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OSS Congressional Gold Medal

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) recently approved designs for a Congressional Gold Medal to collectively honor to the members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The medal will be awarded “in recognition of their superior service and major contributions during World War II.”

Last year, Congress passed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Congressional Gold Medal Act (S. 2234), which bestows the highest civilian honor on the members of the OSS. Created in 1942 by President Roosevelt, the OSS is considered the predecessor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. Special Operations Command, and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

During World War II, the OSS supported, trained and led resistance movements around world and directed covert operations behind enemy lines that were critical to the Allies’ victory. The agency is credited with gaining the intelligence needed to successfully carry out the military’s D-Day operations. The OSS also recruited Fritz Kolbe, a German diplomat who became America’s most important spy against the Nazis in World War II.

“For many years, the heroic contributions of the OSS – which included some of the most daring covert operations of World War II — remained shrouded in secrecy, their contributions largely unknown to the American public. Today, Congress is able to publicly recognize the members of the OSS for their remarkable heroism and many sacrifices,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who cosponsored the Senate bill with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). “As the predecessor to the modern CIA, other elements of the U.S. intelligence community, and U.S. special operations forces, the OSS once boasted nearly 13,000 members, but more than 70 years after they won the war, fewer than 100 are still with us. I know how much it means to the veterans of the OSS, as well as their families, that this legislation is finally making its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Today, Congress has ensured that their courage of spirit and their love of country will long live on in our nation’s memory.”

Gen. William Donovan, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, served as the first OSS director, who is often referred to as the “founding father” of the U.S. intelligence. The diverse agency included personnel from every branch of the military, as well as Americans from a broad range of civil occupations.

As detailed by the OSS Society, notable OSS personnel included actor Sterling Hayden; Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg; Hollywood director John Ford; Ralph Bunche, the first African-American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; Medal of Freedom recipients Moe Berg and Marlene Dietrich; four CIA directors (William Casey, William Colby, Allen Dulles and Richard Helms); Nobel Physics Prize recipient Jack Kilby, who invented the integrated circuit; and Pulitzer Price recipient and JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Women accounted for more than one-third of OSS personnel and played a critical role in the organization. They included chef Julia Child and Virginia Hall, the only American civilian woman to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II. James Donovan, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the Steven Spielberg movie “Bridge of Spies” and negotiated the release of U–2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, served as General Counsel of the OSS.

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