To the All OSS MU Swimmer Families and MU colleagues:
It is with a heavy heart I regret to inform you all that (Former) Specialist(X)First Class Henry T. 'Hank' Weldon, United States Naval (USNR) Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Operative-Swimmer with Special Maritime Group-A (SMG-A) - Underwater Demolition Team Ten (UDT-10) from 1942-1945, departed on to the Great adventure, Friday 5 October 2018 at 22:30 Hours.
(Note: Donna Weldon, Hanks widow wanted to extend this invitation to you all personally OSS MU to attend as millitary honors being prepared rendered for the service and reception and paddle out. Please extend this to all other OSS MU familes members you may have not seeing this, for they are all more than welcome to attend this remmberance.)
Hank Weldon, was the last known to be living of the firsts: The Last living of the original first Operative-Swimmers of the OSS Maritime Unit and thus of any combat swimming or frogmen in U.S. History. His passing is milestone symbolizing the last living link to the storied history.
Mr. Weldon had been one of the few members of OSS and later UDT-10 who was trained by the Marine Raiders at Camp Pendleton during WWII and who would go on to conduct clandestine operations throughout the Pacific as part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Maritime Unit. In particular, he played a crucial role in conducting Unconventional Warfare, intelligence collection, and Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE) in the Philippines prior to GEN MacArthur retaking the islands from the Japanese. He and his unit pioneered TTPs (Tatics-Training-procedures in combat swimming, amphibious reconnaissance, maritime sabotage, maritime HUMIN, espionage and combat diving operations (including the use of 1st generation re-breather SCUBA (with the 'Lambnertsen Lung' and' or LARU) in operations against the enemy that would go on to form the basis of Special Operations activities and capabilities for Marine Force Recon, the SEALs, Army Special Forces, Coastguard Special Operation, AirForce Special operations, and entities within the intelligence community due to OSS personal being culled from every branch of service using a maritime environment.
Not widely known, the Raiders played a key role in training OSS Maritime operative-swimmers during WW II as they were the unit that first U.S. unit to experimented with amphibious raids; UDT was not yet conceived when OSS began this enterprise did not typically work past the waterline at the time. Small unit tactics, weapons, demolitions, and hand to hand combat techniques were passed from the Raiders to the OSS cadre who then continued to train their operatives throughout the war including ther passing on these techniques to OSS OG's & OSG's (Operatioanl groups Operational Swimmng Groups - which during the post war became the template basis for Special Forces Force Recon, UDT and SEALs to follow).
After the war, Mr. Weldon served in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for 26 years and was a part of the original elite Metro Division of the force. He was even involved in a now legendary exploit of the police efforts to quell the Watts Riots in 1965. Weldon later worked as a jail supervisor in Los Angeles and had to oversee the incarceration of Charles Manson. He also worked in the records bureau of the LAPD and was a part of the initial electronic transfer of fingerprints.
For those that were around, Mr. Weldon was hosted here as a guest speaker back in November of 2017 (an article in the December issue of Tip of the Spear can be found atwww.socom.mil/public-affairs/command-information/publications
The funeral will be held on Friday, 26 October at 1000 at:
Valley Center Cemetery
28953 Miller Drive, Valley Center, CA 92082
Please RSVP with Mr. Erick Simmel by email at:BMDWF@yahoo.com
See Obit Below.
- Uniform will be Dress Blue Bravos. (Or Coat tie, or Blazer, Hawaiian shirt, or country formal)
- A Memorial Hawaiian Paddle-out-combined- shallow SCUBA dive at San Onofre beach is scheduled same afternoon for 16:00, 26 Ocotber TB Decided by Thursday 25 Ocotber, AM with coordinates access
- A Open reception luncheon to follow next day Saturday 27 October will be a luncheon
- A large presence of SOF is expected to attend from NSW, USASOC, as well. Saturday Will be
- Please pass onto your Marines/Sailors and invited waterman public as you see fit.
We Look forward to seeing you there
Please call and let me know if you have any questions.
O.S.S. Maritime Unit
O.S.S. Maritime Unit - Annual Reunion - History of U.S. Special Operations Units including the CIA, Navy Seals, ...
