Marines Who Participated in the
Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
Many individuals, both military and civilian, do not understand the word
"Counterintelligence." Some think of it as someone who catches spies and works
entirely undercover collecting information about the so called "bad guy" and
only appears to pass this information to the U.S. Government. In a sense that is part of
its meaning, However, in the U.S. military it is much more. From a military standpoint,
counterintelligence is that portion of intelligence devoted to destroying the
effectiveness of inimical foreign intelligence activities and to protecting information
against espionage, personnel against subversion, and installations and material against
sabotage. Counterintelligence activity involves investigations and other measures to
collect, process, and disseminate related information. (OPNAVINST 03850.1A of 30 Jan 68).
In order to establish a starting point for this Marine Corps Counterintelligence Oral
history, it is important to note the history of the Navy's counterintelligence program.
Recorded documents noted that on 27 July, 1916, and in compliance with a Chief of Naval
Operations (CNO) directive dated, 18 April 1916, provided instructions that "the
Director of Naval Intelligence submitted a detailed, confidential plan for establishing
the information service and the collection of information for use by each of the Naval
District's." On 22 September 1916, this plan was referred to the General Board within
CNO for comments and recommendations by then Acting Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D.
Roosevelt. A few weeks later Admiral George Dewey, President of the Board, endorsed the
plan, sending it to the Secretary of the Navy, Jospehus Daniels for approval. The plan was
approved on 6 October 1916. Thus was inaugurated the Naval District Information Service.
To support the new service, a major reorganization plan was developed by Major J.H.
Russell, USMC, and Commander D.W. Knox, USN, who were both assigned to the Office of Nava
Intelligence. The plan established four divisions, each having separate responsibilities -
one of the divisions concerned itself with counterespionage and secret service activities
within the United States.
At the outbreak of World War I, all U.S. Naval Attaches were involved in
counterintelligence in various forms. Many Marine officers assigned with the Naval
Attaches also participated. In Paris, France, counterintelligence activities were set up
which employed agents to make investigations of suspected individuals.
Also assigned to the Office of Strategic Services was LtCol W.A. Eddy, a well-decorated
veteran of World War I, where he earned the Navy Cross and two Silver Star Medals. Born in
Lebanon of missionary parents, Eddy was fluent in Arabic and acted as interpreter for
President Roosevelt when he met King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. Eddy was photographed with
the king on board the destroyer Murphy (DD 603) while in the Red Sea. The naval officers
shown here are not identified.
Figure 1. LtCol W. A. Eddy
In the late 1930s, and prior to the United States involvement in World War II,
counterintelligence activities within the naval service required close and cordial
observance of various "patriotic" societies. This was done in an effort to
combat persons believed to be conducting subversive, pacifistic, and defeatist activities
against the United States.
In an effort to thwart German espionage activities against the United States prior to
the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Navy CI directed its effort in up-dating its German
intelligence database that remained from World War I.
In 1939 the Counterintelligence (CI) Branch (OP-16-B) within the Office of Naval
Intelligence (comprising of many Marine Officers) was organized into the following
sections: B-2, Naval Censorship; B-3, Investigative; B-4, Security of Naval Information;
B-5, Commerce and Travel; B-7, Sabotage, Espionage and CI; and B-8, The Coastal
One Marine officer assigned to OP-16-B, was Major W. Eddy.
The specific tasks assigned to OP-16-B, included:
- Determine enemy plans and organization for espionage and sabotage;
- Discover what kinds of information and intelligence the enemy was obtaining;
- Determine what was the connection and established channels between legitimate and proper
sources of information and intelligence and enemy's intelligence organizations;
- Establish methods used to transmit such information and intelligence to the effective
- Ascertain Personnel, organization, and methods used by, or available to, the enemy for
sabotage directed against the U.S. Navy, including propaganda;
- Prepare plans and methods for denying information and intelligence about the U.S. Navy
War Operations to the enemy and for preventing interference with those operations by the
- Dissemination of intelligence on (a) through (f) to the proper action agency or
agencies, with recommendations and possible countermeasures. (ONI, "Administrative
History of ONI in World War II", pp. 55, 446).
Of all the military disciplines associated with the working parts of any military
organization i.e., administrative, intelligence, operations and logistics, Marine Corps
counterintelligence has a short history of its own. This is not to say that many Marines
have either participated or had been assigned to support counterintelligence assignments
with other agencies prior to the Marine Corps being authorized a counterintelligence role
of its own on April 23, 1943.
