SpyCast 4.16.24
Ep 629 | 4.16.24

“The Foundations of American Intelligence in WWI” – with Mark Stout


Andrew Hammond: Welcome to "SpyCast," the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. My name is Dr. Andrew Hammond, the museum's historian and curator. Each week, we explore some aspect of the past, the present, or future of intelligence and espionage. Please support the show for free by leaving us a five-star review and recommending the show to a friend. It will literally take a minute of your time and will help other listeners to find us. Coming up next on "SpyCast."

Mark Stout: We would never again be without aero reconnaissance squadrons. There would never again be a time when the United States didn't have at least one code-breaking organization. So, there was a lot of elements of continuity. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: The Great War was a watershed event for geopolitics, economics, society, culture, and of course warfare. Governments fells, empires unraveled, revolutions erupted, and millions and millions and millions of people died, both soldiers and civilians. A great mythology has built up around this most cataclysmic of events. Conversely, American intelligence during this period has been overlooked and underplayed. My good friend and former historian at the Spy Museum, Mark Stout, joined me to talk about his new book, "World War I and the Foundations of American Intelligence." In this book, he aims to write both an important missing chapter on the history of American intelligence and to challenge the mythology of where the origins of modern American intelligence really lay. Among many other things, Mark is a former intelligence officer, having served as an analyst with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the Central Intelligence Agency. In this week's episode, you'll learn about the first American intelligence agencies, codebreaking during World War I, the American Protective League and spy paranoia, World War I's effect on American culture and politics, and challenging the prevailing wisdom. The original podcast on intelligence since 2006, we are "SpyCast." Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I've been looking forward to this one, so thank very so much for coming to talk to me about your book, Mark.

Mark Stout: Well, thanks for having me. It's a real pleasure.

Andrew Hammond: Yes. I thought that it could be interesting to start off, this is a super-historian question. There must be a document that you came across -- I feel like everybody's got one of these stories. There's one document that sets your heart racing, where your hypothesis is confirmed, or it's the juiciest quote that you know is going to play a role somewhere in the introduction of something, or it's just something that you're maybe struggling to establish empirically, and you come across it. So, did you have one of those moments and tell us how exciting it was?

Mark Stout: I'll give you two, actually. One which is directly relevant to the argument I'm making in this book, and one which wasn't but was super fun. So, you know, the overall thrust of my book is, "Look, we can see the -- as you see in the title, the foundations of modern American intelligence in World War I." And of course, these days, we're used to things like literally hundreds of imaging satellites in orbit, and NSA collecting enormous amounts of data, and that sort of thing. That's kind of the way we think about intelligence these days. And I ran across a document written by an officer named Charles Mason who headed the analytic component of War Department Intelligence in Washington during World War I. And he was speaking, I believe, to one of the war colleges right after the war. And he was saying, "Look, we have learned that it's important for intelligence to pay fine-grained attention to the world out there, because even individual people who don't seem like they're going to be consequential, like--," and he mentioned a particular carpenter in the Middle East, Jesus, and he mentioned a Serbian college student, Gavrilo Princip, the guy who shot the arch duke that started World War I. You know, even -- seemingly inconsequential people like these can have world shaking effects. So, we need to be paying very close attention to what's going on in the outside world. But fortunately, he says, "In this war we've just ended, we've developed a really robust intelligence capability, and we should carry it forward and its overall goal should be complete observation of the entire world." Which immediately makes me think of National Security Agency. That's not a political comment at all. It just simply did. But I thought that really, you know, encapsulated ultimately where this is all going, right? The -- in some ways, that remains the probably unspoken motto of a lot of American intelligence, to know everything that's worth knowing. And yet, you heard this expressed in 1919 by a military intelligence officer. The other one I'll just briefly mention which doesn't really advance the argument of my book, but I thought was really juicy. During the war of course, General John J Pershing, led the American Expeditionary Forces, the U.S. Army in France, and some marines, too. And his intelligence officer, Chief Intelligence Officer was a guy named Brigadier General Dennis Nolan. And after the war, Pershing's writing his memoirs and he's sending the chapters of his memoirs to Nolan for his comments, corrections, like any additional things you suggest I throw in, so forth and so on. So, there's correspondence between them, and Nolan somewhere in there makes reference to a plan, apparently never executed, but a plan to put during the Versailles Treaty negotiations to put beautiful women in front of Prime Minister Lloyd George of the U.K., and Clemenceau of France to compromise them, to then provide some leverage so presumably that they will take on negotiating positions more in-line with what President Wilson wanted. I'm pretty sure this never actually happened, but it was explicitly discussed, which I think is pretty cool.

Andrew Hammond: So, I just want to set out the stall of a quick refresher on World War I and then quickly pivot onto the Foundations of American Intelligence. So, World War I, when did America get involved? How did it get involved?

