Distant Cousins: SOE and OSS at Odds over Greece
Any detailed comparative analysis of the activities in Greece of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and of its American counterpart, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), during the Second World War would be a formidable undertaking.4 For the manifold activities of both organizations engendered massive archives. In the case of OSS this has for some years progressively been made open to researchers in the National Archives and Records Service in Washington, while the records of SOE are in the process of being released to the Public Record Office in London.5 The OSS archive is indeed a treasure trove, albeit one that it is not easy to find one’s way around, for the organization’s appetite for information was, fortunately, insatiable. It was voracious enough, indeed, to embrace the acquisition of restaurant menus from Thessaloniki in early 1944, which demonstrate that food was available in abundance to anyone in a position to pay the astronomical prices, and of copies of Aetopoula, the magazine for children published by EAM, the National Liberation Front. Although very rich in terms of content, the OSS papers are not well ordered. The records of SOE, by contrast, are better organized and indexed, although not as catholic in terms of content. The very bulk (by the early 1990s some 4000 cubic feet of OSS records had been opened to researchers) of the OSS material presents problems to the would-be researcher. One scholar, Robert Brewer, has written with feeling that ‘the mass and weight of the OSS documentation can overwhelm anyone contemplating a frontal assault on its secrets’.6 Another, Robin Winks, whose Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939–1961 is a compelling study of the interface between the intrigue-prone worlds of the academy and intelligence, wrote in the mid-1980s of the OSS archive as a ‘veritable mudslide that moves forward steadily each year’ and of ‘a controlled avalanche of materials’.7
KeywordsMiddle East Military Mission Greek Government British Policy Distant Cousin
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