FALLS CHURCH, Va., Feb. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by The OSS Society:
Former secretaries of defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta have sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to pass the Office of Strategic Services Congressional Gold Medal Act (H.R. 3544 and S. 1688). This legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress, to the "members of the Office of Strategic Services in recognition of their superior service and major contributions during World War II."
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the World War II predecessor to the CIA and the US Special Operations Command. It was founded and led by the legendary General William "Wild Bill Donovan," the only American to receive our nation's four highest military decorations, including the Medal of Honor. Its personnel were drawn from every military branch and the civilian population. They included Julia Child, the actor Sterling Hayden, Virginia Hall (the only American civilian woman to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II), Ralph Bunche (the first African-American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize), Col. Aaron Bank (a founder of US Special Forces), Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, and four directors of central intelligence.
In their letter to members of Congress, Gates and Panetta wrote that "despite its small size, OSS personnel were awarded more than 2,000 medals, including 56 Distinguished Service Crosses. General Donovan said they performed 'some of the bravest acts of the war.' We hope that by awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to the OSS, as it has to other World War II units, Congress will remind Americans that our intelligence and special operations communities were created by the 'greatest generation.' When General Donovan died in in 1959, President Eisenhower said he was the 'last hero.' There is little time left to honor the few surviving OSS veterans. We would be very grateful if you would become a cosponsor of this legislation to honor the 'last hero' and all the heroes of the OSS."
Charles Pinck, president of The OSS Society, said: "We are very grateful to Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta for offering their support to this legislation to honor the OSS. Their bipartisan backing is reminiscent of the relationship formed during World War II between President Roosevelt and General Donovan who, despite strong political differences, formed a close alliance to protect the United States at its moment of greatest peril by creating the OSS."
The OSS Society is a nonprofit organization that celebrates the historic accomplishments of the OSS and educates the American public about the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom.
SOURCE The OSS Society, Inc.