Gen William Joseph ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan (Jan 1, 1883 – Feb 8, 1959) was an American soldier, lawyer, intelligence officer, and diplomat, best known for serving as the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, during World War II. He is regarded as the founding father of the CIA, and a statue of him stands in the lobby of the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Virginia. A decorated veteran of World War I, Donovan is the only person to have received all four of the United States’ highest awards, the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal. He is also a recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart, as well as decorations from a number of other nations for his service during both World Wars.
Wild Bill 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. A decorated veteran of World War I, Gen Donovan was of Irish descent.
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. Donovan was a graduate of Columbia Law School and became an influential Wall Street lawyer. In 1912, Donovan formed and led a troop of the cavalry of the New York State Militia. This unit was mobilized in 1916 and served on the US-Mexico border during the American government’s campaign against Pancho Villa.
During World War I, Maj 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 October 14 and 15 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.
Medal of Honor Citation
William Joseph Donovan
Lt Col, US Army; 165th Infantry, 42d Division; near Landres and St Georges in France on October 14/15 1918; entered service at Buffalo, New York; Born on January 1, 1883, Buffalo, New York; GO, No 56, W.D., 1922.
Lt Col Donovan personally led the assaulting wave in an attack upon a very strongly organized position, and when our troops were suffering heavy casualties he encouraged all near him by his example, moving among his men in exposed positions, reorganizing decimated platoons, and accompanying them forward in attacks.
When he was wounded in the leg by machine-gun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued with his unit until it withdrew to a less exposed position.
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 Gen Harry M. Daugherty. Donovan ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1922, and Governor of New York in 1932. Assisting Donovan in his 1932 campaign was journalist James J. Montague, who served as a personal adviser and campaign critic.
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 several increasingly important assignments. In 1940 and 1941, Donovan traveled as an informal emissary to Britain, where he was urged by Knox and Roosevelt to evaluate 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 Britain’s intelligence services directors. 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.
On July 11, 1941, Donovan was named Coordinator of Information (COI). America’s foreign intelligence organizations at the time were fragmented and isolated from each other. The Army, Navy, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Department of State, and other interests each ran their own intelligence operations, the results of which they were reluctant to share with the other departments. Donovan was the nominal director of this unwieldy system but was plagued over the course of the next year with jurisdictional battles. Few of the leaders in the intelligence community were willing to part with any of the power that the current ad hoc system granted them.
The FBI, for example, under the control of Donovan’s rival J. Edgar Hoover, insisted on retaining its autonomy in South America. Nevertheless, Donovan began to lay the groundwork for a centralized intelligence program. It was he who organized the COI’s New York headquarters in Room 3603 of Rockefeller Center in October 1941 and asked Allen Dulles to head it; the offices Dulles took over had been the location of the operations of Britain’s MI6.
In 1942, the COI became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Donovan was returned to active duty in his World War I rank of colonel (by war’s end, he would be promoted to major general). Under his leadership, the OSS would eventually conduct successful espionage and sabotage operations in Europe and parts of Asia but continued to be kept out of South America as a result of Hoover’s hostility to Donovan. In addition, the OSS was blocked from the Philippines by the antipathy of General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater. For many years the operations of the OSS remained secret, but in the 1970s and 1980s, significant parts of the OSS history were declassified and became public record.
As World War II began to wind to a close in early 1945, Donovan began to focus on preserving the OSS beyond the end of the war. After President Roosevelt’s death in April, however, Donovan’s political position, which had thrived because of his personal relationship to the President, was substantially weakened. Although he argued forcefully for the OSS’s retention, he found himself opposed by numerous opponents, including President Harry S. Truman, who personally disliked Donovan, as well as J. Edgar Hoover, who viewed the OSS as competition for his goal to expand the FBI’s investigative operations internationally.
Public opinion turned against Donovan’s efforts when conservative critics rallied against the intelligence service that they called an ‘American Gestapo.’ After Truman disbanded the OSS in September 1945, Donovan returned to civilian life. Various departments of the OSS survived the agency’s dissolution, however, and less than two years later the Central Intelligence Agency was founded, a realization of Donovan’s hopes for a centralized peacetime intelligence agency.
Intelligence cables covering the capitulation of the German armies in northern Italy. Among the William J. Donovan papers are five volumes entitled OSS Reports to the White House containing carbons of memorandum predominantly transmitting or paraphrasing intelligence reports for the President’s personal attention.
