The OSS in World War II Albania

Title:                      The OSS in World War II Albania

Author:                  Peter Lucas

Lucas, Peter (2007). The OSS in World War II Albania : Covert Operations And Collaboration With Communist Partisans. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co

LCCN:    2007006379

D802.A38 L78 2007

Summary

  • “This volume describes how the OSS aided the Communist-led Partisans in an attempt to weaken the Nazi cause in Albania and neighboring Italy. The book presents a look at the small core of hardened men who comprised these highly specialized teams. Interviews with still-living participants and onsite research make this book a unique resource”–Provided by publisher.

Subjects

Date Posted:      March 28, 2017

This book and OSS: Red Group 2—A Fisherman Goes to War are reviewed here by Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

These two books, published long ago but only recently come to our attention, are about little known OSS operations. Both fill gaps in OSS history.

In his foreword to The OSS in World War H Albania, Fatos Tarifa, the former Albanian ambassador to the United States (2001-2005), makes an extraordinary claim: “This is an outstanding work and the first of its kind.” (p. 1) He is correct on both counts.

Author Peter Lucas, himself of Albanian descent, originally went to Albania intending to write a biography of Enver Hoxha, the Albanian dictator. When he came across a picture of Hoxha marching in Albania’s WWII victory parade, one of the men with him was identified as Capt. Tom Stefan, the OSS liaison officer to Albania. Unaware that such a position existed, Lucas decided to abandon the Hoxha story, and pursue the OSS involvement. He went on to interview survivors, examine archival records, and visit safehouses employed in Albania.

Lucas soon learned that the British also had a liaison team in Albania, several of whose members had written memoirs with little detail about the OSS role. Both teams were aware the partisans were communists, but they were fighting the Nazis—the common cause justifying Allied provision of communications, supplies, and intelligence—and Lucas tells how it was done. He also discusses the sometimes awkward relationship between Britain and the United States as both competed for influence with Hoxha. But The OSS in World War II Albania mainly focuses on the exploits of several OSS team members. Lucas devotes chapters to each, devoting the most space to Captain Stefan, son of Albanian parents, who spoke Hoxha’s same dialect and established a relationship, which was initially close, with the leader.

After the victory parade, Stefan’s relationship with Hoxha deteriorated, a circumstance arising from politics, Hoxha’s increasingly severe treatment of his enemies, and Stefan’s marriage to an Albanian without Hoxha’s permission. When the OSS officer was called home, Stefan smuggled his wife aboard the plane, ending his latent hopes of returning to Albania in a diplomatic post. After being rejected by the State Department for service as an Albania expert, Stefan’s marriage deteriorated, and he ended up dying homeless in Los Angeles.

With his photographs and superb documentation—both Albania and American—The OSS in World War II Albania provides a fine contribution to the OSS literature.

OSS: Red Group 2 is a memoir of David Boak’s service with an operational group (OG), the combat element of OSS. The overall story of the OGs appeared in Albert Lulushi’s recent book, Donovan’s Devils.[2] Boak’s contribution is a firsthand account of one man’s service with partisans in North Africa, England, France, India, Burma, and China with his unit “Red Group 2.”

Boak takes us from his fishing days in New Jersey, to college in North Carolina—interrupted by the war—to ski troops in Colorado, and finally to his adventures in OSS that began in early 1944. After service behind the enemy lines in France after the invasion, it was off to the Far East via California. He arrived in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater in April 1945. By the time he reached China, after driving the Ledo Road from India, the war was nearly over. But he managed one assignment in conjunction with Chinese guerrillas behind Japanese lines and a few skirmishes after the war was over because the Japanese army hadn’t gotten the word. Then, after more than six weeks afloat, Boak finally reached the “land of the Big PX” (p. 215) and could go fishing again.

OSS: Red Group 2 concludes with some pertinent observations on what the Army forgot about guerrilla warfare after WWII and what it took to relearn it all again during the present difficulties. Boak has a good sense of humor and tells his story well.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  124-125).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at  www.cia.gov.

[2] Lulushi, Albert (2016). Donovan’s Devils: OSS Commandos Behind Enemy Lines: Europe, World War II. New York: Arcade Publishing

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One Response to The OSS in World War II Albania

  1. Pingback: OSS Red Group 2 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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