Seventy-seven years ago today, May 20, 1941, British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming checked into the Palacio Hotel in Estoril, a sea-side resort just west of Lisbon. Fleming was on a stopover on his way to Washington with his boss, Admiral John Godfrey, to assist President Franklin D. Roosevelt in creating an intelligence agency.
Godfrey, who was the Royal Navy's Intelligence Director, wanted FDR to organize a foreign intelligence branch under one department, and one man, General William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Roosevelt's former legal aide. When Godfrey and Fleming continued on to Washington, Godfrey met with FDR and Fleming met with various military counterparts. While the Admiral pushed for Donovan's selection, Fleming worked on a proposal for what the new American intelligence branch would look like, namely something akin to Britain's MI6.
Both men were successful: FDR appointed Donovan on June 18, 1941 as the head of a new intelligence department with the title of "Co-Ordinator of Information," and Fleming essentially (as he put it) wrote the charter for this new organization. Donovan's agency was soon called the OSS—Office of Strategic Services—which later became known as the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency. Before Fleming left, Donovan thanked him with a special gift—a .38 Police Positive Colt revolver with the inscription, "For Special Services."
When Fleming returned to Lisbon he had another, somewhat unusual meeting at Casino Estoril; he encountered an MI6 agent—Britain's highest level operative—which planted a seed for Fleming's soon to be famous James Bond.
For details about who this man was, and what happened at the casino (recreated in Fleming's Casino Royale), see my international bestselling nonfiction thriller, INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov—World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.
And if you happen to visit Lisbon, the municipal Historical Society (located in the Casa Sommer in Cascais) now has an exhibit—based on my research—connecting Fleming to Popov. Below is part of that that display, including Fleming's and Popov's Palacio Hotel registrations. For more details, you must plunge INTO THE LION'S MOUTH.