NOTE: Major Robert E. Mattingly, in his occasional paper entitled
"Herringbone Cloak & CI Dagger," depicting Marines of the OSS, provides
additional reading on this subject.
THE GROWTH OF THE UNITED STATES
MARINE CORPS COUNTERINTELLIGENCE
1941 to 1951
If the disaster of Pearl Harbor accomplished anything for the United States, it
demonstrated a deficiency in America's overall intelligence operations and its programs.
At Pearl Harbor, our battleships were lined up in their berthing spaces in an open
invitation to an air attack. Our aircraft were wheeled out of their revetments and placed
side-by-side on the flight line at Hickham Airfield. The main reason was because of our
military leadership had underestimated Japan's strength, its capabilities and failed to
fit the pieces together or failed to identify simple warning and indicators which may have
averted the foretold air strikes against Honolulu and its facilities.
Many observers in Europe had predicted that Russia could not last more than six weeks
against a German assault and had placed the full attention of allied strategy to that
region of the world, completely ignoring the Japanese threat.
Prior to 1948, a formal established Counterintelligence occupational field was
non-existent within the Marine Corps, with the exception of some Marines assigned to the
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. However, a 29 page manual
depicting the mission and general instructions for Marine Corps Counterintelligence was
published on 23 April 1943.
The first group Marines to attend any type of formal counterintelligence training did
not occur until April 1948. At this time quotas were obtained for four officers and eight
enlisted personnel to attend CI training at the U. S. Army Counterintelligence Corps
Center, Camp Holibird, Maryland. These were the first Marines to receive formal training
in counterintelligence operations and, as such, became the nucleus for other Marines
entering Marine Corps Counterintelligence. The Marine Corps Military Occupational Skill
(MOS) designation for members originally assigned to the counterintelligence field was
(636) until it was changes in the spring of 1950 to 0210/0211.
THE COORDINATION OF INFORMATION (COI) IS
LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MARINES
In order to place Marine Corps Counterintelligence in its historical prospective upon
being authorized on 23 April 1943, we must digress to an individual who in some circles
was an inspirational force in this countries development of its intelligence -
counterintelligence practices. This individual force was a man named, William J.
"Wild Bill" Donovan. He was a man of great discipline and during World War I,
distinguished himself in the Battle of Champagne - Marne and Saint Mihiel and Argonne
Campaigns. He was wounded three times and for his gallant efforts was awarded the Medal of
Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal Croix de Guerre.
Donovan earned his nickname "Wild Bill" in France as a battalion commander and
later became the regimental Commanding Officer of the 165th Infantry -better known as the
Donovan received his B. A. from Columbia College in 1905 and by combining his final
colleague year with pre-law studies, graduated from Columbia Law School in two years. One
of his classmates, later to become the President of the United States, was Franklin D.
Roosevelt who proved to have Donovan's ear concerning the formalization of a intelligence
gathering network for this country.
In 1912, despite the pressures of legal work of his law practice, Donovan was
instrumental in founding, Troop "I" 1st New York Cavalry, of the New York
National Guard. Later that year, he was elected the Troops Captain and when the troop was
called-out in support of operations along the Mexican border, he left his law books. Prior
to the outbreak of World War I, Donovan was promoted to the rank of Major.
After the war, Donovan served as an unofficial U.S. military observer in Asia for a
short period and them resumed his law practice. In 1921, Donovan was appointed U.S.
District Attorney for Western New York and in 1925 became, Assistant U.S. Attorney General
for the same area. Also during this time, Donovan became extremely active in the
Republican Party politics. Another Columbia contact who played an important role in
Donovan's later career in establishing a national intelligence center (COI) was Harlan F.
Stone, adjunct professor of law, who was appointed by President Calvin Coolidge 1924 as
the United States Attorney General. Stone invited Donovan to be his assistant in charge
for the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
In 1928, many insiders of government presumed that Donovan would be the heir-apparent
to be the next U.S. Attorney General, but his appointment was opposed by party
conservatives largely due to his Irish-Catholic background.
This is one position that Donovan wanted the most, instead President Hoover offered him
the post of Governor of the Philippines which he declined.
In 1932, Donovan ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York and returned to his law
practice there after.
Later, being a close friend of Knox, the Republican Vice-President nominee in 1936,
whom Roosevelt brought into the Cabinet as a symbol of national harmony, recognized
Donovan's talents in his endeavors in developing an intelligence agency for the United
States. Donovan's talents were also recognized by Churchill's Canadian Emissary, William
Stephenson. Together, these two individuals were instrumental in securing Donovan'
appointment as, the Director of Coordinator of Information. In 1942, COI was redesignated
as Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Prior to the United States becoming involved in
World War II, Donovan was fascinated with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
Having this fascination, Donovan was invited to SIS Headquarters, where he was showed
things no other American had seen before. Some of the things that he was shown, was the
then, Top Secret invention of Radar and the newest interceptor planes just to name a few.
