Frank A. Gleason may not be a name that you're familiar with. But, given his contributions to the allied war effort during World War II, you should be. During the war, Gleason, now 97-years old, worked for the Overseas Strategic Service (OSS), an intelligence organization that was superseded by the Central Intelligence Agency. It was never his intention to become a spy but, smart as a whip and tough as nails, he was a perfect fit for the gig.
From Task & Purpose:
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Gleason was freshly armed with a chemical engineering degree from Penn State University when he was recruited into the OSS. It was a tight-knit, exclusive group: When the agency was founded, director Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan famously said, “We need Ph.Ds that can win a bar fight.”
During the year he and his team operated behind enemy lines in China, they were responsible for disrupting enemy communications and the destruction of railway lines, and blew up over 100 bridges. They generally made life for Japanese troops stationed in the areas where they worked a living hell. The dangerous services that Gleason rendered on behalf of the Allies has gone all but unrecognized over the past 74 years. Unlike soldiers, spies generally don't get parades. According to Military Times, Gleason's time in the shadows has come to an end: Congress has recognized the veteran's service during the war with the award of a Congressional Gold Medal – the highest award that can be given to a civilian in the United States. The medal is awarded to individuals who “performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”
Given that his service went unrecognized for so long, Gleason was, understandably, surprised by the honor. He's quoted in the Military Times as saying he was over-awed.
While the OSS was dissolved after the Second World War came to an end, Gleason opted to continue serving his country. He worked with the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War and oversaw a military supply installation during the Vietnam War. In 1971, he retired from the Army with the rank of Colonel.
If you're interested in learning more about what Gleason and his OSS operatives got up to during the Second World War, check out OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency.