Hainstrasse 25, Kronberg im Taunus
Hesse, American Zone of Occupation, Germany
1955 17 February 1946
Captain James D. Cronley Jr. sat in the back of an olive-drab 1942 Chevrolet staff car in his “pinks and greens,” which is how officers referred to the “Class A” semi-dress uniform, puffing on a long black cigar, despite a sign on the back of the front seat that read both no smoking! and rauchen verboten!
Jim Cronley was a six-foot-tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed Texan. The crossed sabers on his lapels identified him as a cavalryman, and his shoulder insignia—a three-inch yellow circle outlined in black, with a C in the center pierced by a red lightning bolt—identified him as a member of the U.S. Constabulary, which policed the American Zone of Occupied Germany.
Three and a half hours before, the telephone on his desk in the Compound, which housed the Süd-Deutsche Industrielle Entwicklungsorganisation (South German Industrial Development Organization) in Pullach, a small village about twenty miles from Munich, had flashed a red button, which had caused him to say “Shit!” as he reached for it.
His office was in a small, neat building identified by a sign on its small, now snow-covered lawn as the Office of the OMGUS Liaison Officer. OMGUS was the acronym for Office of Military Government, U.S.
It was, de facto, the headquarters of DCI-Europe, the Directorate of Central Intelligence, which had been formed several months before to replace the Office of Strategic Services by President Harry S Truman and answered only to him.
The OMGUS sign was an obfuscation, a smoke screen, so to speak, to conceal the truth. So was the Constabulary shoulder insignia on Jim Cronley’s tunic. He was not assigned to the Constabulary. He was listed on the War Department’s “Detached Officer Roster,” which is classified Secret, as being assigned to the Directorate of Central Intelligence.
He was, in fact, chief, DCI-Europe.
So was the South German Industrial Development Organization an obfuscation to conceal what had once been Abwehr Ost—Intelligence East—of the Wehrmacht. Generalmajor Reinhard Gehlen had made a deal with Allen Dulles, then the OSS station chief in Switzerland, not only to surrender to the Americans but to bring with him all his assets, which included agents inside the Kremlin, and to place him and them at the service of the Americans. In exchange, Dulles agreed to protect Gehlen’s officers and enlisted men, and their families, from the Russians.
“Cronley,” Cronley had said into the handset of the secure telephone.
“ASA Fulda, sir. Hold for Major Wallace.”
The Army Security Agency was charged with making sure the Army’s communications network was not compromised, and, in addition to other services, providing secure encrypted telephone, Teletype, and radio communications.
“Major Wallace, we have Captain Cronley on a secure line.”
“You’re invited to Colonel Bob Mattingly’s ‘Farewell to USFET’ party.”
“I must regretfully decline the kind invitation.”
“It will be held at Schlosshotel Kronberg.”
“As I have a previous social engagement.”
“So put on your pinks and greens and get in your airplane within the next thirty minutes. A car will be waiting for you at Eschborn.”
“And wear your DSM.”
“I was told I wasn’t supposed to wear it.”
“This is a special occasion.”
“I ain’t gonna wear the damned thing, which is sort of moot, since I ain’t going to fly up there to play nice with Mattingly.”
“When you get an order, Captain Cronley, the correct response is ‘Yes, sir.’”
After a ten-second pause, Cronley said, “Yes, sir.”
More obfuscation was in play here.
In order to make DCI-Europe seem less important than it was, to have it sort of fade into the background, it was decided that it be commanded, as far as anyone outside of DCI was concerned, by a junior officer. Such an officer was available in the person of Jim Cronley, who had just been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and promoted from second lieutenant to captain at the verbal order of the President of the United States. The Citation stated that he had demonstrated at the risk of his own life not only valor above and beyond the call of duty but a wisdom far beyond that to be expected of an officer of his age and rank while engaged in a classified operation of great importance.
DCI-Europe was important, and not only because it was involved in surreptitiously keeping former members of Abwehr Ost, and their families, many of them Nazis, out of the hands of the Russians by surreptitiously flying them to Argentina. This activity, should it become public knowledge, would have seen Truman—who had authorized Allen Dulles to make the deal with Gehlen—very possibly impeached, even if Eisenhower, who had brought the deal to Truman, agreed to fall on his sword to save the commander in chief.
Under these conditions, it was obviously necessary to have some experienced intelligence officer looking over Cronley’s shoulder to “advise” him and, should it become necessary, to take DCI-Europe over. Such an officer was available in the person of Major Harold Wallace, who had been commander of OSS-Forward until its dissolution, and was now assigned to USFET Counterintelligence.