They are characteristically introduced by a note to the President’s secretary, Miss Grace Tully: Dear Grace: Will you please hand the attached memorandum to the President? I believe it will be of interest to him. They begin in modest quantity, the first volume covering a full two years and including some administrative matters such as requests for draft deferment; but those for the nine months beginning with July 1944 occupy three volumes, almost exclusively intelligence. After President Roosevelt’s death and the end of the war in Europe, they taper off in the fifth volume bound, curiously, in reverse chronology and again include non-substantive material, particularly concerning the formation of a peacetime central intelligence agency. The reports are for the most part, not the finished intelligence that the President might now be expected to examine personally.
They do include summaries of some Research and Analysis Branch estimates of the age distribution of German casualties, for example, or the Soviet Union’s population in 1970 – but the bulk of them are unedited reporting from individual case officers on subjects of particular importance or of particular interest to President Roosevelt. For the historian this minute but choice fraction of the total of OSS raw reporting constitutes a pre-selected documentary source of considerable value.
The following information has been transmitted by the OSS representative in Bern: Allen W. Dulles.
Alexander Constantin von Neurath, the German Consul in Lugano, has just returned from a meeting with FM Albert Kesselring, Commander of German Army Group C (Italy); Rudolph Rahn, German Ambassador to the Mussolini regime in North Italy; and Obergruppenfuehrer (Gen der Waffen SS Karl Wolff, the Higher SS and Police leader in Italy and chief of Himmler’s personal staff (*).
Von Neurath declares that he did not gain the impression at the meeting that an immediate withdrawal of German forces in Italy was planned. According to Neurath, even high German officials in Italy appear to be somewhat surprised that the bulk of the German reinforcements for the Eastern Front have been coming from the west rather than from the south. Neurath feels that a possible explanation for this is that the German Army in Italy is being kept largely intact for eventual protection of the southern flank of the German ‘inner fortress’ which would be based on the Bavarian-Austrian Alps.
Earlier memorandum had reported Von Neurath in contact with British representatives in Switzerland, seeking to arrange peace negotiations on behalf of SS Generals Wolff and Harster. Rahn had been mentioned early in December in connection with a Catholic Church plan for an understanding with the Partisans to facilitate the anticipated withdrawal of German forces from Italy with a minimum of war damage.
Neurath also reports that Kesselring recently saw FM Gerd von Rundstedt. The two men are on friendly terms, Neurath declares, but neither is yet ready to come over to the Western Allies. Neurath has contact with Gen Siegfried Westphal, Rundstedt’s Chief of Staff, but was advised by Kesselring not to attempt to see Westphal immediately because of the suspicions which such a trip might arouse.
Feb 24, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The following information, transmitted by the OSS representative in Bern, Allen W. Dulles, has been supplied by a source of uncertain reliability, but appears plausible in the light of information from other sources available to the representative. An official of the German Embassy in North Italy whose name source did not disclose has come to Switzerland to convert to Swiss francs some marks belonging to members of FM Kesselring’s staff. This official declares that FM Kesselring and Rudolph Rahn, Ambassador to the Mussolini regime in North Italy, are ready to surrender and even to fight against Hitler if the Allies can make it worth their while.
FM Kesselring, according to the official, feels that under present trends he is destined to retire to the Alps and, subordinate to SS officials, to die in the final resistance or be killed for not resisting the Allies. As long as Kesselring is still in Italy he feels he still has power and is willing to use that power to surrender, in return for concessions. The official did not make it clear as to whether concessions to FM Kesselring and his staff or Germany, in general, are desired.
Feb 26, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The following information, transmitted by the OSS representative in Bern, Allen W. Dulles, is a sequel to a memorandum dated February 9.
Alexander Constantin von Neurath, the German Consul at Lugano, while visiting his father (the former Foreign Minister and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia) near Stuttgart on February 10, received a telephone call from FM Kesselring, advising him to go to a secret rendezvous where he found Gen Siegfried Westphal, chief of staff to Rundstedt, and FM Johannes Blaskowitz, former commander of Army Group G on the Western Front.
