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Interview with Rafael D. Hirtz [Undated]

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We were in banking and grain and shipping and literally anything that you want to think of. And they were spread throughout the world. And he started out literally as a -- or factually as a doctor, went through medical school and was in the French Army, World War I, as a medical officer.

Clinton C. Brown:

So that was his nationality? He was French?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Oh, yes, he was French.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And he went through so much hell, as you probably know. World War I was probably the ugliest, one of the ugliest of World Wars, not that any war is pretty. And so he decided to give up medicine, he just couldn't take it anymore, and went into business.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And from there, we just kept travelling. He loved to travel. He loved going in different countries. And I -- my first experience was in France. And my first language, even though it is not too good these days, not having -- not using it a great deal, French was my first language.

Clinton C. Brown:

Was your mother French also?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

My mother was a Parisian of Scandinavian background. So -- and my father was French of Alsacian background and went -- we never had enough time, my brothers and I, really to go to school. We only had a short period of school when we were living in England. And the rest of the time we had a private tutor that traveled with us.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, okay.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

So it was a different type of education. And when we first came to the United States, it was a difficult experience going into a school with a definite format.

Clinton C. Brown:

How old were you when you came to the United States?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I was -- I was about ten or 11 on our first trip. Again, we were not planning on staying here. And we came for a visit. And we explored the East Coast and my dad was kind of excited about it, but not -- not totally enthusiastic. So we came back about a year later and went through the Midwest part, Chicago and other Midwestern cities; again, not too crazy about it. But the last time we came through was to California. And those were the great old days of California. And he fell totally in love with it. He just said he was never going to move out of it, which he never did. Oh, he kept travelling, but as far as ever wanting to leave, he never did.

Clinton C. Brown:

So how old were you when you moved to Hollywood, to California?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

On a permanent basis I would say about 13. And so that was the first formal schooling I had. And --

Clinton C. Brown:

How was it? Was it shocking?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It was comparatively easy, under the circumstances because a tutor goes so much more thoroughly when it is a one-on-one basis or a one-on-two basis. You get a much more -- well I don't know how to express that really, but a much more concise education.

Clinton C. Brown:

And there are no ways of covering up the gaps. The tutor knows if you fail to know something so he will go back over it again.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Over it again and again until you get it.

Clinton C. Brown:

Until you get it, yes.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Right.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well what was your impression of California?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well I loved it. And I have to admit, I enjoyed going to a school where there were young ladies going, too.

Clinton C. Brown:

You were the right age for that.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. So I enjoyed that part of it, although that didn't help my grades too much. But they stayed up pretty well. And kept -- kept on, whenever I could, travelling. We were a very political family in the sense that we were all interested in what was going on in the world. And I was very, very fortunate in being invited every summer to my grandmother's home in Paris. And my aunt had a home in Southern France. So I did a lot of travelling that way and in England going back to -- not to the old house that we had because we had sold that one, but --

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you have any career ambitions in high school?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

In high school, yes. I wanted to go into journalism. And that fascinated me. And I did a lot of writing in school. I was the sports editor of the school paper and also of the local town paper. And later on when I went to the college, I was also a sports editor of -- and also a gossip column, believe it or not.

Clinton C. Brown:

What was your sport?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Sport basically first and always swimming and then track and field, which, again, is probably as close to being my love of sports. And I was very fortunate in seeing the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, the first Olympics in Los Angeles.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And I saw part of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, until my grandmother decided she knew where I was and demanded that I come back immediately. She had no, no great love of Germany. The reason I say that was that she went through the Franco-Prussian War. And World War I had not yet, but she was getting a feel that something was going to happen in the not too far distant future. You couldn't be in Europe and not realize the problems that were going on.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah. In '36 then you were in Germany. What was it like? Did you notice anything different from the times you had been there before or --

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I had actually never been in Germany before.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And, yeah, you noticed things. I was -- I was only 14 at the time and I didn't notice as much as I could have. Even though being very politically involved, my father and mother saw to that. And you saw that certain people were being mistreated. I didn't see the famous situation with Jessie Owens. But I had come over, strangely enough, with the Olympic team on the S.S. Manhattan and I got to meet quite a few of the competitors, the American competitors.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Including Jessie Owens.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you write anything about that?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes, I did.

Clinton C. Brown:

Publicly?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Although at that time I had not gotten my job in the school or the -- because I hadn't gone into high school yet. That's when I started my sports writing and what have you.

Clinton C. Brown:

Where did you go to college?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I went to college in Pomona, in California. And only -- only for two years. And then I was getting very involved in what was going on in Europe.

Clinton C. Brown:

What year was this?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

This was, let's see now, this was 1938, 1939. And the war was already started in Europe. And, of course, I couldn't go over there. They didn't want me to go over there anymore. So I was interested in getting involved. And I tried to join the Canadian Army, but being a naturalized citizen, even though I came in as a child, I would have lost my American citizenship, and I didn't want to do that. So after two years of school and things were getting a little bit more complicated, I volunteered for the U.S. Army, and stayed in for the entire war, approximately six years.

Clinton C. Brown:

You should have been very valuable to the U.S. Army, being a multilingual person.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Eventually, eventually that did happen. When I first went in, I went in to communications; radio, telephone and --

Clinton C. Brown:

The Signal Corps?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

The Signal Corps. They were rather shocked at anybody with a college education wanting to go into the Army. Before the draft days, that just didn't happen. And so I got a good -- which helped a great deal afterwards, knowing radio. And I then got my, I was -- I went in as a buck private and eventually was asked to become an officer and went through Officer Candidate School.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, you did. OCS?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

OCS. And after going through that successfully, I spent about one year in the Signal Corps. And then one day I was in camp and some officer came up to see me and he said, you're wanted immediately in this big tent down the road. And I said, fine. What's it all about? He says, you'll know when you get there.

