actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

MilitaryI'm a 94 year old former OSS Staff Sargent in World War II - Part 2 - AMA!

Mar 29th 2016 by johncardinalli • 25 Questions • 649 Points

I was sworn to secrecy for 65 years and can finally talk about my life as an OSS agent. I've seen it all from behind the enemy line.

This is my second AMA. I did one 6 months ago, but I had no idea so many questions would come in and I didn't dedicate time to it. So many questions went unanswered. I'm honored to see so many questions and interest.

I will be here for the next 2 hours to answer your questions. I'll do the best to answer as many as I can. I'll do my best to check-in over the next few days and answer anymore questions that come in.

Proof: http://imgur.com/gallery/a3hGzrD Proof (album): http://imgur.com/a/LflPP

NOTE: I am not savvy enough on the computer, so my grandson is typing as I answer your questions. He also is taking care of posting the pictures.

Grandson here - the last AMA was under "ossjohncardinalli". We didn't write the password down and there wasn't an email on file to reset it. So, I had to create a new account. We had to do the same for imgur. I have reused some of the pictures in the previous AMA and posted a new "proof" photo taken today. Anything that isn't spoken or answered by my grandfather, I will always put "Grandson here" before I write it, so you know the source.

Q:

My grandfather was taken from his Austrian farm and drafted into the Nazi infantry when he was 17. He never liked to speak much of the war except with my grandmother. I never felt proud of him but I respected him for what he did to keep his family safe, especially given that he lost his arm in Norway. He lived in the US most of the latter part of his life and never had any run ins that I'd heard of regarding his past (although he wasn't too vocal like I said).

Anyways, did you ever meet a former Nazi in person? If so, how was that encounter? What were you feeling at the time? Did meeting that person change your perspective?

If not, how do you think you would've reacted had you met a former Nazi in person? Would you still harbor ill-will?

A:

I never met a Nazi in person. I can't say I would have any ill-will. Being on the ground, I took orders and had a job to do. They took orders and had a job to do. I'm talking like to like. I am not talking about those who made orders. That is another story.


Q:

I'm talking like to like. I am not talking about those who made orders.

Although I find it difficult, I try to keep this perspective as well. An order was an order for those without control.

Thank you sir for your answer and your service.

A:

I am glad you are able to see the perspective. It is hard to articulate. What the Nazi regime did was horrible beyond belief.


Q:

After seeing one of the worst aspects of war, do you think humanity should avoid violence at all costs to resolve international conflicts? What are your thoughts on how the U.S ended the war with Imperial Japan?

Thank you for your service even after all the secrecy.

A:

Women and children were killed when we bombed Japan. I hated that, I don't believe in that. Many US civilians were killed when they attacked us in Pearl Harbor, but that doesn't mean we do the same. What I will say is, and many of you will disagree, I do believe in certain techniques such as waterboarding. I can go on and on about this. Violence will always be part of this world. For international conflict, I wish all of our allies would put 10% - 15% of their troops on the ground, accumulating thousands of soldiers across the board, not just the U.S. Again, I can go on and on about this, it is a hard question to answer.


Q:

Can you elaborate on your support for waterboarding? I was under the impression that such techniques are ultimately unreliable and counterproductive (aside from the moral aspects). I'd love to gain some insight from you on this.

This is a wonderful AMA, btw. I'm fascinated. Thank you for, well... everything!

A:

I am back. I'll be here for another 30 minutes or so.


Q:

Did you serve on in the OSS after the war as it became the CIA?

A:

I served in WWII while it was the OSS under Donovan. The war ended and I was discharged before the OSS was shut down and Truman signed off on creating the CIA.

Speaking of Donovan, I have my book for sale in many local establishments in Monterey and Carmel. A woman approached me while at Cottage Kitchen in Carmel, she looked through my book and started crying saying you know my great grandfather Bill Donovan! We didn't get to speak much at the time, but I am meeting up with her next week for lunch. I can't wait to talk to her.


Q:

Thank you for taking the time, both for the AMA and for your service! Its sort of funny how little material there is on Wild Bill, considering just how important he was to the development of American intelligence; every little bit of primary source information helps.

Do you mind if I ask what Donovan was like to work with? Thanks!

A:

Donovan was a well liked, respected man. Very smart and loyal to his troops. I believe he is one of the best Generals this country has had.


Q:

My Uncle Michele was in the OSS, he told me about driving around France in a Blue Ambulance and killing Nazi's with that knife he had... the one with the sheath that looks kind of like a spatula. I know that it's a long shot, but did you happen to cross paths?

A:

I don't know him, but it was worth asking.


Q:

What operations did you take part on?

Also favorite memory of the war? Worst memory?

Glad to see you do an AMA not too many WW2 vets left now

A:

My worst memory was one of my woman agents, Katja who was Polish, I took across the Rhine River to gather intelligence ran over a mine and killed her. She committed herself to gathering intelligence, even slept with a German Captain to get intelligence.

My favorite memory of the war is when it was over.


Q:

Hey ! Thanks for your service sir ! My question is : is all the hype around spies' gadgets carried by cinema justified by reality ? If so, what's the coolest gadgets you ever used ?

A:

Other than portable radios, it was very low tech. We were on the ground and moving around at all times.


Q:

What sort of information were you looking for? Would it be specific or would it be "let's see what we can find"?

A:

We were tasked to gather information about everything and anything we could use. It was very broad.


