OSS officer "Baldwin" (John Ford) meets overconfident trainee "Charlie"
|Directed by||John Ford (uncredited)|
|Edited by||Robert Parrish (uncredited)|
|Distributed by||Field Photographic Branch, Office of Strategic Services|
Undercover, also known as Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines and How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines, is a 1943 Office of Strategic Services training film, directed by and featuring John Ford. It was edited by Ford's longtime collaborator Robert Parrish.
Undercover was Ford's only sound film acting role,and was the first film ever produced by an intelligence service to train its agents. The film, which is in the public domain, is now widely available online since it was declassified after the war, and it often goes unmentioned in Ford filmographies.
Ford was commissioned a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1934, and in 1940 he began bringing together thirty other experienced filmmakers in a Naval Reserve unit. He reported for active duty in September 1941.
Although he remained officially assigned to the Navy, in October 1941, Ford's unit became part of the Office of Coordinator of Information, the OSS's predecessor. After the OSS was established in 1942, the unit became the OSS Field Photographic Branch. (The OSS was dismantled after the war and was succeeded by the Central Intelligence Agency.)
Ford initially was assigned to make documentary films for release to the public. Among them were The Battle of Midway, and December 7th: The Movie, both of which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The two films, like Undercover, were edited by Robert Parrish, who had worked with Ford on Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and other films. The Field Photographic Branch was later tasked with documenting OSS wartime activities and producing training films for its personnel. Hundreds of OSS training films were produced, and were an integral part of the curriculum for agents before being sent into the field.
Ford's OSS training films instructed OSS agents in equipment and techniques they would be using in the field. Among them were Training Group (1942) and The Mole (1943), both of which, like Undercover, were declassified after the war and are in the public domain.
Undercover is a docudrama that dramatizes the experiences of OSS agents to teach them the right and wrong way of comporting themselves in the field. It is structured as a film within a film.
Introduced by Col. Henson L. Robinson, chief of the OSS Division of Schools and Training, it begins by giving examples of agents discovered because of carelessness, and goes on to describe proper agent attitude, the importance of study, and methods of infiltrating enemy territory.
Most of the film tells the story of two recruits, one of whom is an overconfident agent known as "Student Charlie" and the other is "Student Al," a studious, careful agent. Germany is the obvious target of their activities but is not mentioned by name, with locales referred to as "Enemytown" and "The Capital." While Al carefully prepares, Charlie does not. As a result, Al winds up smoothly adapting to his assignment while Charlie gets into serious trouble.
None of the actors or crew members involved in the film received on-screen credit. However, Ford is easily identifiable as "J.P. Baldwin, Attorney at Law," the civilian cover of an OSS officer, puffing on a pipe and with a large handkerchief in his breast pocket. In her book The Westerns and War Films of John Ford, author Sue Matheson says that "watching the film, it is difficult to determine where Ford the director and Ford the OSS man begin and end." His character stresses the importance of teamwork, which is important to film crews as well as OSS operatives.
Though produced for educational purposes, the film has creative touches not often seen in military training films, with attention paid to camera angles and movement. Scenes are crosscut to move the story along.
Vice Admiral John D. Bulkeley said in an interview after the war that Ford "went through the whole monkey business" portraying an OSS agent under civilian cover, and that "he loved to do that."
The film has been shown on Turner Classic Movies and was made available on Netflix in 2017, and is available online as a public domain film at the Internet Archive and other sites.
Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information or divulging of the same without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring, in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome. In some circumstances it may be a legal tool of law enforcement and in others it may be illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.
OSS may refer to:
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was a wartime intelligence agency of the United States during World War II, and a predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The OSS was formed as an agency of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines for all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Other OSS functions included the use of propaganda, subversion, and post-war planning. On December 14, 2016, the organization was collectively honored with a Congressional Gold Medal.
Camp X was the unofficial name of the secret Special Training School No. 103, a Second World War British paramilitary installation for training covert agents in the methods required for success in clandestine operations. It was located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario between Whitby and Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. The area is known today as Intrepid Park, after the code name for Sir William Stephenson, Director of British Security Co-ordination (BSC), who established the program to create the training facility.
Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into occupied France, the Netherlands and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.