The SIS had unlocked their safes, and initiated him into the mysteries of the SIS
techniques of unorthodox warfare. He was particularly intrigued by the methods the Britt's
used in capturing German Spies and use them a counteragent. All the things that Donovan
had observed later proved important that were to be incorporated into this countries own
On the bases of what he had seen, Donovan stated unequivocally to President Roosevelt,
that "America needs to form such an organization that would report directly to the
President of the United states on all intelligence matters outside the boundaries of the
United States." President Roosevelt welcomed the suggestion of a single agency which
would serve as a clearing house for all intelligence and establishing a training center
for what were euphemistically called "Special Operations." By Executive Order on
July 11, 1941 - almost five months before the United States became involved in World War
II, President Roosevelt appointed Donovan the Director, Coordinator of Information (COI).
His duties, as defined by President Roosevelt own words were, "To collect and analyze
all information and data which may bear upon national security, to correlate such
information and data and make the same available to the President and to such departments
and/or officials of the government as the President may determine, and to carry out when
requested by the President, such supplementary activities as may facilitate the securing
of information important to national security, not now available to the government."
As you might have determined, the directive was purposely obscure in its wording, due
to the secret and potentially offensive nature of the new agencies functions and the other
intelligence organizations that might become jealous as intruding on their
In vain, President Roosevelt reiterated that Donovan's work was not intended to
supersede, duplicate or interfere with the ongoing activities of the General Staff, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other existing intelligence agencies. The dog-eat-dog
struggle among government departments, to preserve their own areas of power, is all too
familiar to the Washington bureaucratic setting. The late J. Edgar Hoover, perhaps fearing
that the new intelligence organization would steal mush of the spotlight, was not
completely satisfied, until the President assured him that the new agency would be
forbidden to conduct its activities within the United States. In the Military arena, Major
General George V. Strong, felt that their was a conflict of interests by the establishment
of COI. This was due to Strong's belief that Army G-2 represented tactical military
intelligence and COI represented strategic intelligence of all kinds could not coexist in
both a military or civil working environment.
Due to Donovan's recommendation that the United States establish a "commando
military element," independent of the Army and Navy, he submitted a Memorandum to the
President Roosevelt stating its overall purpose and function.
The following day, President Roosevelt, in non-committal language, indicated that
Donovan's proposal for development and deployment of a "commando military
element" had merit and would see to it that the idea would be considered. President
Roosevelt initiated a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps (Major General Holcomb)
for consideration of Donovan's idea. President Roosevelt, how was constantly in
communication with Prime Minister Winston Minister Churchill, had talked over the
"commando concept," which Churchill favored the idea.
One of the biggest questions that arose concerning this issue, was where would this
notional organization be placed. In Donovan's Memorandum to the President, he only noted
the purpose of the "commando military element" and did not address where it
would be placed or its organizational structure. However, a number of circumstances
pointed directly towards the Marine Corps.
At the same time President Roosevelt forwarded a letter to the Commandant of the Marine
Corps concerning the notional "commando" organization, Captain James Roosevelt,
son of the president, prepared a letter describing a notional make up of a "commando
element." This letter also listed both personnel and equipment needs in order for
this structure to operate in the true commando enviornment. Captain Roosevelt's letter was
forwarded through the Chain of Command to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It should
also be noted that Captain Roosevelt had just recently served as Donovan's military aid to
the Coordination of Information (COI).
The letter was prepared on January 14, 1942, and forwarded to Major General Clayton B.
Vogel, Commanding General, Camp Elliott, San Diego, California. The letter was strongly
endorsed by General Vogel and sent to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. On General
Vogel's endorsement, he fully supported Captain Roosevelt's proposal for the creation of a
"commandos unit" that was similar to that of the British Commandos and the
Chinese Guerrillas and presented further details in personnel and equipment needs for the
Receiving both letters, Major General Thomas Holcomb, the Commandant of the Marine
Corps at that time, reviewed the President's letter and was to make comments on the
commando concept. It was evident right from the start that General Holcomb was faced with
two issues needing to be resolved. The first issue, centered on bringing Colonel Donovan
into the Marine Corp, and promoting him to a Brigadier General, in order for him to head
the "commando force." The second issue, was to see if a alternative course could
be developed to resolve the first issue that would be in the best interest of the Corp.
