Letter to Ambassador William vanden Heuval March 12, 2003

Ambassador William vanden Heuval

Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

711 Fifth Avenue, suite 900

New York, NY 10022


March 13, 2003


Dear Ambassador,


I wanted to thank you for meeting with me the other day. To reiterate what I had mentioned on Wednesday, I would like to add some other voices and ideas into the FDR/ Birthday Ball thought process. First of all I have been talking to Ms. Jill Alcott of JK Alcott and Partners, who is a special events and fundraising professional. Of course I know that the March of Dimes understands quite well how to raise money! Also I am interested in seeking to tap into the experience and wise counsel of Mr. Charles “Chuck” Doehler, who is affiliated with the financial services industry, and is a major fund-raiser for the Red Cross, and in charge of a $100 million effort for Seton Hall University.


Therefore anything that you can do, that brings together Chris Breiseth, Frederica Goodman, and my group would be well appreciated.


Meanwhile I have read a great deal about General William “Wild Bill” Donavan, and when you mentioned his name, and your personal connection, I thought of the three books that I have mentioned below. Some influential Americans were averse to having an international spy service. Not long before Henry L. Stimson, FDR’s WWII  Secretary of War, and a former Secretary of State was a leading voice against the establishment of an American spy network. He was widely quoted, from his memoirs as saying, as Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State in 1929, when shown deciphered Japanese messages from the Black Chamber (Herbert Yardley’s cryptographic service), “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Of course as world conditions changed and new realities set in, Stimson understood the value of gathering and evaluating information.


FDR attended Columbia Law School with Bill Donavan, and even though there were only 21 students in their class, their paths rarely crossed. FDR liked to say that they knew each other as classmates, but this was probably not completely correct. But later on he became very familiar with Donavan, and became quite impressed with his skill in dealing with international diplomacy and intrigue. Of course this led to FDR’s use of Donavan as his own personal source of “off the record” information. Later on as World War II intensified, and our need for a spy service became acute, FDR created the OSS, the forerunner to today’s Central Intelligence Agency.


 “On June 13, 1942, the President made it official. He issued an executive order creating the Office of Strategic Services. On the same day he issued another executive order creating the Office of War Information, sliced off from Donavan’s propaganda operation. Though now part of the military, Wild Bill did not immediately press for rank. He wrote a British friend, General Sir Archibald Wavell, ‘These admirals and generals might be willing to sit down with citizen Donavan, but not with General Donavan.’ (a)


“The President explained that strategic services included ‘all measures (except pertaining to the federal program of radio, press, published and related propaganda activities involving the dissemination of information) taken to enforce our will upon the enemy by means other than military action, as may be applied in support of actual or planned military operations or in the furtherance of the war effort.’ “



“Yet in the weeks before Roosevelt’s death American shadow warriors were rapidly changing tack. Only a few days before the President died, Donavan sent him thoughts on the post-war world that were startling in their rejection of much earlier thinking. I the United States stood aside, he argued, the Soviets would dominate post-war Europe and Asia.”

( c )


This of course was to advise the President to encourage the maintenance of the British, French and Dutch colonial empires, but with a liberalized theme to check Soviet influence! Whether right or wrong, promises made to Ho Chi Minh regarding independence of Vietnam were forgotten after the war. With the continued struggle of the Viet Minh against the French in Indo-China, a big-time shooting war eventually broke out. President Eisenhower backed the French with logistical support, but arms alone couldn’t stave off the French military disaster at Dien Bien Phu. FDR understood all to well the need to balance both containment of Soviet expansion and de-colonialization. Unfortunately the division of Europe between east and west had little to do with the nationalistic aspirations of the peoples of French Indo-China. Therefore the Vietnam War became a long drawn out tragic event in the containment effort. But all in all, if we had originally not supported the French, they may have pulled out, sparing much bloodshed and the subsequent war that followed may have been avoided. Ironically the Communists succeeded in Indo-China anyhow, but they seemed to be a pawn of neither the Soviet block or China and more like Yugoslavia then Bulgaria.


Certainly World War I was about colonies and who should dominate them. The 2nd World War was to put that phase of Europe’s bloody history into the past. But unfortunately with FDR’s death and the emergence of the Cold War, the colonial period was able to linger on with deadly consequences in places like the Congo, Algeria, Indo-China, Indonesia and India. On one hand the United States was quite correct when it fulfilled its promise to free the Philippines in 1946, and quite foolish when it looked the other way in regards to the Dutch, French and Belgians.


Regards and stay well,



Richard J. Garfunkel



914-524-8381, e-mail: rjg@cloudd9.net


a)       Roosevelt’s Secret War, Joseph Persico ,  Random House, 2001

b)       Donavan’s America’s Master Spy, Richard Dunlop, Rand McNally, 1982

c)       Roosevelt and Churchill, Men of Secrets, David Stafford, The Overlook Press, 1999

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