Von Neurath knew Westphal well, having served with him for two years as a liaison officer in North Africa; he knew Blaskowitz less well. The three frankly discussed the possibility of opening the Western Front to the Allies. Westphal and Blaskowitz questioned the value of taking such a step if they were merely to be considered as war criminals. They added that it was increasingly difficult to organize any large-scale move to open the front because of the technical difficulties presented by the SS and the state of mind of the troops. They said that their armies included large elements of Germans from East Prussia and eastern Germany whose fighting qualities had been stiffened by the Soviet occupation of their home areas.
These troops, they explained, motivated by the feeling that they have lost everything and having no homes or families to which to return, consider it better to stay on and fight. Westphal even declared that the troops sometimes refuse to obey orders from headquarters to retire, stating that since they are holding good positions and may not find as good ones in the rear, they prefer to fight it out where they are.
Neither Gen Westphal nor Gen Blaskowitz made definite suggestions. They appear, however: (a) to be working with FM Kesselring; (b) to have uppermost in their minds the idea of opening up the Western and Italian Fronts to the Allies; (c) to be approaching the point where they might discuss such an arrangement on purely military lines with an American Army officer.
Prerequisites to such a discussion would be adequate security arrangements and personal assurances that they would not be included in the war criminals list but would be granted some basis to justify their action, such as an opportunity to help in the orderly liquidation and to prevent unnecessary destruction in Germany. Von Neurath, now back in Switzerland, plans to report to FM Kesselring his conversation with Gen Westphal and Gen Blaskowitz and to determine whether a routine reason can be found for Westphal to visit Kesselring.
The OSS representative comments that while von Neurath may obtain further direct access to FM Kesselring without arousing SS and SD suspicions, he must exercise the greatest care. The representative doubts that von Neurath will be guilty of indiscretion since his own life is apparently at stake and since his background is non-Nazi. The representative describes von Neurath as not brilliant but a reasonably solid type who has excellent relations with the Reichswehr as a result of his long liaison work in North Africa. If Gen Westphal makes the trip to Italy he could probably stay only a very short time without arousing suspicion since FM Kesselring himself is already the subject of press rumors which may result in his elimination by Himmler.
The London Daily Dispatch, (Feb 24, 1945), carried a story from its Bern correspondent stating that FM Kesselring has offered secretly to the Allies to withdraw under pressure, leaving North Italian cities intact and preventing neo-Fascist destruction, in return for which he has asked for assurances that he would not be considered a war criminal and would be allowed to retire his troops to Germany to maintain order.
The OSS representative declares that while he cannot predict the chances of successfully persuading Gen Westphal and FM Kesselring to open up the Italian and Western Fronts simultaneously, he judges them to be sufficient to justify careful consideration of the idea.
He believes that no political quid pro quo or impairment of the unconditional surrender principle would be involved if conversations were held between an American officer and these German officers. Such conversations, which could be held in the Lugano area on the Swiss side of the Italy-Swiss border, would have to await the outcome of von Neurath’s forthcoming meeting with FM Kesselring
The OSS representative in Caserta reports that AFHQ is interested in obtaining positive and authentic confirmation of FM Kesselring’s disposition to negotiate with the Allies. AFHQ feels that if FM Kesselring wishes to dispatch an emissary with an official message, he could find means to do so
First Action (Mar 8, 1945) Memorandum for the President
The following information, transmitted by the OSS representative in Bern, is a sequel to a memorandum dated Feb 9 and Feb 26.
Gen der Waffen SS Karl Wolff, the Higher SS and Police Leader in Italy, and a German High Command representative presumably from FM Kesselring’s staff arrived in Lugano, Switzerland on the morning of March 8. They are allegedly prepared to make definite commitments regarding terminating German resistance in North Italy. The OSS representative in Bern believes that, if Wolff is really working with Kesselring, the two Generals might effect an unconditional surrender. Absolute secrecy is essential to a successful surrender, and the OSS representative is ready to arrange with complete secrecy for the entry into Switzerland in civilian clothes of fully authorized representatives of the Supreme Allied Mediterranean Command. It is not clear whether this move is separate from the Neurath negotiations [described in the memorandum of 9 and 26 February] but the OSS representative in Bern believes they will merge in so far as the North Italian situation is concerned.