The CIA Museum, administered by the Center for the Study of Intelligence, is a national archive for the collection, preservation, documentation and exhibition of intelligence artifacts, culture, and history. The collection, which currently numbers 3,500 items, consists of artifacts that have been officially declassified, however since the museum is on the compound of the George Bush Center for Intelligence it is not accessible to the public. Since the museum cannot be visited by the public, the CIA Museum has partnerships with Presidential Libraries and other major museums and institutions to develops public exhibitions dedicated to understanding the craft of intelligence and its role in the broader American experience. The National Cryptologic Museum, which is open to the public in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, is the NSA counterpart to the CIA Museum and focuses on cryptology as opposed to human intelligence. These two museums serve as the primary government museums for the collection and preservation in the United States Intelligence Community.
Maurice Hyman Halperin was an American writer, professor, diplomat, and accused Soviet spy.
Detachment 101 of the Office of Strategic Services operated in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. On 17 January 1946, it was awarded a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation by Dwight Eisenhower, who wrote: "The courage and fighting spirit displayed by its officers and men in offensive action against overwhelming enemy strength reflect the highest tradition of the armed forces of the United States."
Robert R. Parrish was an American film director, editor, writer, and child actor. He received an Academy Award for Film Editing for his contribution to Body and Soul (1947).
Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz OBE was a United States Marine Corps colonel who received two Navy Crosses for extraordinary heroism as a major in World War II. He served in both North Africa and Europe throughout the war, as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), operating behind enemy lines several times. He acted in Hollywood films after the war. He was one of very few Marines to go into combat in Europe during World War II.
Joseph Anthony Savoldi Jr., more commonly known by his nickname "Jumping Joe" Savoldi, was an Italian-American professional wrestler, football player, and Special Ops agent for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II.
Special reconnaissance (SR) is conducted by small units of highly trained military personnel, usually from special forces units or military intelligence organizations, who operate behind enemy lines, avoiding direct combat and detection by the enemy. As a role, SR is distinct from commando operations, but both are often carried out by the same units. The SR role frequently includes covert direction of air and missile attacks, in areas deep behind enemy lines, placement of remotely monitored sensors and preparations for other special forces. Like other special forces, SR units may also carry out direct action and unconventional warfare, including guerrilla operations.
The Joan-Eleanor system was a very high frequency (VHF) radio system developed during World War II for use by agents working behind enemy lines to relay information and replaced the earlier S-Phone system used by agents.
Espionage and secret operations have long been a source of fiction, and the real and perceived U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a source of many books, films and video games. Some fiction may be historically based, or will refer to less action-oriented aspects, such as intelligence analysis or counterintelligence.
At various times, under its own authority or in accordance with directives from the President of the United States or the National Security Council staff, the Central Intelligence Agency has attempted to influence domestic and international public opinion.
Irving Goff was a member of the Communist Party USA and the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, a unit that volunteered to fight during the Spanish Civil War for the Popular Front. During World War II, he was a member of the American Office of Strategic Services, and was instrumental in setting up guerrilla units working behind enemy lines in North Africa and Italy. His exploits as a guerrilla in Spain are considered to be the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Helias Doundoulakis was a Greek American civil engineer who patented the suspension system for the largest radio telescope in the world, and served in the United States Army and the Office of Strategic Services — the OSS — as a spy during WWII.
The head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William Donovan, created the X-2 Counter Espionage Branch in 1943 to provide liaison with and assist the British in its exploitation of the Ultra program's intelligence during World War II. A few months before, Donovan had established a Counterintelligence Division within the Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS but rescinded this order upon development of the X-2. The X-2 was led by James Murphy, whose branch would have the power to veto operations of the Special Operations and Secret Intelligence Branches without explanation. Donovan modeled the Counter Espionage Branch on British Counter Espionage. With the creation of the X-2 Branch, the British insisted that it follow British security procedures to maintain the secrecy of Ultra. The X-2 established separate lines of communication for itself as a self-contained unit. By the end of World War II, the X-2 had discovered around 3,000 Axis agents.
Behind the Burma Road is a 1963 book by William R. Peers and Dean Brelis that describes the American guerrilla warfare operations, including those of OSS Detachment 101, during the Burma Campaign in the China Burma India Theater during World War II.
Spying, as well as other intelligence assessment, has existed since ancient times. In the 1980s scholars characterized foreign intelligence as "the missing dimension" of historical scholarship." Since then a large popular and scholarly literature has emerged. Special attention has been paid to World War II, as well as the Cold War era (1947–1989) that was a favorite for novelists and film makers.