The OSS Cloak & Dagger Patch
by Les Hughes
©2005 by author
1993 a friend contacted me to tell me that he had just attended a
militaria show at which a dealer was selling a copy of a proposed OSS
patch along with a copy of a letter from The Institute of Heraldry (TIOH)
stating that the design of the patch had been submitted to the Institute
in an unsuccessful effort to secure approval. The patch, illustrated at
the right, depicts a stylized spy with cloak and dagger. Even though
offered as a copy, the patch and letter carried an asking price of about
was puzzled by the story. While researching OSS-related insignia, I'd
receive reports of two instances of a patch depicting simply a cloak
draped about a dagger having been created in the CBI theater for a few
OSS personnel (indeed, I had seen one of the patches in the hands of the
OSS veteran who had designed it). But these patches represented a
tongue-in-cheek sense of humor on the part of those who created or wore
them rather than the desire of an organization for a formal symbol.
Indeed, I cannot imagine any military organization, not even the
freewheeling OSS, wasting its time trying to secure official approval
for a design that clearly would never fly. I decided to investigate.
learned that a collector in the Midwest and acquired an Ike jacket in
the pocket of which he had found a formal letter from General Donovan to
OSS veterans offering them the opportunity to acquire an OSS insigne.
The insigne in question is simply the OSS veterans lapel pin, which is
described elsewhere on this website. The collector sent Donovan's
letter to TIOH and asked if the Institute could provide additional
information regarding the insigne. TIOH responded with this: "this
reply is to your letter... requesting information on the Office of
Strategic Services during World War II. Enclosed is a color print of a
proposed insignia design for the Office of Strategic Services. This
design was never authorized by The Institute of Heraldry..."
Amazingly, TIOH had plucked from its files not the spearhead design for
which OSS had sought approval, but rather this cloak and dagger
the cloak and dagger design to have been submitted by OSS, and
suspecting that many in the hobby would never have an authentic OSS
insigne, the collector commissioned the manufacture of a batch of
patches in the cloak and dagger design and began offering
them—honestly represented—with copies of the TIOH letter for a
modest price. Apparently, the dealer offering the one my friend saw had
purchased one or more in the belief they were underpriced.
wrote to TIOH and asked for a copy of the cloak and dagger design and
for copies of all documents pertinent to it. TIOH responded with copies
of the cloak and dagger and the spearhead designs but with nothing else.
I telephoned TIOH and pressed for more information. The following day, a
member of the TIOH staff called me and, with their OSS file in hand,
provided the information than I was seeking. Later, TIOH sent me copies
of all pertinent documents. This is what I learned.
1954, nine years after OSS was disbanded, an OSS veteran, then a serving
officer with a National Guard unit, submitted to the Quartermaster
General, through official channels, a letter requesting that the Army
take action to approve an insigne for wear by former members of the OSS
who had remained in the military. And he included with his letter the
cloak and dagger design to "stimulate the thinking and eventually
bring about the adoption of an insigne for us to wear that will show our
connections with OSS." The
Office of the Quartermaster General promptly rejected the request, citing the fact that an insignia had never been approved for the OSS and the army's desire to eliminate all unnecessary insignia. The
design then passed into the files of TIOH, there to languish until 1993
when it finally fulfilled its intended purpose of stimulating the
thinking, though not of the parties its creator had had in mind. Postscript: The term “cloak & dagger” is sufficiently familiar to those working in organizations involved in clandestine operations that it should not be surprising that it inspired insignia among OSS personnel. One such creation is that of Dr. John W. Brunner, a veteran of OSS and the author of OSS Weapons (Phillips Publications, 1994). Dr. Brunner had two patches in his design made in China in 1945 while serving there with the OSS, one of which, illustrated here, he still has.
Postscript: The term “cloak & dagger” is sufficiently familiar to those working in organizations involved in clandestine operations that it should not be surprising that it inspired insignia among OSS personnel. One such creation is that of Dr. John W. Brunner, a veteran of OSS and the author of OSS Weapons (Phillips Publications, 1994). Dr. Brunner had two patches in his design made in China in 1945 while serving there with the OSS, one of which, illustrated here, he still has.