Merced WWII Veteran Awarded Congressional Gold Medal by Valley Congressman Costa
Merced, CA – Today, Donald Heran received the Congressional Gold Medal in Merced for his World War II service to the United States as a pilot with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Heran, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, was a member of the OSS 801st/492nd Bombardment Group, known as the “Carpetbaggers.” Beginning January of 1945, Heran piloted secret nighttime missions into Denmark, Norway, and Germany, dropping supplies, equipment, and OSS agents to resistance forces in Nazi-occupied areas.
“I am very honored to receive this prestigious Congressional Gold Medal for my World War II Operation Carpetbagger missions and USAF military service,” shared Heran. “I am proud to share this award with my former World War II Carpetbagger crew members, my fellow veterans for their distinguished service, and our brave troops who put their lives on the line for our country every day.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’s highest civilian honor, and was awarded to the OSS and its members in March of this year at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Heran did not travel to Washington for the ceremony, and Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) awarded the Medal to the Merced hero today.
“It is with deep gratitude and respect that I award Lieutenant Colonel Heran the Congressional Gold Medal today,” said Rep. Costa. “His courage, his valor, and his willingness to sacrifice everything for our country make him a true American hero. On behalf of a grateful nation, I can never say thank you enough.”
Congressman Costa was joined by Merced County Veterans Service Officer Ricky Pal and Gene Hamill from Merced’s American Legion District 12 in honoring Heran. “Our country is forever indebted to veterans like Mr. Heran for their selfless service,” Pal said of Heran. He continued, “It was truly an honor to be present in such a special moment.” Hamill reflected with, “It’s an honor to be here to present this award to such a distinguished veteran. The American Legion is dedicated to honoring our veterans.”
Following WWII, Heran accepted a commission in the United States Air Force in 1949, where he flew for the Strategic Air Command until he retired from the military in 1969. He is a life member of the Castle Air Museum Association, Military Officers of America Association, Order of the Daedalians, and the Eighth Air Force Historical Society.