Declassified: OSS Society Honors Special Ops Chief, Unveils OSS Museum Design
If one could have spied on a singular event illuminating America’s awesome firepower in intelligence, surely it was the OSS Society’s annual awards dinner last month. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel was electric with civilian and military leaders, young soldiers, sailors and marines, old spies, patriots and a trace of media. The main event: The 50th anniversary presentation of the William J. Donovan Award to Adm. Eric Olson and an off-the-record speech by CIA Director David Petraeus.
Olson, retired commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, whose last big mission was taking out Osama bin Laden, and the popular Gen. Petraeus, newly appointed U.S. spymaster, joined 600 others and the likes of such soldiers as the Masson brothers, Sgt. Thomas Costello, wounded in Afghanistan, and his wife Jennifer. Led by Maj. Gen. Victor Hugo, the night's master of ceremonies, they saluted those who hold and have held America’s tip of the spear against her enemies. All rose to toast the U.S.A., the commander-in-chief, allies, the OSS, Bill Donovan, lost and missing comrades -- and the ladies.
Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, who received the Donovan award in 2007, presented it to Olson, who spoke of the "OSS Simple Sabotage Manual" (Good read; check it out). The man of the night -- who had been the longest serving SEAL on active duty, “a bull frog” -- took part in Desert Storm and Somalia. His actions during the Battle of Mogadishu, recounted in “Black Hawk Down,” earned Olson a Silver Star. The admiral said the “New Normal” required clever people and solutions. He certainly was in the right place to find them.
The OSS Society is dedicated to those who served during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations and honors the memory of legendary Gen. “Wild Bill” Donovan, OSS founder. Tributes to Donovan are not overstated: “What a man! We have lost the last hero,” said President Dwight Eisenhower. Donovan’s OSS men have been described as “PhDs who could win a bar fight.” The OSS’s influence on today’s spies and special ops also cannot be overstated. Others awarded the Donovan prize include Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and George H.W. Bush as well as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Lord Mountbatten, William Casey, William Colby, William Webster, Ross Perot -- and Petraeus two years ago.
The society works to continue that influence, as it educates the public on “the continuing importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom in this country and around the world.” During the Oct. 15 gala, the non-profit debuted designs for the National OSS Museum -- “telling America’s greatest untold story.” The OSS Society is hunting for locations -- especially in Northern Virginia. Says its serious president Charles Pinck, tongue not entirely in cheek: “I’m responsible for a group of very dangerous senior citizens.”
Oh, and Petraeus’s speech? Not to worry: he basically thanked everyone and . . . well, the rest is off the record.