Mark Stout: Yes. All right, so how to encompass a four-year world war in 90 seconds. Let's see what I can do. But, right. So, World War I started in the late summer of 1914 out of a crisis in the Balkans that quickly came to involve, not only Hungary, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire in Serbia, but also Germany and then Russia and France and Britain and so forth and so on. But that war, and basically at least on the western front, the first big action and defining action there was the invasion by Germany of France through Belgium. And so, the front lines in France -- well, let me rephrase this. The front lines for almost the entire war on the west are going to be sort of this lazy S-shape. And one end of it is on the French-Swiss border. And the other end of it is at the English Channel. And it's mostly France, but it includes a slice a Belgium. And for a long time, the front lines were pretty rigid, pretty ossified. Okay, so 1917, the United States finally enters the war. So, the war's been going on for about two-and-a-half years already. And there's a variety of reasons that contribute to this. Certainly, the Zimmerman telegram in which we learned, thanks to British intelligence and British encryption, that Germany was trying to induce Mexico to join the war on their side, was part of it. The sinking of American merchant ships was very much a part of that as well. And Wilson also talked about concern about propaganda and espionage by the Germans in the United States, sabotage by the Germans in the United States, a whole slew of reasons. But the United States finally enters the war in April 1917, but it's really not until the end of 1917, really the early days of 1918 that we start to get any kind of appreciable army forces into France. And though they take part in some defensive efforts that were quite important, opposing German fences in the spring of 1918, the first American offensive doesn't come until September 12th, 1918. And then the second one, September 22nd, if I recall correctly, the Meuse-Argonne campaign, which goes all the way to the end of the war. So, we came in late. We were slow to accelerate once we were in, and then we were part of what historians call the 100 days, the final 100 days of the war, which saw offenses by all the western powers more or less coordinated against the Germans and brought the war to an end on November 11th, 1918, with the Armistice.

Andrew Hammond: What were American losses?

Mark Stout: Something under 100 and if I recall correctly, 113,000 or so. So, much less than Civil War. Much less than World War II. But nonetheless, sizeable. Bigger than -- greater than the number we lost in Korea or Vietnam by, you know, a long shot.

Andrew Hammond: And we don't need to go very much into this because it's a huge question, but American society, what effect did World War I have on American society? So, somewhere like Britain or France, upends gender relations, industrial relations. I'm just trying to get a sense of the effect on American society as a whole.

Mark Stout: Yes, I would say the single biggest effect was the promotion of a concept that came to be called 100% Americanism. And it's worth remembering that at the time of World War I, the second most commonly spoken language in the United States was not Spanish as it is today. It was German. There were lots of German immigrants. There were children of German immigrants, German Americans and actually German citizens, plus of course all the other sort of rich diversity of all kinds of different ethnic groups that were already in the United States with their own particular histories. But the notion was very much put forward by the government and by other patriotic organizations that we are facing this world war, we're facing this more or less total war that, you know, entails the entire nation, and this is not a time to be what they called at the time, a hyphenated American. Right? An Italian-American, a German-American, a whatever. You needed to be an American. And so, that -- there were a lot of governmental and societal pressures on that. It was not a particularly good time to be a hyphenated American, or particularly comfortable time, I should probably say. And then, associated with that, there was a lot of government influence, and even government control put over the press and over how people could speak. So, the Espionage Act was passed in June, I think, in 1917, shortly after we entered the war. And then the Sedition Act the next year. And the result of this was that opposing the draft, or engaging in defeatism like, "Oh, we're not going to win this war," or these sorts of things, could get you in, you know, affirmatively get you in trouble, even legal trouble. So, there was very much this -- the whole system was reinforcing sort of a flag-waving you know, "Rah, rah, rah," America kind of attitude. And I think that was the biggest impact on American society. Maybe one way to think about it was that if American identity was highly fluid before World War I, World War I kind of cast it in Jello.

Andrew Hammond: Okay.

Mark Stout: By so as, you know, not fully foreign. Not you know, kind of flexible but you could see a structure of what it's going to become later when it really becomes solidified as you know, we're a global power. We are, you know, largely an outward or to a large extent, an outward-looking power.

Andrew Hammond: So, let's pivot onto intelligence, more specifically now. So, what kind of American intelligence are we talking about on the eve of entering World War I?

Mark Stout: Not a whole lot. Okay so, there were two main intelligence services at the time. Well, I'll go with one-and-a-half actually. So, one was the Office of Naval Intelligence, which had been founded actually all the way back in 1883 as a result of a reform movement in the military, both the army and the navy, after the post-Civil War doldrums. ONI was primarily you know, existed at that time to serve the needs of the navy. It was not -- nonetheless, was not tremendously influential within the navy and the department of the navy, but it was there. And they collected on a lot of things, particularly pertaining to the equipment and the practices of the leading, you know, military powers around the world. A lot of focused on like, "What can we learn about what, you know, the Royal Navy for instance is doing that can -- we can learn from?" Right? And we can perhaps implement? Also, you know, some on you know, the kinds of preparations or intelligence gathering that needs to be done if you need to be ready to fight a war. Their main means of collection were two: open-source intelligence. So, read -- a lot of reading of foreign professional military naval journals, newspapers, that sort of stuff. And then the naval attaches. And they were, you know, a large handful of naval attaches at U.S. embassies or ligations overseas. And naval attaches -- and the army had an equivalent system. The naval attaches are navy officers who are sent and attached to U.S. embassy's ligations, attache in French. They're attached. And their first and foremost job is as basically military diplomats, just to work on you know, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the German Navy, whatever, right? It occasionally had to actually do business for whatever kind of reason, and they would be the conduits for which -- through which this would be done. But they were also overt, i.e., not clandestine, i.e., not you know, sneaky, collectors of intelligence. So, they'd also be reading the local press. They'd obviously be talking with navy officers in their host countries. They would often be invited to go to observe exercises or that sort of thing, and they'd report back this intelligence information that they acquired in a completely above-board fashion. So, that was one of them. The War Department had had a similar organization. It had a bunch of different names. I'm just generically throughout this discussion going to call it the Military Intelligence Division, or MID. It had created the MID, the equivalent in the army and War Department to ONI in 1885. In the 19 aughts there was a bunch of reorganization in the War Department generally, some reforms called the Root Reforms that were brought about by or spearheaded by the Secretary of War, Elihu Root. And military intelligence at the War Department level as a separate office entity kind of got lost in the shuffle and got merged in with a bigger and more influential organization that was supposed to do both. But that meant that military intelligence was largely neglected but nominally speaking was still there. It would get revivified and created as again, as an independent entity within the War Department in the first couple of months that we were in the war. And then, I should also just briefly add though, they don't play a big role in my book, but that the Department of Justice had created in 1908 the Bureau of Investigation which 25, 30 years later is going to become the FBI. They weren't per se an intelligence organization, but they came to play an important role in counterespionage during World War I. And there were also a couple bits and pieces of the federal government, most notably probably the Secret Service, which was as you know, responsible for counterfeiting and protecting the president who had, you know, investigative capabilities that sometimes were borrowed by people like the State Department or whoever. So, basically it was ONI and kind of the War Department, MID, and then a few other lesser players.

