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William Joseph “Wild Bill” Donovan

World War I Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, US Diplomat. Known by the sobriquet “Wild Bill”, he is most noted for founding and directing the United States Office of Strategic Services during World War II, which was the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency. A trained lawyer, he began the practice of law in Buffalo, New York in 1907. ¬†In 1916, he joined the New York National Guard on the Mexican Border, and in World War I he served in the United States Army in France with the 165th Infantry Regiment, 42nd Division, advancing to the rank of Colonel. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, on October 14 and 15, 1918. His citation reads “Lt. Col. Donovan personally led the assaulting wave in an attack upon a very strongly organized position, and when our troops were suffering heavy casualties he encouraged all near him by his example, moving among his men in exposed positions, reorganizing decimated platoons, and accompanying them forward in attacks. When he was wounded in the leg by machine-gun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued with his unit until it withdrew to a less exposed position”. His Medal was presented to him in 1922. At the end of the war, he left the Army, and in 1922, he was appointed United States District Attorney for western New York. ¬†From 1924 to 1929, he served as Assistant Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice, but during the 1930s, he returned to the private practice of law. ¬†In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked him to create plans for a central intelligence service for the United States; this group was to become the OSS. ¬†On July 11, 1941, Donovan was appointed coordinator of information, and on June 13, 1942, he became the first Chief of the newly created agency. ¬†It was most active in Europe during World War II, collecting foreign intelligence and carrying out covert operations. Promoted to Brigadier General in 1943, at the end of the war, he assisted in the prosecution of Nazi War Criminals at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, and declined any role in the Central Intelligence Agency. ¬†In 1953 he was named United States Ambassador to Thailand, where he served until his retirement in 1957. He died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC in 1959. He is the only holder of the top four highest awards of the United States: ¬†The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) ¬†Family links: ¬†Spouse: ¬†Ruth Rumsey Donovan (1891 – 1977)* ¬†Children: ¬†David Rumsey Donovan (1915 – 1999)* ¬†Patricia Hazard Donovan (1917 – 1940)* *Calculated relationship


  • January, 01, 1883
  • USA


  • February, 02, 1959
  • USA


  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • Virginia
  • USA

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