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Useful Notes / OSS

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The Office of Strategic Services (U.S.)

Before she was brought into World War II the USA's intelligence resources were scattered over a wide variety of government agencies (FBI, State Department, War Department, etc) and conducted on a largely ad hoc basis. On the 13th of June 1942 President Roosevelt ordered the formation of the Office of Strategic Services to conduct covert warfare against Imperial Japan, Those Wacky Nazis, and their allies. Headed by "Wild Bill" Donovan , the OSS conducted sabotage and subversion as well as plain old espionage against their enemies. Initially at something of a disadvantage because of their lack of contacts abroad and general inexperience, they made up for it by representing appealing ideologies and being insanely rich. They undertook their job with ingenuity and what sometimes seems to some to be a curious zest. The OSS had some notable failures but also some remarkable successes. As it had been founded for the specific purpose of prosecuting the war, the OSS was disbanded upon the war's ending. However, it was soon resurrected in the form of the CIA.

Tropes from the history of the organization:

The OSS in fiction:

  • Sniper Elite and its Continuity Reboot Sniper Elite V2 feature Karl Fairburne, a German-American/German-British officer in the OSS and an excellent sniper, as the main protagonist. Sniper Elite 4 shows how he was recruited into the OSS, and also features a high-ranking member of the unit in Col. Jack Weaver.
  • Robert De Niro's film The Good Shepherd chronicles the transition from the OSS to the CIA.
  • O.S.S, a transparently-tilted 1946 film starring Alan Alad about the Office of Strategic Services. A 1957 ABC TV-series of the same name was also produced.
  • Indiana Jones was an accomplished OSS intelligence officer During the War.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, the "basterds" are members of OSS.
  • The player character of Wolfenstein 3-D is a member of the Office of Secret Actions, the OSS by any other name.
  • In most of the early Medal of Honor games such as Medal of Honor (1999), Medal of Honor: Underground, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Medal of Honor: Frontline, and Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, the player is either: an OSS agent from the start, becomes one later on, or does missions for the agency at some point in the story.
  • In Spy Kids, the titular agents (as well as a lot of others) work for this group.
  • The film Charade depicts the CIA's efforts to clean up a profoundly botched OSS operation to deliver a massive shipment of gold to the French Resistance in WWII. The botch arose because the couriers decided they would rather have it themselves, then started killing each other.
  • In The DCU, the OSS was a featured organization, introduced in G.I. Combat #192 (July 1976). Led by the mysterious Control, they operated as an espionage unit, initially in Nazi-occupied France. The organization would later become Argent; the covert, civilian-controlled sister agency to the military operated Task Force X (ak.a. the Suicide Squad).
  • Extensively in the backstory of Delta Green. The eponymous organization first started as the "Parapsychology, Paranormal, and Psychic Phenomena Desk" (or "P4 desk") of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) after the raid in Innsmouth, Massachusetts in 1928. The P4 was transfered into the OSS in 1942 to fight the Karotechia, given the cover of an experimental "Psychologic Operations" unit codenamed DELTA GREEN. The Fall of DELTA GREEN (set in the 1960's) allows to create a CIA agent that worked for the OSS (and Delta Green) in World War 2, this gives the character more respect inside the CIA and easier access to older WWII-era files.
  • The Catcher Was a Spy chronicles the life of Moe Berg, a Major League Baseball player turned OSS agent. In his most famous mission, he is sent to Switzerland with orders to attend a lecture by Werner Heisenberg and assassinate him if he gave any indication he was working on an atomic bomb.