Tuesday, March 6, 2012

OSS And Archaelogical Agents

Text: Skulduggery: How the Allies' archaeological schools were used as a cover for intelligence work during the German occupation of Greece. By Richard Clogg

Source: Times Literary Supplement, Feb 10, 2012, page 3.  Review of Classical Spies by Susan Heuck Allen.

Comment: Main interest is the integrity of OSS archives.

The author appears to have consulted pretty well all possible archival sources.  At times, however, she demonstrates an over-reliance on the written records and, in particular, on the self-promoting effusions of Colonel Ulius Amoss, who had worked for the YMCA in pre-war Greece.  Amoss was given to feeding Donovan with ludicrously inaccurate intelligence on the situation in occupied Greece, and to flattering him with claims of the existence of such unlikely bodies as a 500-strong Cretan guerrilla force known as "Donovan's Band", and of a group of 300 andartes in Epirus which went under the name of "The American Legion".
Included in the "controlled avalanche"  of OSS material used by Allen is one particular document that seems problematic.  Confusingly dated 10/9/99 and stamped "EYES ONLY", "DO NOT COPY", this records that Amoss, while in Cairo had "recruited, trained and launched numerous teams of assassins that carried out hits on various targets all over North Africa, Southern Europe, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal".  It is true that Amoss was removed in 1943 from the Middle East for importing a contract killer from the US to Cairo and for what was euphemistically termed "financial mismanagement", but can it really be argued that he masterminded a mass programme of assassinations?  After the war, this real-life Walter Mitty set up a private intelligence organization which was involved in a bizarre plot to kidnapp Stalin's surviving son in Moscow.
Coudl this memorandum have been inserted by the CIA, the origianl custodian of the OSS archive?  Or could it be a forgery placed in the archive by a prankster?  In my experience of working in the OSS archive in the mid-1980s, it would not have been difficult to insert such a paper in the jumble of documents, rare ephermera and fascinating photographs that bore no indication of their belonging to the OSS archive.  It occurred to me at the time that light fingered researchers could easily walk off with some of this material with no one being any the wiser.  I had naively assumed that the US National Archive and Records  Administration would prove to be object lesson in such archival excellence.  This was far from being the case, at least as far as the thousands of cubic feet of OSS material were concerned.

No comments:

Post a Comment