OSS Personnel and Activities
When William J. Donovan was tasked with establishing the OSS he recruited many of the people with whom he associated as a successful lawyer, and commandeered facilities for OSS use. He was unconcerned with political repercussions over the latter. One of the properties he commandeered as a training facility was the Congressional Country Club in Maryland. Catoctin Mountain Park was likewise taken over by the OSS as was Milton Hall in England and Santa Catalina Island in California. A training center in Cairo was the former palace of a brother in law of the King. This, coupled with the names of elite businessmen and wealthy American families on the OSS roster led to its being considered a boondoggle by many.
The OSS also faced political sniping by politicians who were unable to discover what the organization was doing, but which spent plenty of money, and those who were simple enemies of the Roosevelt Administration. J. Edgar Hoover hated the organization and kept a close eye on it to ensure that it wasn’t intruding on his own turf. Both the Army and the Navy maintained their own intelligence services and in theory they were supposed to share all intelligence with the OSS, but each was jealous about guarding its assets. MacArthur effectively kept the OSS out of the Pacific theatre for most of the war.
Julia Child worked for the OSS, initially as a typist at its headquarters in Washington DC. She later became a researcher working directly for Donovan. As a researcher Child developed a concoction which could be applied to ordnance, chiefly naval mines, to repel sharks, preventing their premature detonation. She experimented with various formulae on the stove of her apartment kitchen. It was her first foray into cooking; as a child her family had employed a full time cook and she had little interest in how meals were prepared.
Former major league catcher Moe Berg was another employee. Fluent in several languages, highly educated and well read, Berg was employed as an agent in the Balkans, the Caribbean, and throughout Europe during the war as a spy and on at least on one occasion as a potential assassin. He was able to intelligently discuss nuclear physics to the point that he could accurately assess the progress being made by the Germans in that field. Although in his forties at the time, Berg posed as a nuclear physics student in Zurich to monitor the lectures of a leading German scientist to make his assessment.
By the time the war was coming to an end more than 24,000 were working for the OSS, coming from all branches of the Armed Forces as well as civilian life. Many were later absorbed into the CIA when it was formed, including Moe Berg, for a brief period in the 1950s. By the fall of 1945 OSS expenses and secrecy were more than enough for the President, and Harry Truman dissolved the office by executive order. Congressional Country Club was returned to its members and Catoctin Mountain Park became Camp David.