Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January 1, 1883: Father of the CIA

Who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal and Medal of Honor- our nation’s three top military honors – as well as the National Security Medal– our nation’s top civilian honor?
Who was was knighted by the British for his activities during World War II?
Who began his intelligence work while on his honeymoon?
And the give-away question: who is credited as the founding father of the CIA?

The Donovan’s welcomed in the New Year in 1883 with the birth of their son William. William J. Donovan was born on January 1, 1883 in Buffalo, N.Y. He graduated from Columbia University – where he was the quarterback and star of the football team - in 1905 with a BA and went on to graduate in 1908 with a law degree. .

After his graduation, Donovan began a law practice in Buffalo. Five years later – in 1912 - he was instrumental in founding a cavalry troop of the New York National Guard in his hometown. When the cavalry was called out for operations along the Mexican border, Donovan left his law books. By the outbreak of World War I, he was a Major.

Donovan earned the nickname “Wild Bill” in France as a battalion commander and later as regimental C.O. of the 165th Infantry--popularly then known as the "Fighting 69th New York." He was wounded three times, and received a number of combat decorations including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at Landre-et St. Georges during the Meuse Argonne offensive.

The Medal of Honor Citation:
Lt. Col. Donovan personally led the assaulting wave in an attack upon a very strongly organized position, and when our troops were suffering heavy casualties he encouraged all near him by his example, moving among his men in exposed positions, reorganizing decimated platoons, and accompanying them forward in attacks. When he was wounded in the leg by machine-gun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued with his unit until it withdrew to a less exposed position.
Donovan’s spy career began in 1919 when Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and former Columbia University friend and classmate) Franklin D. Roosevelt asked him to go to Siberia and report on anti-Bolshevik operations and Japanese activity in the area during the Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution. Donovan went, reported back, and then went on to become a successful Wall Street lawyer.
"The door for intelligence work opened for me when I undertook my first secret mission while on my honeymoon in Japan in 1919. The United States Government asked me to take a two-month trip to Siberia to report on the anti-Bolshevik movement in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Well, it wasn't your usual honeymoon, but Mrs. Donovan was very understanding. The mission was successful and opened doors to many more missions for the government. I was heading down the intelligence path and I was loving it."
Despite Donovan’s difference in political views – he was a Republican – and his outspoken opposition to the New Deal, he and Roosevelt remained close friends, in no small part to their shared international view on the dangers of Germany and Tokyo during the 1930’s.

While Donovan officially remained a Republican Wall Street lawyer, he led a double life cloaked in secrecy. Roosevelt sent Donovan to Ethiopia in 1935-1936 during the Italian invasion of that country. He was also sent to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, to Britain in 1940 as the Phony War turned real, working closely with the British Secret Intelligence Service, and to various parts of Europe and the Middle East in 1941 to personally observe conditions and report back to the President.

In 1941 Donovan returned to the US to be appointed civilian head of the Office of Coordinator of Information (COI) the purpose of this organization was to coordinate the various intelligence efforts of America’s various intelligence organizations – including such organizations as the FBI, Naval Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Department of State, and other groups. Intense jurisdictional battles would follow as each organization was resistant to yield any of its power or any of the intelligence it gathered. As the US entered World War II, the need for a combined intelligence gathering organization under military leadership led to the dissolving of the COI and the foundation of the OSS. The following year – 1942 – he was recalled to active duty as a colonel and appointed to head the military Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He used his contacts – especially the British - gained from his years of visits to Europe to establish an ever-increasingly effective intelligence organization that operated in Africa, Asia, and Europe. During this time Donovan was promoted to brigadier, then major, general, and would head the OSS during its brief – but successful – tenure. The OSS was dissolved in October 1945.

Donovan reverted back to his occupation as lawyer when he was appointed to be the special assistant to chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

During the war Donovan became convinced of the need of a post-war civilian intelligence organization – resulting in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947 by President Truman.
"Espionage is not a nice thing, nor are the methods employed exemplary. Neither are demolition bombs nor poison gas.... We face an enemy who believes one of his chief weapons is that none but he will employ terror. But we will turn terror against him...."
Donovan would not be appointed to head the new organization. Instead, he was appointed Ambassador to Thailand by President Eisenhower in 1954. Later poor health would force him to resign. He died on February 8, 1959.

As an article in Columbia University’s Columbians notes:
But, for better or worse, his legacy as the founding figure of the CIA has had enormous influence over the conduct of U.S. foreign and national-security policy over the past fifty years. His statue in the main entrance to the CIA building attests to his perpetual presence as the guiding spirit of the organization.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Bicentennial Birthday: December 29, 1808: The Tennessee Tailor

Who was the only former President to serve in the Senate after leaving the Presidency? Who was the first Vice President to become President because of an assassination? Who was the only President to be buried with his head resting on a copy of the Constitution? Who was nicknamed Sir Veto because of the number of vetoes he made as President? Who added the state of Nebraska to the union, and purchased Alaska from Russia?
The give-away question: Until recent years who was the only President to be impeached?

On December 29, 1808, Andrew Johnson was born at Casso’s Inn, a popular inn and stable in Raleigh, N.C., where his parents – Jacob and Mary Johnson – worked. Johnson was three when his father died from health complications received by trying to save several men from drowning in a river, and his mother did her best to support her family. He was apprenticed to a tailor named John J. Selby when he was 14, and never received a formal education.

His education came from two major sources: customers who would read to him while he worked as an apprentice; and from his wife, Eliza, who taught him arithmetic and worked to improve his ability to read and write.

Johnson moved to Greeneville, Tennessee with his older brother, mother, and stepfather in 1826, and started a tailor’s shop there by nailing a sign reading A. Johnson, Tailor over his door. In Greeneville he met Eliza McCardle, marrying her on May 17, 1827. He joined a debating club and, with that experience, entered politics. He was elected Alderman for Greeneville in 1828, then mayor, then to the Tennessee House of Representatives, then the Tennessee Senate, then the US House of Representatives, then the Tennessee governorship, then the US Senate. Throughout all of this, Johnson was often a staunch supporter of the Constitution over States Rights – a stand that did not always sit will with other Southern legislators.

"Honest conviction is my courage; the Constitution is my guide." -Andrew Johnson
As the events of 1856-1861 drew the United States closer to – then into – a civil war, Senator Johnson warned that the dissolution of the Union would produce many minor countries ruled by various forms of government. In spite of Johnson's strong support of the Constitution and the Union, Tennessee seceded from the United States. Johnson rejected the Confederacy and was the only Southern senator to remain in the U.S. Senate after secession. In 1862, Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee where Johnson ruled with a firm hand, silencing anti-Union sentiment. In 1864, Johnson – a Democrat – joined Lincoln – a Republican - on the election ticket against George McClellan, winning the election and taking the office of Vice President in March 1865. Lincoln was assassinated a month later.

"I have been almost overwhelmed by the announcement of the sad event [Lincoln's assassination] which has so recently occurred. I feel incompetent to perform duties so important and responsible as those which have been so unexpectedly thrown upon me." – Andrew Johnson
Johnson faced many problems as a ‘Southern’ President trying to rebuild and reunify a nation after four years of civil war. Many of the problems came from Congress but perhaps a greater source was from his own cabinet. His claim to fame in most history books came when Johnson attempted to dismiss one of his fiercest critics, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Stanton claimed that Johnson acted in violation of the Tenure of Office Act enacted the previous year, then barricaded himself in his office. This act stated the president may not dismiss certain publicly elected officers without the consent of the Senate.
As a result, Congress – controlled by the Radical Republicans - voted to impeach Johnson and eleven charges were brought against him. Only three of these charges were voted upon, and these failed by one vote each of reaching the two-thirds majority required for impeachment. Upon Johnson's acquittal, Edwin Stanton came out of his office and resigned. Johnson finished his term, but was not nominated again for the Presidency.

"Notwithstanding a mendacious press; notwithstanding a subsidized gang of
hirelings who have not ceased to traduce me, I have discharged all my official
duties and fulfilled my pledges. And I say here tonight that if my predecessor
[Lincoln] had lived, the vials of wrath would have been poured out upon him." –
Andrew Johnson
The life of Andrew Johnson can be described with words like determined, honest, honorable, courage, and integrity. Just before his death in 1875, Johnson wrote:

"I have performed my duty to my God, my country, and my family. I have nothing
to fear in approaching death. To me it is the mere shadow of God's protecting
wing . . . Here I will rest in quiet and peace beyond the reach of calumny's
poisoned shaft, the influence of envy and jealous enemies, where treason and
traitors or State backsliders and hypocrites in church can have no peace."
Johnson was returned to the US Senate from Tennessee in March, 1875. When he heard the news of his election, he said:

“I have reached the summit of my ambition."
He soon suffered a stroke and died on July 31, 1875. He was buried in Greeneville, Tennessee.

