The OSS is back

Admiral McRaven acceptance speech

Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
President Obama talked with Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, who as the Navy’s commander of the Joint Special Operations Command had operational control of the mission to get Osama bin Laden. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich, StipkoPhoto.com | William H. Mcraven, Special Operations, Osama Bin Laden, Navy, Barack Obama,

Adm. William McRaven, USN

When Admiral McRaven, Commander of the US Special Operations Command, said "the OSS is back" in his acceptance speech as the recipient of the 2013 William J. Donovan Award (TM), it was a very gratifying moment for The OSS Society. It validated our nonprofit's mission of celebrating the historic accomplishments of the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA and the US Special Operations Command, and educating the American public about the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom.

We have been working hard to keep the legacy of the OSS alive. Legislation was recently introduced in Congress to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the OSS (H.R. 3544 and S. 1688). We need two-thirds of the House and Senate, respectively, before it can come to a vote. Please ask your congressperson and senators to serve as cosponsors of the Office of Strategic Services Congressional Gold Medal Act at Popvox.com or by contacting them directly. We are also working to have the OSS headquarters on Navy Hill in Washington, D.C., the birthplace of the American intelligence and special operations communities, added to the National Register of Historic Places.

To continue our mission, we need your support. Please take a few minutes to make a tax-deductible donation to The OSS Society before December 31, 2013, so that your donation can be deducted from your 2013 federal tax return. For a $100 donation, you will receive a DVD from the 2013 William J. Donovan Award Dinner (TM) and an OSS Society lapel pin, luggage tag and car magnet as gifts.

Thank you for your support of The OSS Society.



The OSS Society
The OSS Society

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) left a legacy of daring and innovation that has influenced American military and intelligence thinking since World War II. OSS owed its successes to many factors, but most of all to the foresight and drive of William J. Donovan, who built and held together the office’s divergent missions and personalities. | Photo: The OSS Society |
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) left a legacy of daring and innovation that has influenced American military and intelligence thinking since World War II. OSS owed its successes to many factors, but most of all to the foresight and drive of William J. Donovan, who built and held together the office's divergent missions and personalities. Given the toughness of OSS's adversaries and the difficulty of the tasks assigned to the office, Donovan and his lieutenants could take pride in what they achieved. Ironically, by the end of the war, he had done his job so well that his presence was no longer essential to carry American intelligence into a new peacetime era. When the White House wanted to retire him in 1945, it also took care to save valuable components of the office that he had created. Today's Central Intelligence Agency derives a significant institutional and spiritual legacy from OSS. In some cases this legacy descended directly; key personnel, files, funds, procedures, and contacts assembled by OSS found their way into the CIA more or less intact. In other cases the legacy is less tangible'but no less real.

William Donovan
William Donovan

William Joseph Donovan, born January 1, 1883, Buffalo, NY and died on February 8, 1959, was a United States soldier, lawyer, intelligence officer and diplomat. Donovan is best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. | Photo: National Archives |
Intelligence agencies are usually laid open to public view only when a nation is defeated in war and its conquerors are able to ransack its archives. The Office of Strategic Services is perhaps unique among intelligence services in that most of its story has been opened up by voluntary release. Over the last two decades, the Central Intelligence Agency'the heir of OSS'has gradually transferred almost all of OSS's records in its custody to the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. Scholars and writers are mining these files to produce a growing body of accurate and insightful work on OSS.

OSS was perhaps too large and sprawling to describe in a single essay. General Donovan volunteered his office for a wide variety of missions, but he had little patience for administrative detail and never tried to force OSS into a neat organizational framework. The office restructured itself so frequently that no single chart can adequately summarize its many components. Indeed, the rapid proliferation of offices and missions means that many worthy components and exploits regretfully must be left out of such a brief survey in order to leave room for the overall picture. What follows is an attempt to describe some of the important components of OSS and to highlight some of its significant missions and personalities.

Michael Warner
CIA History Staff
May 2000

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:08 PM EDT | More details

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