The first issue, after considerable consultation with his senior Marine Corps generals,
all recommended against bringing Donovan into the Corps and promoting him a general to run
the proposed commando unit. It should be noted that General Holcomb, purposefully withheld
who had originated the proposal from his senior generals. Also, General Holcomb fully
understood that if Donovan got his foot in the door due to his direct link to the
president, it would present a force to be reckon with, which he probably could not
control. No acting upon the issue immediately, the issue stilled remained unsolved, until
after lengthy communications between the Commandant, his generals, Admiral King -Commander
in Chief, U.S. Fleet, Admiral Stark - Chief of Naval Operations and Admiral Nimitz - then
flying his flag aboard the U.S.S Pennsylvania. Admiral King sent a directive to Admiral
Nimitz directing him to:
"Develop a organization and training of Marines and Naval units of
"commando-type" for use in connection with expeditions of raid character for
demolition and other destruction of shore installations in enemy held islands and bases.
Employment of some small units embarked in submarines appears practicable by use of rubber
Admiral Nimitz in turn passed the problem on to Brigadier General Clayton Vogel of the
Joint Training Force noting "it appears that four such units may be organized within
an infantry battalion without appreciably altering present organization........"
Captain Roosevelt's letter was reviewed and turned over to the War Plans Section at
Headquarters Marine Corps.
To support the generals task dealing with both documents, the War Plans Section at
Headquarters Marine Corps drafted a message for Admiral King's signature, that highlighted
scarcity of specialized personnel on the west coast and directed transfer of infantry,
machine gun, and mortar troops from the First Separate Battalion to San Diego, California.
This would from the center piece of a Pacific Fleet "commando-type unit."
The pattern of events that had transpired the formation of a commando-type unit was now
plain - The president wanted a commando military unit.
The Prime Minister of England, along with President Roosevelt endorsed raids on
Japanese control areas in the Pacific. Donovan seemed to have no interest in having the
OSS engage its operations in the Pacific Theater, not to mentioned Admiral Nimitz's
dislike for the OSS and Donovan. It seemed that Donovan's primary concern was exclusively
oriented towards Europe and not the Pacific.
Thought the decade of the thirties, the Marine Corps experimented with the concept of
raider-type forces as part of larger unit in exercise support. The continuing interest in
this concept was demonstrated by the formation of the Provisional Rubber Boat Companies
from companies "A", "E", and "I" of the Seventh Marines
during Fleet Exercise-7 in February 1941. The Tentative Landing Manual of 1935 discussed
this concept in limited detail.
Therefore, through some organizational redesignation, the 1st and 2nd Raider Battalions
were organized. The commander of the 1st Raider Battalion was Lieutenant Colonel Merritt
A. Edson and the commander of the 2nd Raider Battalion was Lieutenant Colonel Evans F.
Carlson with specific operations directed in the Pacific Theater.
The basic mission of the two new Raider Battalions, were threefold:
- To be the spearhead of amphibious landings by larger forces on beaches generally thought
to be inaccessible;
- To conduct raiding expeditions requiring great elements of surprise and high speed; and
- To conduct guerrilla type operations for protracted periods behind enemy lines.
Several Raider Battalion Operations were conducted in the Pacific. It should be noted
that Captain James Roosevelt was assigned as the Executive Officer of the 2nd Raider
Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Carlson. James Roosevelt grew up in the public
eye as the eldest son of master politician and joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1938.
He was called to active duty during November 1940 and at this time held the rank of
Captain. He worked in diplomatic and intelligence missions before Worls War II. While
assigned to the 2nd Raider Battalion, he participated in a famous raid on Makin Atoll in
the Gilbert Islands in August 1942 and for his action in - then a Major - won the Navy
Cross, the highest Marine Corps award for valor.
In November 1943, he won the Silver Star and subsequently promoted to Lieutenant
Colonel. During the same year he was given command of the 4th Raider Battalion. He spent
26 months in combat, participating in such battles against Japanese forces on Tawara and
Guadalcanel. He later became a Brigadier General in the Marine Corps Reserves. He also wa
the author of two works about his father, "Affectionately F.D.R.; A Son's story of a
Loney Man" in 1959 and "My Parents: A differing View" in 1976. General
Roosevelt died 13 August 1991.
