President Truman issued Executive Order 9621, on September 20, 1945 which ordered, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to be terminated and upon open of business on October 1, 1945 the OSS ceased to exist. Truman would tell the Director of OSS, William Donovan, that with the abolishment of the OSS it marked the “the beginning of the development of a coordinated system of foreign intelligence within the permanent framework of the Government.”
Dividing up the Office of Strategic Services
In a well written and researched essay by CIA History Staff member, Michael Warner, which appeared in the Studies of Intelligence in 1995 and updated some years later, he points out that in August 1945 at the end of World War II, no one quite new what to do with the components of the OSS, including President Truman.
Truman decided that he was going to push the major portion of the OSS onto the shoulders of the Secretary of State and so ordered it in his executive order. The Secretary was ordered to establish the Interim Research and Intelligence Service and to receive the functions of the “Research and Analysis Branch” and “Presentation Branch” of the OSS, save for those functions within Germany and Austria. This move also called for the abolishment of this office at the end of year and tasked the Secretary of State to curtail the activities or find a new home for them.
The Secretary of State was to work closely with the Secretary of War and with the Director of the Bureau of the Budget to make it happen. Those components not included in the transfer were to be abolished (if not transferred to the War Department).
Warner notes that critics believed Truman acted “prematurely, abruptly, and unwisely [when he] disbanded the OSS.” There were as many who believed the OSS “had all the earmarks of a Gestapo system” and only the portion (given to the State Department) was worth salvaging. There was no need for commandos and such during this post-war era.
It would be a few months before President Truman saw to the creation of the Central Intelligence Group, the predecessor organization to the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIG was activated on February 8, 1946.
Where was the OSS HQs located?
The “Old Navy Observatory,” on E Street in NW Washington DC the area known as “Navy Hill,” was the home of the Office of Strategic Services when it was disbanded. The complex is made up of multiple buildings (South, Central and Administration) and from within these walls and halls the OSS operated. The complex was subsequently used by the follow-on organization, the Central Intelligence Agency. The location is close to the seat of government, across the way from the State Department and a short walk to the White House.
History of the OSS and National Intelligence Structure
For those who are interested in the OSS (I count myself among those, having read most of the available histories during my time as a History Fellow at the Center for the Studies of Intelligence) the National Archives corpus on the OSS is substantial. Similarly, the founding of the National Intelligence Structure of the United States from August 1945 through January 1946 is available through the historian of the Department of State.