The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony

The OSS Gold Medal Ceremony
OSS GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 BLOG
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Morris “Moe” Berg and the 13,000 heroic men and women of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) finally received a well-deserved Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, March 21st during a moving ceremony in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. In true OSS style, the ceremony went on in spite of a Federal Government shutdown for a snow emergency.

Along with Charles Pinck, President of the OSS Society, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate delivered remarks honoring the OSS members during a live streaming of the event. Members of the OSS and their extended families came from all over the U.S. and attended receptions in their honor Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. More congressional members spoke during the Wednesday evening rooftop reception.

The medal was finally bestowed after many years of lobbying spearheaded by the OSS Society under the fine leadership of Charles Pinck, whose father had served in the OSS in China. The Congressional medal, the nation’s highest civilian distinction, was conferred collectively and recognizes the members of the OSS, the WWII intelligence agency and CIA predecessor for their superior service and major contributions during World War II. The OSS included both military personnel and civilians. Women comprised more than one-third of the OSS personnel and many of America’s leading scientists and scholars also served. One side of the medal represents the range of work undertaken by the OSS and features the inscription “OSS” with a woman, a paratrooper, and a man in a suit. The design features the dates “1942-1945” the years during which the OSS operated. The reverse side of the medal features the OSS Spearhead inscribed with code words related to important OSS missions and agents. AZUSA was one of the code words representing a mission Moe Berg participated in.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s included Moe Berg in his remarks delivered during the ceremony: Watch Here.

“As we’ve been hearing today, the ranks of the Office of Strategic Services included quite the cast of characters. There was ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the visionary leader intent on ‘sowing the dragon’s teeth’ and breeding chaos behind enemy lines. There were celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, and future celebrities like Julia Child; all-star academics, like Arthur Schlesinger…..I’m partial to the story of Moe Berg, an Ivy Leaguer turned journeyman Major League Baseball catcher who gave up trying to hit curveballs and started throwing curveballs to the Nazis. Moe parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia, and he eavesdropped on German physicists.”

Singer Songwriter Mark Russell delighted the ceremony audience with his rendition of “Wild Bill,” a satirical song about the leader of the OSS. The OSS was created in 1942 by the legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to coordinate American intelligence efforts, in its heyday the OSS deployed more than 13,000 operatives in addition to four future CIA directors. Pioneers of sabotage, intelligence gathering, supplying resistance movements, capturing high-value targets and infiltrating enemy strongholds, OSS agents were in Gen. Donovan’s words “glorious amateurs” who undertook “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

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Accepting the medal on behalf of all the brave OSS men and women, was William Clarke, an OSS & CIA veteran. He told the audience that around 100 OSS members are still alive.
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. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Pictured is Eugene Polinsky, navigator in the Air force special operations group known as the “Carpetbaggers.”

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Pictured is Robert Holmstrom displaying with fellow “Carpetbagger” Bill Becker the silk maps they carried to be informed about the typography of their missions.

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. Present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. The CIA, the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Special Operations Command all have their precursors in the OSS. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research also traces its creation to the OSS Research and Analysis Branch.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Representatives Robert Latta (OH) and Marcy Kaptur (OH), Nancy Pelosi, (House Democratic Leader) Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King, (ME), Mitch McConnell, (Majority Leader) and Paul Ryan, (House Speaker).

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Family members enjoyed reuniting with other OSS families who had served together on their missions. The family members of Lt. Col Gerhard L Bolland met the family of William Colby, an OSS member who like others later became the head of the CIA.

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At the reception following the ceremony Representative Will Hurd (TX), who had been in the CIA, spoke about his appreciation of the clandestine nature of serving in the OSS.
At the reception many relatives of the OSS members bemoaned the fact that it took 73 years for this Congressional medal to finally be awarded, and they regretted that their deceased family members could not partake in the Congressional recognition.
The stories of these courageous OSS men and women will finally be memorialized when The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations opens in the future.

We hope the documentary film of Moe Berg will contribute to this important effort.

Click to see the National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations Brochure.

 

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