FALLS CHURCH, Va., June 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Seventy-four years ago today, on June 13, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 69 creating the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II predecessor to the CIA, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. As its director, he appointed William J. Donovan, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient and the only American to receive our nation's four highest decorations. President Roosevelt called General Donovan his "secret legs" and President Eisenhower said he was the "last hero."
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Congressional Gold Medal Act (H.R. 3929) will honor the 13,000 men and women who served in the OSS with the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. The OSS recruited its personnel from every branch of the US military and the civilian population. They included Col. Peter Ortiz, a Marine and two-time Navy Cross recipient; Virginia Hall, the only civilian female to receive the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II; Ralph Bunche, the first person of color to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; James Donovan, the OSS general counsel who was played by Tom Hanks in "Bridge of Spies"; Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg; the "French Chef" Julia Child; Fred Mayer, the real "Inglorious Basterd" who was nominated for the Medal of Honor; the actor and Marine Sterling Hayden who received a Silver Star and served in the OSS Maritime Unit, the predecessor to the US Navy SEALs; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients Moe Berg and Marlene Dietrich (who recorded songs for the OSS Morale Operations Branch); and four CIA directors: William Colby, William Casey, Allen Dulles and Richard Helms. General Donovan said OSS personnel performed "some of the bravest acts of the war."
The OSS gathered intelligence that was critical to the success of D-Day and the invasions of North Africa and Southern France. Many members of the OSS went behind enemy lines on some of the most dangerous missions of World War II. It undertook the greatest rescue mission of World War II. Its Research and Analysis Branch recruited America's leading academics. The "Carpetbaggers," the air arm of the OSS, flew unescorted and unarmed B-24s to deliver supplies and personnel behind enemy lines. The OSS launched "mercy missions" at the end of World War II to rescue thousands of Allied prisoners of war. It organized, supplied and led resistance movements. It created new technologies and devised innovative ways to wage psychological warfare. It laid the foundation for the present day intelligence and special operations communities.
The Senate bill, which was introduced by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), was passed unanimously in February with the support of 73 cosponsors. The House bill, which was introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), has 212 cosponsors. It needs 78 more cosponsors before it can be taken up in committee and passed by the House.
Charles Pinck, president of The OSS Society, said that he was "very hopeful the bill will be passed and signed into law this year so that it can be presented next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the OSS' founding. The OSS Congressional Gold Medal Act is not only about honoring the past. It is also about protecting America's future. Discussing 'gray zones' conflicts that the United States confronts across the globe, Adm. Eric Olson, USN (Ret.) wrote in The Wall Street Journal that America's military should follow the example set by the OSS in order to recruit people 'better suited to wage this new way of war.' Gen. Donovan chose the spearhead as the OSS insignia. It continues to point the way forward."
SOURCE The OSS Society, Inc.