The fascinating biography of the man who laid the foundation for the CIA. One of the most celebrated and highly decorated heroes of World War I, a noted trial lawyer, presidential adviser and emissary, and chief of America’s Office of Strategic Services during World War II, William J. Donovan was a legendary figure. Donovan, originally published in 1982, penetrates the cloak of secrecy surrounding this remarkable man. During the dark days of World War II, "Wild Bill" Donovan, more than any other person, was responsible for what William Stevenson, author of A Man Called Intrepid, described as the astonishing success with which the United States entered secret warfare and accomplished in less than four years what it took England many centuries to develop. Drawing upon Donovan’s diaries, letters, and other papers; interviews with hundreds of the men and women who worked with him and spied for him; and declassified and unpublished documents, author Richard Dunlop, himself a former member of Donovan’s OSS, traces the incredible career of the man who almost single-handedly created America’s central intelligence service. The result is the definitive biography that Donovan himself had always expected Dunlop would write.
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Detailed story of an American hero and visionary
Thorough, fascinating biography.
First, I appreciated learning about the man who created the concept of the Central Intelligence Agency. But this book is about much more than that particular contribution by Bill Donovan. The biography describes in detail Donovan's Irish-American childhood in Buffalo, NY in the late 1800's, his education and early years as a lawyer, his heroic service in WW I, the between war years which he spent investigating, on his own, social and political conditions world wide, and his service during WW II in creating and developing the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. Even that impressive list of accomplishments does not do justice in describing Bill Donovan. He was brilliant, upbeat, thoughtful, discreet, far-seeing and never content to sit back and rest on his laurels while others took risks or did all the work. My only disappointment in the story of this man was his apparently rampant philandering. Too bad he could not devote a portion of his seemingly endless energy and commitment to his family relationships, particularly to his marriage. Infidelity seems to be a fairly common failing in men of great accomplishment, but that hardly constitutes an excuse. Nevertheless, there is no denying Donovan's remarkable contributions to significant events of the 20th century.
This was a straight-forward narration. No characters or alternate voices were portrayed. Eric Martin was the perfect narrator: matter-of-fact, attention-holding.
Father of central intelligence services in the USA.
The only flaw I noticed is that there is perhaps too much detail in this biography. This is the first book I have listened to during which I wondered if an abridged version might have been a better choice. I love reading long books, so my attention span isn't the problem. 1) I felt weighed down by all the names of people with whom Dononvan interacted. 2) For some reason, the description of his activities during the years between the world wars struck me as tedious. Too many names, too many dinners and meetings with this person or that, too many flights here and there...I think fewer minute details and better summarizing/editing of this period would have suited me better. My interest revived as the WW II years approached. I do recommend this audio version, with the caveat that it will require from the listener many hours of concentration. The end result is more than worthwhile. After listening to this narration, I now view Bill Donovan as a larger than life figure. I admire his sweeping comprehension of the state of the world and his endless personal commitment to be fair, compassionate, and proactive in safeguarding his country.
- Gotta Tellya