View Full Version : "The Resistance" -From declassified CIA/OSS Files

07-18-2006, 05:01 PM
By Mark Fritz / The Boston Globe (http://graphics.boston.com/globe/nation/packages/secret_history/index6.shtml) Staff / August 26, 2001

Two men were assigned to kill the Nazi officer in charge of brutalizing their country. They found him, they shot him, they fled. The Reich responded by massacring every man, teenaged boy, and -- just for the hellish embellishment of it -- every dog in a village singled out to die for that defiant deed.

The women and children were sent to concentration camps. Few survived. The village itself was blown up and burned down, eventually erased by the anonymity of a rippling wheat field.

The community was Lidice, the country Czechoslovakia, the assassination the work of the mythic underground, the maze of movements that ran like violent rivers beneath the battlefields of World War II. Wildly romanticized, "La Resistance" involved more than plucky French patriots sporting berets and setting booby traps in quixotic crusades against evil oppressors.

The underground's underbelly was often quite ugly. As Lidice learned in June 1942, the enemy usually settled the score by lopsided margins. The Nazis killed hundreds as punishment for the assassination of SS chief Reinhard "the Hangman" Heydrich, whom Hitler replaced with an equally evil overlord.

Yet to the oppressed, the death of the hated Heydrich, who lingered in exquisite agony for days while his wounds turned gangrenous, was a morale-pumping moment of dark, primal pleasure.

"Fifty years later, yes, it's easy to say it wasn't worth it because of the number of people killed," says former Czech freedom fighter Vera Laska, an Auschwitz survivor and now a historian at Regis College in Weston. "But then, there was such a moral joy among the people with the killing of this bastard."

The cold calculus that Hitler and Hirohito used to punish populations for the derring-do of a few is one of the most richly documented war stories buried in the 3 million intelligence records cracked opened by the National Archives under the Nazi War Crimes Act of 1998. The records add countless details to the important, arguably essential role the resistance played not just in the outcome of World War II, but also the end of European colonialism, the onset of the Cold War, and ultimately the collapse of the USSR a decade ago this December.

They also create a gritty, real-time diary of sorts, chronicling how the Allies competed for control over a medley of quarrelsome guerrilla movements that were each vying to be the power that filled the post-war vacuum, planting the seeds of future conflicts from Burma to the Balkans. Names like Gandhi, Mao, Tito, de Gaulle, and Ho Chi Minh float through the dossiers not as historical figures, but as resistance role players in a struggle over the fate of the world.

"You do not look very nonviolent to me," Mohandas Gandhi, whose nonviolent revolt would drive the British out of India, smilingly chided an American spy who wore a military uniform to a meeting with the pacifist just after the war.

The impact of the resistance -- whether it was 80,000 Partisans driving the Axis out of Yugoslavia or a solitary Slovak slipping a laxative into a Nazi's coffee cup -- is one of the most ephemeral aspects of World War II. It is usually enshrined, nation by nation, survivor by survivor, in misty-eyed memoirs and stone memorials listing the locals killed fighting oppression, even if the majority of them were victims of Axis reprisals for guerrilla attacks.

The new records re-create how those underground campaigns looked to Allied intelligence as the war was unfolding. They put names and faces on a category of casualty that, by some estimates, accounted for 5 million to 10 million of the roughly 50 million lives lost in the war.
William Donovan William Donovan, OSS chief
(1948 Globe file photo)

"This intelligence gets you right down to the village level," says Timothy Naftali, a historian on a commission President Clinton appointed in 1999 to oversee the biggest declassification project in American history. "No one has sat down to evaluate the net effect of these resistance operations. I don't know of a single book that separates myth from reality. It's astounding. These are important questions."

The files, especially the half million so-called "mission files" the CIA has released in the past year, detail hundreds of missions behind enemy lines carried out by the agency's forebear, the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS aimed not only to gather intelligence and set up radio communications prior to major invasions, but also to aid, arm, and exploit dozens of resistance groups, even if it meant surreptiously wresting control of them from its allies, the British.

And freedom fighters did not always come free of charge. US intelligence officials dipped into a seemingly bottomless budget to pay off local agents with bicycles in the Netherlands, gold in Thailand, lipstick in China, and opium in Burma. The OSS even had to ply favors from the US military establishment, which often resented the new agency's broad authority.

"I respectfully recommend that a supply of cigars and operational whiskey be furnished," wrote one OSS leader, trying to grease his way through the US military bureaucracy in order to launch an operation aimed at organizing a resistance movement in Japanese-occupied Korea.

General William "Wild Bill" Donovan, the OSS chief, gave his lieutenants wide latitude in arming, infiltrating, exploiting, even inventing resistance groups. Few were as enthusiastic about eating away at the Axis from within as Allen Dulles, who set up shop in Switzerland and targeted the underground movements that he believed the British were jealously hoarding without fully exploiting.

Dulles cabled Donovan in May 1943 that his counterpart in British intelligence "is reluctant to give up a monopoly that he has enjoyed up to this point."

Dulles was soon parachuting his own people -- often expatriates recruited from occupied countries -- behind enemy lines equipped with radio transmitters, cash, and weapons. Dulles also wrested from his own colleagues control of OSS Detachment F, which operated in the choice Savoie region of rural, southeastern France, near both Swiss and Italian borders, a landscape of misty lakes nestled by snow-capped mountains.

"It teemed for more than four years with patriots and collaborators, with Allied and Nazi agents, with strange and mysterious characters that slipped back and forth through the insufficient border patrol," US Navy Lieutenant W. L. Wiley, the detachment's executive officer, wrote in a 1945 report.

"The Germans were never able, despite tremendous efforts in men and equipment, to destroy the organization of Savoie."

Wiley wrote that the Savoie resistance was critical to unifying the underground in France because of its proximity to neutral Switzerland, which was used as a relay base to transmit messages to sundry guerrilla groups, from Charles de Gaulle's nationalists to the rapidly expanding French Communists.

Hundreds of pages of records show how Dulles used the resistance stronghold for passing agents back and forth through Switzerland, for infiltrating the Partisan groups themselves, and for running OSS propaganda campaigns.

Dulles recruited dozens of German and Italian soldiers to infiltrate their old armies and police agencies, stir unrest, and assassinate German commanders. Operation Parma, for example, called for a group of Italian agents to infiltrate a Nazi spy school in northern Italy, then raid the school, kidnap the Nazi commander, retrieve all the documents, and, the records say, "Leave behind a note saying, 'DEATH TO ALL GERMANS.' "

The newly released records also include a rare Reich's eye view of the underground, courtesy of ace Allied spy Fritz Kolbe, a functionary in the German Foreign Office who was in charge of routing communiques among the Third Reich's upper echelon.

A report from German-occupied France showed "terrorist" attacks in November 1943 way up from the previous November. Rail sabotage alone zoomed from 24 to nearly 300, and "murder" from 15 to nearly 200. Despite hundreds of arrests, the Germans complained that the French courts were slow to impose death sentences, prompting the Vichy stooge government to appoint a "traveling court" of hanging judges and to give big promotions to pro-Nazis in French police departments.

Kolbe's dispatches also reflected Josip Tito's progress in the Balkans, including his success in eluding an offensive designed to cripple him. "Hitler was told that the campaign just concluded would round up three divisions of Tito's forces, but they made their escape."

By the end of 1943, Tito had conquered most of Montenegro and cut off crucial roads through Albania. "This has caused grave economic conditions in Nazi-occupied regions," the report said....

Cont'd, p'ges. 4-11 here. (http://graphics.boston.com/globe/nation/packages/secret_history/index6_4.shtml)