Friday, May 31, 2013

Walter Mess, OSS operative and innovator

The following is a history of the military service of Walter Mess, Founder of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. This is from the "Adventurer's Club of Los Angeles" where he was a featured guest in 2012. Many of these stories I hear Walter tell, but it is interesting to see them all together and in sequence.

Mr. Walter Mess

Some Operatives never live a life like 007. Occasionally one comes around.

At 99 years old and 8 months( He turns 100 on December 20th 2012…) …The legendary Walter Mess was one of General Donovan’s “Best and Brightest” of O.S.S. and particularly O.S.S. Maritime Unit.

A true American treasure and enigma, by 1937 when Mr. Mess played professional football, already spoke several languages and held law and business degrees and a Coast Guard Ships’ “Master” rating which would soon help him on several of his future secret operations. In 1937 -- 4 years prior to the U.S.A. involvement in WW II -- Mess was recruited by Donovan, who at the time was in private law practice, into Donovan’s private OI (Office of Intelligence – the “Blackwater” of its Day) while completing his PhD in Law, at Catholic University at night. There he became one of the United States most private secret agents.

By 1938 – Mess was trained by the British and then dropped into Czechoslovakia where he walked out to the Adriatic with four 13-15 yr olds for training in the USA & reinsertion as USA agents. Mess also set up interaction with the British Station Chief & Tito. (One of those boys became USA Ambassador to Slovakia in recent years.)

In 1939 - Again flown by RAF into Poland on similar mission - Brought out three more young men.

In Nov `41 into US Army for COI (pre O.S.S. training) Pulled from OCS to repeat `37-`38 missions.

In 1942 things really started to heat up. Working at COI, Mess ventured to the Philippines on a mission by submarine. Later that year, he was in Morocco with the then new (O.S.S.) team to resupply a team to bring more gold to buy off the Vichy French to insure the French would not shoot at U.S. troops upon landing in operation Torch!

Late 1942 / early 1943 - Mess attended Boat training in the Gulf Mexico the Florida Keys and Cuba on his Army Air crash Sea rescue boat P-564 which would later become the O.S.S. Maritime units’ Flotilla operating in the China Burma India Theater. Mess repaired the cracked hull of a “Liberty ship” in Anchorage Alaska. O.S.S. boats P-564 & 563 loaded in San Diego liberty ship. Mess was the ship's Captain across the South Pacific to Ceylon via Sydney & Calcutta.

In late 1943 he commenced ultra classified OSS MU ops in the Bay of Bengal against Jap forces. Mess became an official O.S.S. operative and MU’s senior “flotilla officer commander” of O.S.S. Maritime Unit Operations in Burma, India and Thailand. As senior flotilla officer for O.S.S. SEAC MU operations, Mess’s O.S.S. air crash sea rescue (PT) Boat P-564 numbered over 36 missions with P 564 across the Bay of Bengal for official O.S.S. MU operations ferrying OG and Operational Swimmer teams; Also returned over 220 downed pilots & crewmen from 3 E&E pickup points on Burma coast.

In Apr 1944 he became primary boat for Dr Lambertsen & swimmers for combat evaluation of system & then swimmers became integral part of O.S.S. OG (operational groups) and SI (secret intelligence missions. These missions included many of the firs underwater.

This did not include the Occasional interruptions for special individual missions for the Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten head of the British SOE and is O.S.S. Swimmer counterpart, the SRU.

In 1945 when the Japanese were eliminated from the Burma Coast, P-564 ["Jeanie"] no longer needed. Walter transferred to O.S.S. Det. 404 and assisted with air support missions to O.S.S. teams in the interior of Burma and Thailand. He made 10-15 + parachute jumps, including leading 30-50 Kachins (Burmese Highlanders) on 7 jumps to clear 7 landing strips for Air Ops.