Clinton C. Brown:

Typical Army.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. And so in I went into this large tent. There must have been two or 300 men in there when I entered. And I went in. The only place to sit was in the front row. So I went over there, sat in the front row with two or three other gentlemen. And then this guy gets up on the stand and says, anybody that is not interested in a 50/50 chance of survival, please get up and leave now. Well that was a rather astounding statement, but I didn't say anything. I said, maybe I'll sit through here and find out what was going on. And he told us that we had been picked because of our knowledge of language and knowledge of the countries in Europe. And I heard a lot of rustling behind me, but I didn't turn around. And he finally made some remark, well, that doesn't leave too many. And I turned around and there were only three of us left out of the 200 approximately that first started out.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good grief.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

But I think that was a bit of a shocking statement, and he probably did it with good reason.

Clinton C. Brown:

What was your rank at that time?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I was a Second Lieutenant.

Clinton C. Brown:

Second Lieutenant.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you have an assignment there at the base before you were picked?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No, this was a period of more training again.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And really what I had done earlier on after I had gone in the Signal Corps, I trained with the U.S. Cavalry and started teaching them communications because they were still using the semaphore, the flags and the semaphores to communicate between units. And so they used me as the -- sort of a teacher of teaching how to use the regular communications, radio. And I saw the beginning of the change of the Cavalry from horses. In fact, I saw the last horse parade when horses went out one end and the tanks came in the other.

Clinton C. Brown:

Most people I think even our age are unaware of how primitive the Army was just before we got into the war, of how poorly equipped they were, of how backward some of the things were. As you said, the Cavalry still had horses.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah. I can remember during one exercise and this -- we went all the way up to Seattle for a training that was a war training. And I can remember running across the field with a placard saying "tank". And that's literally all we had. We had about 200 of us running across the field with a sign saying "tank" and they were shooting at us, theoretically. And so they were destroying our tanks. But, yeah, that's absolutely true. We had very, very little equipment. In fact, I can remember one incident when I was at Fort Ord, which is in northern California, and a Japanese sub sounded about three miles outside of Fort Ord. And we had nothing, nothing to shoot at them except one old French 75. So we dashed up to this French 75, which is an old artillery piece, some of the World War -- there are very few World War I people left, but we tried to get it working. Of course, none of us had ever fired anything like that. So by the time we got it figured out, the Japanese sub had left. So, yes, it was primitive.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well back to the strange speaker and his challenge, what did he then say to the three of you remaining?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

He explained a little bit about the fact that we were -- they were looking for people going into an intelligence unit. That the United States was interested in forming an intelligence unit. Prior to this, there was none. I didn't know it at the time but the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, had already been formed by President Roosevelt and General Donovan and a few British officers. They didn't want it known because it was not -- the military intelligence units of the Army, Navy, not Air Force because that was part of the Army, and the FBI were very, very much against forming the U.S. Secret Service Unit.

Clinton C. Brown:

This is before we entered the war; wasn't it?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

This was, yeah, just, just -- I think we had just, let's see, 1941. No, we had already entered the war at that particular time.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And there was no intelligence unit as such, except the individual armed services units. And so they were looking to form one. And I was one of the first groups that were picked, and for certain reasons. And I had had all of my military training and so I was in pretty good shape to go any time they wanted me for. But they didn't know exactly what field I was going to go in as far as the OSS, because you may know, it is pretty well -- you had all types. You had all types of secret service. You had people that stayed in the background, worked out of Washington, you had people in coding, decoding, what is the proper word for that, my wife was one in the OSS.

Clinton C. Brown:

I can't think of it either.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I'll think of it. And then there were different groups of people that went in behind the lines. We had those that went in singly that spoke French, German fluently and could not be mistaken for anything else, both men and women. And then we had smaller groups.

Clinton C. Brown:

Excuse me, you said men and women. So there were women in the Army or civilians?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No, this would have been against the law because in the American, no women were supposed to go into combat. So the way that we --

Clinton C. Brown:

The women solders?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No women soldiers and no women civilians. Because you have to remember, OSS was made up not just of the armed services, we were civilians, we were Army, Navy, Marines, whatever. Whenever what we knew or what we did was of value to OSS, they recruited us. And the way that the women worked it or that we got -- when I say "we" I'm using it in the larger part of OSS. The women, most of them that became -- went into the Secret Service were American citizens, but they had backgrounds of French or English or German. And so it was very easy to give them a passport, again, of that nationality. So technically, no, no American woman went into combat or went into the intelligence, parachuted in. But in actuality, they did.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see. You mentioned a moment ago about the resistance by FBI and other branches of the service, against having OSS people. Why do you think that was? What was the feeling?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well it depended -- it was a matter a little bit of jealousy, a little bit of wanting -- their area was covered. They didn't feel that it was necessary, that they were doing -- you know, in the early days, intelligence units were not really thoroughly liked by the armed services. They always felt there was something not really nice about being in an intelligence unit. And as far as -- as far as the FBI was concerned, I don't want to get too politically involved here, but Hoover, the director of the FBI, wanted to control all intelligence in the United States. He wanted it all.

Clinton C. Brown:

Really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. And he was very, very jealous of any other unit that was being planned. And he had no particular liking for Roosevelt anyway. And this was Roosevelt's baby. So what we did, and I was not part of that early group, but what happened was that there was a training area in Canada where the American officers and soldiers went in to train for the OSS. And we had British leaders because they were so far advanced over our intelligence units. They had parachuted already behind the lines. And so we got firsthand training from these people. But we did it secretly. And I think we worked better against the FBI and had a harder time competing against them than we did against the Germans. But eventually it worked its way out.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well I can add to the OSS history that the selection procedures were designed by a Michigan psychologist named Elo O'Kelly and that they used them subsequently in picking out officers candidates in the Air Force as well.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Oh, did they?

Clinton C. Brown:

Yes. And it was very interesting. They were these kind of Outward Bound things that they did to see how you could cooperate with a group in solving a problem and so forth. You probably went through that.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Went through several.

