Smithsonian Collects Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to American Intelligence Agents

Presented to Veterans of the Office of Strategic Services
April 24, 2018

The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award, was presented March 21 to the veterans of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for their service during World War II and role in establishing the American intelligence community. OSS is the predecessor to the modern-day CIA.

Per the legislation, the medal was received by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for long-term preservation as part of the museum’s permanent collections and to be available for display and research.

“The museum is honored to take possession of this Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of these intelligence officers to preserve it for the American people,” said John Gray, director of the museum.
 
The OSS was founded in 1942 in response to a growing need for intelligence officers abroad, and at its peak, it deployed almost 13,000 men and women, including many well-known Americans such as Julia Child, James Donovan and Justice Arthur Goldberg.
 
Called “glorious amateurs” by Gen. William Donovan, members of the OSS risked their lives during WWII to secure intelligence on invasions such as D-Day and went behind enemy lines for the most dangerous missions of the war. The OSS was integral to the American victory and proved the need for and effectiveness of intelligence agents. Although only active for four years, the work of the OSS and its agents made elite units like the CIA and Navy SEALs possible. Fewer than 100 OSS veterans are still believed to be alive.
 
The medal, created by the U.S. Mint, features silhouettes of three OSS agents; a woman in civilian clothes, a paratrooper descending and a man in a suit. Their features are purposefully omitted to represent the anonymity with which OSS agents operated. The reverse features a spearhead, the official symbol of the OSS and is inscribed with code words representing significant OSS missions.
 
The Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded by the U.S. Congress throughout American history to recipients who have contributed significantly to American society. Recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal must be supported by two-thirds of the House of Representatives, 67 members of the Senate and must pass specific standards when being considered.
 
Previously, the museum’s Armed Forces History collection received the Nisei Soldiers of World War II medal in 2011, the medal presented to Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment Borinqueneers in 2016, and the Filipino Veterans of World War II medal in 2017. The Office of Strategic Services or OSS medal will join these distinguished Congressional Medals in the Smithsonian’s collections. There are currently no plans to display this most recent medal.
 
Several Smithsonian museums preserve Congressional Gold Medals. The National Air and Space Museum holds the medals awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen and the Women Airforce Service Pilots. The National Museum of African American History and Culture holds the Montfort Point Marines medal, awarded to the African American Marines who served during WWII. The Congressional Gold medal awarded to the "Monuments Men" went to the Archives of American Art. The medal presented to the Native American Code Talkers is preserved at the National Museum of the American Indian.
 
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
 
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