5 W's are:
Memorial Service of the passing of (Former) Specialist( X )First Class Henry T. 'Hank' Weldon, United States Naval (USN) - Office of Strategic Services(OSS) Special Maritime Group-A (SMG-A)- UnderwaterDemolitionTem Ten (UDT-10) 1942-1945
Born May 29th 1923 - Departed on to the Great adventure, 5 October 2018.
Weldon, "the last of the first" of the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Maritime Unit (MU) Operative-Swimmers(OS), whose skills and techniques were brought from civillans into OSS MU and taught to Weldon his SMG-A swimmer cadre, who were put on loan for the duration of the war to (a 'joint' USN & OSS) UDT-10 serveing as part of the back bone of the skilled OSS MU OS members to Navy UDT 10, the first UDT unit to incorporate and teach UDT Frogmen, combat swimmer equipment and skills and join them into wartime operations.
Burial Serivce - Military Honors, Valley Center Cemetery (RSVP BELOW)
Date : 26 October 2018
Day : Friday
Time : 10:00AM Hours
Reception Following Day, Skyline Ranch General Club House
Date : 27 October 2018
Day : Saturday
Time : 13:00PM - 18:00 Hours
Skyline Ranch General Club House
18218 Paradise Mountain Road
Valley Center, CA 92082
Memorial paddle-out Dive TBA
Valley Center Cemetery
28953 Miller Drive, Valley Center, CA 92082
Skyline Ranch General Club House
18218 Paradise Mountain Road
Valley Center, CA 92082
Private Burial Service Invitation only:
(Family, OSS family & guests, military combat Swimmer Community, Police, Lifeguard, RSVP)
RSVP Only to BMDWF@yahoo.com
RSVP Only to (but open to all)
Memorial Paddle Dive
Invitation only I (but open to all)
RSVP to BMDWF@yahoo.com
August 28, 1923 - July 14, 2017
'Nearly' the Last Man Standing
17 August, 2017
Obituary - Samuel Day Backus, Sgt. AUS / O.S.S. Maritime Unit - Operational Swimmer
August 28, 1923 - July 14, 2017
'Nearly' the Last Man Standing
17 August, 2017
17 August, 2017
It is with a great somber note and sadness that MaritimeUnit.org has learned of the passing of a great and longtime friend and wise one to us: Sergeant Samuel D. "Sam" Backus, United States Army (AUS) and Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Maritime Unit (M.U.) from World War II, only a few days after his going on to the 'Greatest Adventure'.
Sam's great mind and fine recollection to detail and facts were uncanny, and he had been a great friend with us over 20 years ago, and he had retained his recollections well into his last days.
This obit is published to support others and to specifically recall the remarkable exploits of this last of the pioneering ‘waterman-patriots’ who are the reason that their legacy will continue to carry on in the current and future exploits of all U.S. clandestine services, special operations armed forces, and public safety/law enforcement special operations.
# # #Samuel Day Backus, a native of San Francisco, was born on August 28, 1923. A third-generation San Franciscan, he descended from three Pioneer California families. His great-grandfather, Thomas W. Hawkins, settled in the Gilroy/Hollister area in 1858. Another great-grandfather, Lucius Sanborn, arrived in Watsonville in 1849. His grandfather, Samuel Woolsey Backus, came to Sacramento in 1845. He joined the California 100 to fight in the Civil War. Like his pioneer forebears with their self-reliance, courage and willingness to risk everything, Sam too possessed an abundance of courage, tenacity and risk tolerance.
Sam Backus attended grade school in San Francisco, High School in Palo Alto, and before and during his first pre-war College days, Sam showed some of that abundance of courage and tenacity evident with Sam's pursuit of another sport – one that was 'new' to the 1930's in central and Northern California; the 'risk tolerant' sport of surfing. Sam learned to ride the waves along the coast of Santa Cruz, California on early heavy surfboards during the summers prior to the war. This fact would later not go unnoticed to a certain group that was to become key to his near future.
Having attended Oregon State University on an athletic scholarship for football prior to WWII, Sam enrolled in the Army ROTC. The upheaval caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, included strong encouragement from the Army ROTC instructors to the students to enlist in the military. Sam had enlisted in the US Army in 1942 at the end of the school year.
