Covert action, subterfuge and stealth have always been tools of war, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that they became codified and institutionalized beyond the military establishments.
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was formed in Britain before the First World War. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was instituted by Winston Churchill, and approved by his cabinet right after he became Prime Minister in 1940. It was formed to coordinate covert action and subversive warfare against the Axis(Germany, Italy and Japan) powers.
In the United States there existed no similar covert intelligence infrastructure in the years leading up to WWII although the British kept encouraging and cajoling the Americans to take such action. This lobbying campaign was spearheaded by the British Security Co-ordination, an organization run out of the Rockefeller Center in New York, and headed by William Stephenson, a Canadian millionaire and WWI ace pilot. His nom de guerre was “Intrepid”. Stephenson worked closely with an American World War 1 hero, “Wild Bill” Donovan who would eventually be the first head of the Office of Strategic Services.
Two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Camp X opened its doors to recruits on the shore of Lake Ontario in Whitby, Canada. Established by the British SOE it was the first secret agent training school in North America and its main purpose was to help America develop its secret warfare program. The camp could accommodate up to 30 students at a time, with approximately a dozen instructors and 20 or more support staff. Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond thrillers and still a best-selling author decades after his death, visited Camp X while working for British naval Intelligence.
By the time it closed down, the school had trained some 500 students. Many became secret agents, spies or guerrilla fighters in enemy occupied Europe and Asia. Some became spy catchers in the U.S. and Canada while others were sent to Central or South America to counter Nazi espionage and subversion. A small number of graduates worked at the Camp’s short wave radio station, transmitting and receiving ultra sensitive intelligence.