And there was more obfuscation here, too. In order to keep “Army G-2 off my back,” as Wallace, a full colonel, had phrased it, he had taken the eagle off his epaulets and replaced it with the golden leaf of a major and allowed the Army to think Colonel Robert Mattingly was actually commanding OSS-Forward.
Major Wallace was given command of the XXVIIth CIC Detachment in Munich, from which position he was able to look over the activities of the XXIIIrd CIC Detachment, commanded by Captain James D. Cronley, which had been established to provide Cronley with a credible reason for being in Munich, in the hope that people would not connect him with DCI-Europe at the Compound.
Originally, Cronley was not told of Wallace’s role, but he soon figured it out. They worked out an amicable relationship, largely because Cronley accepted that Wallace could give him orders.
As Cronley entered the lobby of the Schlosshotel, a bellman snatched his canvas Valv-Pak from his hand and led him to the desk.
“I’m going to need a room,” he said to the clerk.
“I’m very sorry, Captain, the Schlosshotel Kronberg is a senior officers’ hotel.”
“I thought this was a low-class dump the moment I walked in,” Cronley said, his automatic mouth having gone into action.
Another clerk rushed over.
“Sind Sie Hauptmann Cronley, Herr Hauptmann?”
The clerk switched to English.
“We’ve put you in 110, Captain. Your bag will be there whenever it’s convenient for you to go there.” He handed Cronley a key, which came attached to a brass plate with the number on it.
“Captain Cronley,” a voice said in his ear, “if you’ll come with me, sir?”
He turned to see a naval officer, a full lieutenant, who had the silver aiguillettes of an aide-de-camp dangling from his shoulder.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m the admiral’s aide, sir,” he replied, his tone suggesting “dumb question.”
The lieutenant didn’t reply, instead gesturing for Cronley to follow him. Cronley did so, out of the lobby and down a corridor, where the lieutenant opened half of a double door, gestured for Cronley to precede him, and then bellowed, “Admiral, Captain Cronley.”
Cronley looked into the room. There were six people sitting around a table on which were three bottles of whiskey, an ice bucket, and a soda siphon. He recognized two of them. Harold Wallace and Oscar Schultz. He saw that Wallace had the silver eagles of his actual rank on the epaulets. Oscar was in a business suit.
And that has to be Admiral Souers. All that gold on his sleeves.
What the hell is going on here?
“Well, come on in,” Schultz called. “Don’t just stand there.”
Cronley walked up to the table.
“Sir,” he said. “I don’t know the protocol. Am I supposed to salute?”
“Try saying, ‘Good evening, gentlemen,’” the admiral said, as he stood up.
“Good evening, gentlemen.”
The admiral put out his hand.
“I’m Sid Souers, son, and I’m glad to finally meet you. You know Colonel Wallace, of course, and Mr. Schultz, and you’ve just met my aide, Tommy Peterson. These fellows are, left to right, Bill Conroy, Jack Kingsbury, and Tony Henderson. All are DCI.”
Cronley went to each and shook his hand.
“Where’s your DSM, Jim?” Wallace asked.
“In my pocket. In the box it came in.”
Wallace put his hand out, palm up.
Cronley took an oblong blue-leather-covered box from his tunic pocket and laid it in Wallace’s hand. Wallace opened it and withdrew the Distinguished Service Medal.
“I see you also brought your ‘I Was There’ ribbons,” Wallace said. “Good.”
He referred to the small colored ribbons Cronley and millions of others had been awarded, the World War II Victory Medal testifying that they had been in the service when the war had been won; the European Theater of Operations Medal, awarded to everyone serving in Europe; and the Army of Occupation Medal–Germany, awarded to everyone serving in Occupied Germany.
Cronley’s mouth went on automatic. “Modesty prevents me from wearing them,” he said.
That earned him a dirty look from Wallace, but he saw Admiral Souers and the others smiling.
“Tell me about the Legion of Merit, Cronley,” the admiral said.
Cronley knew the Legion of Merit ranked immediately below the Distinguished Service Medal but his mouth was still on automatic: “Isn’t that what they award majors and up for ninety days’ service in the Army of Occupation for not coming down with either the clap or syphilis?”
“Watch your goddamn mouth!” Wallace snapped.
“I don’t think I’ll tell President Truman you said that,” Admiral Souers said.