After basic training and while he was waiting for his orders, Sam was recruited by, and volunteered for service in what was known as "Swimmers for Hazardous Swimming Duty".
Not fully knowing it at the time, he was being chosen by the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) to serve in the Maritime Unit (M.U.) as a potential Operational Swimmer, the United States first modern experiment into fielding well-trained 'swimmers and/or operatives' (as the O.S.S. secret warriors were known as), recruited and selected from both citizens with specialized skills and from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces to pioneer and conduct the first clandestine behind-the-lines wartime 'frogman' combat missions in U.S. history.
O.S.S. was conceived, led, and forged by General William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan who in pre-WW II USA was a revered WWI Medal of Honor recipient-hero, patriot, businessman, and diplomat. Donovan's prewar foresights on intelligence missions for various U.S. presidents, led to the formation of the O.S.S. and its prior organization, the C.O.I.
Donovan, the O.S.S., and it’s Maritime Unit realized that during the initial stages of the war with many unknowns as to where and what would have to be happening behind the World War II lines, and with much of those lines stretched across vast expanses of the World’s oceans, it was clear to Donovan and his leadership hierarchy, that having natural command of the maritime environment and the ability to operate in it like no others could, would lessen the strains of their job at hand. Fielding swimmer/operative commando 'frogmen' seemed to be a natural answer to such a daunting task of fighting the secret war ahead, where the World’s oceans were the ‘no mans lands’ of the conflict.
Both Donovan and the O.S.S. had a unique charm and charisma which was contagious. It had attracted those naturally built with a desire to go beyond the normal call of duty. Those 'best and brightest' were amateurs with skills from all walks of life which the USA had to offer, including Sam.
For as much as being at war can allow, Sam's O.S.S. M.U. experience was quite an adventure!
Sam's initial selection training included his pre-war ocean watermanship experience which had become enhanced by a cadre of fellow M.U. swimmers who were recruited before him as they were part of a pre-war element of skindiver-waterman-lifeguards from Santa Monica Bay. These instructors to Sam and future fellow Operative Swimmers as his colleagues in the O.S.S. M.U. were actually the ‘Davey Crockets of commando watermanship’ of their day, and also ours. By teaching operatives like Sam these skills, they brought to the U.S. Soldier- Coastguardsman-Marine and Sailor the first skill sets related to functioning and operating within maritime environments. With a natural ease and the capabilities garnered by expert training, this had rivaled the finest watermen of any era, and it has carried the tradition on to all the frogmen commandos of today’s forces.
At the time however, Sam knew nothing of himself as being prepared to be part of a closely guarded wartime secret; the O.S.S. He was trained with his other fellow recruits, absorbed the vast skill-sets of becoming as ‘one with the sea’ and the challenges they presented. Sam did so with many who would end up being filtered out during the intense 10 - 12 hour day schedule; long swims of several miles each, skindiving and hunting under the sea with the first commercially produced rubber swim fins and faceplates; surfing and paddleboarding on the large paddle boards; sailing using small boards; using the coast for navigation; working with inflatable rubber rafts; and other watermanship skills that would make Sam one with being in, on, or under the sea in any conditions. Sam and his O.S.S. M.U. fellows had a set of watermanship skills being honed and utilized to have them function in the ocean and maritime environments like few others of Sam's era could.
These skills were first introduced to Sam in seclusion at the now long-gone private Doheny Beach Club in front of the cliffs of Capistrano Beach in San Clemente, California, and at the beach front of San Onofre which was part of OSS "Area W.P." which was the ‘O.S.S. parlance’ for Camp Joseph R. Pendleton, United States Marine Corps base in San Diego County.
With Sam and his O.S.S. M.U. fellows, a set of watermanship skills were being honed and utilized to have them function in the ocean and maritime environments like few others of Sam's era did.
Sam's training added to one of the most storied and tough training regimens in all the U.S. Armed Forces during the war: The U.S. Marine Raider Combat conditioning training at Camp Pendleton were 14 hour days beginning with PT at dawn every morning. Night 10-to-20 mile 'speed hikes' with gear, compass navigation, obstacle course work, beach reconnaissance, hand-to-hand and jujitsu fighting, knife-fighting, riflemanship, pistol, automatic weapons, small arms and explosives training, and communications available to Raider's and Paramarines. The training was very akin to the Navy UDT & SEAL training O.S.S. M.U. would later evolve in to. It was upon completing the first phase of the Marine Raider conditioning that he and his fellow selectees were told they were part of the O.S.S. Maritime Unit and that their enterprise was a classified secret.
It was not until much later that Sam had understood that his recruitment and training as a swimmer-operative into the O.S.S. Maritime Unit Operational Swimmer Group II, was the third wave out of four organized (and technically six 'actual' selections) of Swimmer Operatives that the O.S.S. Maritime Unit looked for in their wartime need. The entire wartime O.S.S. Maritime Unit never totaled more than 150 men in total strength.
Back to Doheny Beach Club Sam went, where he was introduced to the reason they were training as watermen-skindivers during a most classified O.S.S. Secret during the war—the 'Lambertsen-Lung' (LARU) was the first ‘bubble-less’ O2 SCUBA-Rebreather specifically designed for the U.S. frogman-commando operative to conduct underwater operations. Sam was marveled by the apparatus! Sam became very proficient in diving with the system and by being part of the group trained at the club pool. In doing so, Sam was part of the first SCUBA diving activity in California and thus was part of the first SCUBA diving on the west coast of the United States.
Using the LARU SCUBA, Sam and his fellow operatives would conduct several firsts off the coast and reefs of the Laguna Beach area as frogmen trainees; they conducted several night dives where they would swim along the reefs of the Laguna coastline undetected by coastal patrols.
One night dive became another first; using the LARU SCUBA, Sam, in a dive team led by some of the more senior O.S.S. M.U. watermen conducted a night diving operation in front of the Laguna Beach Hotel reefs where they were wearing street clothes as they entered the ocean unseen, donned the LARU SCUBA units, and carried out a mission to liberate as many abalones as they could from the rocks under the sea. They stuffed them into gunnysacks to capacity and then retuned to shower off and change into street clothes only to rally across the Pacific Coast Highway at a pre-arranged rally point. Sam and company did so. What was the mission’s objective?... To repatriate (sell) said “liberated” abalone at the rally point (the then-famous White House Restaurant) for about $3.00 per pound (and in 1943, it was a ‘princely’ sum...) whereby the funds generated (several hundred dollars) would be used to fund a liberty trip to the USO shows in Los Angeles for Sam and his fellow O.S.S. M.U. trainees. According to Sam, the operation was a joyful, marvelous, and successful learned foray into pioneering U.S. Combat Swimming (frogmen) warfare operations!
Training had later shifted from the mainland Californian coast, 26 miles across the sea, to the O.S.S. Area W.A. at Santa Catalina Island, California, which had been leased by the O.S.S. for the duration of the war to conduct other clandestine espionage-intelligence, survival, special weapons, sabotage, and additional underwater swimming and watermanship assault training. On Santa Catalina, Sam and many others performed many recons and had explored Spy School problems which were to be the standard for him and his other O.S.S. M.U. colleagues that had trained there.
After six weeks, Sam went on to Salt Cay in the Bahamas Islands where he spent weeks honing O.S.S. M.U. operations that he would later employ in combat. There they used high speed boats, motorized surfboards, explosives and limpet mines, and the "Sleeping Beauty" (or Motorized Submersible Canoe - MSC ) the British built O.S.S. inventoried. This was the first one man underwater submersible vehicle for a single SCUBA wearing frogmen to perform clandestine reconnaissance or attacks against enemy vessels.
Sam conducted a first (actually the third—but first official proof) that U.S. Combat swimmers could defeat port defenses to sink enemy shipping. Codename: "Operation Cincinnati". The place?... Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Mission?... Using the LARU-SCUBA and Sleeping Beauty Submersible. Sam and his fellow O.S.S. M.U. swimmers penetrated harbor defenses, attached limpet mines, and sunk targeted vessels. Escaping undetected, it was a first for any U.S. frogmen.
