I was sworn to secrecy for 65 years and can finally talk about my life as an OSS agent. I've seen it all from behind the enemy line.

This is my second AMA. I did one 6 months ago, but I had no idea so many questions would come in and I didn't dedicate time to it. So many questions went unanswered. I'm honored to see so many questions and interest.

I will be here for the next 2 hours to answer your questions. I'll do the best to answer as many as I can. I'll do my best to check-in over the next few days and answer anymore questions that come in.

Proof: http://imgur.com/gallery/a3hGzrD Proof (album): http://imgur.com/a/LflPP

NOTE: I am not savvy enough on the computer, so my grandson is typing as I answer your questions. He also is taking care of posting the pictures.

**Grandson here - My grandfather is going to take the night off. We'll try to check in tomorrow. Thank you for all of your questions! If you are interested here is a link to the book you see in the proof pictures: http://amzn.com/B00ODQ82OS

Also Here is a video interview his nephew made a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rjVv1u3sao

Have a good night and thanks again for all the interest and questions. I know there are still so many unanswered questions and hoping we can get most of them answered soon.

Grandson here - the last AMA was under "ossjohncardinalli". We didn't write the password down and there wasn't an email on file to reset it. So, I had to create a new account. We had to do the same for imgur. I have reused some of the pictures in the previous AMA and posted a new "proof" photo taken today. Anything that isn't spoken or answered by my grandfather, I will always put "Grandson here" before I write it, so you know the source.

Comments: 499 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

Socrates_Burrito149 karma

My grandfather was taken from his Austrian farm and drafted into the Nazi infantry when he was 17. He never liked to speak much of the war except with my grandmother. I never felt proud of him but I respected him for what he did to keep his family safe, especially given that he lost his arm in Norway. He lived in the US most of the latter part of his life and never had any run ins that I'd heard of regarding his past (although he wasn't too vocal like I said).

Anyways, did you ever meet a former Nazi in person? If so, how was that encounter? What were you feeling at the time? Did meeting that person change your perspective?

If not, how do you think you would've reacted had you met a former Nazi in person? Would you still harbor ill-will?

johncardinalli232 karma

I never met a Nazi in person. I can't say I would have any ill-will. Being on the ground, I took orders and had a job to do. They took orders and had a job to do. I'm talking like to like. I am not talking about those who made orders. That is another story.

Socrates_Burrito92 karma

I'm talking like to like. I am not talking about those who made orders.

Although I find it difficult, I try to keep this perspective as well. An order was an order for those without control.

Thank you sir for your answer and your service.

johncardinalli115 karma

I am glad you are able to see the perspective. It is hard to articulate. What the Nazi regime did was horrible beyond belief.

johncardinalli143 karma

Many have asked how life was after the War. After my wife passed away, I wrote my first book about my experiences while in WWII. I have so much more to say then what I wrote. I've never written a book, now I know what writer's block is. I need to find a ghostwriter!

**Grandson here - The book he wrote is titled "65 Years of Secrecy". If you are interested it is on Amazon

marsjazztrio122 karma

Tell your grandson to spell sergeant right. Were you awarded/bestowed/given a Fairbairn-Sykes knife? If so, how highly do you prize it?

johncardinalli276 karma

I trained directly with him. He told me to disarm him and he cut me. The day I shipped out, he called me into his office and said "Cardinalli, take my knife -- you earned it." I carried it with me everyday while overseas. I still have the knife here is a picture of it.

Proof of Knife: http://imgur.com/a/klHZG

**Grandson here: spelling lesson learned

johncardinalli117 karma

It is getting late. I am going to wrap it up for tonight. I will check back tomorrow evening. Thank you everyone! Have a good night.

jtom88103 karma

What operations did you take part on?

Also favorite memory of the war? Worst memory?

Glad to see you do an AMA not too many WW2 vets left now

johncardinalli392 karma

My worst memory was one of my woman agents, Katja who was Polish, I took across the Rhine River to gather intelligence ran over a mine and killed her. She committed herself to gathering intelligence, even slept with a German Captain to get intelligence.

My favorite memory of the war is when it was over.

kioba69 karma

After seeing one of the worst aspects of war, do you think humanity should avoid violence at all costs to resolve international conflicts? What are your thoughts on how the U.S ended the war with Imperial Japan?

Thank you for your service even after all the secrecy.

johncardinalli160 karma

Women and children were killed when we bombed Japan. I hated that, I don't believe in that. Many US civilians were killed when they attacked us in Pearl Harbor, but that doesn't mean we do the same. What I will say is, and many of you will disagree, I do believe in certain techniques such as waterboarding. I can go on and on about this. Violence will always be part of this world. For international conflict, I wish all of our allies would put 10% - 15% of their troops on the ground, accumulating thousands of soldiers across the board, not just the U.S. Again, I can go on and on about this, it is a hard question to answer.

sryguys69 karma

What was a typical day like for you while serving in the OSS? Any close calls with the enemy like being captured or fired upon?

johncardinalli93 karma

A lot of close calls. Being right there during the Battle of Remagen - Bridge of Remagen across Rhine was very rememberable.

johncardinalli61 karma

I am going to take a break for dinner. I'll check back in a few hours. Thanks for all your questions and keep them coming.

nintendosmith10160 karma

I'm not sure if you've already answered this question, but what was your duty during your time with the OSS? I'm taking a course on modern espionage right now and would love to hear what it was like being in the OSS during the war.

johncardinalli105 karma

Outside the the advanced technology we have today, espionage depends on the smarts of people. How do you out smart the other guy. That hasn't changed.

Madlutian55 karma

My Uncle Michele was in the OSS, he told me about driving around France in a Blue Ambulance and killing Nazi's with that knife he had... the one with the sheath that looks kind of like a spatula. I know that it's a long shot, but did you happen to cross paths?

johncardinalli59 karma

I don't know him, but it was worth asking.

hypnotoad2355 karma

Did you serve on in the OSS after the war as it became the CIA?

johncardinalli140 karma

I served in WWII while it was the OSS under Donovan. The war ended and I was discharged before the OSS was shut down and Truman signed off on creating the CIA.

Speaking of Donovan, I have my book for sale in many local establishments in Monterey and Carmel. A woman approached me while at Cottage Kitchen in Carmel, she looked through my book and started crying saying you know my great grandfather Bill Donovan! We didn't get to speak much at the time, but I am meeting up with her next week for lunch. I can't wait to talk to her.

Monk_In_A_Hurry34 karma

Thank you for taking the time, both for the AMA and for your service! Its sort of funny how little material there is on Wild Bill, considering just how important he was to the development of American intelligence; every little bit of primary source information helps.

Do you mind if I ask what Donovan was like to work with? Thanks!

johncardinalli68 karma

Donovan was a well liked, respected man. Very smart and loyal to his troops. I believe he is one of the best Generals this country has had.

Skull-Demon0 karma

So the name was Donovan Cardinalli, right?

johncardinalli4 karma

I think you have Donovan confused. William J Donovan formed the OSS under Roosevelt. My last name is Cardinalli.

Dabat151 karma

Hello, and thank you for this "Ask Me Anything". Did you ever go back to France, England or Germany after the war? If so, what was it like?

johncardinalli180 karma

Yes. I went back to Holland and Belgium in the 60's. I went to visit an old friend that I met in Holland while in the OSS. He was chief of police in a small village in Holland named who gave me a map. Many of us were in Holland at some point during the OSS and I needed to post my agents in various areas. We talked about if I was caught with that map, it would have cost the lives of many. That map was my bible. Yellow circles are where I placed agents. Here are some pictures of the map:


Nickthedick5551 karma

What did your daily diet consist of?

johncardinalli104 karma

There were many days when I had nothing to eat. When I did I ate K-Rations and C-Rations. Mostly K-Rations, because C-Rations was wet food and had to heat them up.

johncardinalli46 karma

I am back. I'll be here for another 30 minutes or so.

suaveitguy46 karma

They say people are happiest starting in their 70s, because they stop worrying about all the small, medium, and even most large things. Have you found that to be true?

johncardinalli64 karma


mustard81646 karma

What is your best/favourite memory from your time in the OSS?

johncardinalli190 karma

Many. But, believe it or not, it has to do with getting Scotch from my sister. I sent a letter to her a few months earlier telling her how things were. I jokingly said I could use some Scotch. To my surprise, 2 months later, I got a package with cans that looked like canned food. I opened it up and it was full of Scotch. Twelve cans! My family is from Monterey, CA and my sister was a good friend of the owner of Hovden Canning Co. where the Monterey Bay Aquarium stands now. She said my brother needs some Scotch, so they canned it.

BubbleButtMilkTea28 karma

I'm not too far from Monterey! Are you yourself from Monterey? If so, when is the last time you've visited there?

johncardinalli122 karma

I grew up in Monterey. I now live in Hollister. I am in Monterey at least once a week to visit my late wife, Josephine.

mynosemynose45 karma

Hello - Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!

Is there any particularly frightening/historically significant moment you were involved in? (asides from the entire war, of course).

johncardinalli74 karma

In enemy territory it was frightening the entire time. Being there when the Bridge of Remagen was captured and blown up.

seluj123437 karma

Hey ! Thanks for your service sir ! My question is : is all the hype around spies' gadgets carried by cinema justified by reality ? If so, what's the coolest gadgets you ever used ?

johncardinalli77 karma

Other than portable radios, it was very low tech. We were on the ground and moving around at all times.

suaveitguy33 karma

What did you think of the farmers who had to stay at home to work themselves to the bone during WW2? Did they get much appreciation at the time?

Edit:Here is a little background on the US farming situation during WW2.
My own grandfather had enlisted in Canada, but was pulled out of service to make up for the 6 others who left the farm. Pretty much just him at 700% for 5+ years. Farmers were not allowed to do any work but farm, while the non-enlisted farm hands available at the time took lucrative jobs in the factories or elsewhere. Farmers did seem to get a lot of appreciation at the time, starvation in civilian Europe was a huge problem they helped curb. A lot of articles about the 'soldiers with a plow' etc... at the time. They don't get hardly any recognition since though.

johncardinalli70 karma

Our whole country, not just farmers, worked themselves to the bone during WWII to keep our military and country running.

Kaskar32 karma

What sort of information were you looking for? Would it be specific or would it be "let's see what we can find"?

johncardinalli65 karma

We were tasked to gather information about everything and anything we could use. It was very broad.

Triburos30 karma

If it's not too much of a bother, could you share some stories and experiences you had with your wife? You said earlier that you still manage to find the time to pay her a visit atleast once a week. That's not only heartwarming, but it's an incredible tradition to hold despite all you've been through.

I know the question is pretty vague, so just as some ideas; how did you meet / what did she do while you were in the military / what were your favorite activities. That sorta thing.

Lastly, it goes without saying - and just about everyone else has mentioned it already - you're an incredible man! To not say thank you for what you did would be unjust in my opinion.

johncardinalli51 karma

We met on Fisherman's Warf in Monterey while I was fishing. She was sightseeing with friend. While I was in the war, she lived with her Mother in Santa Clara, CA. She would write to me everyday, but it would take a month or two to get the letters.

romanmoses29 karma

Have you seen the movie "saving private ryan"? If so, did it actually resemble WW2 warfare as accurately as they say it did?

johncardinalli70 karma

The movie was done very well. As far as the accuracy, I will say it showed how difficult war was for everyone.

suaveitguy26 karma

Were you active in legion halls after the war? What was the social life like with all the other vets? Was there cigars, poker, and stag films? A lot of evidence of PTSD there?

johncardinalli123 karma

I wasn't really active in legion halls after the war. As far as PTSD, we used to call it shell shock. Although, we didn't talk about it. It was a different time, work was plentiful after the war, the country was fully supported our troops, it made for an easier transition back to normal life. It is a different world now. Our troops don't have the support we did and I think this makes PTSD even worse and needs to be taken seriously.

Texans72125 karma

Thank you for your service! What do you wish the 20-somethings of the world knew about your generation?

johncardinalli118 karma

Good question. Work hard and don't expect a hand out. Keep your head up and don't blame the other guy.

PugiPugiPugi4325 karma

What do you think are the main steps we can take to make sure another World War doesn't happen, at least in the foreseeable future?

And thanks for taking time out of your day for this!:)

johncardinalli142 karma

Let the leaders fight amongst themselves in a ring, leave the public out of it. There would be no more wars.

RustyNumbat24 karma

G'day, a pleasure for the chance to ask a veteran questions -

Did you learn to speak French or German fluently at all during the war for your operations? The movies would have you believe all soldiers either didn't care at all to learn anything at all, which seems crazy given it might save your life!

johncardinalli51 karma

I speak Italian fluently. French and German wasn't my native tongue, so I wasn't going to fool the Germans if I got caught, even if I spoke it fluently. However, we did have agents that did speak in native tongue for the purposes of blending in.

MajesticPlatypus924 karma

is being a spy as cool as it's made out to be?

johncardinalli137 karma

I wasn't 007 with a blonde in each arm. It was war.

johncardinalli124 karma

Thinking about this again. I did confiscated a few items here and there, that was exciting. When we raided one of the colonel's houses part of Gestapo, I took his gun. It was made by the same gun maker who made guns for Napoleon LePage. Here are a few pictures of it.

Pictures: http://imgur.com/a/UJqg0

noonanky23 karma

Hello, I'm very honored to ask you a question. What was it like being in close combat with the Nazis what is it like coping with the atrocities of war?

johncardinalli47 karma

I think about it now and then. I think about what I saw. But, we had a job to do and that is how I justify it.

_monochromia23 karma

Good day sir! Thank you for the service you have done for the world :)

I would like to ask, how did you feel when the you were informed that the war was over? Other than being jovial? Did you ever have this feeling of asking yourself "at what cost?" Maybe there was someone you knew that didn't say... "make it"? In short, how did knowing the war was over feel for you?

johncardinalli41 karma

I just got back to Washington DC from Europe when I heard the war was ending in Europe. The OSS was then preparing me for a CBI (China Burma India) mission because of my experience. I said hell no! I volunteered for the OSS and I completed my mission. So I was assigned to war crimes trials. I completed my work and was then discharged a few months later.

sweeney7122 karma

while in Europe, what country did you eat the best in? what country did you eat the worst in?

johncardinalli66 karma

While in Europe during the war, believe it or not, the best place I ate was in England. As soon as I shipped out and landed on Omaha Beach, I was on K and C-Rations.

Jankelope18 karma

How did the War affect you long term. How did it feel to finally get home and live a semi-normal life?

johncardinalli36 karma

I had a little drawback, but I had to support my family. I became a commercial fisherman in Alaska and Monterey, eventually starting my own business as a painting contractor.

AlabamaJesus18 karma

Thank you for your service. What was the most high tech gadgets you got to use?

johncardinalli47 karma

We had portable voice radios and portable Morse code radios. But, all of our communication across enemy line was in Morse code. Other than that, it was my .45 pistol, .25 pistol, and Fairbairn knife. Nothing high tech. Unless you consider all the equipment in my jungle medical kit, including cyanide as being high tech.

suaveitguy17 karma

How important were letters from the homefront, when it was strangers sending them? Did you ever get packages from school kids or anything like that in WW2?

johncardinalli66 karma

We never got letters or packages from strangers or school kids. Only from family. It just reminded me of my wife sending me salami a few times. It took a month or two to get, so it was all rotten and moldy. I got a note from the postal man to tell my wife not to send anymore salami. I still laugh about this.

chrome-spokes16 karma

Maybe off base with this, and also have not yet read all the questions and your answers, but here goes...

1) After the War, after the OSS became CIA, were you still part of it with the CIA?

2) Now with that, comes the obvious and perhaps most inane question, what is your take on JFK's assassination?

Lastly, thank you so much for your hand in defeating one of history's worst of regimes.

johncardinalli31 karma

1) I was discharged in October 1945 when it was still officially the OSS. The CIA didn't become official until Truman signed it in 1947. However, If I remember correctly, it already started the transition in July 1945, so there may have been some overlap. I can't remember exactly.

2) JFK - this is a tough one... I really don't know

jedaii_knight15 karma

Hello Reddit is honored to have you back. My question is why 65 years? Such a specific number to use or did your superiors just pull that number outta their ass? Also, any funny or goofy stories you can recall?

johncardinalli42 karma

In 2008, the US National Archives made everything public, it was okay to speak about it.

rustoneal15 karma

Do you recall a Patrick O'Neal, maybe from Louisiana?

He was my grandfather and the family has had suspicions of his involvement with the OSS, and I know this is a bit of a stretch to ask.

johncardinalli18 karma

I don't know him. What what were your suspicions? If you give me more detail maybe I can decipher if he was part of the OSS.

berchu9514 karma

How do you feel about ISIS and what should the world do with it? Destroy them immediately, or gradually? Or leave countries like Syria deal with it?

I cant describe how much the world owes people like you, and Im happy that there's humans who risked their life to protect the world we live in now

johncardinalli47 karma

We need more cooperation from our international allies and collectively engage ground troops. It has to be dealt with immeidately. The longer we wait the stronger they become.


Did you ever meet Eisenhower?

johncardinalli35 karma

Never met Eisenhower. But, I met Bill Donovan on three different occasions.

flmvdvsrg13 karma

What is your opinion on politics and military action? I read that the two most popular candidates with the army right now are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Some theorize it's because both candidates want to get out of the Middle East and stop risking more lives. Any thoughts?

johncardinalli47 karma

It is a mess over there. We've pulled back it got worse. We have to deal with it and I believe it involves putting more troops on the ground, but, our international allies need to do the same.

chamuth10 karma

When you stop to reflect on your life, are you pleased with how everything has gone and do you feel your life has been something to be proud of?

johncardinalli33 karma

I am proud of my life and what I have accomplished.

JaTae9 karma

How did serving in the war affect you later in life?

johncardinalli29 karma

It was a different time then. Looking back, it is hard to say. I lived a good and prosperous life.

ANiceBigDeck8 karma

Thank you for your service, and thank you for taking the time to do this AMA. I'm a recent college graduate and I'm still trying to find my way around the real world. Do you have any advice for people who are about to head out on their own and start their lives?

johncardinalli30 karma

That is hard to answer. I will say, if you are having a hard time figuring out what you want to do, join the service. Our military needs smart people, especially in intelligence.

butt_sludge8 karma

do the nightmares stop?

johncardinalli59 karma

Dreams not nightmares.

Skull-Demon7 karma

According to Wikipedia, it said that the OSS had did propaganda, post-war planning and subversion. What did have to say about this?

johncardinalli16 karma

I know they were doing a lot of propaganda, but I was not part of that.

mavambvb6 karma

How was chow back then? Have you had one of the more recent MRE's?

johncardinalli19 karma

K-Rations and C-Rations. I haven't had a current MRE. But, I can't imagine they taste any better. It is food to keep you going.

Chozo_Hybrid5 karma

Did you ever meet any New Zealanders during the war? If so, what were they like compared to the people you served with? If not, what was the food like during war time, did you eat fairly well when in the war zones?

johncardinalli14 karma

Never met any New Zealanders. The food was great in England during training. After that, it was K-Rations and C-Rations.

enigma805 karma

First off, thank you for everything that you did during your service.

Just wondering if you've read any of W.E.B. Griffin's novels about WWII and specifically the Men at War series about the OSS. If you have what your thoughts are on them and if you have not, are there any novels you would recommend?

Sincerely thank you.

johncardinalli7 karma

I haven't read any of those novels. Sorry, I really don't have any recommendations.

promieniowanie4 karma

It's an honour to ask you a question! Did you have any experience with Waffen SS? Can you confirm that their units were one of the most ruthless and brave during combat?

johncardinalli26 karma

I never heard of Waffen SS. The SS was ruthless no matter what unit it was.

quesoqueso4 karma

Did you participate in any of the Jedburgh operations? If so, what interesting things happened while helping/training/supporting the Partisans?

johncardinalli15 karma

My unit wasn't part of the Jedburgh operations

darkenedgy3 karma

Thanks for doing this again, and for your service.

What do you think of remote surveillance (drones) as an alternative to being on the ground behind enemy lines?

johncardinalli5 karma

The drones are a tool. But, troops need to be on the ground, that is the only way. I had mentioned in another comment that our allies need to commit 10-15% of their troops on the ground as well, not just us.

AntlerFox3 karma

Do you have any more notable items you kept from your service? Did you get to keep your own weapons for example? I see you still have your knife, and the revolver taken from the gestapo, but what about your other equipment/confiscated items? This is very interesting to see, thank you for this AMA and thank you for your service

johncardinalli7 karma

We captured a german agent and confiscated her gun. A .25 S&S, I kept it. Here is a picture of it: http://imgur.com/a/71L95

I took some beer mugs from another Gestapo Major's house in Brunswick. I still use them today to enjoy a Pabst once in awhile. Here is a picture of one of them: http://imgur.com/2bZ7C1c

I have a few other things here and there.

son_of_a_fitch2 karma

Where abouts were you stationed in England?

Did you ever visit Bletchley Park, or have any idea about what was going on there?

I'm from Nottingham and we apparently had thousands of American infantry & other forces stationed at Wollaton Park, so just curious to see if it was near me or anywhere I know.

johncardinalli3 karma

When I was in England I was in Maidenhead training with other agents and teaching Morse Code to others.

Theory52 karma

Hey, I saw the first part of your AMA a while back and loved it so much I bought that book from Amazon! It was really a really amazing read, and I felt so much was missing (lost in time it seemed), but the stuff that was put in was simply incredible. I loved the part about the FBI tracking you guys during training!

Do you still have that knife the British guy gave you?

Both my grandfathers fought in the war, though neither of them told me everything. On my dad's side, my grandpa pretty much drank himself to death around 2000 - 2001, and I was too young to really talk to him about that stuff. On my mothers side, by the time I was old enough my grandfather would tell me stuff, he was going senile.

I just wanted to say the fact that not only are you still alive but are working to tell your story is simply incredible. I love learning about the past from the eyes of people who lived it, it gives a whole other perspective that history books just can't!

johncardinalli3 karma

Thank you for the kind words. And yes, I still have the Fairbairn knife. Here is a picture I took of it yesterday: http://imgur.com/a/klHZG

I don't know of anymore OSS agents alive today. Maybe they are still out there, but I don't know.

slurmfactory2 karma

Hi, I know I'm late to the party, but my grandmother was in the OSS as a message-decoder, and my other grandfather (not her husband) was in the CIA. I wonder if you might know them! Small chance, I know, but the timing is right when you were involved so it would be pretty amazing. Please tell me if you would like their names!!!!!

Other than that, how would you compare the weapons and technology of the different armies you encountered, say USA and Germany? It sounds like the battle of Remagen was extremely intense!

johncardinalli3 karma

It is a long shot, but tell me their names. You never know.

jahfood2 karma

Hello Staff Sargent! Thank you for doing this AMA!

My Grandfather was actually also in the OSS in WWII, and I am curious if you've ever crossed paths with him while you were in the service?! His name is Anthony (Tony) Turano and his highest rank was Major. He was born in Brooklyn. He has since passed about 5 years ago. Thank you for your service!

johncardinalli3 karma

A fellow Italian. But, I didn't know him. Did he give you any of his stories, show you pictures, or anything? You should share it!

Home-For-The-Holiday2 karma

I hope I look as good as you do at 94. Any tips for a long and healthy life?

johncardinalli4 karma

Thanks. Lots of olive oil, one Vodka Martini everyday, and never smoked.

slaybellsringing2 karma

What theater did you serve in? My grandfather was an OSS Army captain serving in China.

johncardinalli3 karma

I was in Europe. Your Grandfather being in China, he must have been part of the CBI operations. When I came back after my mission in Europe, they were preparing me to go to CBI and I refused. I completed my mission in Europe and had enough. There were others better prepared for CBI than I, especially with the language.

oOGeneral_RyanOo1 karma

Apparently one of my distant relatives was, and as a result he was poisoned on US soil towards the end of the war

how often was that sort of thing?

johncardinalli5 karma

I'm not following you. Are you saying your relative was in the OSS then poisoned on US soil?

NegativeNigga-7 karma

If you could. Would you fuck a crow?

johncardinalli12 karma

I'd do it right now, if not sooner. Never a dull moment.