Q:

What did your daily diet consist of?

A:

There were many days when I had nothing to eat. When I did I ate K-Rations and C-Rations. Mostly K-Rations, because C-Rations was wet food and had to heat them up.


Q:

Have you seen the movie "saving private ryan"? If so, did it actually resemble WW2 warfare as accurately as they say it did?

A:

The movie was done very well. As far as the accuracy, I will say it showed how difficult war was for everyone.


Q:

What is your best/favourite memory from your time in the OSS?

A:

Many. But, believe it or not, it has to do with getting Scotch from my sister. I sent a letter to her a few months earlier telling her how things were. I jokingly said I could use some Scotch. To my surprise, 2 months later, I got a package with cans that looked like canned food. I opened it up and it was full of Scotch. Twelve cans! My family is from Monterey, CA and my sister was a good friend of the owner of Hovden Canning Co. where the Monterey Bay Aquarium stands now. She said my brother needs some Scotch, so they canned it.


Q:

I'm not too far from Monterey! Are you yourself from Monterey? If so, when is the last time you've visited there?

A:

I grew up in Monterey. I now live in Hollister. I am in Monterey at least once a week to visit my late wife, Josephine.


Q:

Hello, and thank you for this "Ask Me Anything". Did you ever go back to France, England or Germany after the war? If so, what was it like?

A:

Yes. I went back to Holland and Belgium in the 60's. I went to visit an old friend that I met in Holland while in the OSS. He was chief of police in a small village in Holland named who gave me a map. Many of us were in Holland at some point during the OSS and I needed to post my agents in various areas. We talked about if I was caught with that map, it would have cost the lives of many. That map was my bible. Yellow circles are where I placed agents. Here are some pictures of the map:

http://imgur.com/a/jV1Jj


Q:

Maybe of base with this, and also have not yet read all the questions and your answers, but here goes...

1) After the War, after the OSS became CIA, were you still part of it with the CIA?

2) Now with that, comes the obvious and perhaps most inane question, what is your take on JFK's assassination?

Lastly, thank you so much for your hand in defeating one of history's worst of regimes.

A:

1) I was discharged in October 1945 when it was still officially the OSS. The CIA didn't become official until Truman signed it in 1947. However, If I remember correctly, it already started the transition in July 1945, so there may have been some overlap. I can't remember exactly.

2) JFK - this is a tough one... I really don't know


Q:

How did serving in the war affect you later in life?

A:

It was a different time then. Looking back, it is hard to say. I lived a good and prosperous life.


Q:

Did you participate in any of the Jedburgh operations? If so, what interesting things happened while helping/training/supporting the Partisans?

A:

My unit wasn't part of the Jedburgh operations


Q:

When you stop to reflect on your life, are you pleased with how everything has gone and do you feel your life has been something to be proud of?

A:

I am proud of my life and what I have accomplished.


Q:

G'day, a pleasure for the chance to ask a veteran questions -

Did you learn to speak French or German fluently at all during the war for your operations? The movies would have you believe all soldiers either didn't care at all to learn anything at all, which seems crazy given it might save your life!

A:

I speak Italian fluently. French and German wasn't my native tongue, so I wasn't going to fool the Germans if I got caught, even if I spoke it fluently. However, we did have agents that did speak in native tongue for the purposes of blending in.


Q:

How important were letters from the homefront, when it was strangers sending them? Did you ever get packages from school kids or anything like that in WW2?

A:

We never got letters or packages from strangers or school kids. Only from family. It just reminded me of my wife sending me salami a few times. It took a month or two to get, so it was all rotten and moldy. I got a note from the postal man to tell my wife not to send anymore salami. I still laugh about this.


Q:

They say people are happiest starting in their 70s, because they stop worrying about all the small, medium, and even most large things. Have you found that to be true?

A:

True


Q:

Good day sir! Thank you for the service you have done for the world :)

I would like to ask, how did you feel when the you were informed that the war was over? Other than being jovial? Did you ever have this feeling of asking yourself "at what cost?" Maybe there was someone you knew that didn't say... "make it"? In short, how did knowing the war was over feel for you?

A:

I just got back to Washington DC from Europe when I heard the war was ending in Europe. The OSS was then preparing me for a CBI (China Burma India) mission because of my experience. I said hell no! I volunteered for the OSS and I completed my mission. So I was assigned to war crimes trials. I completed my work and was then discharged a few months later.


Q:

Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us. It's greatly appreciated.

You mention the Battle of Remagen in a few replies. Would you mind sharing what these days/weeks were like? What were your objectives?

The history books and documentaries say that both the Allies and the Axis threw everything they had at attacking/defending this bridge and that new tactics were employed (e.g V2 rockets used against a tactical objective). I believe that, but I'd love the "man on the street" version.

  • buying your book ASAP
A:

Thinking about this again. I did confiscated a few items here and there, that was exciting. When we raided one of the colonel's houses part of Gestapo, I took his gun. It was made by the same gun maker who made guns for Napoleon LePage. Here are a few pictures of it.

Pictures: http://imgur.com/a/UJqg0


Q:

First off, thank you for everything that you did during your service.

Just wondering if you've read any of W.E.B. Griffin's novels about WWII and specifically the Men at War series about the OSS. If you have what your thoughts are on them and if you have not, are there any novels you would recommend?

Sincerely thank you.

A:

I haven't read any of those novels. Sorry, I really don't have any recommendations.