Sam then went on to Washington D.C. for O.S.S. Psych Testing and other O.S.S. espionage classes. Now, even more well-trained, Sam and his glorious swimmer O.S.S. Maritime Operative Swimmers then traveled by train to Florida, and flew Air Transport Command planes to Ceylon. The trip went via Ascension Island to fuel, then to Africa's Ivory Coast, across to Khartoum, Sudan, Ankara in Saudi Arabia, Karachi and then to Ceylon.
Ceylon became Sam’s first stop for a year long deployment in the China Burma India (CBI) Theater with O.S.S. M.U. Group II aligned to O.S.S. Detachment 101 and British S.O.E., which were integral parts to 'SEAC' (South East Asia Command) theater of war strategies. Based in Gaul and later billeted with the Royal Navy at Trinmacolee Harbour, Ceylon, Sam soon deployed across the Bay of Bengal to the Arakan coast of Burma as the Maritime arm to O.S.S. Detachment 101. Detachment 101, which consisted of 250 officers and 750 enlisted men, had in statistics verified after the war, killed 11,000 Japanese soldiers and sailors, with an (unverified) number estimated to be around 50,000.
Besides performing numerous underwater demolition and reconnaissance missions delivering agents and performing recons, Sam took part in another type of pioneering operation for U.S. frogmen: Sam’s O.S.S. M.U. were the of the first to conduct SCUBA Diving frogmen Limpet mining sabotage attacks against enemy shipping. Specifically, the mining of Japanese coastal freighters at Akayab and other locations on the Arakan coast of Burma in 1945. Sam, with fellow O.S.S. M.U. Operational Swimmers, executed some of these very first U.S. frogmen sabotage missions wearing SCUBA gear on operations in U.S. combat history. Whereby from underwater swimming approaches of distances between 400 yards and 1 mile, wearing and breathing on LARU SCUBA-Rebreathers, and carrying Limpet Mine explosives, Sam and his fellow O.S.S. M.U. swimmers attacked and placed Limpet Mine charges on several Japanese ships on several different operations, sinking them and rendering those vessels either destroyed or totally inoperable. There were at least several operations of this type, and Sam conducted three of them.
Such LARU-SCUBA swimming operations, Sam, and his fellow frogman-operatives with the O.S.S. Maritime Unit Operational Swimmer Groups in which he was a part of that conducted these missions during World War II, were milestone firsts in all of U.S. military combat history.
The operations of O.S.S. Detachment 101, and the Maritime Unit established the direct involvement in unconventional warfare and direct action missions where the combat swimmer skill-sets were required as part of an operative-commando arsenal as he went to war. These O.S.S. Maritime operations were the forerunners to all of present day U.S. Special Operations-Frogmen/Combat Swimmer/Combat Diver activities including missions conducted by the U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Squadrons; the U.S. Army Special Forces, the 'Green Berets’; the U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Forces, or 'MSST Teams’; the U.S. Marine Corps MARSOC 'Raiders', and without a doubt, the U.S Navy EOD Divers and Naval Special Warfare units, the 'Navy SEALs'.
Veterans of the O.S.S. Maritime Unit, despite their original - prior to O.S.S. Maritime Unit - U.S. Armed Forces branch of Service - were due to their O.S.S. lineage to all things Army Special Forces that connected their direct lineage to Army Special forces SCUBA as had given what began as a series of wonderful recognitions. Sam, and all the rest of them were in a 1998 ceremony at Fort Bragg where they were inducted into the U.S. Army Special Forces and awarded the Special Forces insignia, and they were made 'Green Berets'. At the same time Sam and these other veterans were also inducted into the ranks of the UDT-SEAL Association and had enjoyed other prestigious awards by other veteran organizations which had followed. These included the Veterans of O.S.S., the O.S.S. 101 Association, the O.S.S. Society, the Adventures Club of Los Angeles, and the Maritime Unit. In 2016 the U.S. Congress awarded the veterans of the O.S.S. the Congressional Gold Medal. As an Army vet, Sam was most humbled by his Green Beret award, and having been remembered with great affection and respect among the many Navy SEALs, Green Berets and frogmen from all branches of services he met over the years.
