House Passes Gold Medal For WWII OSS Operators As Secret Agency Veterans Watched from Gallery

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

The House of Representatives passed on a voice vote the bill authorizing a Congressional Gold Medal to be designed and struck in honor of the veterans of World War II’s Office of Strategic Services as two dozen veterans and their supporters watched from the gallery.

Charles Pinck, president of The OSS Society, said: “General Donovan said OSS personnel performed ‘some of the bravest acts of the war.’ We are very grateful to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the bills’ sponsors in the House and Senate, and the 393 cosponsors from both bodies for recognizing their bravery with a Congressional Gold Medal.”

Pinck, the son of Dan Pinck, who was an OSS operator behind Japanese lines in China, said, “We look forward to the presentation of this medal next year to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the OSS’ founding.”

The sponsor of the House bill Rep. Robert E. Latta (R.-Ohio) said, “Honoring veterans of the OSS with a Congressional Gold Medal will ensure that their heroic actions during one of our country’s most trying times will not be forgotten.”

Latta said, “The clandestine nature of the OSS often meant members had to operate behind enemy lines in situations calling for unquestionable bravery and unparalleled skill. Their actions played an important role in winning the war and saved countless American lives in the process.”

The bill passed the Senate in February and now goes to the desk of President Barack Obama for signature. In the regular practice of the Congressional Gold Medals, they were meant to be awarded to individuals. In the last decade, Congress used the medals recognize groups and organizations with the medals themselves put on display at the Smithsonian Institute. In this session of Congress, there is a House rule prohibiting group awards, so as to return the medals to their original purpose.

In this session of Congress, a gold medal was authorized to honor Civil Rights Workers, which required a waiver, which was also thought to be the last waiver. The supporters of the OSS veterans were out of luck until Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.) intervened to persuade members of the House Republican Conference to go along with a waiver for the OSS gold medal, in addition to waivers for two other WWII gold medals recognizing Filipino veterans of World War II and the veterans of the war’s Merchant Marine.

Gen. William Donovan, a Medal of Honor recipient in the First World War, established the agency at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The OSS and its operatives under “Wild Bill” operated in every theater of the Second World War , often behind enemy lines. Donovan’s agency grew to more than 13,000 personnel, known as PhD’s who could win a bar, but now there are roughly 200 living veterans.

The OSS was stood down after WWII ended, but virtually every special operations or clandestine federal agency has its roots in the OSS and members of the service included: Hollywood actor Sterling Hayden,  television’s “French Chef” Julia Child and major league baseball player and Medal of Freedom recipient Moe Berg. Four CIA directors began their careers in the OSS: William Casey, William Colby, Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, as well as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and aide to President John F. Kennedy.

One of the OSS family members in the gallery, Dana Hudson, the daughter of Capt. James W. Hudson, Sr., said it meant a lot to her family that OSS veterans were recognized because so many of their exploits were kept secret or credited to other branches.

“My father and his OSS colleagues put their lives on the line, often alone, in enemy territory for one purpose: to preserve the freedom of our nation and the world. I only wish he were here to receive this honor himself,” she said.


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