OSS against the Reich

Title:                      OSS against the Reich

Author:                 Colonel David K.E. Bruce

Bruce, David K. E. (1991). OSS against the Reich: the World War II Diaries of Colonel David K.E. Bruce. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press

LCCN:    90047719

D811.5 .B82 1991



  • edited by Nelson Douglas Lankford.

Date Posted:      October 5, 2015

OSS against the Reich presents the World War II diaries of Colonel David K.E. Bruce, London branch chief of America’s first secret intelligence agency, as he observed the war against Hitler. The entries include eyewitness accounts of D-Day, the rocket attacks on England, and the liberation of Paris. As a top deputy of Wiliam J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, founder of the Office of Strategic Services, Bruce kept his diary sporadically in 1942 and made daily entries from the invasion of Normandy until the Battle of the Bulge. Bruce had served in World War I and, as Andrew Mellon’s son-in-law, moved easily in the world of corporate and museum boardrooms and New York society. However, World War II gave him a more serious and satisfying purpose in life; the experience of running the OSS’s most important overseas branch confirmed his lifelong interest in foreign service. After the war, in partnership with his second wife, Evangeline, Bruce headed the Marshall Plan in France and was ambassador to Paris, Bonn, and London. He further served as head of negotiations at the Paris peace talks on Vietnam, first American emissary to China, and ambassador to NATO.

Some comments by Roy Berkeley:[1]

Near Baker Street, from the SE corner of Portman Square, turn L into Wigmore Street. At Duke Street turn L again. First doorway on your L is 10 Duke Street. After some shuffling and reshuffling in 1940 and 1941, General de Gaulle’s office of secret intelligence and special operations moved here early in 1942. The Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (Militaire)—BCRA(M)—became BCRA later in the year. The removal of the final word did not so much exclude military matters as it “dislodged” (in Foot’s terminology) the commissariat of the interior from direct contact with active operations. (Don’t worry, it was French; you don’t need to know more than this.)

What we must remember, however, is that the French military (of which the extraordinary Charles de Gaulle was an example par excellence) has always been highly politicized, with feuds and cabals the norm. It is no surprise that many of the Vichyite military regarded their own staying behind as more honourable than de Gaulle’s leaving. Thus, although the Gaullists were at war with the Germans, they also felt threatened by their Vichyite countrymen, their communist countrymen, and their British hosts. Defeating the Germans would count for little, they felt, if postwar France were dominated by the Vichyites, the communists, or a British-led puppet government. The Gaullists saw traitors everywhere. We must remember, too, that even paranoids can have real enemies.

SOE trained all of BCRA’s agents and transported them into France (see Site 60 1 Dorset Square). In return, BCRA supplied (astonishingly, if we can believe this figure) “approximately 80 percent of the military and naval intelligence on which the plans for invasion of the Continent were.founded,” according to the wartime diaries of David K. E. Bruce, head of OSS in London. The bargain was no different from that struck by SIS with other Allied intelligence organizations—material assistance in exchange for shared information—but the arrangement between the British and the Gaullists was never easy: suspicion and rivalry constantly nibbled away at co-operation and mutual respect. One of the worst quarrels, writes Foot, ensued after the Conseil National de la Resistance, so grandiosely set up by the “Gaullists, was ( of course) uncovered by the Germans and its leadership destroyed. The British then insisted on decentralization for everyone’s protection, but the French—while promising to comply—did not do so. The British discovered the French noncompliance only because all BCRA communications went through the British, who hastily cracked the French code in order to check on the precise BCRA message. “This put everyone’s back up,” Foot writes.

The near-paranoia of the French occasionally threatened serious embarrassment. In 1943 an agent suspected of working also for the Germans was found hanged in the basement here. He had been undergoing a “hostile interrogation”, writes Nigel West in MI6. “It was only after SIS’ intervention that the local police were persuaded to drop the matter.”

Later in 1943, when de Gaulle moved to Algiers, these BCRA offices in Dulce Street became the much-reduced BRAL (Bureau de Recherches et d’Action a Londres). London was not sorry to see the General go.

[1] See Berkeley, Roy (1994). A Spy’s London. London: Leo Cooper, pp. 180-182

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