Following WWII, Sam pursued a degree in economics at the University of California Berkeley graduating in 1949. After a 15-year career in Agricultural Marketing, he turned his professional focus toward marketing through financial institutions and retired in 1987 as Executive Vice President of the California League of Savings. He was a Founding Director of North Coast Savings. He served as an officer of the O.S.S. 101 Association, and he was a respected member of the UDT-SEAL Association. In addition, Sam was an accomplished and dedicated woodworker.
Sadly, he was predeceased by 'nearly all' of his fellow veterans of O.S.S. Detachment 101 and Maritime Unit, who served so valiantly with him in WWII.
Sam Backus was technically the “last [O.S.S. MU operative swimmer operative] Man Standing". ‘Technically’ we state, because this accolade Sam, lived the last year of his life, identified as the last 'of the first' American fighting frogmen, who on orders tasked specific to a World War II O.S.S. Maritime Unit mission - at a time when such a capability in the U.S. Arsenal only existed with O.S.S. Maritime - to carry out such a mission, which called for swimming underwater breathing on LARU-SCUBA to sabotage designated enemy shipping in a wartime setting; and who also spent the entirety of his war under the operational command of the O.S.S Maritime Unit leadership and not sequestered to any other fighting unit despite retaining. This accolade which Sam held, came to him from a fellow operative friend from those O.S.S. days, Norman Abbott (July 11, 1922 - July 9, 2016). Abbott arranged for his survivors to have a letter sent to Sam informing him that with the death of Abbott, that Sam was the "last man standing - of the original O.S.S. M.U. Veterans who did, on O.S.S. orders, sink enemy shipping using LARU-SCUBA in World War II".
(However it should also be noted the last surviving original O.S.S. Maritime Unit 'Operational Swimmer-Navy UDT frogman veteran' to have trained during Sam's era, is alive and well in the San Diego Area as of August, 2017.)
With his passing, Samuel Day Backus served as one of the last of the very few rear-guard for left of all the O.S.S. M.U. patriots who served out the entirety of WW II with him, with such distinction for their country. Taps will be played for them all.
Sam was preceded in death by his daughter Melinda Day Rogers of Oregon. He is survived by his wife Janice, his daughters Kathryn (Steve) Edwards of Montana and Deidra (Steve) Meeker of Indiana and three stepsons, Terry, Tim and Jon McDougall. He leaves five grandchildren, Zane Paul Rogers, Chelsea Day McKoy, David Dylan Edwards, Stephen Samuel Meeker and Adam Alexander Meeker.
Friends and family are invited to attend a Committal Ceremony, with military honors, on Friday, August 25, 2017 at 1:00PM at San Francisco National Cemetery, 1 Lincoln Blvd (Presidio of San Francisco) SF, 94129. Donations may be made in Sam's memory to the Navy Seal Foundation.
“Fair winds And Following Seas Sam”, you're marvelous and glorious exploits will be missed and remembered by a great many who follow in you're footsteps, with a great affection as time flows on...
© Erick Simmel and MaritimeUnit.org, all rights reserved.
As 2012 marks the 70th Anniversary of the founding of O.S.S., the United States first covert espionage organization for secret, unorthodox overseas wartime operations, many have no idea that Southern California is highly responsible for all this to have taken place. (The modern O.S.S. direct successor is today’s CIA...) This 70th Anniversary includes the Amphibious classified O.S.S. Maritime Unit-Special Operations Diving Unit and its Operational Swimmers Groups, who were the forerunners of Navy SEALs, who they themselves this year celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
This event is to celebrate, recognize and honor how the O.S.S. "Swimmandos" (swimmer/commando, combat swimmer/frogmen…) which came to be, via a very storied legend and lore that is steeped in Southern California’s geographic, societal, Hollywood and waterman-ship history. The event will bring together the remaining O.S.S MU and MU Operational Swimmer-veteran personnel and their families, to honor them at the places where the key men of the Swimmers developed their diving and waterman techniques to make this type of special maritime warfare possible.
