Peter J. Ortiz

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Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz
Peter Ortiz.jpg
Colonel Peter J. Ortiz, U.S. Marine Corps
Born (1913-07-05)July 5, 1913
New York City
Died May 16, 1988(1988-05-16) (aged 74)
Allegiance  United States
 France
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
French Foreign Legion
Rank Colonel, USMCR
Acting Lieutenant, FFL
Battles/wars

French conquest of Morocco
World War II

Awards Navy Cross (2)
Legion of Merit w/ Combat "V"
Purple Heart Medal (2)
American Campaign Medal
EAME Campaign Medal (3)
World War II Victory Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
British Order of the British Empire
French Légion d'Honneur
French Médaille militaire
French Croix de Guerre (5)
French Médaille des Évadés
French Croix du Combattant
French Médaille Coloniale
French Médaille des Blesses
Order of Ouissam Alaouite

Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz OBE (July 5, 1913 – May 16, 1988) was a United States Marine Corps colonel who received two Navy Crosses for extraordinary heroism as a major in World War II. He served in both North Africa and Europe throughout the war, as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), operating behind enemy lines several times. He became an American film actor after the war.

Military career

Although born in New York[1] to a Spanish-American mother[2] and French-American[3] father, Ortiz was educated at the University of Grenoble in France.[3] He spoke ten languages, including Spanish, French, German and Arabic.[2]

On February 1, 1932, at the age of 19, he joined the French Foreign Legion for five years' service in North Africa.[2][3][4][5] He was sent first to the Legion's training camp at Sidi Bel-Abbes, Algeria. He later served in Morocco, where he was promoted to corporal in 1933 and sergeant in 1935. He was awarded the Croix de guerre twice during a campaign against the Rif.[3] He also received the Médaille militaire.[5] An acting lieutenant, he was offered a commission as a second lieutenant if he would re-enlist.[5] Instead, when his contract expired in 1937, he went to Hollywood to serve as a technical adviser for war films.[3]

With the outbreak of World War II and the United States still neutral, he re-enlisted in the Foreign Legion in October 1939 as a sergeant, and received a battlefield commission in May 1940.[5] He was wounded while blowing up a fuel dump[5] and captured by the Germans during the 1940 Battle of France.[3] He escaped the following year via Lisbon and made his way to the United States.[5]

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on June 22, 1942.[5] As a result of his training and experience, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant after only 40 days in service.[1][3] He was promoted to captain on December 3.[5] With his knowledge of the region, he was sent to Tangier, Morocco.[4] He conducted reconnaissance behind enemy lines in Tunisia for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).[3][5] At the time, though most of Morocco was a French protectorate, Tangiers was a protectorate of neutral Spain. During a night mission, Ortiz was seriously wounded in the right hand in an encounter with a German patrol and was sent back to the United States to recover.[5]

In 1943, Ortiz became a member of the OSS. On January 6, 1944, he was dropped by parachute into the Haute-Savoie region of German-occupied France as part of the three-man "Union" mission, with Colonel Pierre Fourcaud of the French secret service and Captain Thackwaite from the British Special Operations Executive, to evaluate the capabilities of the Resistance in the Alpine region.[3][5] He drove four downed RAF pilots to the border of neutral Spain,[3] before leaving France with his team in late May. Promoted to major, Ortiz parachuted back into France on August 1, 1944, this time as the commander of the "Union II" mission.[3][5] He was captured by the Germans on August 16. In April 1945, he and three other prisoners of war escaped while being moved to another camp, but after ten days with little or no food, returned to their old camp after discovering that the prisoners had virtually taken control.[5] On April 29, the camp was liberated.

He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was discharged from active duty in 1946 and returned to Hollywood. On March 1, 1955, he retired in the Marine Corps and received the rank of colonel on the retirement list because he was decorated in combat.[5] In April 1954, he volunteered to return to active duty to serve as a Marine observer in Indochina. The Marine Corps did not accept his request because "current military policies will not permit the assignment requested."[5]

Later years

Upon returning to civilian life, Ortiz became an actor.[6] Ortiz appeared in a number of films, several with director John Ford, including Rio Grande, in which he played "Captain St. Jacques". According to his son, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Peter J. Ortiz, Jr., "My father was an awful actor but he had great fun appearing in movies".[3] At least two Hollywood films were based upon his personal exploits, 13 Rue Madeleine (1947) and Operation Secret (1952).[1]

Ortiz died of cancer on May 16, 1988, at the age of 74, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Jean and their son Peter J. Ortiz, Jr.[7]

Military decorations

Ortiz was the most highly decorated member of the OSS.[3] His decorations include two Navy Crosses, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V", two Purple Heart Medals, the Order of the British Empire, the French Legion of Honor (Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur), and five French Croix de Guerre.[5]

Navy Cross citations

Navycross.jpg
ORTIZ, PIERRE (PETER) J.
(First Award)
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Place: Office of Strategic Services (London)
Date of Action: January 8–20, 1944
Citation:
ORTIZ, PIERRE (PETER) J.
(Second Award)
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Place: Office of Strategic Services (France)
Date of Action: August 1, 1944 – April 27, 1945
Citation:

Other honors

In August 1994, Centron, France held a ceremony in which the town center was renamed "Place Colonel Peter Ortiz".[7]

Partial filmography

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Harris, LCpl Benjamin (March 24, 2010). "The Unknown Legend". Marines magazine. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Hollywood Stars and Their Service in the Marine Corps". Humanities and Social Sciences Net Online. November 1999. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "A Not So Quiet American". Terre Information Magazine (official monthly publication of the French Army). November 1999. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Lieutenant Colonel Harry W. Edwards. "A Different War: Marines in Europe and North Africa" (PDF). USMC Training and Education Command. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Benis Frank. "Colonel Peter Julien Ortiz: OSS Marine, Actor, Californian". California State Military Museum. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  6. ^ Wise, James E.; Anne Collier Rehill (1999). "Peter J. Ortiz". Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines (2nd ed.). Naval Institute Press. pp. 53–66. ISBN 978-1-55750-949-9. Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Yearly Chronologies of the United States Marine Corps – 1994". USMC Training and Education Command. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Navy Cross Citations USMC – World War II at the Wayback Machine (archived January 19, 2008) (archived from the original on 2008-01-19).

External links

  • Peter Julien Ortiz, arlingtoncemetery.net
  • "Herringbone Cloak—GI Dagger: Marines of the OSS"
  • Peter J. Ortiz at the Internet Movie Database
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