WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in the U.S. Capitol today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bipartisan group of congressional leaders from the Senate and House to honor the men and woman who served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS was an intelligence agency formed during World War II and is the predecessor to the CIA.
“I’m especially honored to be here today, because a member of my family served in the OSS, my wife’s Uncle Bob,” Senator King said. “Bob Saltzstein from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His grandfather was an immigrant, and the family was so delighted to be in America, they named Bob’s father Benjamin Franklin Saltzstein. B.F. he was called.
“Bob Saltzstein was in the OSS in Burma. And we’ve already heard about the bravery and entrepreneurialism, if you will, of OSS veterans around the world in the most dangerous missions. He was in Burma, ahead of the U.S. liberating troops, dealing with Japanese pockets of resistance. And they ended up recruiting something like 11,000 Kachin tribesmen in Burma, and they became known as the Kachin Rangers. This was OSS 101.
“Bob Saltzstein all his life said that his work with the Kachin Rangers, with OSS 101 in Burma, was the most important work of his life. And I would tend to agree. Because he was one of the brave that enabled us to remain the land of the free. And I guess the easiest way to characterize it, particularly realizing how few people were involved in the OSS, 13,000 I’ve been told. Thirty-five percent of which, by the way, were women. 13,000 people. I think the words of Churchill about the RAF apply in this case: ‘Rarely in human history have so many owed so much to so few.’”
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.