enemy lines during WorldWar II. The interview is courtesy of the Witness to War Foundation The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was a U.S. covert intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was the predecessor of the CIA.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a military order on 13 June 1942, to collect and analyze strategic information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. From 1943-1945, the OSS played a major role in training Kuomintang troops in China and Burma, helping to arm, train and supply resistance movements, including Mao Zedong’s Red Army in China, and in other areas occupied by the Axis Powers. The men and women of the OSS provided valuable intelligence, by infiltrating the Nazi hierarchy  and directly sabotaging their plans. The names of all OSS personnel and documents of their OSS service, previously a closely guarded secret, were released by the US National Archives in August 2008. Among the 24,000 names released were those of Julia Child, Moe Berg, and John Ford. For many of us those names may not ring a bell, but back then they were famous people.

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services purchased Soviet code and cipher material (or Finnish information on them) from a Finnish Army officer. This codebook was used as part of the Venona decryption effort, which helped uncover large-scale Soviet espionage in North America. However, the CIA and NSA archives have no surviving copies of this material.

The demise of the OSS came on September 20, 1945, when President Truman signed an executive order which came into effect as of October 1, 1945. Thus the functions of the OSS were split between the Department of State and the Department of War.  The State Department received the Research and Analysis Branch of OSS which was renamed the Interim Research and Intelligence Service. In January 1946, President Truman created the Central Intelligence Group (which was the direct precursor to the CIA. Next, the National Security Act of 1947 established the United States’s first permanent peacetime intelligence agency, the CIA, which then took up the functions of the Office of Strategic Services.



Smith, Bradley F. The Shadow Warriors: OSS and the Origins of the CIA (New York: Basic, 1983)

Dunlop, Richard. Donovan: America’s Master Spy (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1982)

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