Clinton C. Brown:

Same thing. Those were the very beginnings of the intelligence service that was going to -- the tail that wagged the dog eventually. Well that's very interesting. Can you reflect a little on the attitudes in America toward the war and toward entering the war prior to Pearl Harbor, because it seemed to me Pearl Harbor changed the complexion of the whole thing; didn't it?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It did very definitely change it. There were, I think, again, the group that I knew well were basically of the same background as my father and mother and myself. And we had in a sense more of a knowledge of what was going on in Europe than let's say the average American, who quite likely in a sense was just basically not interested. They had gone in through one war, which basically might be considered not necessary, World War I. And there was a lot of feeling against the war. There was the America First Group out of Wisconsin that was very, very active in fighting any involvement. And I would say probably if we're going to take the polls like they take them today, the greater proportion of them would have been antiwar or anti getting involved in Europe.

Clinton C. Brown:

In Milwaukee there was Fritz Coon and the Brown Shirts I believe they were?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That was the -- what were they called. It was the Nazi group and I can't --

Clinton C. Brown:

Schwartzstuffel {phonetic}

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No, they were storm troopers, but they had a name. The German American Board.

Clinton C. Brown:

Right, right.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That was it. And they were quite active, actually, throughout the United States.

Clinton C. Brown:

And also many people aren't aware that Henry Ford and Lindbergh played very strange roles in the war.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes, they did. Lindbergh in particular was very, very anti getting involved. He had a great admiration for Germany and -- at least the excuse that he used, I don't know whether that was an actual way that he felt -- but he used the excuse that the German Air Force was so superior to ours that we would be very foolish to get involved in such a war.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And there is no question at that time that the German units were in every way, the tanks that they were learning to build and the airplanes, they were far superior to us. In fact, they came forth with the first jet planes.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-uh, that's right. So you were trained in Canada then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I wasn't, but the first OSS groups were trained in Canada, not to hide it from the Germans, but to hide it from the FBI and other units like that. And then after a while, we began to be a little bit more open about it. And because after I had left this tent, which was two days later, after I got my gear together and boarded a train and headed for Washington, it was done in such a manner that nobody could really follow what was going on. Because I had to report first of all to the Navy Department in Washington. I went to that building, one -- they had already told me the office to go to. And I went in there, there was a Naval officer who said, well, he says, you're one of those. And I said, one of what? He said, never mind, you report to Army Headquarters, room so and so. So I did that. And I think I got kind of a shuffle around sections of Washington. And then finally ended up, which was on F Street. I don't know if you remember those days, but there were some old buildings and one of them was the headquarters of OSS, although no one knew it. And then I was sent out to the Congressional Country Club for training. And the Congressional Country Club had changed. I mean, the golf courses became places where you blew up things, like in particular in the sand traps. And if you go out there today -- I went there for a banquet some, about two or three years ago, for a reunion of our group. And they have pictures of it down there and showed how the difference between the sand traps were then after we blew up parts of it, as compared to what it is now.

Clinton C. Brown:

So you had --

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We had to go in a truck. We boarded it from the OSS headquarters and went on that truck. And they didn't blindfold us, but they closed the truck so you couldn't see out. And the next thing we knew, we were out at Congressional Country Club, which we had no idea what it was, stayed there for three months without going out.

Clinton C. Brown:

So you met with other people who had been selected from other parts of the country?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Exactly.

Clinton C. Brown:

And other services as well?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And other services.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, okay.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It didn't make any difference, even some civilians.

Clinton C. Brown:

What did you learn there? What kind of a school was it?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well, part of it was going through what you had mentioned as far as the psychiatrist is concerned. We would go through that type of testing where we would have to work very fast with our hands in building something. And we didn't know, of course, that there was always one person out of three that were working together to build this in a race with somebody else. There was one who was really representing the training program. And just as you were ready and finished and thinking that you could win, he would accidentally knock the whole thing over. Now if you reached back and punched him, you were out. But if you sat there and said, let's start all over again, then you were fine. And we had night exercises. We had special missions. We went on the bridges to blow things up, of course using dummy dynamite and things like that. At that time I didn't know anything about plastics. They were just beginning to be used. And we would actually also go in to factories around the Washington area. And we would have false identification and we would go in as if we worked there. And then we took photographs and did whatever we could, planned -- set out a plan about what we were going to blow up, and which was the most important part of it and what they were doing. And most of the plants in those days, you know, were -- we were not supposed to know what they were doing. And pretty successfully, I think. Only one or two of us were ever caught.

Clinton C. Brown:

How did you feel about something that antisocial?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Actually very good, because of what it meant. I mean, no, you don't enjoy doing something like that because these are your own people. But the fact that you were doing the training, you weren't hurting anybody, and you were going to use it for a good purpose later on, you know, like blowing up trains and blowing up -- and we were not quite as cruel as it sounds. We always were very, very careful. We always tried to let the French know when we were going to do something if we were in France, about blowing something up, so that the civilians would get out of the territory. Those days are pretty much gone. But the old OSS was a pretty decent group, even though admittedly there isn't anything that you are not willing to do. If you are, then you are not part of the OSS. You couldn't get in there and join them. But basically -- and you were always a volunteer. I mean, you always had the chance to say no. And only once in my life did I say no to an OSS suggestion. And that was a weird one. They wanted to assassinate Hitler. And there wasn't any chance of success. We looked at the plans and it was -- they admitted it was a suicide mission. And I said, well, a suicide mission is different from a mission where you know that there is probably no -- no way that it can succeed. And at the same time you know that it is a suicide mission. I said, that doesn't make much sense.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good, right.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

So I --

Clinton C. Brown:

So you're here.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

-- I'm still here.

Clinton C. Brown:

So how long were you in basic training?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

The OSS, well two active years.

Clinton C. Brown:

Two years, but how long were you in training, I'm sorry?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Oh, in training. Well, again, it depended. As far as I was concerned and most of the people who were picked already had their infantry training, and in my case the communications. And some were already paratroopers. And we -- some already went to parachute school in the United States, trained with some of the units that were being formed and then were taken out again and put in OSS.