A Selection of Web Resources:
Andrew Johnson Museum and Library

Local Library Resources:
Andrew Johnson, by Mike Venezia
The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation, by Howard Means
The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, by Chester Hearn
Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, by Rita Stevens

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec. 25, 1821: Clara Barton, Angel of the Battlefield

"In my feeble estimation, General McClellan, with all his laurels, sinks into insignificance beside the true heroine of the age, the angel of the battlefield." Dr. James Dunn, surgeon at Antietam battlefield.
Clara Barton, Angel of the Battlefield

"It does not hurt me to pioneer." Clara Barton
When we hear of disasters in the United States, one of the first groups to react – whether it is earthquake, hurricane, or flooding – is the American Red Cross. At home – and overseas – the American Red Cross has provided much-needed support for literally millions of people during times of crisis during the last 120 years.

The founder of this organization in 1881 when she was 60 years old was Clarissa (Clara) Harlow Barton, born on December 25, 1821.

Born the fifth – and youngest – child of Captain Stephen and Sarah (Stone) Barton, Clara was 10 years younger than her next oldest sibling. She grew up in the small farming community of Oxford, Massachusetts. When she was young, Clara's father – a Revolutionary War veteran - regaled her with his stories of soldiering against the Indians with General “Mad Anthony” Wayne. Her brothers and cousins taught her horseback riding and other boyish hobbies. Although she was a bright, diligent and serious student, Clara preferred outdoor activities to the indoor pastimes "suitable" for young ladies of the mid-nineteenth century. Yet, she was – by and large – a shy child who would time and again overcome her shyness to accomplish a task.

"I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay." Clara Barton
Clara evidenced a pioneering spirit early in her life. Her early career revolved around teaching, first in her hometown, then in the early 1850s taught at a Bordertown, N.J., ‘subscription’ school – a school where parents pooled their money to pay the teacher directly. As she walked to class every day she noticed children loitering – children whose parents could not pay for an education. Clara offered to teach them for free if the city would provide a building – which the city did. Within a year, there were 100 students, and several teachers, starting New Jersey’s free public education system. Eventually the school was so successful that a new building was erected, additional teachers hired, and a man brought in to head the school with a salary over twice as great as Clara’s. She left for Washington, D.C., where in 1854 she became the first woman clerk in the Patent Office – at a salary equal to the men’s. As a political appointee, her job ended with James Buchanan’s presidential victory of 1856.

I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.” Clara Barton
After Lincoln was elected President and the Civil War broke out, Clara turned to nursing the injured. She was at many of the major battles on the Eastern Theater and became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" for her efforts in providing medical care and comfortable quarters for the wounded. Clara was often within range of musket-fire as she tended to the wounded.

A ball had passed between my body and the right arm which supported him, cutting through the sleeve and passing through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?” Clara Barton
She was appointed the Superintendent of Union Nurses in 1864. In 1865 President Lincoln put Clara in charge of locating missing prisoners of war, a daunting task amid the bureaucratic confusion that followed war's end. She answered hundreds of the letters which poured in, giving or requesting information about the dead and missing. The search for the missing soldiers and her years of intense effort for the soldiers of the War had exhausted her. Clara’s physician ordered her to Europe for rest. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 brought hardship to many French civilians. Miss Barton joined the relief effort, and in the process, was impressed with a new organization--the International Red Cross. Once back in America, she worked tirelessly to organize and fund an American Red Cross. The American Red Cross, with Clara at its head, devoted itself largely to disaster relief for the first 20 years of its existence. The Red Cross flag was flown officially for the first time in this country in 1881 when Clara issued a public appeal for funds and clothing to aid victims of a devastating forest fire in Michigan.

Others are writing my biography, and let it rest as they elect to make it. I have lived my life, well and ill, always less well than I wanted it to be but it is, as it is, and as it has been; so small a thing, to have had so much about it!” Clara Barton
In addition to leading the American Red Cross (which she did until 1904), Clara maintained interests in other fields, such as education, prison reform, women's suffrage, civil rights, and even spiritualism. One of her many legacies is a poem about women in war, The Women Who Went To The Field.

Clara died on April 12, 1912, at the age of 90 in Glen Echo, Maryland. She was buried less than a mile from her family home in a family plot in Oxford, Massachusetts.

Local Library Resources:
Cut to the Heart: Clara Barton and the Darkness of War by Dianne Day
Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross by Dorothy Brenner Francis
The Story of Clara Barton by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack
A Woman of Valor : Clara Barton and the Civil War by Stephen B. Oates
Clara Barton: Professional Angel by Elizabeth Brown Pryor

A Selection of Web Resources:
Civil War Women
The Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography
National Park Service
Women in History
American Red Cross Museum
Clara Barton Timeline