Gen Wolff is accompanied by Standartenfuhrer Dollmann, who has in the past claimed that he represented Kesselring, Rahn, Wolff, and Harster. Dollman and his aide, Guido Zimmer, had made indirect contact with the OSS representative on March 2 and promised to return on March 8 with credentials and definite proposals. On the earlier date, the suggestion was made to Dollmann that he bring with him an important Italian partisan leader as evidence of his good faith and ability to act. Dollman has reportedly brought along Ferruccio Parri, (Prime Minister after liberation) chief of the North Italian Patriots Unified Command. The above information has been given to AFHQ by our Caserta representative.
Mar 9, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The OSS representative in Bern has transmitted the following information, a sequel to my memorandum of Mar 8. Gen Karl Wolff has shown some willingness to attempt to develop a program to take the German forces in North Italy out of the conflict. He considers simple military surrender difficult and prefers that capitulation be preceded by a statement by German leaders in North Italy informing the German people that the struggle is hopeless and will merely cause needless bloodshed and destruction. FM Kesselring has not yet been won over, and his adherence is essential. Wolff is proceeding immediately to try to sell the program to Kesselring and will maintain contact with the OSS representative in Bern. Wolff states that Rahn, German Ambassador to Mussolini’s regime in North Italy, is in accord with the program.
Wolff apparently controls all police and border forces on the entire Swiss-Italian frontier and can arrange quick contact with top German personalities in North Italy. Wolff, who in his SS and Police capacity is directly responsible to Himmler, claims that Himmler is unaware of his activities. The OSS representative comments that this may or may not be true. The Italian partisan leader, Ferruccio Parri, whose delivery in Switzerland was requested as evidence of good faith, was turned over unconditionally to the OSS representative even before the latter saw Wolff. Parri is in good health and does not know the reason for his release. A further meeting with Wolff was to take place during the day, March 9. AFHQ and SHAEF have been informed of the above.
Mar 10, 1945, Memorandum for the President
Gen Karl Wolff, who has arrived in Zurich to discuss a definite program for taking German forces in North Italy out of the war, is accompanied by the two men who made the preliminary contact with the OSS representative (Standartenfuehrer Dollman and his aide, Zimmern) as well as by Wolff’s military expert, Sturmbandfuehrer Wenner, and an Italian intermediary, Baron Luigi Parelli. The OSS representative consented to see only Wolff, who came to the former’s apartment with a Swiss intermediary on the evening of March 8. The OSS representative and an associate, a former German Consul in Zurich, then talked with Wolff alone. The former Consul later saw Wolff and Dollman together. (Gero von Gaevernitz, who had emigrated to the United States in the thirties and was now one of Allen Dulles’ principal assistants. There seems to be no record, however, of the consular service here credited to him).
Wolff is a distinctive personality, and evidence indicates that he represents the more moderate element in Waffen SS combined with a measure of romanticism. He is probably the most dynamic personality in North Italy and, next to FM Kesselring, the most powerful. Wolff stated that the time had come when some German with power to act should lead Germany out of the war to end useless human and material destruction. He says he is willing to act and feels he can persuade FM Kesselring to cooperate, and that the two control the situation in North Italy.
As far as the SS is concerned, Wolff states that he also controls Western Austria, since his authority includes the Vorarlberg, Tyrol, and the Brenner Pass with both its northern and southern approaches. Wolff declares that joint action by FM Kesselring and himself would leave Hitler and Himmler powerless to take effective countermeasures like the ones they employed in the July 20 crisis. Also, Wolff feels that joint action by FM Kesselring and himself would have a vital repercussion on the German Army, particularly on the Western Front, since many generals are only waiting for someone to take the lead.
Gen Wolff made no request concerning his personal safety or privileged treatment from the war criminal viewpoint. Wolff envisages the following procedures to bring about action: (1) He will meet Kesselring during the weekend of March 10 to obtain a definite commitment to joint action. Wolff says he has had the closest possible personal relations with Kesselring for several years and indicated that FM Kesselring’s problem was to reconcile such action with his oath of allegiance. FM Kesselring has insisted that after a long military career throughout which he had always kept his oat, he was too old to change. Nevertheless, Wolff believes he can be won over to see the senselessness of the struggle and admit that his duty to the German people is higher than that to the Fuehrer. (2) With FM Kesselring, Gen Wolff will draft an appeal to be signed by themselves, Rahn, and others. The appeal will set forth the uselessness of the struggle and the signers’ responsibility to the German people to end it, will call on military commanders in particular and Germans, in general, to disassociate themselves from Himmler-Hitler control, and will state that the Germans in North Italy are terminating hostilities. (3) Gen Wolff will make preparations to get this message to the German people and military commanders via radio and wireless. (4) Provided Kesselring is won over, Wolff believes that he and Kesselring would come clandestinely to Switzerland within the week to meet Allied military men and coordinate purely military surrender moves with the appeal.
