Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was a US intelligence agency that was established in 1942, during World War II, to conduct espionage activities behind enemy lines for the United States military. The OSS was the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The Office of Strategic Services was created by a Presidential military order issued by President Roosevelt on June 13, 1942, to gather strategic secret information that was required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The OSS also launched special operations behind enemy lines, supplying policy makers with facts and estimates. Nevertheless, it never had jurisdiction over all foreign intelligence activities. The FBI was responsible for intelligence work in Latin America, and the Army and Navy guarded their areas of responsibility.

In the last two years of the war, the Office of Strategic Services trained Kuomintang troops in China and Burma, and recruited Kachin and other indigenous irregular forces for sabotage as well as guides for Allied forces in Burma fighting the Japanese Army. The OSS also recruited and ran one of the war’s most important spies, the German diplomat Fritz Kolbe. From 1943 to 1945, the OSS infiltrated operatives in Germany, carrying out sabotage operations. Some of these agents included exiled communists and Socialist party members, and labor activists. In 1943, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) set up operations in Istanbul. Turkey, as a neutral country during the Second World War, was a place where both the Axis and Allied powers sought to set up networks of spies. The railroads connecting central Asia with Europe as well as Turkey’s close proximity to the Balkan states placed it at a crossroads of intelligence gathering.