History of War

OVERLORD DECLASSIFIED PART 1: The OSS lands in Europe

With the cannonade in full voice, those aboard the invasion fleet lined the gunwales to watch an enemy shore be pummelled by a cascade of shells, bombs, and rockets. It seemed impossible anyone could survive. From their perch aboard heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa, two avid observers were William B. Donovan and aide David K. E. Bruce. “Wild Bill” Donovan was the chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America’s World War II spy agency. The nickname came from World War I, in which Donovan’s heroics had earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. David Bruce was OSS chief for Europe, with headquarters in London. This was 6 June 1944. Both Donovan and Bruce had a keen interest in the invasion. The OSS, other spy services, the French Resistance, and so many others had prepared extensively for this day.

However the entire operation might not have happened. Bad weather in the English Channel and off the Normandy beaches forced General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander-in-chief of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) to postpone D-Day by 24 hours before deciding on a much longer cancellation. Tuscaloosa steamed back toward Bristol on the Celtic Sea. The choppy waters made many ill, but Donovan and Bruce did fine. Wild Bill, excited as a young boy at Christmas, wanted to see action, even though he led a top-secret spy agency. The United States (and Allies) mounted four major amphibious invasions in the European Theatre of Operations. D-Day was the fifth, and Wild Bill had been at four of them. Bruce, a successful lawyer, farmer and politician before the war, was a veteran of ocean cruises and did not sicken easily.

Many have written about how the invasion fleet marked time that day of postponement. Bruce counted more than 75 warships and transports within a few miles of him. This was just off Bristol port, far from

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