Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan

They are among the most famous and controversial directors the Central Intelligence Agency has ever had—Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey. Dulles launched the calamitous operation to land CIA-trained, anti-Castro guerrillas at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. Helms, always the loyal keeper of secrets, would later be convicted of lying to Congress about the CIA’s effort to oust President Salvador Allende in Chile. Colby would become a pariah among the agency’s old hands for releasing to Congress what became known as the “Family Jewels” report on CIA misdeeds during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. Casey would nearly bring down the CIA—and Ronald Reagan’s presidency—from a scheme that secretly supplied Nicaragua’s contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran for American hostages in Beirut. But before these four men became their country’s top spymaster, they fought in World War II as secret warriors for Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services.

Douglas Waller, a former TIME Magazine correspondent and author of the critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling biography Wild Bill Donovan, now turns his sights on the OSS years of the four men who served under Franklin Roosevelt’s spy chief and went on to become CIA directors. Disciples is the story of four dynamic agents and their daring espionage and sabotage in wartime Europe. Based in Switzerland, Dulles ran the OSS’s most successful spy operation against the Axis. Casey organized dangerous missions to penetrate Nazi Germany with OSS operatives. Colby led daring OSS commando raids into occupied France and Norway. Helms mounted risky intelligence programs against the Russians in war-torn Berlin just after the German surrender. For each man, his OSS years defined how he would later lead the CIA.

Mining tens of thousands of once-secret World War II documents and interviewing scores of family members and OSS colleagues, Waller writes a rich and riveting spy story that’s hard to put down.

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