Counterintelligence Corps (CIC)
At the beginning of 1942, and to meet the increased need for counterintelligence
activity created by World War II, the U. S. Army replaced the old Corps of Intelligence
Police with a new organization called the Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). The CIC
was a larger and more centralized organization, then that of the old Corps of Intelligence
Police. CIC under its new name, had its own chief, school and included commissioned
officers who had counterintelligence training experience. CIC's mission was to recruit,
train, and administer Army Counterintelligence by providing qualified CI personnel to
support military operations. CIC not only conducted military investigations within CONUS,
but furnished tactical detachments to Army field commanders.
Some of the activities performed by CIC within the U. S. were criticized. In 1944, this
lead to a merger with Army Criminal Investigator Corps to form a short-lived Security
Intelligence Corps. However, the new merger did not affect those tactical CIC units
overseas from continuing to function.
U. S. forces in Europe needed reliable intelligence about their rear areas as well as
the fighting front. American troops were fighting on alien soil, surrounded by people
speaking different languages, and operating in an environment subject to exploitation by
Nazi spies, saboteurs, and collaborators.
To counter this threat, the Army relied on agents from the Counterintelligence Corps. A
17-man CIC detachment was attached to each Army division in Europe. CIC agents parachuted
into Normandy with the first airborne divisions on D-Day to be utilized as screening nets
and develop additional intelligence information on the enemy.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was developed out of the old COI after World War
II. The new purpose for the OSS was to identify outdated concepts of international
espionage, and update them with techniques never previously employed by the United States.
Executive Order 9182, delineated the responsibilities of the OSS in matters relating to
intelligence and para-military operations.
On the strategic level, the OSS encouraged the Resistance in France, supported
partisans in Italy and Balkans, and parachuted some of its agents - to include Marines -
into Nazi Germany.
U.S. MARINES WHO SERVED WITH THE OSS
BEHIND GERMAN LINES IN FRANCE
"THE GREAT PARACHUTE DROP" (FRANCE WW-II)
During the turbulent war years of 1943-1944, a little known town called Haute Savoie,
France in the Vercors Plateau was considered a stronghols and key to the allied cause in
combatting Nazi German military. Rising some 3,000 feet above sea level, the plateau
measured some 30 miles long and some 12 miles wide. The reason for its strategic
importance was its 3,000 French freedom fighters called the "Maquis." Both the
British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the American Officer of Strategic Services
(OSS) kept a close eye on all activities involving this clandestine group.
On 6 January 1944, a trio of Allied military personnel parachuted into the area. Their
assignment was to observe and gather information on the French freedom fighters. The
operations code name was "UNION I." It was soon discovered that the freedom
fighters were willing to fight, however, they lacked the necessary equipment to continue
the fight against Nazi Germany. In the spring, "UNION-I" was withdrawn.
Due to the plateau's strategic importance, another secret mission was established, code
named "UNION II." Unlike the first mission which strictly to observe the freedom
fighters, this mission called for direct confrontation with those German combat units
within the area. The participants involved in "UNION-II" wore their regulation
military uniforms. Also, what made this mission different from the first, was the vast
amount of supplies and equipment that had to be dropped into Savoie to be used by the
freedom fighters - some 864 containers in all. It ranked as one of the two greatest
parachute drops of World War II.
One of the participants of "UNION-II," was a young Marine Corps Sergeant
named Jack Risler, who had volunteered for the mission along with seven other Marines. Due
to the vast amount supplies and equipment needed, UNION-II would also help the French
freedom fighter continue its engagement against the Waffen SS and other elite German units
in and around the plateau.
Sergeant Risler received his parachute training at Camp Gillespie near San Diego,
California in 1942. The training lasted for six weeks. In June 1943, Sergeant Risler, now
assigned at the U.S. Naval Air Station Parachute Riggers School, Lakehurst, New Jersey,
was called into the office of Major Bruce Cheever, the schools senior instructor. The
Major asked Sergeant Risler "Would you like to do something different?" Sergeant
Risler responded by saying "Yes Sir," not knowing what he had just volunteered
for. Within a couple of days, the sergeant was on his way to Washington, D.C., to receive
training from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Sergeant Risler was quartered at the Congressional Country Club, which the OSS had
taken over during World War II for its agents. A total of 16 individuals, eight Army and
eight Marines, started their OSS training. Training consisted of self-defense (judo), map
and compass reading, and other things. During this training, Risler had the opportunity to
met John Hamilton (better known as the movie actor Sterling Hayden), who eventually went
to Yugoslavia and fought with Tito's partisans.
