On July 11, 1941, President Roosevelt appointed William “Wild Bill” Donovan to head up a civilian intelligence-gathering organization. And the face of American intelligence would change forever.

An Unorganized Intelligence Scene

Before World War II, the United States had no national intelligence apparatus. Intelligence gathering was strictly on an ad hoc basis with no sharing of information between government entities.

So, at the start of the war, President Franklin Roosevelt was forced to rely on his circle of friends. His friends would travel to Europe and report on what they found directly to him. One of those people was Wild Bill Donovan. He had been awarded the Medal of Honor in WWI and although a political rival, he was a trusted friend of Roosevelt (something quite unimaginable by today’s standards).

Nevertheless, FDR was searching for more effective ways to gather intelligence to protect American interests in Europe and the Pacific.