Clinton C. Brown:

But everybody had to have all the skills; didn't they?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

You had to have all of the skills. In my group, in my group -- and I have to explain that there were different groups. There were what we call the SOs. The SOs were Special Operators and they went in by themselves. Then you had what they called either the jetbergs {phonetic} that was the name that was used. And they operated in a three group, three-person group; one Englishman, one Frenchman and one American, all of them fluent in French and German. And they went in as a unit of three. Now these two groups generally operated in civilian clothes. My group had a choice, depending on the mission. Some missions we might go in as civilians, other missions we would go in as in full uniform, let's put it that way. So that theoretically if you were captured, you might not be immediately killed. But, of course, the German high command knew who we were and they had set orders that there was to be no mercy shown. And if we were captured, we were to be examined and all the information gotten that they could get out of us, and then we were to be shot. So -- and that's the way it worked.

Clinton C. Brown:

But when you went in in uniform, it was your own uniform or French?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It was our own uniform. We didn't use our own names, but it was our own uniform.

Clinton C. Brown:

How much autonomy did you have in a mission?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Actually a great deal. Depending again -- I mean, you know, we were in constant, in constant touch with the, with headquarters. Then if we didn't have a radio or something happened to the radio, we could listen to the French -- to the English BBC, who were sending messages all the time.

Clinton C. Brown:

Coded?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Coded, always coded. I brought one of the decoding silk panels that I used to use.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, good. We will have to see that.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It worked quite well. The first mission that I went on, there were supposed to be 30 of us. I don't want to talk too much in a sense -- too much detail. Is that all right? There were 30 of us on the first mission to go in and we left from a secret field in England, Carrington Field. And the planes were painted black so that they could go in at night. Most of them were bombers because if they were seen, they were seen as bombers and not as something that was going to drop some agents in. And so the first mission we had was to work in conjunction with the invasion with D-Day. And as Patton's troops were going to cut through, the artillery was going to cut through into Bretagne to take Brest, where all the submarines, the long-distance submarines that the Germans were building in deep, deep tunnels, I guess you could call them. And our job this time was rather than to destroy it was to save the bridges that we could. And one bridge in particular so that Patton's Army and armored group could cross the bridge without anybody stopping them. So our job was to train and organize the French underground and arm them. We had the weapons parachuted in and we armed them. And then we trained the people how to hold the bridge. And then the group of us went and took the bridge, when it became clear that Patton's troops were coming through. We had a lot of time actually in that. We had about two weeks behind the German lines before we knew that Patton's armored was coming through. I never took off my uniform, and held the bridge so that when Patton's tanks did come through, they went right over it.

Clinton C. Brown:

This was behind the German lines in Germany?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No, in France?

Clinton C. Brown:

In France?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

In France.

Clinton C. Brown:

So the natives were French and they were sympathetic to you?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Not necessarily.

Clinton C. Brown:

No?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Most of them. At that stage where they thought that Germany was going to be defeated, yes, particularly in Bretagne. The Bretagnes are very, very independent people. They don't like -- they didn't like the Germans coming in. In fact, they didn't particularly like the French when they took over Bretagne. But they are very individualistic. And it is a tough, tough country, Bretagne, and very, very beautiful. And I think you'll also notice that people that live in the mountains and people that live in the country like that are very, very independent. And very courageous people. So we had a very, very good group. And group wasn't -- our group wasn't as large as we had expected because it was being led by Colonel Serge Oblinksi who was a real Russian prince and who had joined the U.S. Army, spoke French, Russian, German, several languages fluently. His plane and another plane -- there were three planes. His plane and the other plane got engine problems and never got in. So mine was the only plane. And here I was a young -- I don't know whether I had been promoted to First Lieutenant yet, but, anyway, as a young First Lieutenant, here I was all of a sudden in command of what was going on. I had 11 men with me. And we trained something like three, 400 French underground troops. And --

Clinton C. Brown:

How could you do so without being detected?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It's, it's -- unless you're living in a city like Paris or in an area, you have to really think about it. Because there is no way in this world that you can have an army that is controlling a country in every little village, in every little town. I mean, it is a physical impossibility. You would have to have an army of many, many millions, which the Germans --

Clinton C. Brown:

One for one?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah. And we did worry mostly about the French secret police more than the German Gestapo. And they would be very difficult. But they didn't survive very long, as soon as any of the French underground knew that they were in the area. But some of them did. I mean, the Germans knew some -- quite a bit of our activities. In fact, I remember hearing it on the radio one day when we were listening to the German radio. And for the life of me, I can't remember -- I always remember Tokyo Rose, but I can't remember the one, Berlin Sally or some name.

Clinton C. Brown:

Lordah?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No.

Clinton C. Brown:

We have run out of tape.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And I remember her saying -- naming our names and saying that we were behind the lines and we were about to be captured and why not give up peacefully so we wouldn't be killed. And she had the information. The only way we could figure it out actually was we had somebody in our headquarters who was giving information to the Germans because nobody in France could have known.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, you held the bridge then, or they held the bridge?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

They held the bridge. When we saw that they were doing a good job, we figured that -- and this was where that question you had asked me if we had a bit of leeway in what we were going to do. We felt the bridge was in good hands and if necessary we could come back very quickly, but we wanted to do some more active work. And just as I said, you know, there is no great group. We knew where the Germans were. They were basically in their -- in their camps and in certain villages. And at the very most they might have a sergeant and two or three soldiers in some of the villages. And I can remember liberating a 1939 Buick from a German officer and using it to go through the lines. And that's how I had a first contact with Patton's troops before they came through. And it was amazing. We would go through the back roads, now the big roads, but we would go through the country roads, going at a fairly decent rate of speed.

