General Donovan motivated the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) research and development branch to fabricate weapons in-house for officers in the field. These weapons ranged from the amazingly complex to the remarkably fundamental. OSS guns and blades were intended for simple but effective use. American servicemen going into harm’s way had a variety of ingenious places to hide small, even miniature, compasses for escape and evasion—in combs, razors, uniform buttons, or, as seen here, in cufflinks.

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The Eastman Kodak Company developed and manufactured the camera below for use by the OSS. It was made in the shape of a matchbox common in that era. It could be disguised by adding a matchbox label appropriate for the country in which it was to be used.

The camera used 16mm film. It was deployed “behind the lines” by resistance personnel in World War II for target recording and propaganda photography. Designed to be operated with a minimum of user-adjustable settings, the camera featured rugged construction and controls that could be operated by “feel.”—Central Intelligence Agency website

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The caltrop was “the simplest weapon we ever made” according to Dr. Stanley Lovell, author of “Of Spies and Stratagems.” No matter how the caltrop is tossed, it will land with one of its four prongs up. Whatever rolls over it will be punctured or injured. It is effective when many are scattered onto enemy roadways or airport runways.

Historically, caltrops have been found in Babylonian tombs, were used against medieval knights on horseback, and were found in archaeological digs at Jamestown.—Central Intelligence Agency website

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The video below shows an early version of a collapsible baton, pop gun, and concealed compass, to name a few of the OSS’s tools of the trade.

*Featured image courtesy of