Gold Medal for WWII’s Office of Strategic Services Veterans Stalls in GOP-led House

Maj. Gen. William (Wild Bill) Donovan, (retired) New York attorney who headed the U.S. Office of Strategic Service during World War II, is greeted by Maj. General C. L. Chennault on his arrival in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 1950. Donovan came to Hong Kong to join Chennault in the latter’s …
AP Photo
Capitol Hill

The president of the OSS Society tells Breitbart News his organization is looking forward to Congress approving a gold medal to recognize veterans of the Office of Strategic Services from the Second World War while they’re still alive.

Hundreds of people have been working on this, all of our members have been contacting their members of Congress, it’s been a gargantuan effort,” said Charles T. Pinck, who became the president of the OSS Society in 2002.

The bill, HR 3929, was filed Nov. 4 by Rep. Robert Latta (R.-OH) and now has 319 co-sponsors. Senators passed their companion bill Feb. 22 by unanimous consent.

Under the House rules, the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy could bring up the non-controversial bill for quick approval with limited debate. This “suspension of the rules” requires that the measure pass with a two-thirds majority of congressmen present, 288 out of 435, if all are present.

Monday, McCarthy brought up 16 bills under suspension, including a bill to name a courthouse at 300 Fannin Street in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the “Tom Stagg Federal Building and United States Courthouse” and a bill to restrict the inclusion of Social Security account numbers on documents sent by mail by the federal government.

Although the language of the bill says that the gold medal would be presented to the veterans, in practice, congressional gold medals are a single medal, which is actually kept at the Smithsonian Institute for display and duplicates are authorized for sale by the Treasury Department.

The society is the legacy organization of the OSS Veterans Society that was founded in 1947 by Maj. Gen. William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan. Donovan led the OSS throughout the war, but President Harry S Truman did not ask him to lead the OSS’s successor entity, the Central Intelligence Agency.

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower heard Donovan died in 1959, he exclaimed: “What a man! We have lost the last hero.”

Pinck said other special groups from World War II have been recognized for their service, such as the fighter pilots, Doolittle Raiders, the Civil Air Patrol and the Monument Men, who worked with the OSS to recover artworks stolen by the Nazis.

“People serving in the OSS never really got a lot of recognition,” he said.

“It was a secret organization and it was only around for three-and-a-half years,” he said. “It kind of disappeared, so the people, who served in it, haven’t been properly recognized.”

There is a quote from Donovan that sums it up, he said. “He said OSS personnel performed some of the bravest acts of the war, but Americans don’t know anything about it.”

Beyond the recognition to the veterans, the congressional gold medal would also bring long overdue attention to the achievements and sacrifices of these heroes, he said.

Today, there are few veterans left, so the membership is made up of descendants of OSS veterans and members of special operations or other intelligence services communities that trace their origins to the OSS, such as the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, he said. There are also associate members, who have an active interest in the craft and the society.

Pinck said at its peak, the OSS had roughly 13,000 personnel worldwide.

“If there were more than a couple hundred living OSS veterans around, I’d be surprised,” he said. “It is critical that this bill be passed this year, so these folks, frankly, can be alive to receive the honor–if we much longer, none of them are going to be alive.”

Pinck said his own father, Dan Pinck, served with the OSS, when as a 19-year-old, he was dropped in Japanese-occupied China with a small team of Nationalist Chinese soldiers.

“He actually wrote a wonderful book,” Journey to Peking: A secret agent in wartime China. “I am a little biased, because I know the author, but I tell people it’s the best intelligence memoir written–ever,” he said.

Pinck’s father worked as the only American behind Japanese lines in China, where he built up a network of 60 local operatives from his base in Hong Kong. The young spy reported back to his American bosses troop movements and commercial and military shipping information that led to the sinking of Japanese ships.

In preparation for the anticipated invasion of Japan, Pinck’s father scouted coastal batteries and possible landing sites for U.S. troops on the coastline of Japanese-held China.

“One of the things  he told me about was towards the end of the war, he told me that they discovered that the Japanese were hiding thousands and thousands of gallons of fuel in a school,” he said. “He said he was preparing to send the coordinates –‘But, if I do that thousands of innocent people are going to be killed,’ so he said: ‘I can’t do that,'” He never sent in the coordinates.

“He had a price on his head, but the Japanese never caught him, Thank God,” he said.

“It had to be a formative and harrowing experience for him,” he said. “Imagine doing something like that when you are that young?”

There were firefights with the Japanese and other adventures, but Pinck said his father’s story is not unique.

“A lot of what we do for family members is try to help them find out what their parents or grandparents did in the OSS,” he said.

Among the operations the OSS personnel participated in, OSS Detachment 101 operated in Burma and pioneered the art of unconventional warfare. It was the first United States unit to deploy a large guerrilla army deep in enemy territory. It has been credited with the highest kill:loss ratio for any infantry-type unit in American military history and was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.  Its X–2 branch pioneered counterintelligence with the British and established the modern counterintelligence community. The network of contacts built by the OSS with foreign intelligence services led to enduring Cold War alliances.

One of the first American actions of the war was Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, was aided by the networks established and information acquired by the OSS to guide Allied landings.

There was also Operation Halyard rescued more than 500 downed airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia, one of the most daring and successful rescue operations of World War II and OSS “Mercy Missions” at the end of World War II saved the lives of thousands of Allied prisoners of war whom it was feared would be murdered by the Japanese.

Every year, the society awards its Donovan Award at their annual gala. This year, the award goes to retired Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who retired in 2012 as the Air Force Chief of Staff, but as a young pilot joined the airlift out of Saigon in April 1975.