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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / April 15, 2001

Page 7 of 8

Continued from page 6

And military people in the OSS who usually carried out operations - such as garroting people, blowing up railroads, romancing enemy office assistants - were often at odds with the scholars and business people who had a necessary expertise but not the same military esprit de corps.

''The OSS experience in China was a mess. There was no central intelligence,'' Yu says.

Putzell, Donovan's executive officer, says the military brass interfered with the OSS because they couldn't grasp it. ''They had these strict standards of military conduct, and the unorthodox. They just didn't understand.''

Though few realized it at the time, China would become the site of the first proxy war of the future superpowers, with the United States favoring Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists while the Soviets aided Mao's army.

The OSS Asia crew's biggest legacy, Yu says, is that the tangled intelligence wires in China were a factor in President Harry Truman's grudging 1947 decision to create the all-powerful but subsequently blooper-prone CIA.

What the freshly opened intelligence files show, in the end, is how the US entry into World War II was part of a pastiche of critical events in the Pacific that all took place within 24 hours of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

What makes Pearl Harbor a mythic moment is that it happened so close to home.

Elizabeth McCintosh had been living in paradise and working as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin when the US paid the price for its adamant isolationism.

''I was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the radio and the [station] guy came on and said the islands are under attack. `This is the real McCoy.' And then he went off the air,'' she recalls. ''Then the photographer from the paper called and said `We've got to go.'''

It was Sunday morning. ''People were going to church and walking their dogs. When we got into the town there was a lot of confusion. Sirens and everything. The first indications were at the hospital; they were bringing in people hurt by the sporadic bombing. Our own aircraft guns were shooting at the enemy, but [shells] were dropping on the town. They imposed martial law. Barbed wire on the beaches. They were afraid of invasion. People were frightened. They thought they were coming in.''

Later, she drove to the Navy base. More than 2,400 people were dead, nearly 200 aircraft were destroyed and 21 ships were sunk or damaged. The most legendary loss was the sinking of the USS Arizona battleship.

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