Andrew Hammond: And just out of interest, how much fear, if at all, is there surrounding Great Britain in the run-up to World War I? So, you mentioned collecting on the Royal Navy. So, during the 19th Century, there was always this, "Are these Brits going to have another crack at us?" or "Could we end up tangling with the world's most powerful navy?" How much is that there? How much is that -- that's just not going to happen? Are different norms being established? Where are we then?

Mark Stout: Yes, so it's an interesting question. Up until World War I started in 1914, and you know, going back to you know, the 1880s basically, the main countries that the navy and War Department envision hypothetically we might get into war with, were Mexico, far and away the top on the list, right? And indeed the U.S. military and the navy got involved in Mexico multiple times. So, Mexico, Britain, and it's important to remember at that time, Britain didn't just mean you know, the British Isles on the other side of the Atlantic. It meant Canada, which is a direct neighbor of ours. Right? The war plans for war with Britain, obviously involve the navy out at sea, but to the extent that the army was going to play a role in this. It was either defending the U.S. Homeland or fighting in or least against Canadians. Germany and then sort of in the -- I don't know, ten-ish years, maybe fifteen-ish years, running up to World War I, Japan. None of those with the exception of Mexico were ever viewed as especially likely, but they were actively considered as possibilities and preparations were made, and all of this effort was put in, it was part of those preparations. Preparations were made for fighting wars against those -- those four countries.

Andrew Hammond: Okay, so we've got one and a half intelligence agencies on the cusp of American entering the war. When does this begin to change? How does it change? When does the acceleration of the centralization process kick in? Is it before America actually enters the war, because got into the war, or is it with the commencement of Americans in combat, or does it come later?

Mark Stout: It's sort of a rolling process, actually. And it starts during the period when the United States isn't in the war yet. And a couple things happen. So, first off, starting in a -- and the records are not super clear here, but near as I can tell, starting at a modest way in 1915 and then formalized in 1916, the State Department creates an intelligence organization, which is actually going to last until 1927, the bits of it actually continue today, but mostly it lasts until 1927. And the initial motivation here was, "Look, there was a great deal of concern in the State Department about espionage and subversion and that sort of -- and sabotage being conducted by either by or at the behest of German diplomats and German military and naval attaches here in the United States. You know, it's not super-well remembered these days that there was actually a major German sabotage campaign, and at American merchant shipping and in American sort of military industry. And the reason for this was that even though the United States was nominally neutral in the war, it was selling lots of munitions to the British, the French, and the Russians, which understandably didn't make the Germans especially happy. So, they firebombed I believe 36 American merchant ships that were involved in trade with Europe. They blew up or attempted rather to blow up a bridge connecting the United States and Canada. They blew up a couple of ammunition depots, most notably Black Tom which is an island near Statue of Liberty. An enormous explosion. So, to deal with all these kinds of problems, the State Department sets up what became known, at least informally, as the Bureau of Secret Intelligence to conduct operations to surveil and thwart these clandestine and covered efforts by the Germans and to a lesser extent, the Austro-Hungarians here in the United States. Some of that work was done by State Department officials. Some of it was done by Secret Service agents and other federal agents that were sort of loaned or contracted or whatever you will, to the State Department. So, that's that. In 1916 also, ONI starts putting into place -- the ONI can see, "I think we might end up involved in a war -- in this war." ONI starts spinning up capability to do espionage overseas, right? Human intelligence conducted through clandestine means. So, they launch that plan, if I recall correctly, in the second half of 1916. And then when we enter the war, which is in April 1917 we declare war, very shortly thereafter, the War Department reinvigorates the Military Intelligence Division. Carves it off from the War College Division and creates it as its own standalone entity within the War Department staff. And it basically gets bigger over time, so that by the end of 1918, it's at something like a thousand-plus officers plus large numbers of support personnel. And ONI went through a comparable expansion process. It ended up probably about a third the size. But yes, that's sort of the evolution of it. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: To help you digest this episode, here is a short interlude on the Progressive Era, which Mark mentioned earlier. When we refer to the Progressive Era in American history, we're referring to a period between the 1890s and the 1920s. It was a movement that aimed at social and political reform to address the negative effects of industrialization on ordinary Americans and to mitigate the gap between the haves and the have-nots. For example, by harnessing the power of the federal government to eliminate unfair business practices, prevent monopolies, root out corruption, and improve living and working conditions. Okay, so what did this mean practically? Well, how about the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 16th and 18th Amendments expanded the role of government and public life, allowing Congress to tax citizens based on income and prohibit alcohol, respectively, while the 17th and 19th Amendments sought to improve American democracy by establishing the direct election of U.S. senators in each state, rather than through state legislatures and quote, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." I.E., women's suffrage. [ Music ] So, you spoke a little bit about the formalization Or the [inaudible 00:24:32] growth of American intelligence. So, I'm just trying to get a sense of what other developments take place, other organizations that crop up, other important processes or dynamics that occur that put these building blocks in place?

