Need to Know: World War II and the Rise of American Intelligence
Historian and former CIA officer Nicholas Reynolds, the New York Times bestselling author of Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, uncovers the definitive history of American intelligence during World War II, illuminating its key role in securing victory and its astonishing growth from practically nothing at the start of the war.
“Need to Know is the most thorough and detailed history available on the origins of U.S. intelligence.” —Michael Morell, former Deputy Director and Acting Director, CIA
The entire vast, modern American intelligence system—the amalgam of three-letter spy services of many stripes—can be traced back to the dire straits the world faced at the dawn of World War II. Prior to 1940, the United States had no organization to recruit spies and steal secrets or launch covert campaigns against enemies overseas and just a few codebreakers, isolated in windowless vaults. It was only through Winston Churchill’s determination to mobilize the US in the fight against Hitler that the first American spy service was born, built from scratch against the background of the Second World War.
In Need to Know, Nicholas Reynolds explores the birth, infancy, and adolescence of modern American intelligence. In this first-ever look across the entirety of the war effort, Reynolds combines little-known history and gripping spy stories to analyze the origins of American codebreakers and spies as well as their contributions to Allied victory, revealing how they laid the foundation for the Cold War—and beyond.
[Recorded on October 6, 2022.]
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Nicholas Reynolds, author of the New York Times bestseller Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, has worked in the fields of modern intelligence and military history off and on for forty years, with some unusual detours. Freshly minted PhD from Oxford University in hand, he joined the United States Marine Corps in the 1970s, serving as an infantry officer and then as a historian. As a colonel in the reserves, he eventually became officer in charge of field history, deploying historians around the world to capture history as it was being made. When not on duty with the USMC, he served as a CIA officer at home and abroad, immersing himself in the very human business of espionage. More recently, he was the historian for the CIA Museum, responsible for developing its strategic plan and helping to turn remarkable artifacts into compelling stories. He has taught at the Naval War College, the DC campus of Johns Hopkins University, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. With his wife, Becky, he cares for rescue pugs.