For a host of reasons, the proposed operation seemed like a suicide mission. The area targeted for dropping the three-man team into Nazi territory was high in the Austrian Alps, surrounded by towering peaks and flanked by antiaircraft weaponry. Even if the drop went as planned, some of the spies tapped to infiltrate enemy ranks were European-born Jews, increasing the dangers they faced.
After the Royal Air Force refused the dangerous mission, code-named Operation GREENUP, John Billings, then a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was given the job.
Billings and other veterans who made possible some of World War II’s most daring spy missions were among those honored this weekend by the OSS Society, a group that includes former OSS members and members of the U.S. intelligence, military and Special Operations communities.
In addition to Billings, Gaetano Rossi and Caesar Daraio, two then-sergeants who were part of operational groups made up of Italian American volunteers, were honored with OSS Society awards for their work advancing the Allied cause during World War II. Also honored at this year’s “spy ball” was David Cohen, who served as director of operations at the CIA and as a senior intelligence official with the New York City Police Department, and retired Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, former Air Force chief of staff.
After retiring from the military as a captain, Billings became a commercial pilot. At age 93, he still pilots a Cessna Cutlass. Most of the time he flies “angel flights,” transporting people in need of medical attention.
The OSS Society is advocating passage of a proposed measure that would honor the wartime spies, which so far has not gained required congressional support. The proposal, which would award living OSS veterans the Medal of Honor, has stalled in the House.* more
*You can help get this bill passed. It's easy. Click here, see top right corner.
The OSS Society is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Membership in The OSS Society is available to OSS veterans, their descendants, current and former members of the U.S. intelligence community and U.S. Special Operations Forces, and people who are interested in General Donovan's "unusual experiment" - the Office of Strategic Services.
The OSS Society®
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