Mark Stout: Yes. So, a couple that I'll highlight. So, one is the Committee for Public Information, the CPI, which is created early on in the U.S. time in the war. And this is largely focused on pro-war, pro-allied propaganda targeted largely at Americans. Right? The military was particularly responsible for propaganda aimed at the Germans, but the -- keeping up morale on the home front, encouraging the 100% Americanism concept that I heard -- that I mentioned earlier, things like this, were very much in its wheelhouse, and it was quite a powerful organization. And I would also say that there were a number of volunteer civic volunteer patriotic organizations, which by far the most famous and largest was the American Protective League. The American Protective League was an organization founded a few months before the United States entered the war in 1917, by three businessmen in Chicago who said, "Looks like there might be a war coming. We figure that the federal government might need help doing various things," and the organization ended up ultimately, by the end of World War I was a quarter of a million people. It had a sort of -- it had a charter of sorts from the Department of Justice to do its work, and it did things like rounding up people it thought were slackers, which was a term at the time that meant like, "didn't register for the draft." For military intelligence and also naval intelligence, and actually for the War Department where generally they would do things that we would recognize today as background investigations for security clearance. Basically, a similar sort of process for officers particularly who are going to be put into sensitive positions like intelligence or in the -- you know, working with chemical weapons, or working in aviation. Super easy to sabotage airplanes back then. Like really easy. Those sorts of things. And just sort of generally keeping their eyes out for spies and investigate -- and also doing investigations sometimes of potential spy -- not only reporting what they saw, just sort of, of their own accord, but also sometimes doing investigations of people whom the federal government had received reports might be spies. So, they were a big deal. And frankly, went rather overboard and it was very interesting that the moment the Armistice was signed the Department of Justice said, "Thank you very much for your service. Your charter is revoked. Disband yourself." And the War Department, Military Intelligence at least, I'm not so sure about Naval Intelligence, but Military Intelligence was also pretty glad that they'd got away.

Andrew Hammond: I'm trying to get a sense Mark, of when we see the center of gravity in terms of the centralization of intelligence pass over to the civilian realm. So, even thinking now, nine of the 18 agencies are military. So, in terms of the budget, in terms of the personnel, you know, as the center of gravity, but in terms of the centralization, we had the Director for Central Intelligence, now the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the like -- the centralization part has been civilian for you know, since the National Security Act of 1947. So, I'm just trying to get a sense of when we see the centralization components go to civilian agencies, or does that not happen during World War I? Does that not come until later?

Mark Stout: No. It's an interesting question. And you're right, the passage of the National Security Act of 1947 which created the CIA and the National Security Council and a whole bunch of other present-day structures for national security, is the moment at which the U.S. intelligence community becomes intelligence community with capital I, capital C. And at the center of it, as you say, is the Central Intelligence Agency, which is a civilian organization, though many of its early leaders, either top leaders or deputies, were military officers. But nonetheless, it's a civilian organization and was from birth. So, that's the legal answer to your question. But a lot of this is, I don't know, foretold is not the right word, but you can -- you can see tendencies in this direction during World War I. And I'd say two things on this. So, first off, remember I mentioned that in 1916, the State Department formalized the creation of its Bureau of Secret Intelligence which was largely doing sort of domestic security against foreign actors. Well, the man in charge of that organization was a man named Leland Harrison, and he was very widely respected in War Department Intelligence, in Military Intelligence, and also in Naval Intelligence. And he became de facto Intelligence Coordinator looking outward as well, in Washington D.C. You know, completely informal. It was, if anything, mostly a function of he was widely respected and he had good personal relationships with a lot of key players. And then on the no-kidding counterespionage side, when it came to things that like people might actually like get investigated for and get possibly prosecuted for, there was an interagency working group, committee, whatever you want to call it, that met if I recall, weekly to exchange data and coordinate on stuff at the Washington level related to you know, counterintelligence and counterespionage domestically. And that was chaired by the Justice Department. So, none of this was formalized, but you could see there's -- I don't know. There's something in the makeup of the institutions of the time, or the demands of the problem that sort of pushed you in a direction of, "We can't be entirely independent, operating off our -- on our own." There's at least some degree of coordination, and exchange of information, and so forth and so on, that needs to happen. And you know, certainly the navy wasn't going to allow the army to be driving that train, and the army wasn't going to allow the navy to be driving that train. So, you get State Department and you get Bureau of Investigation in on the state side. As I say, a lot of that was also sort of personality driven.

Andrew Hammond: And do you think that the -- that ultimately that that's the only way that it ever could have been, because in a democracy, politicians, civilians are in charge -- ultimately in charge of the military, it just wouldn't make sense for the centralization of intelligence to be done by the military?