Clinton C. Brown:

You must have been briefed thoroughly on the countryside then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes, yeah. And so we would get through and then we would go back again. And eventually Patton's troops broke through and used the bridge, and that part of our job was over.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, while you were doing this, you were based in England then, I suppose?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We were based in England at a special base. It was a lovely mansion that, again -- but that was done because that was the largest piece of property and so that we could wall that in and people wouldn't know that we were operating there. And the British were very good about that. They were very close-mouthed. And if they knew there were certain things going on there, they made a point not to talk about it. Or if they heard somebody trying to get information, they would immediately turn them in to the authorities. So we had a good system working.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well you were visiting a country that you knew thoroughly. Did you make friends with the natives then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. I have corresponded with some for several years.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

In fact, I got a letter about a month ago from somebody that had been looking for me for 53 years, this Frenchman. And he was the one who had put us up in his farm, farmhouse, up in the attic so to speak, and kept us there for several days. And he had been looking for us. And somebody had wandered through his town, an American who was in my group, and told him where I was. So he contacted me. So I'm supposed to go over there in March or April of next year.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my. What were your feelings as you were involved in these things? Were you afraid? Were you enthused? Were you nervous? Were you happy about it? Did you enjoy the kind of work that you were doing?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Surprisingly enthusiastic about it. Yeah, the only time I had a little bit of doubt was on my first jump behind the lines. It was not necessarily a dark night, it just seemed like it because the moon was bright. And as I was going down and the parachute was letting me down fairly slowly, I said to myself, you know, this is very stupid. What am I doing here going down behind the German lines?

Clinton C. Brown:

With a white parachute?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No, we didn't have -- (Tape One ended and the recording on Tape Two began after a 30-second pause.)

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Could you show me what --

Clinton C. Brown:

No, no, me. Get in front of the lens. Contact with the natives so to speak because it seems to me I heard somewhere that you married a French woman?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Not actually.

Clinton C. Brown:

No?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No.

Clinton C. Brown:

No?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No. In fact, my wife was in the OSS also.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, she was?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. She was a cryptographer. And she had taken the training for it in Washington. And she took the train ride back to California on the same train that my group of OSS boys took to go to the Far East. We were -- our war in France was over, I had one more mission in France. And then they asked us if we wanted to be sent back to the states or to go overseas again. And to a man, we all volunteered to go overseas again to China.

Clinton C. Brown:

There must have been a great deal of bonding within the group?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We were exceedingly close during that period of time, yes.

Clinton C. Brown:

I mean, your lives literally depended on each other.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Depended on each other, yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Same thing was true of the Air Force where crews became like family.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, there was very little rank pulled or shown.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, sure; oh, yeah. Only in training barracks or something like that.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well let's go back to the mission that you had to make sure that the bridge was open for Patton. This was after D-Day then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

This was after D-Day.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you have other missions in Europe after that one was finished?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. This one continued a little bit after, you know, we had done the bridge. We took a couple of towns that -- this was with the approval of the American -- of some of Patton's officers who didn't have the infantry available. So they asked if they could use us and our French underground Troops to take a couple of towns, and we did that. And it was not too difficult a job. They were very highly packed in. I mean, there was no way we could have actually taken this town if they had not wanted to, but they were at that time concerned with the fact that the Americans had landed, the war in France at least looked like it was pretty well over, so they weren't too unhappy to surrender to us, to the first American troops they saw.

Clinton C. Brown:

You say "they", you mean the Germans?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

The Germans.

Clinton C. Brown:

But the people that you picked up, the French and so forth, they didn't have uniforms; did they?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

No.

Clinton C. Brown:

So they kind of looked like an organized mob then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I'll show you some pictures of them, of my group. Yeah, they were. They were just civilians. Some of them had served in the French Army before it was defeated, or surrendered. And some of them just were trained as underground troops. They could not be depended on to face up to German first line troops and so you tried not to put them in that situation. As far as holding a bridge, yeah. But if you could take the bridge and then hold it, they would be terrific. And they had a great deal of courage. There was one time when -- and this is another thing that might surprise you, we had prisons that we kept our German prisoners in behind the German lines. And, again, to show you that there were areas where there were not any Germans in there. If they learned about it, yeah, then they would send in some companies of troops or a battalion of troops to free them. And they did in one instance when we were not around. We had gone on another mission and there must have been 200-some German prisoners. So this battalion attacked the French guards who were holding them and of course killed every one of them and -- but they jumped out, the French guards jumped out with submachine guns trying to shoot down tanks that, of course, they had no chance of at all. But they were very courageous men.

Clinton C. Brown:

Of course, they were fighting from their own homeland; weren't they?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

They were fighting from their own homeland. And I might put something in here that is a little bit controversial. I brought that up a couple of times before. Not every part of France was pro Allied. And there were a lot of Frenchmen who you had better not ask for help. And one thing which I had said was very controversial was the fact that somebody had brought up something to me. They said, did you hide in the churches? And I said, no. I said, that was the first place we avoided because there was a very, very strong movement in the church that was anti -- anti Allied forces. They wanted to be with the Germans because they were part of this very, very nationalistic group. They were called the Croix de Feu, the Cross of Fire. And they were a very powerful group in France. And there was a whole section of the church, not all of it. You could depend sometimes on the young priests to help you, but not on the church hierarchy itself. Now, as I said, that's very controversial. And if you want to cut all of that out, you're welcome to.

Clinton C. Brown:

No. You're talking about the Catholic Church in France?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes.

Clinton C. Brown:

There was a segment of it that almost divorced itself apparently?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes.

Clinton C. Brown:

And say the name again?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well this was a particular group that was almost the fascist Catholic group and they were called the Croix de Feu, the Cross of Fire.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see. Well then the Germans apparently were not cruel in their treatment of the French villagers and so forth, under ordinary circumstances?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Under ordinary circumstances, no, they were not. It was only -- I mean, if they knew that there was underground troops operating there, yeah, they might take the mayor and his family and shoot them, if he didn't help them try to control the French partisan groups.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

But generally speaking they treated them very decently.

Clinton C. Brown:

Of course, there is areas like Alsace-Lorraine and so forth that were -- the line between Germany and France is not very well drawn anyhow.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Not very much so. Being from a background of Alsace-Lorraine myself, all I can say is that the Alsace-Lorrainians don't consider themselves either German or French, very much like the Bretagnes.

Clinton C. Brown:

My heritage.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Is that right?

Clinton C. Brown:

All together then how many missions did you have in Europe?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Two in Europe. Two in Europe and one in China.