This event will be conducted by O.S.S. Swimmer expert Erick Simmel who will Q & A the honored guests on this historic topic. This event at the Adventurers Club is the first evening leading three other days of insights to secret and pioneering sites on the Santa Monica and Los Angeles coastline, Catalina Island, Newport beach and Camp Pendelton.
Mr. Walter Mess:
Some Operatives never live a life like 007. Occasinally one comes around.
At 99 years old and 8 months (He turns 100 on December 20th 2012...)...The legendary Walter Mess was one of General Donovan’s “Best and Brightest” of O.S.S. and particularly O.S.S. Maritime Unit.
A true American treasure and enigma, by 1937 when Mr. Mess played professional football, he already spoke several languages and held law and business degrees and a Coast Guard Ships’ “Master” rating which would soon help him on several of his future secret operations. In 1937--4 years prior to the U.S.A. involvement in WW II -- Mess was recruited by Donovan, who at the time was in private law practice, into Donovan’s private OI (= Office of Intelligence – the “Blackwater” of its Day) while completing his PhD in Law, at Catholic University at night. There, he became one of the United States most private secret agents:
By 1938 – Mess was trained by the British and then dropped into Czechoslovakia where he walked out to the Adriatic with four 13-15 yr olds for training in the USA and reinsertion as USA agents. Mess also set up interaction with the British Station Chief and Tito. (One of those boys became USA Ambassador to Slovakia in recent years).
In 1939 - Again flown by the RAF into Poland on similar mission - Brought out three more young men.
In Nov`41 into US Army for COI (pre O.S.S. training) Pulled from OCS to repeat `37-`38 missions.
In 1942 things really started to heat up. Working at COI, Mess ventured to the Philippines on a mission by submarine. Later that year, he was in Morocco with the then new (O.S.S.) team to resupply a team to bring more gold to buy off the Vichy French to insure the French would not shoot at U.S. troops upon landing in operation Torch!
Late 1942/ early 1943 - Mess attended Boat training in the Gulf Mexico the Florida Keys and Cuba on his Army Air crash Sea rescue boat P-564 which would later become the O.S.S. Maritime units’ Flotilla operating in the China Burma India Theater. Mess repaired the cracked hull of a “Liberty ship” in Anchorage, Alaska. O.S.S. boats P-564 & 563 loaded in San Diego liberty ship. Mess was the ship's Captain across the South Pacific to Ceylon via Sydney & Calcutta.
In late 1943 he commenced ultra classified OSS MU ops in the Bay of Bengal against Japanese forces. Mess became an official O.S.S. operative and MU’s senior “flotilla officer commander” of O.S.S. Maritime Unit Operations in Burma, India and Thailand. As senior flotilla officer for O.S.S. SEAC MU operations, Mess’s O.S.S. air crash sea rescue (PT) Boat P-564 numbered over 36 missions with P-564 across the Bay of Bengal for official O.S.S. MU operations ferrying OG and Operational Swimmer teams; Also returned over 220 downed pilots & crewmen from 3 E&E pickup points on Burma coast.
In April 1944 he became primary boat for Dr Lambertsen and swimmers for combat evaluation of system and then swimmers became integral part of O.S.S. OG (operational groups) and SI (secret intelligence) missions. These missions included many of the first to be contucted underwater.
This did not include the occasional interruptions for special individual missions for the Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten head of the British SOE and is the O.S.S. Swimmer counterpart, the SRU.
In 1945 when the Japanese were eliminated from the Burma Coast, P-564 ["Jeanie"] no longer needed. Walter transferred to O.S.S. Det. 404 and assisted with air support missions to O.S.S. teams in the interior of Burma and Thailand. He made 10-15+ parachute jumps, including leading 30-50 Kachins (Burmese Highlanders) on 7 jumps to clear 7 landing strips for Air Ops...
Mr. Mess had over 100 secret operations under his leadership—many unbelievable—all very classified missions. Mr. Mess is a tireless, vigorous and stalwart example of the MU leadership General Donovan envisioned and is a lasting pioneer for all modern day U.S. Navy, Coastguard, Marine Corps and law enforcement, maritime , Special Boat unit operations and Air Force Special Tactics Squadron missions which American Treasure O.S.S. pioneer Walter Mess squarely left his foot print on.
