Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wild Bill and Ruth. And maybe Shanghai.

I'm midway through Wild Bill Donovan; the spymaster who created the OSS and Modern Espionage,   by Douglas Waller, published last year. It is a carefully documented biography created from multiply-sourced material. Mr. Waller, I salute you.

Linda and I have been comparing  this story about Donovan's family, with the one she has been told.  .

Waller's version:

Having had her fill of her husbands publicly carried out affairs, Ruth Rumsey Donovan declared that she wanted a divorce,and then left, taking son David, off on the Far Eastern leg of the Yankee's  round the world cruise.Though she had been a deb from a wealthy family, Ruth loved being part of the working crew of this beautiful clipper.

Some time after this event, daughter Patricia returning from New Jersey to Georgetown  to resume her classes (Oct 1940, was it?), when she  lost control of her car. Her injuries were fatal and Donovan had to reach Ruth  and David on a ship to shore phone, to give her the news. From that time, it still took them three weeks to get to Hawaii, and Donovan arranged for them to be flown home from there.. And though she became less and less involved in her husband's life, choosing to sail the world and come home to run the family farm. Patricia never spoke of divorce again,

In the version  Linda has heard,  immediately after Patricia's accident, Donovan takes Ruth to Anapolis and sends her off on an around the world cruise.

Did Mr. Twigsnapper misremember a story he could only have heard second hand, because he was a teenager and a midget-submariner, in Great Britain at the time it happened?  Perhaps it was it told to him wrongly?  If we knew who told him we might have a better handle on that. Or is there any possibility that this slightly askew version is a pointer story to something else?

Pointer stories are the ones that make me stop and wonder what I am supposed to see.   Sometimes I mull over the apparent facts and the given contradictions for years. In this case, taking Waller's sequence as the correct one, then Ruth, strong, athletic , loving of adventure, intelligent and independent,  was already away on an Asian cruse some time before Patricia died. 

 I wonder what Asian ports of call the Yankee made on this round the world leg? Donavon cultivated sources of information every where. At the very least, wouldn't he have asked Ruth to observe and report on the activities there, or to carried information to  those who would later become the back bone of his local networks.Perhaps she even met with Cornelius Vander Starr a twenty year resident of Asia,who would reopen his Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury  as an OSS front in 1942.

A long time ago, Mr. Twigsnapper indicated to Linda that a piece of information would be needed "when  I got to Shanghai.'  Feeling overwhelmed as always, I had no desire  to research  Shanghai then, and I can't say I have much more of one now.  The stables of Chinese history are just way too deep for my American-made, "100 years is ancient history shovel", but I am dutifully reporting that a flag has been thrown.

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