Apparently, no one on Kesselring’s immediate staff is suited to represent him for this purpose, his chief of staff not yet having been acquainted with the plan. As evidence of his ability to act, Wolff has already unconditionally delivered Ferruccio Parri and Maj Antonio Usmiani, a former OSS agent in Milan, to the OSS representative in Bern.
Parri had been imprisoned in Verona, Usmiani in Milan. Both men assumed at the time they were taken away by the SS that they were being led to execution. Neither yet knows the reason for the release.
Wolff fully realizes Parri’s importance and remarked to an intermediary that he was giving up his most important hostage. Wolff is prepared to demonstrate further his ability to act by: (1) discontinuing active warfare against Italian partisans, merely keeping up whatever pretense is necessary pending execution of the plan. (2) releasing to Switzerland several hundred Jews interned at Bozen (Bolzano); Wolff claims he has refused any ransom money offered in this connection, although some have possibly already been swallowed up by intermediaries. (3) assuming full responsibility for the safety and good treatment of 350 British and American prisoners at Mantua, of whop: 150 are in the hospital and 200 on the southern outskirts; Wolff claims that these are all the British American prisoners held in North Italy since they had been currently transferred to Germany. (4) releasing to Switzerland, if he can be found, Sogno Franci, an Italian patriot working with CLNAI and the British; his release is particularly desired by Parri. (5) facilitating as much as possible the return to North Italy of Italian officers presently held in Germany, who might be useful in the post-hostilities period.
In reference to Alexander Constantin von Neurath, the German Consul at Lugano, Gen Wolff will welcome von Neurath’s help since he feels that von Neurath has considerable influence on FM Kesselring. Wolff will invite von Neurath to join him in Italy on March 10. Wolff claims that Himmler knows nothing of his present activities. He saw Himmler and Hitler early in February and advised them of the general hopelessness of the North Italy situation, but received no definite instructions from them. The OSS representative has made no commitments, merely listening to Wolff’s presentation and stating, with no refutation from Wolff, that unconditional surrender was the only possible course. The OSS representative comments that, if the results of the Wolff-Kesselring talks are favorable, this plan may present a unique opportunity to shorten the war, permit occupation of North Italy, possibly penetrate Austria under most favorable conditions, and possibly wreck German plans for the establishment of a maquis. The OSS representative in Caserta has advised AFHQ of the information transmitted by the OSS representative in Bern. Gen Harold Alexander has outlined to FM Alan Brooke (Chief of the British Imperial Staff) the procedure which AFHQ proposes to follow, including a plan for two senior staff officers to go to Switzerland to meet with German representatives. Apparently, Alexander has furnished this information to Brooke as a matter of courtesy and will go ahead on his own initiative, although he will cooperate with Brooke if London wishes to send other people to join in the meeting. OSS has been directed to submit a plan to carry out all necessary steps, including arrangements for a Swiss meeting place, transportation to and from that place to the French-Swiss border, as well as transportation from the Annemasse airport or vicinity to the French-Swiss border.
In addition, OSS will be called upon to provide communications, clerical assistance (including interpreters), and all necessary safeguards for the security of operations. The OSS representative in Bern will select a safe meeting place, arrange transportation from Annemasse to and from that place, and issue appropriate instructions to secure and provide arrangements for meeting the party at the Annemasse airport and supervising arrangements to and from the French-Swiss border. The total number of the party is unknown at this time, but all plans are being made to include arrangements for 15 to 20 people. OSS is withholding all these plans from the German representatives until directed by AFHQ to suggest a date for the meeting.
William J. Donovan
The following note is added by hand: If it looks feasible I plan to go to Italy as our OSS group has been designated to set up communications etc.
Mar 12, 1945, Memorandum for the President
Acting under instructions from AFHQ, OSS is going ahead with plans for the impending meeting between German and Allied representatives to discuss a definite program for taking German forces in North Italy out of the war.
