The Pond in a barn

By Jason Clingerman

In 2001, seemingly secretive government documents were “found in locked safes and filing cabinets in a barn near Culpeper, Virginia.” After investigation, the records were turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for review. The files turned out to be the records of a highly secretive intelligence organization led by John V. Grombach which operated from 1942 until about 1955 with no official name but known colloquially as both The Pond and the Grombach Organization. Operating at the same time as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA predecessor, The Pond provided intelligence reports with information derived from human intelligence sources abroad. However The Pond, which operated during World War II as a part of the War Department, continued in the post-war years as a contract organization – a predecessor in some ways to the modern system of intelligence contractors.

Mark Stout, currently the historian for the International Spy Museum, wrote a detailed article for the CIA publication Studies in Intelligence titled “The Pond: Running Agents for State, War, and the CIA” that contains a historical description of the organization and its operations. The organization and its records have also been featured in a number of news articles, including on the MSNBC and Fox News websites.

In 2008, these records were transferred from the CIA to the National Archives. Processed and described by archivist David Langbart, these records became available for researcher use in April 2010 and have since been used by a number of researchers. The following series are currently available for researcher use:

Subject and Country Files, 1920-1963 (ARC Identifier 4509733)
Correspondence with Sources, 1946-1960 (ARC Identifier 4509734)
Requirements, Directives, and Correspondence, 1945-1955 (ARC Identifier 4509735)
Records Relating to Communications, 1952-1953 (ARC Identifier 4509736)
Records Relating to Military Intelligence Division Project 1641, 1945-1946 (ARC Identifier 4509737)
Intelligence Reports, 1948-1955 (ARC Identifier 4509738)
Industrial Reports, Inc. Files, 1942-1955 (ARC Identifier 4509740)

These series are full of interesting records that are awaiting researcher discovery. For example, the series “Subject and Country Files, 1920-1963” (ARC Identifier 4509733) contains a folder regarding awards and decorations (ARC ID 4745229) of The Pond staff which gives often detailed accounts of the organization’s activity. The series “Records Relating to Communications, 1945-1955” (ARC Identifier 4509735) contains a “sample one-time code pad” (ARC ID 4755585), used for coding and decoding messages. The series “Records Relating to Military Intelligence Division Project 1641, 1945-1946” (ARC Identifier 4509737) contains information on Grombach’s participation in Project 1641, “a study of communist subversion in the US government.” The series “Industrial Reports, Inc. Files, 1942-1955” (ARC Identifier 4509740) contains a wealth of information regarding The Pond’s intelligence collection on communist and other “subversive” activity both abroad and domestically, including folders on such domestic organizations as the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) (ARC ID 4756676) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (ARC ID 4756711).

The examples I mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg for researchers interested in The Pond. These records await your request! What are you waiting for?

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