OSS Headquarters London
One of my important destinations while in London this month was Grosvenor Square, in the exclusive Mayfair district of the city. This is where during World War II most of the Americans who weren’t just passing through (and many of those who were!) could be found.
Of course in the past sixty-five-plus years much has changed. The U.S. Embassy at that time was at 1 Grosvenor Square, the office of our Ambassador to Britain, John Gilbert Winant. That building presently houses the Canadian Embassy. Currently the Embassy of the United States, newly built in 1960, is right across the Square. Plans are underway that it will be relocated again from Mayfair to Nine Elms, Battersea, on the south bank of the River Thames.
What I wanted to find most of all was the address for the main OSS headquarters. The address I was looking for was 70 Grosvenor Square but the numbers on the Square didn’t go that high. The doorman at the Canadian Embassy confirmed that they went no higher than 50. He suggested I try Grosvenor Street or Grosvenor Hill.
My son and I walked up Grosvenor Street until we found a #70. I took a picture but still wasn’t sure because it was not right with all the other buildings that were ”important” at the time.
When we got back to our room and I did a little digging in my documents, I discovered that yes, we were right to look for #70 (or 72) Grosvenor Street. Likely, the addresses were combined during the war. In an article at the CIA website, I read that the London office was located at 72 Grosvenor Street. In William Casey’s book, The Secret War Against Hitler, page 22, Casey wrote that (David) “Bruce gave me an office in his command suite at 70 Grosvenor Street which houses the OSS European headquarters. The five-story brick office building was smack in the middle of the war-time American compound in London. It was halfway down the street from the U.S. Embassy … Our headquarters was bland, grey, non-descript.”
Casey was right. #70 has a new door of course but it is definitely a blah, compared to so many of the other Mayfair addresses on the street.
Very fitting for its purpose, planning for and putting into place the intelligence efforts of wartime Europe.
Unpretentious but “heavily guarded inside the front door.”