“Through first person narratives from a slew of OSS operatives, O’Donnell explores the thrilling world of spying before satellites and computer hacking boxed agents into cubicles. . . . The book is far more than a simple historical survey and reads like a satisfying cloak and dagger yarn”—Publishers Weekly
Long before there was a James Bond or a CIA, the brave men and women of The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) worked secretly behind the scenes during World War II, playing a key role in the Allied victory. The agency’s legendary director, Major General “Wild Bill” Donovan, recruited only the best—he sprung safecrackers from prison, hired Ivy League professors to analyze what they stole—and his expertly trained spies were at war long before D-Day. But until now, their gripping real-life missions have remained as classified as their identities.
Patrick O’Donnell tracked down and interviewed over 300 former members of the OSS and, for the first time, relates their incredible stories. With stateside geniuses developing essential tools for the field like umbrella pistols and Aunt Jemimas (easily-smuggled muffins made of explosives), and iron-nerved spooks operating behind enemy lines throughout Europe and across North Africa, the OSS invented the elite organizations that would become the Green Berets, Navy Seals—even the CIA. The individual stories read like the best fist-gnawing spy novels, but—from “Cynthia,” the super-spy who seduced information out of the Vichy French, to agents rescuing more than 500 US Airmen deep in Yugoslavia, to spies and counter-spies setting the stage for Normandy and the invasion of North Africa—they’re all true.
“A rare combination of suspense thriller and true heroism by a great American writer.”—Clive Cussler
Patrick K. O'Donnell is the author of Beyond Valor, which won the Colby Circle Award for outstanding military history, and Into the Rising Sun: In Their Own Words, World War II's Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat. He has provided historical consulting for Dreamworks' award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and for documentaries produced by the BBC, The History Channel, and Fox News. His books and website have been widely acclaimed by newspapers across the country, including USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times. He lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia.