Last December, WVFC was honored to feature the story of former intelligence officer Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn in “For Pearl Harbor Day, Remembering One Woman’s War.” This week, just before the day when we all think hard about the costs of war, Vacirca-Quinn was finally honored by the Army and U.S. Senate (see right) for her contribution to winning World War II.
The writer of this article, former Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, championed Vacirca-Quinn’s cause with the Army and her Senators and was there to witness the official recognition ceremony.
Tomorrow, we’ll again honor Memorial Day with a piece by Lily Casura and former Sgt. Susan Avila-Smith, who’ve just returned from a week in a training course on working with vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. — Ed.
This Memorial Day, 94-year-old former Army Sgt. Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn has something to smile about—something that ought to have happened 65 years ago in the aftermath of World War II, and that the Army and history had almost forgotten.
In her quaint home in Silver Spring, Maryland, honored guests gathered to celebrate the actions of a hero and member of what some have referred to as “The Greatest Generation.” Sgt. Vacirca-Quinn, now in the twilight of her life, was finally awarded for her distinguished service in the famed OSS.
Friend and Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Sternfeld presented a Congressional Certificate signed by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The certificate reads:
Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn, WW2 – In recognition of your invaluable contributions in the U.S. Army, Women’s Army Corps during World War II while serving with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor agency of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Italian Theatre of Operations, and your exemplary trailblazing performance set the stage for increasing roles of women in the United States military in the later part of the 20th century and beyond.”
Vacirca-Quinn’s foreign service in North Africa and Italy during WWII lasted one year, six months, and thirty days. As an interpreter [Italian], and an analyst of Italian intelligence in the OSS Special Intelligence [SI] section, Vacirca-Quinn provided the United States military with the highest grade of intelligence reports.
Vacirca-Quinn’s diligent night-and-day intelligence gathering, interpreting, and reporting of the most sensitive information enabled Allied Forces to successfully carry out “Operation Tidal Wave,” which crippled Nazi Germany’s oil-producing capacity in Ploesti, Romania. The success of Operation Tidal Wave enable the Allies to make significant, outcome-changing gains in the war.
“Sgt. Vacirca-Quinn was indeed one of the many unsung heroes of the OSS. Unfortunately, quite a number of soldiers were not recognized for their honorable service and sacrifice in World War II. I’m happy to be able to be here today on this special occasion,” said retired Army Colonel William H. Pietsch, legendary former OSS captain serving, like Vacirca, with the international clandestine mission Operation Jedburgh.
Perhaps the most significant work by Sgt. Vacirca-Quinn concerned the widows and surviving families of Italian partisans killed in the line of duty during OSS Operational Group missions. In 1945, she single-handedly pressured the U.S. Department of State to grant the payment of death gratuities to these survivors at the most favorable rate of exchange. This action alone was a crucial factor in the overall USG effort to prevent a Communist Party take over of the Italian Government in postwar Italy.
Turnhan Robinson, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, was on hand to award Vacirca-Quinn with a “Freedom Salute – Certificate of Appreciation” on behalf of the Army and the Honorable Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“We will do our utmost to ensure that Sgt. Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn’s service to our nation is honored and included in the National Museum of the United States Army upon its completion in 2015,” said Robinson.