The organizational evolution of OSS detachment 101 in Burma; 1942-1945
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The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was created during the Second World War to be a central collector, producer, and disseminator of foreign intelligence. Its secondary role of clandestine warfare did not come easily. One OSS unit, Detachment 101, surmounted numerous problems to become a model clandestine and special operations unit able to create its own indigenous army that waged war behind Japanese lines in Burma. This study uses previously unexplored primary source materials from the OSS records held by the U.S. National Archives to examine the unit and its organizational changes from 1942 to 1945. Detachment 101 succeeded in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) for the simple reason that it was able to function independent of immediate control from either the U.S. Army or OSS main headquarters. Source documents reveal that the unit’s commander was left on his own to decide how the unit would operate, and how to incorporate various OSS branches and capabilities into its operational matrix. The CBI’s lack of resources dictated that the Detachment 101 had to streamline its efforts to be successful. Its officers needed to get acquainted with the entire operation and then integrate their disparate elements into where they best fit as the whole. An exploration of the documents reveals that each of the unit’s two commanders molded the unit into an organization that reflected their personalities. Colonel Carl F. Eifler, was bold and impetuous and modeled the group to accomplish any task—even if it could not. Colonel William R. Peers, focused the group’s efforts on assisting the north Burma campaign. Under his direction, the unit rapidly became a much more cohesive unit able to help the Allies win control of north Burma. His direction was instrumental in Detachment 101’s first real test; the Myitkyina Campaign. Examination of the primary documents uncovers that by the end of the war, the unit had become so successful and so flexible that it was the only ground combat unit fighting in north Burma, and was able to adopt a variety of dissimilar missions. Although other OSS combat operations gave exceptional service, none was as central to the conduct of an entire campaign as was Detachment 101.
Sacquety, Troy James (2008). The organizational evolution of OSS detachment 101 in Burma; 1942-1945. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from