Mark Stout: So, it's an interesting question. I mean, it's you know, counter-factual obviously, so we can't -- I can't possibly give you a wrong answer. So, I guess I can say two things and they cut in opposing directions. So, Number 1 is that the country at large, from you know, civilians through the civilian government, through the military, there was a lot of reasonable unified effort that was going into fighting this war and supporting the military or joining the military and equipping the military and like, we were in a war. And while there were definitely a great number of dissenters, there was a big, huge, whole of society energy behind that. So, I could an alternative past in which probably War Department Intelligence, Military Intelligence, made itself the center of these things. But on the other hand, as you were alluding to, there's a very strong tradition in the United States of you know, of civilian control and of distrust of the military, and particularly, and you saw this more in the early -- sorry, in the late 19th Century, but it was a real thing, particularly concern about militarism, right? And people would always hold up the example of Prussia and militarism, German militarism, that cut in the other direction.

Andrew Hammond: That's fascinating. And what's going on with American codebreaking during this period?

Mark Stout: So, when the United States entered the war, or in the years you know, immediately running up to it, the -- neither the navy nor the army had a codebreaking organization. Every once in a while, the army would come into possession of encrypted materials belonging to foreign powers in various ways. And they had a list of, if I recall correctly, three U.S. army officers at various places doing you know, regular army stuff, right, who happened personally to be interested in codes and cyphers as a hobby. And they would literally mail these, you know, encrypted materials to these folks and say, "Hey, can you -- if your free time, can you see if you can break this code? And if so, like send us the results back." That was -- that was what we had, you know, at the moment we entered World War I. Not super impressive.

Andrew Hammond: I can hear someone at NSA choking on their coffee right now.

Mark Stout: Indeed. Indeed. Now, very oddly but rather fortunately, there was actually a reasonably significant center of codebreaking in the country that was not in the government. And this was something called the Riverbank Laboratories in Illinois. It was run by this highly eccentric millionaire named George Fabyan. And he had a bunch of scientists and what not investigating various questions there. But among his personal hobby horses was the idea that Sir Francis Bacon had actually written all of the plays and poems and what not that we attribute to William Shakespeare. And he believed, for whatever odd reason, that the proof of this was in some way encrypted in Shakespeare's plays and poems. So, he hired a bunch of people who either you know, knew something about codebreaking or who could learn something about codebreaking, the most famous being a man named William Friedman, whose academic background was actually in genetics. Friedman brought his wife, who turned out to be similarly, if not even more talented, than him. So, he had a bunch of people working on -- who were cryptanalysts as we'd say today, working on Shakespeare plays. But they knew about codes and cyphers for codes, particularly. So, when we enter the war, the War Department actually sort of takes -- undertakes this kind of stop-gap measure of it starts sending officers whom it's selected for codebreaking work, sends them off to be trained by this -- by you know, the Riverbank Laboratory, and then they'd be reassigned back either to Washington or to the American Expeditionary Forces in France. If they were assigned to Washington, as you were alluding to, they would be working for a man named Herbert Yardley who'd been a code clerk at the State Department before the war, and his organization was known as MI8, and they were the codebreaking organization of the Military Intelligence Division. Again, they worked largely on Mexico and Central America as their foreign targets and on encrypted materials that were -- that came to them as a product of you know, telegraph or mail censorship, things like that. Many of which they found to be simply shorthand writing in various foreign shorthand systems. Many, and I would say most, but many of the rest being people carrying on love affairs through letters that were in code. Not a lot of German spy activity they discovered, but so that was Washington. And then of course, after World War I, Yardley's organization is going to continue under a different name. It becomes informally known as the American Black Chamber and exists until 1929, funded 40% by the War Department and 60% by the State Department. Just real briefly on the navy, the navy when we got into the war, realized it should have some sort of codebreaking effort. It put a yeoman against the problem who immediately got nowhere, and they decided to throw in their lot with the War Department. They assigned that one navy yeoman over to Yardley's organization on the War Department side. And then of course, in the American Expeditionary Forces in Fance, the ultimately enormous U.S. army that got built up in France, it had an intelligence office under Brigadier General Dennis Nolan, and it had a codebreaking component as well known as G2A6, which was very focused on battlefield signals intelligence, what we would call traffic analysis. So, looking at the ebb and flow and the patterns of German communications, not what they're saying, but just the patterns literally of radio calls back and forth and deriving intelligence from that. And also, some on sort of high strategic level German Communications. They worked very closely with the British and the French, particularly the French. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: One figure from World War I would go on to play a major role in American intelligence in World War II, and I mean major. He would win a medal of honor on the Western Front on World War I, but let us not be coy about the achievements of William "Wild Bill" Donovan on the battlefield. He also won a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military decoration after the Medal of Honor, as well as the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart with two, both with clusters, and the Croix de Guerre. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows, "Lieutenant Colonel 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 platoon, 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. In 1941, he would go on to lead the Office of the Coordinator of Information or COI. Then more famously, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, often referred to as the forerunner to the CIA. As Mark argues in is book though, the foundations of modern American intelligence lay not in the conflict where Donovan was a director of the Office of Strategic Services, but in the earlier one where he won the Medal of Honor. [ Music ] Through what level of collaboration or cooperation with British is taking place at this time? So, during World War II, quite famously a British-American intelligence become good friends and forge a close working relationship. Is this present during World War I?

