Rene Dussaq: OSS Agent, Resistance Leader, Man of Legend:

All men are created but some men create themselves. So it was with Rene Alexander Dussaq. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a Cuban diplomat in 1911, Rene Dussaq was schooled in Switzerland where he graduated college in Geneva at 18 before moving to Cuba.

In Cuba, Dussaq became an Olympic Rower, an international tennis champion, an insurance salesman, a steamship worker, a law student and a highly skilled sailor who spent 17,400 hour at sea. During the tumultuous Cuban revolutions of the 1930’s Dussaq left for America.

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Rene Dussaq in WWII

Making his way to California, Rene Dussaq became a Hollywood stuntman specializing in wing-walking, parachuting, and car crash driving. He became an associate of a movie company, worked as a deep sea diver, led an archaeological expedition to Mona Island in the Caribbean Sea, and became a professional lecturer. All before he was thirty years old.

When WWII came to America, Rene Dussaq could have sat out since he was not a US Citizen, but of course something like a World War would not keep a man like Dussaq away. He pushed aside his deferment and was drafted into the Army at age thirty. He requested service in the parachute troops, but after basic training and officer candidate school, he was assigned to the US Army Air Corp’s 58th Wing Air Photo Unit. Rene Alexander Dussaq decided he did not join the military to look at photographs and found his way into the murky world of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA.

In the OSS, Rene Dussaq was given the code name “Anselme” and trained to operate behind enemy lines. He jumped into France in civilian clothes two weeks before D-Day to lay the groundwork for the upcoming invasion. From May to September 1944, Dussaq trained the French Resistance, led attacks on German installations and on one occasion, bluffed the surrender of 500 enemy soldiers in the town of Issoire. He left France in September 1944 with the respect of every French Resistance fighter he met. The French told the Americans that “he may be a Lieutenant to you, but to us he is Commandant Bazooka”.

After leaving France, Dussaq joined the Special Allied Airborne Recon Forces (SAARF) where he trained to jump in and liberate Prisoner of War camps and later served as an intelligence officer in Germany. For his service in World War Two, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Croix de Guerre with palm, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

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Dussaq in 1994 during the 50th anniversary of Normandy

After the war, Dussaq was recalled by the Air Force and participated in the Bikini Island atomic bomb tests. He was recalled a third time during the Korean War and served as a professor of military science at UC Berkeley before retiring from the military at the rank of Major. As a civilian, he was a manager at Prudential, rather ironically selling life insurance. He retired in 1976 and spent much of his time in his garden saying “when the Devil gets old, he retires to a monastery”.

In 1994, for the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, Rene Dussaq, then 83, joined a group of veterans who were making a commemorative jump into Normandy. Dussaq died at age 85 from Leukemia in Southern California. An obituary published at the time told of Dussaq’s 1994 commemorative jump into France. Dussaq’s obituary states: “Dussaq caused a scare during the reenactment when strong winds blew his parachute miles away from the drop zone, out of sight of U.S. spotters in helicopters. He was later found in Saint-Mere-Eglise, drinking a glass of wine.”

Perhaps that is the best way to end on the life of Rene Dussaq, a man whose life Hollywood would have had a hard time creating.

For More About Rene Dussaq and Covert Operations in France See:

The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944

Target JFK: The Spy Who Killed Kennedy?

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