Western New York has produced many notable Americans, though few – if any – were as necessary and influential as William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, the man who led the Office of Strategic Services in its secret war against Nazi Germany.
His fame and place in history are secure, but he wouldn’t have them without the bravery and resourcefulness of OSS agents who risked their lives to engage in covert operations, gather intelligence behind enemy lines, train resistance fighters and more.
So it is strange that a broadly bipartisan effort to honor the surviving members of the OSS is hung up on an easily remedied technicality.
A bill unanimously passed in the Senate and with 320 co-sponsors in the House would bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the few remaining veterans of the OSS. These heroes are in their 80s and 90s. But the effort is stalled, apparently by a recently passed congressional rule that prevents groups or organizations – as opposed to individuals – from being awarded the medal.
There may be a good reason for that rule, but it can be waived, as Congress did earlier this year in awarding the medal to the brave civil rights activists who led the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Ala., 51 years ago. Yet, that hasn’t happened in the case of the OSS veterans and the House’s Republican leadership hasn’t explained why.
This shouldn’t be difficult. These men were heroes in what was, by common agreement, a necessary war. Rarely, if ever, has the division between good and evil been so clearly drawn; rarely has the need to prevail been so immediate and urgent.
For generations, Americans have benefited from the courageous actions of these veterans. The lives we live today are due, in part, to the dangerous work they undertook to confront a mortal threat to democracy and simple human decency.
They are eminently worthy of this honor. It should be granted before more of them pass away.