William J. Donovan

William J. Donovan bigraphy, stories - United States Army General, Medal of Honor recipient, and civil serveant

William J. Donovan : biography

January 1, 1883 – February 8, 1959

William Joseph ("Wild Bill") Donovan (January 1, 1883 – February 8, 1959) was a United States soldier, lawyer, intelligence officer and diplomat. Donovan is best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. He is also known as the "Father of American Intelligence" and the "Father of Central Intelligence".[https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/gen.-william-j.-donovan-heads-oss.html CIA: Look Back … Gen. William J. Donovan Heads Office of Strategic Services][https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol3no3/html/v03i3a07p_0001.htm CIA: William J. Donovan and the National Security]

A decorated veteran of World War I, General Donovan is the only person to have received the four highest awards in the United States: The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal.. Arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved on 2012-08-27. He is also a recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart.


Early life

Of Irish descent, Donovan was born in Buffalo, New York to first generation immigrants Anna Letitia "Tish" Donovan (née Lennon) and Timothy P. Donovan, of Ulster and County Cork origins respectively. His grandfather Timothy O’Donovan (Sr.) was from the town of Skibbereen, being raised there by an uncle, a parish priest, and married Donovan’s grandmother Mary Mahoney, who belonged to a propertied family of substantial means which disapproved of him. They would move first to Canada and then to New York, where their son Timothy (Jr.), Donovan’s father, would attempt to engage in a political career, but with little success.

William Joseph attended St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Niagara University before starring on the football team at Columbia University. On the field, he earned the nickname "Wild Bill", which would remain with him for the rest of his life. Donovan graduated from Columbia in 1905 and was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, as well as the Knights of Malta.Phelan, Matthew (2011-02-28) , Salon.com

Donovan was a graduate of Columbia Law School and became an influential Wall Street lawyer.

In 1912, Donovan formed and led a troop of cavalry of the New York State Militia.Thomas A. Rumer, The American Legion: A Official HIstory, 1919-1989. New York: M. Evans and Co., 1990; pg. 107. This unit was mobilized in 1916 and served on the U.S.-Mexico border during the American government’s campaign against Pancho Villa.

World War I

During World War I, Major Donovan organized and led the 1st battalion of the 165th Regiment of the 42nd Division, the federalized designation of the famed 69th New York Volunteers, (the "Fighting 69th"). In France one of his aides was poet Joyce Kilmer, a fellow Columbia College alumnus. For his service near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, on 14 and 15 October 1918, he received the Medal of Honor. By the end of the war he received a promotion to colonel, the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts (the full text of his Medal of Honor citation can be found further below).

Between the wars

From 1922 to 1924, he was US Attorney for the Western District of New York, famous for his energetic enforcement of Prohibition. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge named Donovan to the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division as a deputy assistant to Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty.

Donovan ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1922, and for Governor of New York in 1932.Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard, politicalgraveyard.com/ Assisting Donovan in his 1932 campaign was journalist James J. Montague, who served as "personal adviser and campaign critic.""James Montague, Versifier, Is Dead," New York Times, December 17, 1941

World War II

During the interwar years, Donovan traveled extensively in Europe and met with foreign leaders including Benito Mussolini of Italy. Donovan openly believed during this time that a second major European war was inevitable. His foreign experience and realism earned him the attention and friendship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The two men were from opposing political parties, but were similar in personality. Because of this, Roosevelt came to highly value Donovan’s insights. Following Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the start of World War II in Europe, President Roosevelt began to put the United States on a war footing. This was a crisis of the sort that Donovan had predicted, and he sought out a responsible place in the wartime infrastructure. On the recommendation of Donovan’s friend United States Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Roosevelt gave him a number of increasingly important assignments. In 1940 and 1941, Donovan traveled as an informal emissary to Britain, where he was urged by Knox and Roosevelt to gauge Britain’s ability to withstand Germany’s aggression. During these trips, Donovan met with key officials in the British war effort, including Winston Churchill and the directors of Britain’s intelligence services. Donovan returned to the US confident of Britain’s chances and enamored with the possibility of founding an American intelligence service modeled on that of the British.