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Pierre (Peter) J. Ortiz

Date of birth: August 5, 1913
Date of death: May 16, 1988
Burial location: Arlington, VA
Place of Birth: New York, New York
Home of record: LaJolla California
Status: POW

Peter Ortiz was born in the United States but was raised and educated in France. He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1932 and participated in several campaigns in French colonies in Africa. After returning to the U.S. in 1937, he served as a technical director for military films in Hollywood, but re-joined the French Foreign Legion in October 1939 and was wounded and captured by the Germans in June 1940, and was held in POW camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria, before escaping in October 1941. Ortiz made his way to Lisbon, Portugal, and then to the United States in December 1941. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was recruited to the OSS, serving in North Africa until he was wounded in April 1943. He parachuted into Southern France in January 1944, serving there until his return to England in May 1944. He returned to France in August 1944, but was captured and taken as a POW by Germans during a firefight on August 16, 1944, and was held until he was liberated at Westertimke, Germany, on April 27, 1945.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Navy Cross

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Major Pierre (Peter) J. Ortiz (MCSN: 0-12779), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism while attached to the United States Naval Command, Office of Strategic Services, London, England, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in enemy-occupied territory, from 8 January to 20 May 1944. Operating in civilian clothes and aware that he would be subject to execution in the event of his capture, Major Ortiz parachuted from an airplane with two other officers of an Inter-Allied mission to reorganize existing Marquis groups in the region of Rhone. By his tact, resourcefulness and leadership, he was largely instrumental in affecting the acceptance of the mission by local resistance leaders, and also in organizing parachute operations for the delivery of arms, ammunition and equipment for use by the Marquis in his region. Although his identity had become known to the Gestapo with the resultant increase in personal hazard, he voluntarily conducted to the Spanish border four Royal Air Force officers who had been shot down in his region, and later returned to resume his duties. Repeatedly leading successful raids during the period of this assignment, Major Ortiz inflicted heavy casualties on enemy forces greatly superior in number, with small losses to his own forces. By his heroic leadership and astuteness in planning and executing these hazardous forays, Major Ortiz served as an inspiration to his subordinates and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: January 8 - 20, 1944

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Major

Division: Office of Strategic Services (London)

Navy Cross

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Major Pierre (Peter) J. Ortiz (MCSN: 0-12779), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism while serving with the Office of Strategic Services during operations behind enemy Axis lines in the Savoie Department of France, from 1 August 1944, to 27 April 1945. After parachuting into a region where his activities had made him an object of intensive search by the Gestapo, Major Ortiz valiantly continued his work in coordinating and leading resistance groups in that section. When he and his team were attacked and surrounded during a special mission designed to immobilize enemy reinforcements stationed in that area, he disregarded the possibility of escape and, in an effort to spare villagers severe reprisals by the Gestapo, surrendered to this sadistic Geheim Staats Polizei. Subsequently imprisoned and subjected to numerous interrogations, he divulged nothing, and the story of this intrepid Marine Major and his team became a brilliant legend in that section of France where acts of bravery were considered commonplace. By his outstanding loyalty and self-sacrificing devotion to duty, Major Ortiz contributed materially to the success of operations against a relentless enemy, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: SPOT AWARD, Commander, 12th Fleet: Serial 14928

Action Date: August 1, 1944 - April 27, 1945

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Major

Division: Office of Strategic Services (France)

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Cold War

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel Pierre (Peter) J. Ortiz (MCSN: 0-12779), United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States.

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Colonel