Mr. Mess had over 100 secret operations under his leadership—many unbelievable—all very classified missions. Mr. Mess is a tireless, vigorous and stalwart example of the MU leadership General Donovan envisioned and is a lasting pioneer for all modern day U.S. Navy, Coastguard, Marine Corps and law enforcement, maritime , Special Boat unit operations and Air Force Special Tactics Squadron missions which American Treasure O.S.S. pioneer Walter Mess squarely left his foot print on.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Korean Bell Garden Anniversary

Saturday May 25th 350 people helped the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens celebrated its first anniversary. This unique garden has as a central feature a large cast iron bell made in Korea, and numerous other structures made by artists from Korea. In concert with Korean trees and plants, this makes an environment similar what would have been found during the Joseon Dynasty.

The Connection Newspapers covered the one year anniversay of the Korean Bell Garden:

L-R: Delegates Tom Rust, and Mark Keem, Senator Janet Howell, and Delegates Barbara Comstock and David Bulova

Supervisor Penny Gross

Taditional Dress
NVRPA Treasurer David Pritzker welcomes everyone
Paul Gilbert, Jeung Hwa Elmejjad-Yi, Hynae Shin
Harmony Hall

Drum Dancers

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walter Mess leaves lasting legacy

Founder of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority leaves lasting legacy after 100 years

Walter L. Mess, who established the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and was a member of its Board for more than 45 years, passed away on Sunday, May 26, at the age of 100. During his more than four decades on the NVRPA Board, the agency preserved over 10,000 acres of land.

I am humbled to be the current chair of NVRPA, knowing that Walter Mess chaired the Park Authority Board for 30 years,” said Brian Knapp, current Chairman of the NVPRA Board. “His vision, leadership, and his commitment to parks, trails, outdoor recreation and open space will be forever enduring.”

Walter Mess in the center on the deck of the boat he commanded
Mr. Mess grew up in Alexandria with a passion for outdoor adventures like hunting, fishing, hiking and boating, which he did throughout the region. In 1939, before the U.S. had entered World War II, he was recruited by a professor at Georgetown Law School to join the British Secret Service. His mission was to parachute into Nazi-controlled areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia to organize and train resistance fighters. When the U.S. entered the war, he joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS; predecessor to the CIA) and conducted commando missions into North Africa prior to the Allied invasion. He later was sent to Asia where he commanded a speed boat (similar to a PT Boat) in operations in and around Burma. Decades later, he was given an honorary Green Beret status for his bravery and innovation in special operations.

Interestingly, it was via his military service that Mr. Mess was inspired to create a future park agency in his home state. While stationed in San Diego, California, he visited Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban park that was used as a Navy base during the war. Seeing this great park influenced his actions for years to come.

Upon returning from WWII, he worked for nearly 10 years to get state authorization to form a regional park system, while he built local support for the concept throughout the region. In 1959, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority was born with the support of Falls Church, Fairfax County and Arlington County. By 1961, Bull Run Regional Park was established with 537 acres. Just 10 years later, NVRPA had over 4,000 acres. By the time Mr. Mess stepped down from the Park Authority Board, it had over 10,000 acres. During his tenure on the Board, the Authority also expanded to include the Cities of Alexandria and Fairfax as well as Loudoun County. As a Regional Park Agency with six member jurisdictions, NVRPA is unique in Virginia.

In 2005 Mr. Mess said, “our whole idea was to protect the watershed and give people access to the water.” Always modest, he was quick to add: “this whole thing [NVRPA] … I’m being given credit for [something] I didn’t do; the people around me did.”

While Walter Mess loved the many waterparks, golf courses, historic sites, campgrounds, marinas and other facilities of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, he was most proud of the W&OD Trail. The first section of the W&OD Trail was established in 1974 in his home town of Falls Church by NVRPA, and over the next 10 years it expanded to its current 45-mile length.

Barry Buschow, an NVRPA Board representative from the City of Falls Church, remembers Walter Mess as an extremely active member of the local community, who worked tirelessly to donate his time wherever possible. “Having grown up in Falls Church just around the corner from Walter, I really didn’t get to know him until 23 years ago when I applied to be on the NVRPA Board from the City of Falls Church. What I learned about him shaped the rest of my life,” Buschow said. “Starting in 1946, Walter began volunteering his time, expertise and elbow grease to acquire land for city streets. He was a member of many different boards and organizations, and founded so many different successful causes, from raising money for athletic fields to personally building bookcases for the local library.”

