Duncan Lee

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This article is part of the
Venona
series.

Secret apparatus
Office of Strategic Services
Office of War Information

Duncan Chaplin Lee was a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a Rhodes Scholar. Lee attended college with Donald Wheeler. In the early summer of 1942 Lee was appointed confidential assistant to William J. Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Lee became the NKVD’s most senior source in American intelligence. Lee was employed in the OSS from 1942 to 1946. A Venona decrypt from June 1943 lists six Soviet agents working in the OSS and the Office of War Information; five of the Soviet sources have been identified, Maurice Halperin, Franz Neumann, Bella Joseph, Julius Joseph, and Duncan Lee. Lee supplied the Soviet Union with a list of OSS employees suspected of being Communists or Communist sympathizers and informed Moscow of the impending D-Day invasion in 1944 and operations in China and Japan.

Decoded Soviet intelligence cables show Lee reporting on British and American diplomatic strategy for negotiating with Stalin over postwar Poland, American diplomatic activities in Turkey and Romania, and OSS operations in China and France.

Lee was never indicted, and became a private sector lawyer after World War II. He was Chief Counsel for American International Group before his retirement in 1974. He and his wife moved to Canada where he died in 1988.

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