Mark Stout: Yes. It -- well, they worked very closely together on all sorts of intelligence issues. And there's a pretty high level of trust that's developed, particularly between the AEF guys and British Intelligence, much less so with Naval Intelligence and the War Department Military Intelligence Division back here in Washington. Just had less occasion to cooperate with the British, but there was cooperation certainly you know, based here in Washington as well through British attaches and British military mission and what not. And it's across the board. Initially, when the U.S. really gets into the war, the AEF wants to, and other components of American intelligence too for that matter, wants to engage in espionage activities overseas. The British try to discourage us, as do the French, because they just don't want us amateurs getting in their way. Also, we've got deeper pockets than they do. They don't want the -- they don't want us running up the prices of like you know, recruited agents. But they get over that. And actually, there's a lot of cooperation on counterintelligence outside the U.S. and on espionage outside the U.S. with the British, and also the French. In order of battle analysis in the AEF, Order of Battle Analysis is understanding the strength, organization and sort of lay down on the ground of your -- the opposing army, right, or the opposing military. That's obviously a place where you need particularly close cooperation, because a German division for instance, that's pulled out of the line, opposite the British army, might end up next week in the line, and you know, opposite the American army, for instance, right? And there's a lot of cooperation on codebreaking as well. All of this said, I think it would be fair to say that actually American intelligence cooperation with the French was greater than it was for the British. I mean not by a long shot, but noticeably. And the reason for this is simple. And that is that there were a very few American divisions that operated in British sectors, north more towards Belgium. But the vast bulk of the American Expeditionary Forces was down south, closer to the French-Swiss border, and the forces on the left and the right of where the U.S. army -- the American Expeditionary Forces went into the line, were French armies. So, and obviously, you need to coordinate on, not only operational matters, but also on intelligence matters with the army on your left and the army on your right. And those were French. So, there was a lot more day-to-day, nitty-gritty level cooperation with them than there was for the British, just because of where we were on the battlefield. Also, I would say that on the codebreaking side specifically, there's seemed to have been a much closer literally personal relationship between, at least the key members of the American codebreaking effort in the American Expeditionary Forces and the French codebreakers than there was with the British. And I think that was literally just a matter of personality.

Andrew Hammond: How does this play out in the field? So, the American Expeditionary, let's talk about Washington. We've spoke about the country as a totality. What about in the field, John Pershing, AEF, what's the intelligence part of the story there?

Mark Stout: Yes, sure. Well, let me just start off by saying that the American Expeditionary Forces including their -- its intelligence component, operated -- I mean, not independently of Washington, but they were on a pretty long leash. Just if for no other reason than, it was really difficult to communicate with them from Washington to Pershing's headquarters in France, it was difficult to communicate with them. Transatlantic radio existed, but was in its infancy, and you couldn't put much data across that way. Transatlantic telegraph cables existed. Mostly controlled by the British, actually. And it's interesting. About, I don't know, four or so months before the United States entered the war, the British post office, and you will recall better than I what their formal name is.

Andrew Hammond: It's just a post office.

Mark Stout: Yes, okay. Who also owned the telegraph system. Did what we would call a bandwidth study of like the capacity of transatlantic cables to communicate with the United States if they entered the war. And I've run the arithmetic and super roughly, in today's terms, what they discovered was that the -- that there would be about ten megabytes of capacity each month to communicate to the United States and also from the United States. So, ten megabytes in each direction, each month, right? And you had to do everything in that ten megabytes. And then, it got worse because in the summer of 1917, the Germans launched a campaign, largely executed by submarines, specially equipped German submarines, to cut all of the British Transatlantic cables. Now, they didn't get all of them, but they got a big hunk of them. So, it was actually less than ten megabytes a month that had to encompass everything, or your only other alternative was to write it on a piece of paper, put it on a ship, which would take weeks. Low weeks, but weeks. Right? So, Pershing and his army had a high degree of autonomy that say the British army, the French army, the German army for that matter in the field didn't, because those capitals were very close to their troops, right? You could leave London and in the same day, be at you know, General Haig's headquarters, right? And the British and the French could do -- or sorry, the French and the Germans could do the same thing. Okay, so what that means then in intelligence terms is that the intelligence efforts of the American Expeditionary Forces are largely self-contained and autonomous. The Military Intelligence Division in Washington, its main role in supporting that was training people who would then be assigned over there. Nolan's intelligence organization supporting Pershing, sort of at the general headquarters level had four big components. G2A which did most of the intelligence collection and analysis, and that's where the codebreakers were. G2B which did counterespionage and espionage, and later some bits and pieces of covered action. And then G2C which did cartography and G2D which did censorship and propaganda. So, most of the actions then is in G2A. So, they had the codebreakers, I mentioned. They had radio intelligence. People generally, traffic analysis. They had a big effort on aerial reconnaissance and aerial photography. And the air intel folks were responsible for basically studying the German air force, its operations, the technical capabilities of its aircraft. They'd frequently go out. If a German airplane crashed, it was shot down behind U.S. lines, let's go have a look at it and see if they've made any technological advances that we need to know about. For a while, they were keeping a card file on German pilots, though they discontinued that because they discovered it wasn't super useful. They were putting together target folders so that the U.S. bomber force, which was not what it was in World War II, but nonetheless important, could know what to bomb. They were doing all that sort of stuff. They were -- there was organizations then, analytic organizations that looked at just sort of the developments of the enemy's trench line system and its you know, evolution. Its development. Down at the pointy end of the sphere, you have a lot of people who are often referred to as scouts but were in organizations that were usually called intelligence platoons or intelligence sections. And these people are operating listening posts and observation posts, usually in no-man's land. And they're also conducting patrols in no-man's land, largely to collect intelligence. Bring back German prisoners of war.