In 1999, Mr. Mess was honored when the NVRPA headquarters building in Fairfax Station was officially dedicated as the Walter Mess Building. He would step down from the Authority’s Board in 2004, and was elected Chairman Emeritus. Since that time, he had served on the Board of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation, the non-profit that raises money to support the mission of the Authority.

"Walter was a pretty hard guy to summarize, but one trait that always impressed me was his boundless enthusiasm for life and all of its challenges and opportunities," said William Baskin, member of the Regional Park Foundation. "It was impossible not to notice and admire this. I will miss him. Walter, I'll see you when the roses bloom again."

“Our friend and long-time colleague, Walter Mess, had a dream – the preservation of unspoiled areas of natural beauty and places of historic significance for the enjoyment of Northern Virginians far into the future,” said NVRPA Board member David Pritzker from the City of Alexandria. “ Through more than a half century of inspiration, political acumen and just plain hard work, Walter achieved that dream and lived to see the success of the legacy he created for all of us.”

Walter was married for 62 years to his wife Jean, who passed away in 2002, and had four children and ten grandchildren.

“Considering that each year there are millions of uses of the Regional Park System that Walter helped create, few if any have left the kind of lasting legacy that Walter Mess has. He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him,” remarked Paul Gilbert, NVRPA Executive Director.

Donations in honor of Walter Mess can be sent to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation (NVRPF) at 5400 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA 22039.

“There is much more to this story and the man we know and love as Walter,” remarked Barry Buschow. “ He was always there with a helping hand and a pipe, with words of advice. Northern Virginia will miss him as the father of Regional Parks and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD). His community will miss him as he was one of our great leaders, and I will miss him as one of my best friends.”

Friday, May 03, 2013

Furloughed to Fairways

In response to the widespread furloughs of federal employees in our area, this week we announced a special program to offer these federal workers a special deal to make it easier for them to play golf on some of those days that they will be forced to take off. Below are some of the media links for those the have helped spread the news about this program:

Federal Daily:

The Weekly Standard:

Leesburg Today:

FCW - federal tech executives

Richmond Times Dispatch:

ABC 13:

Both WTOP and WMAL radio have also covered this story.

Furloughed to Fairways:
Thousands of area federal employees will be furloughed on certain days between April and September this year as a result of the Federal Sequester. In response, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) is offering a special deal for those furloughed federal employees who enjoy the outdoors and a good round of golf.

Starting on the first day of May, federal employees will be able to play any one of the three courses owned by NVRPA for just $25. This deal, which is about 30% off the regular greens fee, will be honored Monday through Thursday after 10 A.M. Federal employees must bring a civilian federal employee ID to the course to take advantage of the deal, which is targeted at furloughed employees.

“We greatly appreciate the federal employees who are so important to our region, and we want to show our solidarity with those public servants who enjoy the sport of golf," remarked Brian Knapp, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. "It is very unfortunate that these federal employees are being impacted in this fashion. In a small way, we wish to thank them for their contributions to our local communities and our nation, and welcome them to visit our three beautiful golf courses.”

The Park Authority has three golf courses conveniently located throughout Northern Virginia, including Algonkian Golf Course in Sterling, Brambleton Golf Course in Ashburn, and Pohick Bay Golf Course in Lorton. Contact information for each course appears at the end of this release.

“NVRPA is giving a real morale boost to furloughed workers. To me, it’s more than just the golf discount-through Furlough to Fairways, NVRPA is showing that the Northern Virginia community supports us,” said Ted McCleskey, civilian employee with the Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Authority, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Management and Budget and many other departments will be sending workers home on a regular basis (often weekly) as a result of the Sequester.

"Co-workers may want to use this unique opportunity to play golf together during the week at prices that are not normally available," commented Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NVRPA.

The three courses that this special offer applies to are:

Pohick Bay Golf Course
10301 Gunston Road, Lorton, VA 22079
T: 703-339-8585

Algonkian Golf Course
47001 Fairway Drive Sterling, VA 20165
T: 703-450-4655

Brambleton Golf Course
42180 Ryan Rd., Ashburn, VA 20148
T: 703-327-3403