Sub Rosa

Title:                      Sub Rosa

Author:                 Stewart Alsop

Alsop, Stewart (1946, 1964) and Thomas Braden. Sub Rosa: The OSS And American Espionage. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World

LCCN:    64057431

D810.S7 A55 1964


Date Updated:  February 16, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

This work originally was published in 1946 by Reynal and Hitchcock, shortly after the authors, two veterans of OSS, left the service. By the 1964 edition, they had become well-known journalists and members of the Washington press corps with excellent entrée into U.S. national security and intelligence structures. The 1946 edition was one of the first of the postwar books on OSS. It was also regarded by some as part of the budding debate on the structure of U.S. intelligence after the war. Braden’s new introduction in the later edition contains a description of the authors’ meeting with General Donovan to tell him of their intent to write this book that does not bear out the view that the book was inspired by Donovan and OSS. Alsop’s postscript to this edition is about the CIA, successor to OSS. It still reads rather accurately after so many years and indicates how well connected into the CIA and intelligence community Alsop was. Of special interest is the fact that he revealed, in a general way, the existence of CIA-subsidized and -controlled front organizations. Later, this revelation was to cause a furor when the subsidies and their specifics were exposed in U.S. media.

As for the core of this book, a few OSS operations and missions are outlined in True Adventure style.[2] The intelligence collection and resistance operations covered are not significant in themselves because subsequent writings have offered much more, and no attempt is made to correct factual errors in the original version: errors, for example, about secrecy of the North African landing of 1942 and the purported success of the so-called Dakar portion of the deception plan for the same invasion. There is no evidence to support the authors’ story of the claimed success of “Billy’s” deceptive information resulting in the German dispositions to Holland. As to the OSS personalities named, this book was the second in which the name William Colby appeared within one year of the end of the war.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

An early book on OSS activities by two journalists who themselves were OSS members who served with the French resistance. The book begins with a description of how the OSS developed; the remainder is divided into two parts: The first is a description of three operations that illustrate the intelligence roles of OSS. The second part describes four operations that illustrate the resistance or paramilitary operations of 055. The book is replete with characterizations of OSS members. The reprint edition contains a postscript by Alsop in which he describes the evolution of the CIA from the 055 and provides interesting insights into the personalities that guided the CIA in the years 1947 to 1964.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[4]

This is a re-issue of Sub Rosa, which was originally published in 1946. It contains a new introduction by Braden and a new postscript by Alsop. The book gives fragmentary but authentic examples of OSS clandestine intelligence and paramilitary operations in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The authors were OSS parachutists.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 59-60

[2] Such as found in Alexander, Marc (1972). True Adventure Stories: 45 Authentic Stories. Farnham, Clipper Press

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 203

[4] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 3


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One Response to Sub Rosa

  1. Pingback: OSS—The U.S. Office of Strategic Service, Chapter 18 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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