Other Scheduled O.S.S Swimmer guests are Weldon, Abbott, Soltau, and Backus.
Mr. Henry “Hank” Weldon: Mr. Weldon was a Navy Specialist recruited into OSS OSG Group A training. His group were the first O.S.S combat swimmers to train at Catalina Island’s secret O.S.S. base known as “Area WA, Toyon Cove”. During this phase of the training Hank was part of a “training mission “which was the first operation to pit combat swimmers against America’s maritime harbor defenses and successfully prove that a combat swimmer unit could defeat a standing port security element.
Mr. Gordon “Gordie” Soltau: Mr. Soltau who would later gain fame as a San Francisco 49er football player in the post WW II era, was during the war, a very young and highly athletic USN O.S.S. Operational Swimmer who landed agents and saw action in England with the L- Unit, and in Burma and Malaysia.
Mr. Norman Abbott: OSS OSG Group II in Burma. Trained at Camp Pendleton, Catalina Island and the Bahamas Islands, before engaging in Operations in Burma Thailand and Malaysia. Norman was the nephew of comedian Lou Abbot of Abbott and Costello comedy fame. He had a long time post war dramatic motion picture and television industry career as a director.
Mr. Sam Backus: As a Operational Swimmer with OSG II in Burma, Backus would later be part of the first official Navy sponsored simulated attack on a U.S. Navy facility by combat swimmers, attacking and sinking several U.S. Ships in Guantanamo Bay Cuba… and the first unofficial Lobster Dive using a SCUBA rebreather on the California Coast off Laguna Beach. Backus would later deploy to Burma for operations along the Burmese Arakan Coast.
Commander Tom Hawkins USN (Ret.): (invited) SEAL and authority on O.S.S. Navy Officer Jack Taylor considered by many to be the first and O.S.S. Missions and their post war legacy into the U.S. Navy SEALs.
Master Chief Harold Dunnigan USN (Ret.): Former Santa Monica Lifeguard who as a pre Korean War era young Santa Monica Lifeguard knew and trained with many of the prewar SM and LA County Lifeguards who became OSS Operational swimmers. Chief Dunnigan would later become highly entrenched within the Navy UDT and SEAL programs as well as becoming one of the longest serving Los Angeles County Lifeguards He was all so the basis for a influential character on the successful dramatic TV Series Baywatch.
Martin Sugarman, PhD: (invited) Sugarman's life reads like a Graham Greene spy novel, the title of which could be 'Surfer Dude, Man of Mystery.' In between Sugarman’s sojourns as a artist and combat photographer in both Kashmir and Bosnia in the 1990’s His great contribution to the preservation to the O.S.S. swimmers was knowing many of them without knowing who they really were. His Chronology of their stories intertwined with his expertise on the rich history of Santa Monica Canyon, where many of the pioneering O.S.S. waterman and lifeguards, Bob Butts, Pete Petersen, Fred Wadley Gard Chapin Art Garrett and Frank Donahue and Fred Zendar lived and worked Sugarman knew them in their later lives and learned their stories as part of his great scholarship of ‘California Cool and Watermanship, H2O Magazine. H2O set the standard for highlighting the ( Will Rogers) state's beach culture and spotlighting the surfer waterman lifestyle.
Craig Lockwood: Laguna beach based Lifeguard Author historian and expert on watermanship will discuss the Southern California Waterman ship era before 1941 and after 1945 until the middle 1950’s.
Arthur C. Verge, PhD: LA County Lifeguard, author & historian of the Los Angeles area watermen.
The exciting Event will continue for the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the O.S.S. MU Swimmer (veterans) to Pre war historic locales on the LA and Santa Monica coastline, a voyage on the only operational O.S.S. era Crash boat the P-520, to where the men who would become O.S S. Wartime secret training areas on Catalina Island and Camp Pendleton. This will be followed by a BarBQ at the residence of late O.S.S. Swimmer Operative Jim Eubankand his wife Vera (tentative). Club members and guests will invited to additional events, subject to space availability.
Erick Simmel, SFGEAR-OSSLTD
Or Email: Erick@MaritimeUnit.org