After training was completed, the 16 members remained as the training nucleus for a new
corps of instructors. This lasted until November 1943, where the group was transferred to
England to receive additional training on the English style of parachute jumping. The
reason for the different style of jumping was due to the difference of the American
parachute verses the British parachute. The American chute comes out of the pack after the
risers and suspension lines, where the British chute operates in the reverse order, the
chute comes out first, then risers and suspension lines. There is less of an opening shock
with the British chute than the American's and once on the ground, the jumper can get out
of the chute alot faster. After receiving this additional training, the 16 members were
Sergeants J. P. Bodnar, Charles Perry and Risler, all Marines, were sent to a area
called Holme, about 60 miles north of London. It was better known as area H (Fielding
Estates & Airfield). The reason for the letter designation was that the OSS made it a
practice to assigned letters to all of their duty stations where agents were located. At
Area H, Sergeant Risler noted that several B-24s were painted black and was told that the
aircraft were used by the OSS to drop civilian agents into various parts of Europe.
In June 1944, Sergeant Risler along with other area H members took a 48 hour pass and
visited London. While in London, the group stopped at a street corner and listening to
various individuals speaking against the British governments involvement in the war. While
listening to the speakers, the group was approached by someone from within the crowd who
asked them what they were doing. The individual was, Marine Corps Major, Peter Ortiz. It
should be noted that Major Ortiz was on the UNION I and had received the Navy Cross for
this involvement. As the conversation picked-up, Major Ortiz informed the group that he
was going back in France. One of the members from the group remarked: "Well, you know
who to take back with you if you need help." Major Ortiz then told the group,
"he would see what he could do." The major departed and the group finished out
the 48 hour pass then returned to area H.
It was not too long thereafter, that the group received a call to report back into
London. The group met on Baker Street, at the SOE headquarters, where each member drew a
backpack, personal supplies, a Colt .45 pistol, a Winchester semi-automatic carbine with a
metal folding stock, a Fairburn stiletto and a map case. Shortly afterwards, the group
received further instructions and were told that they were going to jump behind the German
lines, somewhere in Southeastern France. Major Ortiz was also there.
On 30 July 1944, Sergeant Risler and the other OSS Marines went to Knettishall Air
Base, some 60 miles northeast of London. At the air base, each were issued, a silver hip
flask full of Cognac, several packages of Lucky Strike cigarettes with no markings on the
pack, and French francs equal to about $1,000 American dollars.
Major Ortiz, who met Sergeant Risler and the other OSS Marines at the air base, was
carrying a suitcase. The suitcase contained a million francs for the French Resistance
force operating on the Vercors Plateau and within the town of Savoie. Not telling the
group the real reason for the large amount of money, Major Ortiz informed the group, that
the money was to be used in the event that the group became lost or separated and needed
On 1 August 1944, UNION II began and those involved left in several B-17's from the
388th Bomber Group. A squadron of P-51 Mustang fighters escorted the bombers to the drop
zone. A total of 78 planes made it to the drop zone. The majority of the aircraft were
loaded with 864 container destine for the French freedom fighters. These containers
contained; 1,096 Sten guns, 298 Bren automatic rifles, 1,350 Lee-Enfield rifles, 2,080
Mills anti-personnel grenades, 1,030 Gammon grenades, 260 automatic pistols, 51 P.I.S.T.
antigun guns, 2 1/2 million rounds of ammunition, several tons of explosives, medical
supplies, clothing and rations. Also, included were bicycle tires and chewing gum.
Participating in UNION II, were Major Ortiz, Gunnery Sergeant Robert LaSalle, Sergeants
Bodnar, Perry, Brunner, Coolidge and Risler. Once landed in the drop zone, the group was
to met a Free French officer, named Joseph Arcelin, who was to assist in the mission.
There were only three jump sites suitable for the jump in order gain entry onto the
The French Freedom Fighters provided a company at each site, which could be easy
defended and to pertect the incoming jumpers. A company of the French Freedom Fighters
consisted of about 25 to 30 members. The group jump into an area called, Col des Saises,
which was between the Plateau des Glierres and the Plateau des Vercors.
Once on the ground, road blocks or ambush sites could easily be established in the
event the group ran into a german patrol. Sergeant Risler was in the second wave. Once
over the drop site, he made the jump from 400 feet and was in the air no more than 30
seconds. The plane was traveling at 150 miles per hour. Once on the ground, one of the
French Freedom Fighters kissed Risler on his cheek.