“Sir, I’m sorry,” Cronley said. “My automatic mouth ran away with me.”
“As it often does. Jesus, Jimmy!” Wallace said.
“What I think I’ll tell the President is that you said, with becoming modesty, that you didn’t deserve the Legion,” Souers said.
Souers gestured for the others at the table to stand up.
“Where do you want us, Jack?” the admiral asked.
“There were supposed to be flags, Admiral.”
“Bill, go find the goddamn flags!” the admiral snapped.
Bill Conroy hurried to do the admiral’s bidding and returned a minute later with two bellmen carrying two shrouded flags on poles and bases for them.
The flags were unshrouded and set in their bases against the wall. One flag was the national colors, and the other the blue flag with two silver stars of a rear admiral.
“Where do you want us, Jack?” the admiral said again.
“You by the colors, sir, with Tommy standing beside you. Colonel Wallace on the other side, and Cronley in the middle.”
Cronley now saw that Jack had a Leica camera.
What the hell is going on?
The admiral motioned for everyone to follow Jack’s instructions.
Colonel Wallace pinned the “I Was There” ribbons to Cronley’s chest, and then hung the Distinguished Service Medal above them.
“Okay,” the admiral ordered, “go ahead, Tommy.”
“Attention to orders,” the admiral’s aide barked. “?‘The White House, Washington, D.C., seventeen February, 1946. By direction of the President, the Legion of Merit is awarded to Captain James D. Cronley Junior, Cavalry, Army of the United States. Citation: Captain Cronley was called upon to assume command of the Directorate of Central Intelligence–Europe when circumstances did not permit the assignment of an appropriately senior officer to that position. During his tenure as chief, DCI-Europe, Captain Cronley demonstrated characteristics of leadership and professionalism far above those to be expected of someone of his rank and length of service. He also proved his willingness to risk his life above and beyond the call of duty on many occasions when carrying out his duties. His outstanding performance and his valor reflected great credit upon the Directorate of Central Intelligence and the Office of the President of the United States. By Order of Harry S Truman, President of the United States and commander in chief of its Armed Forces.’?”
What that sounds like is that I am no longer chief, DCI-Europe.
“Wipe that confused look off your face and try to look serious while I pin this thing on, Cronley,” the admiral said. “The pictures are for President Truman.”
Cronley did his best to comply with the order.
“You got enough, Jack?” the admiral asked of the man with the Leica.
“Okay. Now I suggest someone pour Cronley a drink before he starts asking questions.”
He walked back to the table, sat down, and motioned for Cronley to take the seat beside him.
“Scotch or bourbon, Captain?” the admiral’s aide asked.
The drinks were poured.
The admiral raised his glass.
“To Captain James D. Cronley, DSM, LM,” he said.
Everyone raised their glasses. There was a chorus of “Hear! Hear!”
“The chair will now entertain any questions the captain may have,” the admiral said.
“Why wasn’t I just relieved? And you know I don’t deserve the Legion of Merit.”
“You mean, son, that you did come down with the clap?”
There was laughter.
“Okay, serious answers. You ever hear, son, what Eisenhower replied when someone asked him the secret of his success at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces?”
“Ike said, ‘I think it’s my knack of getting people who, with reason, hate each other to work together.’
“Ike came to see me. Somehow, he had learned of us going to G-2 at the War Department with those movies you had made with those two Peenemünde Nazis. The Blackmail Movie, as Jack put it. Lay off DCI or we’ll show these movies to the President.
“Ike said, ‘Sid, you—we—won this one, but the war between your man Cronley and General Seidel has to be called off. General Seidel is not going to quit until he buries Cronley. His ego is involved. And in trying to bury your young captain, he’s likely to do something that will cause Operation Ost to blow up in our face, which means the President’s face, and our primary obligation is to protect him.’
“I asked Ike what he had in mind, and surprising me not at all, it made a hell of a lot of sense, so I took it to the President, and he agreed, a little reluctantly, to it. Harry said it looked like you were getting the shitty end of the stick, and he didn’t like that. Hence, the Legion of Merit, and his own contribution to Operation Peace.
“What Ike is going to do is transfer General Seidel to the Pentagon, where Ike will tell him to lay off DCI. He will also tell him that you’ve been relieved as chief, DCI-Europe, and that an officer of suitable rank and experience has been appointed to that position, Harold Wallace. When a new man is sent to be USFET G-2, that’s who he’ll deal with.