Spies and More Spies

Sub Rosa: The O.S.S. and American Espionage - Stewart Alsop, Thomas Braden

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                In my English 101 class, we just talked about spies and saboteurs in World War II.   It was in a conversation about an essay that dealt with the changing nature of history books in schools.  We were discussing people and ideas that history books leave out.  Female resistance members and the dropping of people into occupied countries came up.


                Perhaps we don’t like talking about such people in wars because there is a whiff, just a whiff, of something not quite right.  It is almost sneaky but in an understandable way.  It is the question of tough choices and we really know that real spies are not James Bond in any of his incarnations.   It is messy and tough, and not fair.


                Perhaps that is why.  Perhaps this is also why we romanticize the role because we know that it is a necessary one.


                This slim volume gives a brief history of the OSS (the forerunner to the CIA) built pretty much by Wild Bill Donovan as well as detailing some of the lesser known missions.  Both Alsop and Braden worked for the OSS, so the reader gets a sense of wanting the deserved acknowledgement.


                Considering the time in which the authors lived, they deserve absolute kudos for noting woman agents and pointing out that the women agents did not hesitate to throw themselves out of perfectly good airplanes.  It almost makes up for the use of only male missions in the second section of the book.


                The authors also note the use of non-white agents as well.


                Yet the authors do deserve praise for not trying to sugar coat not only the risks but also the need to sometimes act in a less than chivalrous way, this is particularly true of the last class.


                At times, the stories seem to be a bit blogged down with words (and sometimes with too similar names), yet Alsop and Braden do a good job at bringing a little known but very important role in the Second World War to light.