Page 5, 28th August 1986

28th August 1986
Page 5
Page 5, 28th August 1986 — Martin Quigley, America's secret agent in Ireland during the second
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Martin Quigley, America's secret agent in Ireland during the second

World War, tells his extraordinary story for the first time in the Catholic Herald

Ireland's 'third man'

THIS is the story of my secret intelligence work in Ireland during the second World War. It was meant to be forever secret, and that's the way I wanted it and so lived for four decades. But our own government's declassification of materials "blew" my cover.

Recently I have been identified by name in Ireland as a war-time OSS agent so it would seem unfair not to share my experiences with those who are interested in American-Irish relations. This is the first time I have "gone public" about my OSS work.

There were, I believe, good reasons for the secrecy all these years. No one likes to find out that he has been deceived. Most of the people in Ireland who never doubted my cover role are now dead. The man in charge of security for the Irish Government in the war years, Colonel Dan Bryan, who died last year, had this word passed to me after our first and only meeting in Dublin in 1984: "Tell Quigley his cover was perfect. We did not know he was OSS".

Secret intelligence operations need a really good cover that the agent can work at and live with. In this I was fortunate because my cover — as a representative of the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America (familiarly known after its head as The Hays Office) — was ideal. I had the qualifications for such a position, if it had been real. Such a cover made it possible for me to deal with a great number of people in various walks of life and to travel virtually wherever I wished.

Certainly the question comes to your mind about why was there any OSS operation in such a country as Ireland, or Eire as the former Free State was called. To understand the answer you must take your self back to the war period. Until the Allies's successful invasion of the Continent in June, 1944, there were justified concerns about a German invasion of the British Isles.

In the period through 1943 the worries were great. Experts concluded that any invasion of England would be accompanied by or preceded by an invasion of Ireland, North and South.

The other OSS concern was in the political and psychological areas. With the tremendous number of Americans of Irish descent, including large numbers in the US Forces being trained in Northern Ireland, it was deemed important for our policy makers in Washington to be fully informed on Irish matters. Obviously the British attitude with respect to Ireland did not coincide with that of the United States.

Another reason for an OSS intelligence operation in Ireland was the obvious need to supplement information coming from the American Legation in Dublin. In any foreign country diplomats can not be in touch with everything going on as their contacts are essentially restriced to local government officials and society figures.

David Gray, the American Minister during the war, was evidently a sincere man. He had direct contact with President Roosevelt, as he was married to Mrs Roosevelt's aunt. But he dealt with Irish officials and the Anglo-Irish society. Moveover, he did not get on well with De Valera.

The real surprise is not that there were OSS intelligence under cover operations in Eire but that they were so limited, given that Eire was one of only a handful of neutral countries. The word "spy" was never popular among the practitioners. In the second World War our side called us "agents", a term used for both American government intelligence officers and for foreign nationals working under direction.

The first two OSS intelligence agents in Eire during the war were under government or official cover — they were known to be part of the government apparatus and were attached to the Legation. The first one. "Spike" Marlin — whom I met for the first time in 1984 in London — left Dublin in the Spring of 1943 before I arrived. The second agent was in Eire only briefly and I do not know his name.

I am the third agent. The four, fifth and sixth were recruited late in the war by Carter Nicholas, Eire Desk Officer in Washington, but for one reason or another none of them ever reached Eire.

What makes a spy? Or rather a secret intelligence officer or agent who is to serve in a neutral country under a commercial (non governmental) cover?

In the first place one needs to volunteer. Next one has to be accepted. In my case my wish to be in US Government service was known to William Donovan months before Pearl Harbour. In 1940 I had tried, without success — on account of my eyesight, to enter the Naval Reserve and go on active duty as one of the early "90 Day Wonders". I had a lot of small boat experience and celestial navigation was a hobby.

Thwarted in a direct approach, with Donovan's assistance and some fine letters of recommendation, including one from the then Secretary of Navy, Frank Knox, I tried to get into Naval Intelligence. But all that, together with my class rank at Georgetown — first in the class of '39, only led to word that 20/20 vision without glasses was required, even in Naval Intelligence.

Then, shortly before Pearl Harbour Day, I was interviewed and accepted by Joseph Stanley, head of the Publications Division of what became the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information. With Lacy Kastner, I was involved with the establishment and distribution of a propaganda weekly newsreel, called United News reel. By the late summer of 1942 I determined to seek once again more active service.

was interviewed in Washington by George Bowden, then a close associate of Donovan at the Office of Strategic Services. While our family had left Ireland shortly after the Great Famine, I had useful contacts and some knowledge of the country having been there briefly in 1933 and 1939. More importantly I had the possibility of an excellent commercial cover. Also I had several years training as a reporter. I was accepted and turned over to Francis Miller, then head of the OSS' Strategic Intelligence section covering the British Empire, Afghanistan and Eire...

In due course I was sent to the OSS's E' training area and later on to the Farm for practice with my personal code, which I based on Blake's "Tiger, Tiger" and Masefield's "Sea Fever".

next week — part two — "Ireland was not neutral"




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