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Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to CIA’s Predecessor, OSS

On March 21, 2018, the US Congress bestowed its highest civilian honor upon the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The men and women who comprised America’s first spy agency were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, in recognition of their superior service and major contributions during World War II. These women and men - who performed some of the bravest acts of the war – had never before been collectively recognized for their heroic and pioneering service.

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Betty McIntosh and fellow OSS officers
At its peak in late 1944, OSS employed almost 13,000 individuals, a third of who were women. Today fewer than 100 members of this great organization are still alive. Twenty of them were able to attend the formal presentation ceremony at the US Capitol’s Emancipation Hall.

"The men and women who served our country in the OSS are among the most deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal,” remarked House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff when the bill was passed by the House of Representatives in November 2016. “The OSS, members of our ‘Greatest Generation,’ helped vanquish some of the most malevolent enemies that our country, and indeed the world, has ever faced. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid”

The OSS Congressional Gold Medal Act states that the OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Its founder, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan is the only person in American history to receive our Nation’s four highest decorations, including the Medal of Honor.

OSS Jedburghs
The OSS organized, trained, supplied, and fought with resistance organizations throughout Europe and Asia that played an important role in America’s victory during World War II. The OSS invented and employed new technology through its Research and Development Branch, inventing new weapons and revolutionary communications equipment. 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. OSS ‘‘Mercy Missions’’ at the end of World War II saved the lives of thousands of Allied prisoners of war.

Medal presented to OSS
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commented in his remarks that the OSS “grew quite the family tree.” Indeed it did. The present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. Its Maritime Unit was a precursor to the US Navy SEALs. The OSS Operational Groups and Jedburghs were forerunners to US Army Special Forces. The 801st/492nd Bombardment Group were progenitors to the Air Force Special Operations Command. The Marines who served in the OSS were predecessors to the Marine Special Operations Command. US Coast Guard personnel were recruited for the Maritime Unit and its Operational Simmer Group. Ultimately, the OSS spawned the Central Intelligence Agency.

Speaking to those gathered for the presentation, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi remarked that “a few determined men and women can change the course of history and they did just that.”

The gold medal will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

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Posted: Mar 28, 2018 12:51 PM
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018 12:51 PM