Clinton C. Brown:

In China?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Uh-huh.

Clinton C. Brown:

So you made the trip across the country and then traveled to the Orient; right?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Traveled to the Orient.

Clinton C. Brown:

And what year was this?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

This was -- let's see, it was the end of '43, beginning of 1944.

Clinton C. Brown:

Near the end of the war?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Near the end of the war. And the first -- we were sent originally with the idea of going into French Indochina, which of course became Viet Nam, because everybody spoke French in French Indochina, or literally everybody. And they were, you know, very anti-Japanese. So we were going to go in there and work with them and form a regular underground group. And, in fact, we were supposed to contact Ho Chi Minh, who was very, very anti-Japanese. At that time, for a period of time he was even pro-American. Strange how politics do change.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yes.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And the French command in the area refused to permit us -- give us permission to parachute into French Indochina because they said, no, this is our territory, this is our colony, and you are not going to fool around in it. So we never went in. Later on, an American group did go in and did work very closely, but at our time we were not permitted to. So they didn't want to waste us so they sent us into China itself and we trained the first Chinese paratroopers in the history of China.

Clinton C. Brown:

Really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah. And we made them -- this was with the permission of Chiang Kai-Shek and with the help of General Stillwell and one other general who was very active at that time, oh, Lord Mountbatten. And we organized them into commando units. We formed 20 Chinese commando units. And I trained the second commando unit and then parachuted in with them with 11 Americans.

Clinton C. Brown:

In where?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Into south central China. And operated behind the Japanese lines.

Clinton C. Brown:

That was Japanese occupied then?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And it was -- it was literally hell because it was a lot different to operate there. And food, there was no food available. You had to live off the land, and there was nothing to live off. We survived actually on about a bowl of rice. We were supposed to be supplied by the air, but since everything was going on in Asia at that time, there were more important missions than some of our small groups that were going into unknown areas, so to speak.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did the Chinese welcome that kind of training? Did they want and need commando units?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Probably the best soldiers ever to form a unit --

Clinton C. Brown:

Really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

-- in China, except some of the elite communist groups.

Clinton C. Brown:

Do you think they went on to serve in Korea later?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

They may well have. They may well have. I don't really know what happened to them. I wrote -- I went in with an interpreter, who became a very good friend of mine. And we contacted -- we corresponded for about two years. And then with the revolution brewing in China and part of the country being taken over by the Communists, I felt it was very foolish to put him in any more danger. So I didn't correspond with him anymore because if they knew he was getting a letter from an American, he wouldn't have lasted very long, or his family. So I really never have found out. I wrote once after -- you know, about a year ago when things had calmed down quite a bit. I never got an answer. So I don't know what happened to him.

Clinton C. Brown:

What was your closest brush with death?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well --

Clinton C. Brown:

That you knew?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That I knew. Actually it was in my second mission in France -- the one in China, too, different. But the one -- the second mission I went in China, the invasion of south France had started. And so they wanted us to help cut off the German supplies, both coming in and going out. And so there were several units that were used, including one which was the -- our Norwegian group. When I use expressions of Norwegian group or French groups or German groups, these were American citizens, but were of a nationality of a French nationality or Norwegian and could speak the language. And we formed these people into groups so they would operate in certain countries. My country, of course, was France. And they loaned us these Norwegians to go in there and help with that type of war. And I was to be used as a sort of liaison between the French underground and the Norwegian groups and a couple of French groups that went in, too. So they used me as a liaison. And there was one time when we were in this little town of -- not a little town, it was a good-sized town called Langres, L-A-N-G-R-E-S. And it actually was the town where my father had trained during World War I. And the Germans were in there, they had a few thousand troops in there. And the French were coming up from south France where they had invaded. And they, again, had no infantry. So they asked -- they asked if we would be the infantry with the French underground troops we had. And we must have had in this particular area something like 2,000 French underground.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah. And there was one -- we went in and we were to attack the town. And so we did attack. And I was behind one tank. And I advanced past the tank into this sort of gateway, this fortified town, where I was safe for a while because the Germans couldn't shoot down at me. They couldn't aim. And they were shooting all over the place. And I turned around and for the first time realized I was all by myself. The other troops decided they weren't going to advance. I never really did find out why, but all I know was that I was by myself. And I said to myself, well, now what am I going to do? And I thought it was raining, you know, but actually it wasn't raining, these were the bullets hitting around me in the dust and the dust was flying off as if it was raining. And this one tank saw me, this French tank. And there was a Moroccan sergeant in charge of this tank. And he came after me. And he stood up in the turret with his machine gun going full blast, yelled at me to follow -- to run before the tank. And I ran before them, and he kept going, and I dove into a ditch and got my way out. He never made it.

Clinton C. Brown:

He never made it?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

(Indicates negatively.)

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

But that was the closest one. When I looked around, I said, well, I haven't been hit, but I had a hole through my helmet. And that's about as close as I ever came.

Clinton C. Brown:

What did you live on when you were on missions? I mean, they didn't drop food in for you; did they?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

In some instances. And in some instances they were supposed to and didn't because something happened. They had to use their planes. They were short of planes. Everybody was short of everything in those days. And they would hit the most important missions.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you have money?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We had a lot of money. In France I went in I think with $50,000, which was a lot of money. Cash. And part of it was in French francs and part of it was in U.S. dollars, which of course were quite valuable. And when I went in to China, I had two duffle bags full of money. And those were large duffle bags because the Chinese yen was not that valuable. But I must have had several thousand dollars worth. Every man had a certain amount of money so that if something happened to the rest of us, every man was self-sufficient, let's put it that way, as far as carrying enough money around to handle himself if he had to take off on his own.

Clinton C. Brown:

And of course you had been trained in survival techniques as well?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

All of us had been trained in survival tactics, some of us -- I did not go there, but it was some of the best training. It was out on Catalina Island. And they would drop you in a section of Catalina Island and you had to survive there for two weeks. And you weren't given any food when you went in. You were given one knife, and then you had to survive with that.

