OSS Insignia to Avoid

by Les Hughes






OSS-SSI0.jpg (153200 bytes)




OSS-desalvo.jpg (85623 bytes)


OSS-DeSalvo2.jpg (26272 bytes)




OSS-di.jpg (62492 bytes)



Return to OSS

Return to Articles

Home Page

This section summarizes material discussed in greater detail in several of the sections devoted on this site to OSS insignia.  I offer this section in recognition of the observation that we have become, to a depressing degree, a society geared to the sound bite, and that many individuals have lost the ability, if indeed they ever possessed it, to read material lengthier than photo captions.  If you take nothing else from this site, I hope it will be the following information, which may save you from making an ill-advised, and no doubt costly, acquisition.

First and foremost I want to emphasize that the evidence clearly points to there having been but one version of the spearhead sleeve insigne (patch) procured by OSS and that it was fully embroidered, as were so many officially procured and issued patches of WWII.  Most of this procurement appears to have been destroyed as a result of the request for the patch's authorization having been rejected, and few are to be found today. Yes, I know there is a version of the spearhead patch circulating that is embroidered on twill and is accompanied by copies of the discharge document and DD214 of an OSS veteran who attests to that version's authenticity, and, no, I do not believe this version is genuine.  If you wish more background on this, and have not done so already, then read the section on the Spearhead Insignia: here I only summarize.  Versions of the patch purported to have been made overseas, some accompanied by exotic tabs, invariably are undocumented by anything more substantive than a story, and I view them - the stories and the patches - as manifestations of someone's fantasy or duplicity or both.  Keep in mind: there is not any compelling evidence of which I am aware, and I spent years researching these insignia, that the spearhead patch was ever worn by OSS personnel.  The spearhead collar insignia, on the other hand, were worn by elements of SHAEF's Psychological Warfare Division, and a number of apparently genuine variants of the collar insigne are to be found.

Where OSS insignia are concerned, the inauthentic versions of the spearhead patch that are perennial fixtures of the insignia market represent, in my opinion, by far the greatest fraud perpetrated on collectors.  There is another patch worth noting in this regard, though it tends to fool few collectors by comparison.  This is a shield-shape patch depicting a parachute and, on an integral arc above, the word Parachute.  A patch in this design worn by Captain William DeSalvo of the Fifth Army OSS Detachment is illustrated in a photograph and in a line drawing in John Andrews's book The Airborne Album, Volume 1 (Phillips Publications, 1982), where it is identified as the patch of the Detachment.  Following the publication of this photograph, patches in the same design began surfacing at militaria shows.  As the photograph and line drawings are is in black and white, and as there is no description of the patch, some degree of latitude was allowed those making the patches, and one can find this patch in blue with white trim and in red with white trim.  Whatever color they may be, invariably they are attributed to OSS in general, or, by the more 'knowledgeable', to the Fifth Army OSS Detachment. 

William DeSalvo is deceased, but I was able to contact his son, who provided me with a photo (illustrated here) of his father wearing the patch and information regarding how his father acquired it. According to Captain DeSalvo's son, his father found the patch in a tailor shop in Italy, one of a number of patches the shop advertised it would make on request.  Captain DeSalvo picked up a few of the patches for his own use, and his own use only.  No one else in the Fifth Army OSS Detachment, according to DeSalvo's son, wore the patch - just his father.  (The Detachment's personnel worked with Italian partisans, and, as was the case with many OSS units in the field, they tended to wear whatever they wanted in the way of insignia.)  One of Captain DeSalvo's patches would be a marvelous addition to one's collection, but the sole surviving example is a treasured keepsake of his son.  All of the others that one encounters are evidence of an entrepreneurial spirit that shows no sign of abating. 

I have encountered two distinctive unit insignia (aka DIs or crests) attributed to OSS: One to "Company D Operational Group" and the other to "Force 163 S.S.S." Both are illustrated here and both are fake. Company D was part of the 2677th OSS Regiment (Provisional). Companies A, B and C were part of the 2671st Battalion (to which I devote a section), which was an Operational Group unit. Company D, however, was not part of the 2671st, so while the scroll on this DI reading OPERATIONAL GROUP may be a nice touch, it is not correct. The other DI is intended to be that of the OSS's Strategic Services Section, effectively OSS's Seventh Army Detachment, which operated under the direct supervision of Force 163 of Seventh Army.

These two DIs represent an effort on the part of a handful of entrepreneurs over the past few decades to manufacture DIs for collectors. Some of the DIs produced by these individuals represent ones that were proposed but never approved, and some appear to represent ones that were never proposed but which these individuals believe should have been. The two illustrated here fall, I believe, in the latter category.