Saturday, December 12, 2015

OSS - Intelligence at its best!



Click here for original commentary in Defense One

In keeping with our program of republishing relevant, important commentary 
to broaden its exposure, our highlighted post today is written by Charles Pinck to 
honor the original and remaining members of the OSS, the historic US intelligence 
service.  We take special pleasure in this post as we served and worked with several
distinguished members of this organization during our service as an intelligence officer; 
among others, we served with LTG Vernon Walters while he was Reagan's Ambassador 
at Large and through whom, we met and worked with many former OSS officers.  Walters 
also was the undeclared Deep Throat - engineering the removal of Henry Kissinger from power.

With his support, we also created the Defense Clandestine Service in 1984 modeled 
somewhat on the OSS, and populated it with well-educated military officers who 
were specialists in geographical areas of military interest for future conflicts 
[e.g., Iraq, Iran, Yemen], and whose reporting was lauded by the Senate 
Special Committee on Intelligence.

Former OSS officer/Director of Central Intelligence Vernon Walters and President Reagan


What do attorney James Donovan (portrayed by Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies”), the “French ChefJulia Child, Virginia Hall (the only American civilian woman to receive the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II), Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche, Pulitzer Prize recipient Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Hollywood director John Ford, and architect Eero Saarinen (who designed Dulles Airport) have in common? 

They all served in the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, the World War II predecessor to the CIA and the US Special Operations Command.

As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this year - and increasingly rely on our intelligence and special operations communities to defend the United States - we should remember that they were born in the crucible of World War II


In June 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt created the OSS and appointed as its director the legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the only American to receive our nation’s four highest decorations, including the Medal of Honor. Donovan dedicated his entire life to serving the United States, starting in World War I as part of the “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment. 


Wild Bill Donovan

One of our nation’s leading attorneys, he served as an assistant United States attorney general and as the US Attorney for the Western District of New York.  President Roosevelt sent him to Great Britain in 1940 as one of his personal emissaries. Following World War II, he served as ambassador to Thailand during the height of the Cold War.


[Donovan, though a "junior" general, commanded so much respect that senior officers showed him special deference by rising when he entered the room]

Fisher Howe, who served as a special assistant to Donovan, said that “if you define leadership as having a vision for an organization, and the ability to attract, motivate and guide followers to fulfill that vision, you have Bill Donovan in spades.” Roosevelt called Donovan his “secret legs".  Donovan led by example, going behind enemy lines and taking part in several invasions, including D-Day.

Professor E. Bruce Reynolds said the “OSS was an organization designed to do great things.” It did great things. The OSS was the most remarkable organization ever created by the U.S. government, from building resistance movements behind enemy lines in Europe and Asia, to gathering intelligence in advance of Operations Overlord (Normandy) and Torch (North Africa); waging unconventional warfare against the Japanese in Burma by OSS Detachment 101 (the most effective fighting force in the OSS and the recipient of a Presidential Unit Citation); inventing and implementing innovative technologies (including the first underwater rebreathing device that was used by the OSS Maritime Unit, the predecessor to the US Navy SEALs); carrying out the greatest rescue mission of World War II, Operation Halyard; and its recruitment of leading academics.

At the core of the OSS were the incredible group of Americans whom Donovan recruited to serve from every military branch and the civilian population. 
OSS Org Chart - Far less complicated than CIA's 
They included the actor and Marine Sterling Hayden, who won a Silver Star; Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg; Colonel Aaron Bank, a founder of the US Special Forces; Colonel William Eddy, who was described as the “Lawrence of America”; Fred Mayer, the “real inglorious basterd” who, after being tortured by the Gestapo for several days, convinced his torturers to surrender Innsbruck, Austria, and was nominated for a Medal of Honor; and, members of the Jedburghs and Operational Groups, forerunners of today’s US Special Operations Forces, who went behind enemy lines as did many other members of the OSS.  Donovan said they performed “some of the bravest acts of the war.”  


[Notes: 
1) Some of the most notable journalists of the Cold War were former OSS officers
2) The US Congress, with only limited access to information about the OSS, was opposed to it, and "... charged that it was riddled with Communists and criminals.  
   a) After WW2. the HUAC charged several OSS officers with treason for operating with Communist leaders Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh.
   b) One officer, Willis H Bird, was destroyed professionally and financially by these accusations, but Donovan, then US Ambassador to Thailand, brought Bird back to Thailand where he became successful both in finance and assisting the Thai government establish a highly effective intelligence service.]
3) Newly-seated President Truman, after reviewing a damning report on the OSS's "profligate spending" and potential as a "Gestapo", turned the report over to the Congressional Committee on Agency Liquidation which closed the OSS and demanded Donovan's removal. ]

Senators Roy Blunt, R- Mo., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, have introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the Office of Strategic Services “in recognition of their superior service and major contributions during World War II.” 

The Senate bill has the support of the entire Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. When Donovan died in 1959, President Eisenhower called him the “last hero.” 

It is time to honor the “last hero” and all the heroes of the OSS, who are dwindling in number, with a Congressional Gold Medal. Congress should pass this bill.