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William Donovan

William Donovan was born in Buffalo, United States, on 1st January, 1883. After graduating from Columbia University in 1907 he became a lawyer.

Donovan was an active member of the Republican Party and after meeting Herbert Hoover he worked as his political adviser, speech writer and campaign manager.

During the First World War Donovan joined the United States Army and as a colonel in the 69th Infantry Regiment won the Medal of Honor and three Purple Hearts. While in Europe he visited Russia and spent time with Alexander Kolchak and the White Army.

Donovan ran unsuccessfully as lieutenant governor in 1922 but was appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as his assistant attorney general. In 1932 he was the Republican candidate for the post of governor of New York.

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 Donovan was a millionaire Wall Street lawyer. He was a strong opponent of Roosevelt's New Deal but shared the president's concern about political developments in Nazi Germany and in 1940 Donovan agreed to take part in several secret fact-finding missions in Europe.

In July 1941, Roosevelt appointed Donovan as his Coordinator of Information. The following year Donovan became head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an organization that was given the responsible for espionage and for helping the resistance movement in Europe. He was helped in this by William Stephenson and Britain's MI6 chief, Stewart Menzies.

Donovan was given the rank of major general and during the Second World War he built up a team of 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines. The growth of the OSS brought conflict with John Edgar Hoover who saw it as a rival to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As soon as the Second World War ended President Harry S. Truman ordered the OSS to be closed down. However, it provided a model for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established in September 1947.

Donovan returned to his law practice in 1946 but agreed to become ambassador to Thailand in 1953. William Donovan died in 1959.




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