Andrew Hammond: Sounds terrifying.

Mark Stout: Oh, yes. Yes. Well, this work was among the most dangerous work that the U.S. army did. This was not good for your life expectancy to be in one of these. So, patrols who bring back German soldiers or to kill German soldiers and take documents and uniform insignia off of them and what not. And that information that was -- had broader implications, was sent up the chain. Yes, there was a very robust intelligence effort. And they were able to put together products like for instance when the AEF was planning its first offensive, which would be launched on September 12th. It would last four days. To crush the St. Mihiel salient that the Germans had been holding, bulge out into the American minds, that the Germans had been holding for -- since early in the war, the Order of Battle Analysts put together a map. Big map. I've seen it. It's at the National Archives. Sort of table-sized map, which showed the front lines, showed -- right? And it showed where on the map German divisions were that might potentially be able to reinforce the German forces in the St. Mihiel salient, if we attacked. And it was the -- this particular map was, "These are the German divisions and where they are on the map that we think can arrive in the first four days." And it had unit identifications and sort of an indication of like the degree of their ability and how rested they are. And color-coded by these, the ones who could get there on Day 1. These are the ones who can get there on Day 2, etcetera. It was pretty high-speed stuff. So, you know, major, major effort in the American Expeditionary Forces.

Andrew Hammond: So, we spoke about the U.S. that goes onto World War I. So, we have the ONI and the DMI and some other bits and pieces going on. So, let's just say we get to the end of the war now. What exists then that didn't exist at the beginning?

Mark Stout: Yes. So, Military Intelligence Division had been revivified. Had gone from a theoretical entity to a real one and a very large one. As I mentioned, about a thousand people in Washington, and then the entire country, plus I think Canal Zone and the Philippines were divided up into districts, which all had their own domestically oriented military intelligence networks. ONI had grown from a handful of officers to 300-odd in Washington, and it also had divided up the country into districts which had naval intelligence officers who would run counter-intelligence operations clandestinely in those parts of the country. The State Department had its Bureau of Secret Intelligence which continued until 1927, though at which point it was formally disestablished, but one hunk of it still exists today, and is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department. I mentioned that Yardley had been the main codebreaker in the Military Intelligence Division in Washington after the war. He continues on. That organization continues on, slightly reorganized and the funding rejiggered, and based in New York now instead of Washington. And it continues until 1929, when Herbert Hoover is elected president, and his Secretary of State is a man named Henry Stimson, who'll become a big advocate for intelligence in World War II when he's Secretary of War, but it's the inter-war period now, and he's Secretary of State, and when he learns that a State Department funded entity is breaking codes of -- diplomatic codes of foreign countries, he famously remarks, "Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen's mail," and ordered the whole thing shut down. So, that will continue. And then the Bureau of Investigation goes through some fits and starts in the inter-war period. I mean, it comes out of World War I with pretty robust counterespionage, counterintelligence capability here domestically. They'll be some concern over abuses and actually a guy named J. Edgar Hoover will be brought in to sort of whip it back into shape. Interestingly enough, one of Hoover's first moves was to end the bureau's domestic intelligence functions. Says, "We're going to investigate only when there has been you know, evidence of an actual crime being committed. Not investigating to see what the political feelings of the population are that might lead them to sedition or espionage or whatever." That obviously will reverse later. But I would also say that you know, there will never be a time again when the United States won't have squadrons in the U.S. air force, or the -- sorry, the army air corps, or later the army air force, later the U.S. air force, and similarly the navy, we would never again be without aero reconnaissance squadrons. There would never again be a time when the United States didn't have at least one codebreaking organization. The military attaches continued to function, you know, uninterrupted as they had been since the 1880s. They still exist. They still work. So, there was a lot of elements of continuity. But there was a big downsizing at the end of World War I. No question. As there has been in, not only intelligence, but also the military, generally after you know, every one of United States major wars.

Andrew Hammond: That was going to be my next question. What was -- what happened after the war? Was there a piece of it then winding down? But it seems like most of the institutional architecture was there, albeit emaciated. Emaciated, okay?

Mark Stout: Yes, no. Exactly, exactly. You know, the U.S. army got reduced again drastically and it was again very much in the doldrums in the 20s and much of the 30s. Advancement was very slow. And military intelligence got reduced pretty much exactly proportionally. But the institutions all carried on and a lot of the personalities who'd been involved in intelligence in one way, shape, or form in World War I, would go on to do similar things in World War II. Not a large number, but a significant number. William Friedman was one I mentioned earlier. Also, you get a lot of just ideas that carry forward in formalized U.S. military doctrine, for instance. So, in 1923, the army decides to rewrite its field service regulations, which is sort of the overarching doctrinal manual for how an army operates in the field at the time. It's a different nomenclature today. But in 1923, they decide to rewrite it in light of the experience of World War I. Small committee who does this. A number of whom are intel veterans of World War I. And you can look at the intel components in those 1923 service -- field service regulations, and you can see stuff from World War I that we invented or learned how to do from our British or French friends, or actually even some of that pre-date World War I. The military intelligence -- well, also of course, a lot of officers were writing books. They were writing articles in professional journals about intelligence matters with army and navy. There were modules now in the Navy War College, the Army War College, and I believe the staff colleges, as well, about intelligence. Students were writing papers for their military education -- about intelligence matters. And the -- to my mind, sort of the most fun, is the -- right after the war, the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department decides that it's going to write an official history of what we did in the war. And a lot of components of the War Department and the army were doing this. Most of them had written unclassified documents, so that the public could see. It was sort of a self-advertising kind of thing. So, the public could see the contributions we made towards you know, defeating the Kizer. But the Military Intelligence Division decides, "No. We're going to write ours as a secret document. We're going to have one copy. And that will give us the freedom to put in this history, you know, the good, bad, and the ugly, right, so that we can learn from it and not make those mistakes again or build on the things that did work, whatever." And this was a 2200-page document. It's one copy. It's at the National Archives. I've read it. Don't really recommend it as -- it's not super-gripping, most of the time. But it's there. And it's comprehensive. And the interesting thing that I can show that, in the archives, that at least until the early 1930s, whenever a new officer was assigned to the Military Intelligence Division, one of the things they would do when they came on board would be like, "Go sit in that empty office over there and read the history," for the first, I don't know, week or whatever. I'm not exactly sure. But like they were assigned to read this thing. So, they're getting these ideas from World War I, you know, directly injected into their brain.

