Army honors 100-year-old OSS veteran as a Green Beret

Office of Strategic Service
Photo credit U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dominique Cox

"I’m overcome by the emotion but proud to be here today," said 100-year-old World War II veteran Ellsworth "Al" Johnson upon being made a Green Beret by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) this month.

Johnson served in the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) during World War Two, which both the CIA and Special Forces (also known as Green Berets) trace their lineage back to. The OSS conducted some of the most hair-raising intelligence and paramilitary operations in American history.

As a young man in the OSS, Johnson served with an OSS team code-named "Patrick" which parachuted into Nazi-occupied France ahead of the D-Day landing. The 25-man team carried out daring operations behind enemy lines, capturing a hydroelectric plant, a small town, gathering intelligence, and harassing Nazi forces while working alongside the French partisans.

Johnson then went on to serve in the Pacific theater, training Chinese commandos and even parachuting into combat with them to attack a town held by the Japanese.

At the event in Michigan where Johnson was made an honorary Green Beret, and presented with the rifle green beret itself as well as a Special Forces tab, the deputy commander of SOCOM, Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson said that Johnson, "laid the groundwork for what we are today. Everything that he did in 1944 — we model ourselves on in our training and the operations that we conduct. It’s our origin story."

Johnson received the honor surrounded by family members just two months after his 100th birthday.

Featured Image Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dominique Cox