Sergeant Charles Perry was killed when his steel static line developed a kink and it
snapped. Gunnery Sergeant LaSalle injured his ribs and spine in the fall. By the end of
the day, two-thirds of the containers were collected. Some years later, it was found out
that the citizens of Albertville, a small nearby town, told the Germans on the day of the
jump that several battalions of paratroopers had landed. That threat gave the operation
some valuable time to gather supplies and setup a base camp. Once the base camp was setup,
the freedom fighters were shown how to fire the weapons. Afterwards, the group and several
of the freedom fighters set out on reconnaissance patrols. German units in the area were
identified as the 157th Alpine Division. While on patrol, Major Ortiz, established ambush
points for the freedom fighters on the German supply routes.
While setting up the various ambush sites, Risler over heard Major Ortiz tell the
freedom fighters that: "The best ambush is accomplished with no more that five to ten
On the third day, three Germans were captured and handed over to the freedom fighters.
On 12 August, Major Ortiz decided that the French freedom fighters were strong enough to
force the Germans from the Tartenaise Valley. In the morning of 14 August, the team of
Marines, entered a town called Montgirod situated on the side of a mountain. A German
spotter plane seemed to be following the team. Captain Jean Bulle, one of the French
Freedom Fighter leaders, had a 200 man force in a nearby hamlet ready to assist the Marine
team, if they came across any Germans. About noon, the Germans started firing mortar
shells into the teams location. During the attack, the team started down, what was thought
to be an escape route, only to run into a German patrol. Luckily, the team was not seen by
the Germans patrol and jumped into a nearby ditch to waited until they passed. The team
stay until dark. Later, after dark, the team started back to their base camp, only to run
into several German patrols, who were looking for them. The team continued to evade the
German patrols without incident, however, on the next day, the team was not so lucky. As
the team began to cross a bridge to leading into a town called Centron, they were caught
by a German convoy from the Alpine Division. As the Germans dismounted from their vehicles
and opened fire on the team, Sergeants Coolidge and Brunner who were at the end of the
column made their escaped back across the river into a heavily wooded area. In Brunner and
Collidge escape, Sergeant Coolidge was hit in the leg. The rest of the team scrambled back
towards Centron to take what refuge they could. As the remainder of the team scrambled
back across the river bridge, Major Ortiz informed the team, that each could try and make
his own escape, the team refused. Then to much of the groups surprise, Major Ortiz
hollered to a German officer and inform him that the team would surrender, provided that
the Germans would not burn the village or hurt the villagers.
Once captured, the team appeared in front of a German Officer named Major Kolb, who had
won the Iron Cross in World War I. The German Major was in the Regular German Army, who
told the team that, "They were his prisoners and he would take care of the
team." Luckily, the team didn't fall into the hands of an SS Officer, because most
certainly the team would have been executed. The team remained prisoners for almost nine
months. Each member was interrogated, frequently slapped, however, as reports of their
imprisonment they were never tortured. The Germans keep moving the team around until they
went to Marlag, a naval prison camp. It was comprised mainly of British seaman and British
Royal Marines. There were only 13 Americans in the camp. On 28 April 1945, the team
members were freed. Brunner, who escaped from Centron, was later killed on another
mission. Captain Jean Bulle was executed by the Germans. Major Ortiz was awarded his
second Navy Cross and Bodnar, LaSalle and Risler were awarded the Silver Star for the
Later they made a movie on the team's exploits called "13 Rue Madeleine,"
staring James Cagney and Richard Conte. Major Ortiz was the technical advisor for the
film. In May 1984, Sergeant Bodnar and Risler, returned to France to commemorate the 40th
anniversary of the "Great Parachute Drop."
During the 1992 Winter Qlympics held at Savoie, Franch, a segment of the program was
dedicated to the heroic action of those who participated on "UNION II" and
because of Major Ortiz's action that spared the town from certain distruction by the Nazi
forces. The CIC resumed its independent existence just before the end of World War II.
The CIC continued to support the fighting forces in Europe until victory was achieved
by the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945.
THE PACIFIC THEATER (World War II)
As already mentioned earlier, during the World War II, Donovan tried on several
occasions to convince Admiral Nimitz to employ OSS operations within the Pacific Theater.
Despite the fact that the Allied war effort put a premium on defeating Germany first,
General Douglas MacArthur was able to persuade Washington to send him enough supplies to
launch an amphibious island hopping campaign against Japanese forces entrenched on the
enormous island of New Guinea and in the Bismarck archipelago.
General MacArthur's push through the Southwestern Pacific was accompanied by Admiral
Chester W. Nimitz's campaign in the Central Pacific, in which U. S. Army troops were also
employed. In October 1944, these two elements converged on Layette Gulf in the
Philippines. Once the Philippines had been freed, U. S. forces approached Japan's
doorstep, and the end of the war in the Pacific was in sight.
There is also evidence that several Marines participated in the (OSS) in the Pacific
campaign once the Pacific Theater was divided between General MacArthur and Admiral
There were reports that a Marine Corps Captain assisted a OSS team behind the Japanese
Captain Charles Black, husband of former child movie star Shirley Temple Black, was a
Marine during World War II and assigned in the Pacific Theater. After his retirement from
the Marine Corps he became one of the first CIA junior officer trainees in 1950.
Another account of Marines being assigned or later involved with the OSS, was a young
23 year old Lieutenant. On the morning of July 22, 1944, on the island of Guam, a Japanese
grenade rolled into the foxhole of the Marine Lieutenant. The young Marine Lieutenant was
a machine gun platoon leader and received wounds from the grenade, where he had to be
evacuated from the area. Upon leaving the Marine Corps, he worked his way up the ladder
within the OSS/CIA to become, Chief of CIA's Covert Action Operations."
In order not to steal those recorded accounts already published by Major Robert E.
Mattingly in his occasional paper entitled "Herringbone Clock & GI Dagger,"
depicting Marines of the OSS, one should refer to this publication for further reading.
Marines Who Participated in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
|William A. Eddy
|James M. McHugh
LIEUTENANT COLONELS --- LOCATION
|Remsen J. Cole
Horace W. Fuller
Franklin P. Holcomb
Peter J. Ortiz
Carl B. Peters
George Van der Hoef
Frederick A. Willis
Morocco, Algiers, France
MAJORS --- LOCATION
|Richard A. Gard
Charlotte D. Gower*
William G. Hamilton
Albert F. Moe
James T. Patterson
CAPTAINS --- LOCATION
|William L. Cary
Joseph E. Charles
Gordon A. Craig
Gerald F. Else
Francis T. Farrell
William F. A. Grell
Willaim A. Holmin
Emil M. Krieger
Robert P. Leonard
Walter R. Mansfield
C. L. A. Mathieu
George H. Owen
Winthrop Rutherford Jr.
Richard E. Sullivan
Leon H. Weaver
|Romania, Yugoslavia, Italy
England, France, Germany
West Africa, Algiers
Cairo, Greece, Liberia
Cairo, Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, France, German
Tunisia, Corsica, Italy, China
England, Yugoslavia, China
Algiers, Cairo, Burma, Italy
Algiers, Sardinia, Italy
Tunisia, France, Germany
1st LIEUTENANTS --- LOCATION
John C. Bradley
Joseph F. Campisi
John H. Cox
Edward T. Dickinson Jr.
William E. Duggan
Charles H. Fenn
John W. Gardner
Harry H. Harper
George M. Hearn
William E. Jones
Rolfe Kingsley Jr.
Clearence J. Lewis Jr.
William B. Macomber
Alan K. Magary
Hugh A. McDevitt
John J. Meilly
John W. Mowinckel
Charles A. Muecke
John S. Russell Jr.
George S. Seabury
Lewis B. Walton Jr.
Edward E. Weismiller
Richard D. Wylly
London, Sweden, France
Cairo, Italy, Austria
Malaya, Burma, China
France, Germany, Austria
Cairo, Ceylon, Malays, Burma
2nd LIEUTENANTS --- LOCATION
|Nick R. Cooky
Robert L. Hitt
Walter W. Taylor
Robert G. Scurrah
Corsica, Italy, France
WARRANT OFFICERS --- LOCATION
|Thomas L. Curtis
John L. Richardson
Washington, London, Ceylon
GUNNERY SERGEANTS --- LOCATION
Robert La Salle
|James S. Sweeney
|* Only Woman Marine Officer to serve with the OSS
** Sterling Hayden -
Movie actor etc.
Reference: "Herringbone Clock & CI Dagger" Major Robert E.
Mattingly Occasional Papers 1984.
NOTE: On October 1, 1945, the Office of Strategic Services was officially
disbanded and both non-military and military personnel shifted to either the War
Department or the State Department for duty.
Figure 2. Capt Ortiz and his OSS Team
Sgt Charles Perry, a member of Captain Ortiz' OSS team, died when his parachute failed
while jumping over the Haute Savoie region of France. Captain Ortiz and the team members
render honors at Perry's grave. From left to right are:
- Captain Ortiz
- Captain Francis Coolidge - USA
- Sergeant R. E. Lasalle
- Sergeant J. P. Bodnar
- Sergeant F. J. Brunner
- and Sergeant J. Risler