What an excellent resource. Another great initiative from the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). A very useful companion to the Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project.
See note from LTG Cleveland below.
About this Primer
Considered a legacy unit of U.S. Army Special Operations Forces, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) has assumed almost mythical stature since World War II. Several OSS veterans, among them Colonel Aaron Bank, Lieutenant Colonel Jack T. Shannon, and Majors Herbert R. Brucker and Caesar J. Civitella brought unconventional warfare (UW) tactics and techniques to Special Forces in the early 1950s. It should be remembered, however, that the short-lived OSS (1942 to 1945) had two basic missions: its primary one was to collect, analyze, and disseminate foreign intelligence; its secondary one was to conduct unconventional warfare. The first, executed primarily by the Research and Analysis branch (R&A), was considered the most important during the war.
It is the second mission of UW, however, that has received the most attention since WWII. It was this element of the OSS that provided the most exciting stories and which was cloaked by an aura of secrecy and mystery. This section is designed to serve as a primer on the UW elements of the OSS. It is not an exhaustive look at the OSS, nor does it address every OSS function or branch. Its intent is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of what missions the separate OSS branches had, what the main operational efforts were, and where they took place geographically.
Note from the USASOC Commanding General
Army Special Operations Soldiers,
It is important to understand how the past has influenced Army Special Operations Forces. One of America’s legendary paramilitary organizations during WWII was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) whose field ranks were largely filled by detailed military personnel. As a wartime organization, it became a USASOC legacy unit because a number of their Army personnel played important roles during the formative years of Special Warfare after the war.
The OSS was a complex intelligence organization with paramilitary capabilities that was given highest priority to recruit within the military services. Major General William J. Donovan, a WWI veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, reported to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the chief of an independent agency under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The OSS functions most relevant to today’s ARSOF are: Operational Groups (OGs); Maritime Unit (MU); Special Operations (SO); Morale Operations (MO); and Secret Intelligence (SI) Branches.
This website features a primer on OSS wartime activities and functions and republished copies of the declassified manuals for each of the above elements. Although disbanded shortly after WWII, Army veterans assigned to the Psywar Center used their OSS manuals to create Special Forces units and to teach special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures. Individual training, group classes, and field exercises were conducted on Smoke Bomb Hill, Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, NC, and in Pisgah National Forest, SC. Knowledge about the connection of OSS to Army SOF is important to your professional development.