Intelligence models

I’m performing final edits on a chapter I’ve written with Trevor Barnes about the OSS. The OSS was America’s first centralized intelligence agency, and our chapter covers the work of the OSS in the reconstruction after the war of Germany and Japan. In particular we’ve looked at the archives of what was known as the R&A division, i.e. the Research and Analysis division and at least in my case in particular the Map Division. This latter division was headed up by Arthur Robinson who later became very well known in the field of cartography, and also wrote what is perhaps the post war periods most influential textbook, called Elements of Cartography. This text went through six editions (the last one in 1995) and probably trained all of the major cartographers working today. Robinson himself supervised dozens of students, and recently a graphic was published in the journal Cartographic Perspectives that showed his influence rippling out over several generations of geographers.

One of the stories we didn’t have room for in the chapter concerns a man known as Hereward Lester Cooke. As far as I can tell, Cooke was never a formal member of the OSS, but he certainly consulted with the Map Division. Cooke was an artist and a sometime inventer. In the pre-war period he filed a number of patents, for projecting and distorting images of pictures cast on screens or models.

During the war the Map Division called him in to help them develop a machine or mechanism that could speed up the process of making three-dimensional physical models of strategically important terrain. One model for example shown here could not only cast the map image but could also carve out the model. The OSS was interested in his inventions, and there is evidence in the archives that they consulted him on how to improve the production of these models.

At the moment, Cooke is a somewhat shadowy figure to me. In his patent applications during the 1920s, he describes himself as a British subject living in Princeton. Following the war he seems to have made a career for himself as both an artist and as the curator of the National Gallery. In this capacity it was interesting to find out that he worked with Anthony Blunt, the Queen’s private art historian on a book describing part of her Majesty’s art collection.

Blunt of course was later revealed as a Soviet spy. Thus, we have the irony of an OSS consultant working hand-in-hand with a Soviet spy. Well, not exactly Alger Hiss but still an interesting little side story.

Apparently these kinds of models go back a long way. Was fascinated to see this recent article on models made for King Louis XIV. Louis was apparently obsessed with these models and a whole bunch of them were made for him. (h/t Map Room).


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