Before World War II, intelligence was handled by the Department of State and the Armed Services and was inadequate and disorganized. In 1940, as the war heated up, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was fearful of British collapse. At the advice of his Navy Secretary Frank Knox, Roosevelt sent William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan to assess the chances of Britain's survival if invaded by the Nazis. William Donovan was a successful Wall Street attorney and World War I hero, recipient of the Medal of Honor. Upon return to the United States, Donovan met with the President and they determined that the British would only be able to survive with assistance. In July of 1941, Roosevelt created a civilian agency within the White House to oversee American intelligence. He appointed Donovan head of the newly created office as the Coordinator of Information (COI).
At Donovan's request, the military Joint Chiefs of Staff incorporated the office of the COI, to improve trust and share military resources. On June 13, 1942, Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The COI was dissolved. Donovan received a commission as an Army general and became head of the new agency. The Office of Strategic Services is considered America's first centralized intelligence agency, the predecessor of our current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the forerunner of today's Special Forces.