The U.S. Senate has voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to veterans of the Office of Strategic Services — the OSS, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and special operations forces. The House should follow suit.
While few World War II veterans of the OSS are still alive, the story of their courage, creativity and heroism survives and should warrant this special honor.
For many people in Charleston, the award will have special meaning because of the late T. Allen Legare Jr., a Charleston native who parachuted behind enemy lines 29 times for the OSS and earned two combat stars.
Mr. Legare, who died in 2010, touched numerous lives across South Carolina as a member of the state House of Representatives, as a state senator (1953-1966) and as a lawyer in Charleston.
OSS members rescued allies, guided key strategies, engaged in sabotage against the enemy and collected valuable intelligence.
Those veterans have served on the U.S. Supreme Court, received Pulitzer and Nobel prizes and founded the U.S. Special Forces.
And they continued to serve their country, their states and their communities.
Mr. Legare, as a state senator, strengthened and expanded the State Ports Authority and the Medical College. He was a supporter of technical education and an advocate of highway and bridge improvements. The Ashley River bridge from West Ashley to the peninsula is named for him.
We could use him now.
Former S.C. House member Jimmy Bailey of Charleston, while a student at the University of South Carolina, worked as a page for Sen. Legare. Mr. Bailey said he was “a war hero, and he was my hero” because of both what he accomplished and the way he treated people. ... He helped people from all walks of life.”
The 13,000 members of the OSS came from every branch of the military. Because of the clandestine nature of the OSS, their accomplishments aren’t as widely known as some other heroes’.
World War II ended more than 70 years ago. It’s time to honor OSS veterans for their extraordinary service.
And it’s a good time for Americans everywhere to be reminded of the power of dedication and personal sacrifice.