Andrew Hammond: And is that available electronically?

Mark Stout: No.

Andrew Hammond: No, okay.

Mark Stout: Unfortunately.

Andrew Hammond: Final couple of questions. So, the big myth, even in the three and a half years I've been at the Spy Museum, I've heard it probably 300 times. America's in World War I. There's some bits and pieces of intelligence that take place. All downsizes, American goes into World War II. Doesn't really have a understanding of intelligence. So, it's the Brits or the Greeks to the American Romans and they get chittered and the dark arts, etcetera, etcetera from you know, the movie the Good Shepherd, which you referenced in your book. And then we have the OSS. So, this whole myth that's built up is very difficult to shift multiple generations of American intelligence officers have the myth, historiography, that's already written that's there, but you're coming along and challenging it. So, I guess my question is, have you received any pushback? Has anybody said, "Well, I hear what you're saying, Mark, but I actually blah, blah, blah"?

Mark Stout: No, not yet.

Andrew Hammond: They're scared?

Mark Stout: Well, I'd like to think that I am completely, entirely, overwhelmingly persuasive. I'm sure there will be such things. I haven't seen it yet. But on the other hand, the book hasn't been out that long. There's only been one review of it that I've seen at least, so far -- that I or my publisher have seen so far. And that was written by an academic, but for a general-purpose publication. Not a scholarly publication. I've done a number of book talks and other podcasts, but I haven't received any sort of counterargument yet. I'm 100% sure that counterarguments will come. I would like to think that they will be on pieces of my argument and not on the validity of the overall claim, but I don't know. I mean, as you sort of implied there, this book is really suggesting that a lot of our information understanding, and a lot of the historiography is wrong. So, I expect to receive counter arguments. I don't know. Ask me again in a year, and maybe I'll -- maybe I'll have stories to tell you about then. Maybe I'll have retracted everything -- no, that's not going to happen. That's definitely not going to happen. I believe in this. But--.

Andrew Hammond: It's basically a process of building on--

Mark Stout: Yes.

Andrew Hammond: -what World War I established.

Mark Stout: Yes, it is. And I want to say in that connection, and also with regard to your last question, too, is that this understanding of American intelligence, that it's really, real American, modern intelligence comes about with the CIA and sort of the OSS during the World War II, which allegedly like studied at the feet of the British and learned everything they needed to know from the British, as sort of the preface to that. It's not utterly wrong, but it's a very CIA centric explanation. Right? So, first off, it's not entirely true that the OSS and the CIA were creations out of nothing, right? There were people, not a lot of them, but there were people in the OSS who served in intel in World War I, Number 1, with regard to military intelligence. I mean, unambiguously in my view, the roots are there in World War I, and continue with you know, accounting for inter-war emaciation as we're talking about, continue uninterrupted, basically, into World War II and indeed beyond. And you know, the OSS during World War II and the CIA during the Cold War, are not all there is to American intelligence. And most of the rest, not all of it, but most of the rest is military intelligence. And their roots, I believe unambiguously go to World War I or even bits of it before. Finally then, coming back to CIA, it's worth remembering that in the early years of the CIA, first, I don't know exactly, five or six years at any rate, a great many of the people working at the CIA were actually military officers, seconded from military intelligence, naval intelligence, or air force intelligence, and remember air force in 1947 was carved off from the army. They would have been the inheritors of this legacy of intel from World War I. And they're the people working at CIA. I guess one of the things I'm trying to do in this book is to argue against this CIA centric understanding of American intelligence and American intelligence history. CIA sucks a lot of air out of the room. And you know, I used to work at CIA. I've published historical stuff on the CIA. It's immensely important. It's extremely important, but it ain't all there was. And it ain't all there is, for that matter now.

Andrew Hammond: Well, I very much enjoyed reading your books on the price of achievement and thanks for sharing your expertise, Mark.

Mark Stout: Well, thank you so much for the kind words, and thank you for having me. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: Thanks for listening to this episode of SpyCast. Please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at SpyCast@Spymuseum.org or on Twitter @INTLSpycast. If you go to our page at the CyberWire.com/podcast/spycast you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes and full transcripts. I'm your host, Andrew Hammond, and my podcast content partner is Erin Dietrick. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincey, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Emily Rens, Afua Anokwa, Ariel Samuel, Elliott Peltzman, Tre Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show's brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. [ Music ]