OSS Bern has been requested to secure from Gen Karl Wolff statements that Wolff and his associates, equipped with acceptable credentials, will proceed to the Bern meeting-place when AFHQ selects the date. The final word has not yet been received from Wolff, and success in the operation depends on the assurance of FM Kesselring’s cooperation.
Complications, Mar 13, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The OSS representative in Bern has transmitted the following information, a sequel to my memoranda of March 10 and 12. The Italian intermediary, Baron Luigi Parelli, has just returned with word from Gen Karl Wolff, that FM Kesselring has just gone to Hitler’s headquarters. Wolff expects Kesselring back in three days, but there is a chance that he may never come back.
The OSS representative surmises that, unless FM Kesselring convinces Hitler and Himmler that he will cooperate in their plans for North Italy, Kesselring will be given a new command or will be imprisoned. Therefore, the meeting with Allied representatives has been postponed pending information from Kesselring, although AFHQ had decided to move at once and at noon 13 March dispatched two representatives (Gen Lyman L. Lemnitzer and British Gen Terence Airey) (accompanied by an OSS representative) for Lyon.
The OSS representative in Bern suggested to Baron Parelli that Wolff indicate: (1) what he proposes to do if FM Kesselring does not return; (2) what he will do if he is ordered to report to Hitler; (3) if he should refuse an order to report to Hitler, what are his plans and the forces with which to carry them out and (4) what areas he could temporarily control for possible contact with Allied forces even if the principal German Army commanders did not cooperate.
Upon his return to Italy, Wolff received a telegram from Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of Security Police and Security Service, advising him to avoid establishing contact with the Allies in Switzerland since it would hinder, perhaps catastrophically, Kaltenbrunner’s plans. Wolff discovered upon investigation that Generalleutnant der Polizei Wilhelm Harster, commander of the Security Police in Italy and Wolff’s subordinate, had telegraphed Kaltenbrunner that an attempt to make contact with the Allies in Switzerland was probable.
ccording to Parelli, Wolff believes Harster is dependable and was merely trying to cover the tracks of Wolff’s intermediary, Standartenfuehrer Dollman.
In November 1944 Alexander Constantin von Neurath, the German Consul at Lugano, declared that he was acting as an intermediary for Harster, who had been given a special assignment by Himmler to contact the Allies. It appeared significant at that time that such a mission should have been given to Harster rather than to his superior in the SS hierarchy, Karl Wolff.
At the end of February 1945, an Austrian industrialist in contact with Austrian SS leaders asserted that Kaltenbrunner had asked him to make contact with the Allies in Switzerland. According to this source, Kaltenbrunner claimed that he and Himmler were extremely anxious to end the war and were contemplating the liquidation of ardent Nazi warmongers.
Mar 16, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The OSS representative in Bern understands that the plans, underway for some time, for Carl Burckhardt, retiring president of the International Red Cross and Swiss Minister-designate to France, to discuss with Himmler internee and possibly prisoner-of-war questions, may very shortly result in a meeting between the two men in the vicinity of Feldkirch, on the northeastern Swiss frontier with Germany. The OSS representative comments that Himmler may seek to use this occasion for peace feelers. The representative has learned that Fusto Pancini, an old friend of Mussolini, recently has arrived in Switzerland with letters from Mussolini to his daughter, Edda Ciano, and to the Papal Nuncio.
Pancini indicated to Edda that Himmler wishes the Nuncio to advise the Vatican that Germany desires peace and is disposed to facilitate the entrance of Anglo-American but not Soviet troops. The representative states that while he has no definite proof, he believes that Kaltenbrunner’s telegram to Wolff, advising the latter not to establish contact with the Allies in Switzerland, was prompted by the prospect of a meeting between Burckhardt and Himmler.
Mar 21, 1945, Memorandum for the President
The following information is a summary of statements made by Gen Wolff to the OSS representatives and representatives of FM Harold Alexander at a place near Locarno on March 19. FM Alexander’s representatives gave no name or rank but represented themselves to Gen Wolff as advisors of the OSS representative. The OSS representative does not attempt to predict whether Wolff’s plan can be realized, but reports that Wolff, himself, appeared determined and that those who have had close contact with Wolff since he made his first approach ten days ago are inclined to believe that he is sincere in his expressed desire to effect an immediate German surrender.