- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

Secrets can get so old they don't matter any more. Try telling that to veterans of the OSS, some of whom have never answered the question: Dad, mom, what did you do in the war?
During World War II, members of the Office of Strategic Services were spies, saboteurs, commandos, propagandists, scholars, weird inventors, translators, typists.
They ran audacious operations and tried absurd things, like bombs on fluttering bats. Anything to trip the enemy.
This weekend they were at the inheritor of their espionage legacy, the CIA headquarters in suburban Washington, marking the 60th anniversary of their path-breaking intelligence outfit, founded June 13, 1942.
Officials tell them it's OK to talk about the past.
But some of these derring-doers still don't.
"It was really implanted in them that they were not to discuss it," said Carole Minor, a CIA official who helped organize the gathering and encourages veterans to open up. "Some still think they can't say anything."
Stella T. Uzdawinis went to her rest without telling her relatives she worked for the OSS during its three-year existence.
Going through Miss Uzdawinis' effects in Omaha, Neb., after she died in 1996, her niece Margaret Thompson found a tiny pendant marked OSS. She also came across a federal ID card with her aunt's photo, asking that she be treated as a prisoner of war if captured; plainclothes spies were typically executed.
The CIA confirmed she worked out of German-occupied Paris as a Lithuanian translator and became a civilian Army employee after the war. "As far as the war, anything to do with the war, we never discussed the subject at all," Miss Thompson said. "If they were told not to say what their position was, well, she certainly kept her word. And just kept it."
Many families accompanied OSS veterans to the sprawling CIA compound for three days of activities, including a wreath-laying in honor of the 116 known OSS agents killed in war service.
The relatives still crave details of the veterans' service that they never heard at home, Miss Minor said. There also is an air of finality surrounding the 60th anniversary assembly, with so many veterans gone.
"There's a sense that there probably won't be a 70th," she said. "Or a 75th."
They were an odd bunch in 1942.
OSS specialists in unconventional warfare and just plain risk takers parachuted into France to make trouble for the German occupiers. They sabotaged Japanese installations in Burma and recruited tribesmen to fight.

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