Clinton C. Brown:

You had to love fish, I guess?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Love fish. And you ate a lot of other things that you could capture, turtles, whatever. And when you came out, you were pretty handy. But it was -- it was harder in China because the Japanese had gone through and pretty well cleaned out all of the food supplies. And whenever the harvest was completed, they would come through and take the harvest.

Clinton C. Brown:

The popular wisdom is that the Japanese were much crueler to the Chinese than they were to any other of the invaded countries. Is that true?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

In certain -- in certain instances, which were probably the most horrible that ever existed, if you take into consideration the rape of Nanking, where 600,000 -- at least the minimum was about 600,000 Chinese men, women and children were raped, bayonetted and killed. Very, very cruel. And of course they were very, very cruel, too, to the Koreans.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, yeah. They -- there still is an argument and a fight going on between all these women that were captured and put into houses of prostitution and were -- well, I don't even want to talk about it. But there has been quite a few articles on it. The Japanese do not have a good reputation in those lines.

Clinton C. Brown:

When you finished the mission in China then, was that the end of your service?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That was the end of my service, which was very fortunate because I barely made it out of China. The fact that there wasn't -- you were living off the land, and there was no way you could keep yourself clean. There was no showers. You know, if you bathed in the rice paddies, that is about the only way you could keep yourself clean, and that wasn't very clean because you know what they used as fertilizer in the rice paddies. So it was a difficult situation. And I had just about every disease known to man, yellow jaundice, and amoebic dysentery. And I came out -- I went back on the hospital ship and came back, I think I was 128 pounds.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good heavens.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Were you debriefed, so to speak?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes.

Clinton C. Brown:

Were you sworn to secrecy about your activity?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

We were sworn to secrecy for -- in fact, it has been about now three, three or four years since I can talk freely about it, and can print anything I want to. There have been books written for 20, 30 years, but I assumed that they cleared it with somebody. But I know now -- for instance, I got a lot of -- all of my missions or the three missions I was on, I have got it now in writing because they were at the archives.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And the archives freed them up, so to speak, so that you could get them. You're not allowed to take them out, but you could photocopy them, and I did.

Clinton C. Brown:

What do you think of the contemporary equivalents of the OSS? Do you think they are as effective?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Again, it depends. The CIA is an entirely different group than the OSS, although the early CIA was built on the bones of the OSS, so to speak. And that was done basically because Truman, who was an old artillery officer, didn't want any part of the intelligence units. And he -- he hated -- and this is a story, I assume it is true, and it has been told many times, and I had heard it. During World War I, General Donovan, who originated the OSS with President Roosevelt, was head of the famous Fighting 69th, the New York Fighting 69th. And he was a colonel there and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. And during one of the battles, he was heavily shelled. And all of a sudden he discovered it was friendly fire, so to speak. So he went storming back to the artillery unit that was behind him, and, of course, it was under the command of Captain Harry S. Truman.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

So he chewed -- chewed the captain out and said, I'm going to have you court-martialled, and ripped him up one side and the other. And somehow he was talked out of doing it, but Truman never forgave him for that. And this is the story that Truman then decided he didn't want any part of General Donovan or -- and decided to just ban the OSS. Well, it wasn't very long before he discovered he didn't have any eyes left as far as intelligence was concerned. So they took all of the old OSS men and organized them into a unit, which became the Central Intelligence Agency. And all of our early -- all of the early heads of the CIA were OSS men.

Clinton C. Brown:

Do you think that the contemporary activity of this type is more political than it is tactical?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

The unfortunate thing, what happened to the CIA, at least in my belief, is that it became too political. And they went into a lot of missions, which I personally would not have approved of, which is very unimportant, but I would not have because it depended on who was the President of the United States. And you followed that basically. The CIA gets a lot of blame for doing things, but they are taking orders. I mean, they are an American unit that is a service unit and they have got to take orders from whoever is in power. And if you have got a very conservative individual or a very liberal individual, it is going to depend on that type of action that these groups take. And they have done things that I have definitely not approved of and which we would not have done, with the old OSS.

Clinton C. Brown:

Ala Ollie North?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Exactly. And we were proud of our unit. Not that we didn't do anything that might not be considered legitimate, because you had to. No intelligence agency can exist otherwise. But there were things we just didn't do and would have refused to have done.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well and perhaps war was more gentlemanly then, too.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yes. And well as far as I'm concerned, there is a difference in being in a unit like that during war. In other words, anything -- most anything that is done during a war is acceptable because the other side is going to be much worse than you can believe.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

So that's an excuse, but still it is true. I mean, you're going to do whatever you can to disrupt the other intelligence units, disrupt anything you can in the enemy territory.

Clinton C. Brown:

When you look back at the reported attempts at assassinating unwanted figures like -- well, I can't think of the occasion now. They have all been unsuccessful; haven't they?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Why?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well most of the countries that we have gone into where there has been -- to attempt an assassination is generally speaking a dictatorship. And it is much easier to be secretive in a dictatorship or to protect your people in a dictatorship than it is in a democracy. I mean, it is so easy to do what you wish in a democracy.

Clinton C. Brown:

Do you think that at some point the Mafia and the CIA are joined?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well, I couldn't -- I couldn't really answer that question because I really don't know. I do know that there was some -- evidently some goings-on as far as during the Kennedy --

Clinton C. Brown:

Love-making?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

-- administration, when there was an attempt to overthrow Castro.

Clinton C. Brown:

I was trying to think of the person that they attempted assassination when Jimmy Carter was president and --

Unidentified female speaker:

Reagan.

Clinton C. Brown:

Who was it?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, Reagan would have -- yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, no, I mean we were trying to kill some dictator and we fell on our face. And, I mean, did it in the public eye, too. It really was -- I think we had difficulty getting the group out that was supposed to assassinate -- I don't even remember who they were trying to assassinate then at the time. But that kind of thing. Do you think that will always go on as long as there are wars, that there always will be assassination groups or will people now rely on the bomb, which seems to be the weapon of choice in all of the more current?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well the bomb itself is not -- is not something that can be used if you've got two nations that have got it.

Clinton C. Brown:

I mean bombing, just bombing, like fertilizer bomb or like a plastic bomb and was in the World Trade Building and that kind of thing. I mean, one man with a suitcase of explosives seems to be the way that the countries go about it now, if they want to destroy a person or a place.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, I think more and more that is going to happen. And it is the easiest way, it is the cheapest way, and the most terrifying way because it is the hardest to stop. I think they have done very well so far in being able to find the groups that have done this. And in some cases you have got people that are not mentally well, like what happened in Washington recently and what has happened in other places, in Oklahoma.

Clinton C. Brown:

And Houston maybe?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And maybe Houston. So it is something that you have to be careful of the statements you make. But I can recall I was not recruited because I can't accept it, but I was recruited to -- asked if I would join some special groups that were going to do some type of work in several of the Central American countries, which I refused because I didn't believe in that. I don't believe in that sort of thing. But they had asked me, others had asked me, well, what do you think you could have done? And I said, if you gave me ten men, with the proper type of plastics, I said, I could put the entire city of New York at a standstill.

Clinton C. Brown:

Really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Basically it is very simple. Now it is getting harder because people are being aware of what could have happened, but right after World War II and for several years nobody guarded the power stations. Nobody did any of this type of protective work. They hardly even hired guards. If the guards were there, they were unarmed. And ten men could have gone in through the city and within a period of maybe one week and literally brought the city down to its knees.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, because the power goes, the water goes, the lights go, the heat goes.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Everything goes. Of course they would have immediately declared -- brought in martial law and brought in the National Guard and the Army units. And eventually they would have gotten it under control. But you can do things like that. I mean, small units are very, very dangerous. And that was the type of work we did to a great extent.

Clinton C. Brown:

Your experiences in the service were very unusual, in a sense very traumatic. Did you suffer from that after leaving the service?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, it was very hard to settle down. Very, very difficult because you -- like you said, you were used to doing things actively --

Clinton C. Brown:

Directly.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

-- and directly. And, yeah, I mean, you can't help but have a difficult time in settling down into -- but I would imagine any type of combat unit would have the same problem. There was a marvelous American film one time with Frederick March -- yeah, and, again, you being the film expert, I can't -- I can't think of it. But it was a marvelous film of these -- this small group of Americans coming back and starting their life in the United States, and how some could accept it and come couldn't.

Clinton C. Brown:

Best Years of Our Lives, perhaps?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That's it, that's it. And I think that's very, very true. And my wife, Mary, too, had the same type of problems because I had met her really just casually in the United States. And we took the same boat over and --

Clinton C. Brown:

To China?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

To China. Well, we were going to India first because there was no place you could land in China. The Japanese would have destroyed the boat as we got close. So we landed in India. But we were engaged the third day out on the ship. And then I remember buying her the ring in Calcutta.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And so she -- she had -- she was in India for a while, and then went to Ceylon or Sri Lanka, as it is called now, and was in the headquarters of General Lord Mountbatten, but under the OSS. She was a civilian. But civilians, as I said, worked for OSS.

Clinton C. Brown:

Was there an official disbanding of the OSS after the war?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Yeah, yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Mustering out?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Mustering out. Well this time the instant I got back to the United States, I was immediately mustered out. I got a letter from the OSS, and that's about all it was, telling me, you know, that they would like to continue seeing me and to apply for any future work, if anything was necessary, but at the moment, there was no more need.

Clinton C. Brown:

Convenience of the government?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Convenience of the government. And after joining the reserves. And then I did try -- I did try to get in to the CIA. I'm kind of glad I didn't succeed, but the CIA was looking for highly-trained scientists or people who had their -- not only their master's but their doctorate. And my type of work would have been behind -- not necessarily behind the lines, but in embassies. And because I just had no other training for that outside of doing the dirty jobs. Now my wife was accepted, but she didn't join them.

Clinton C. Brown:

So when you got out, you had two years of college and an awful lot of information that you couldn't use.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

That I couldn't use. And I went back to college at the University of California for one year, and then got very ill again from what I had contracted in China. And then decided I needed a job, went to work, and finished off my degree at night school.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, at night school. It has been a very unusual career, don't you think?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well, I suppose so. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, but --

Clinton C. Brown:

You have three brothers?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I have two brothers, both who died this year.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see. Did they have like situations?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Not quite, but my eldest brother, the one who was born in Russia, he became an intelligence officer with the Air Force.

Clinton C. Brown:

Really?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

The Air Corps. And my other brother joined the Merchant Marine, he loved the sea. And he had several very interesting trips carrying equipment over to Europe and to Russia.

Clinton C. Brown:

I certainly hope you're writing a book.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

Well, I haven't had the time yet, maybe one of these days. I have written, you know, stuff that was purely for individuals who had been in my units, the stories of the -- what I've been telling you, of the missions. But these I did very quickly. And just basically as if it was being written by an Army report, you know, just the facts.

Unidentified female speaker:

What did you end up doing as your job?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

As a civilian?

Unidentified female speaker:

Uh-huh.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

I joined, strangely enough, the same firm my father had joined. And it was an international firm with Paris headquarters. And then they moved -- they had so many areas of interest that they formed headquarters in every country, in the United States and South America and Canada. And I served with them for 40 years.

Clinton C. Brown:

My.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And traveled all over, literally, with them. And even after I retired for about five years I went on trade missions with the -- with the U.S. government, but working for my own firm, but doing work to keep my own company involved in what was going on. And so I had an opportunity to keep traveling, give talks all over the world and try to get more U.S. business.

Clinton C. Brown:

And develop your love for opera?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

And develop my love for opera. That will never leave me. And that I got through my grandmother.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

When I was seven years old, she started taking me to the opera.

Clinton C. Brown:

Is there anything you want to add?

Rafael D. Hirtz:

At the moment, I can't think of anything.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good. Thank you very much, Ralph. It has been an extremely interesting interview.

Rafael D. Hirtz:

It has been my pleasure. (Interview concluded.)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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