OSI’s ‘Man in Paris’ honored with Hall of Fame Recognition

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

Special Agent Rene Georges Pichard, a longtime liaison between the United States and France, was honored during a Hall of Fame Recognition Ceremony at the Air Force Memorial April 8, to commemorate his decades of service.

Brig. Gen. Amy Bumgarner, OSI’s commander, presided over the event, which honored Pichard’s role forging ties in Europe over three decades. 

“After decades of service, both in uniform and as a civilian, Special Agent Pichard showed us all what it means to serve with honor,” Bumgarner said. “His legacy is not just in the missions he carried out, but in the countless lives he touched and the alliance he forged between us and our French counterparts.”

Born Oct. 2, 1922, in Bordeaux, France, Pichard’s early years as a business administration student were interrupted by Germany’s 1939 invasion of France. However, instead of evacuating, Pichard worked under Nazi supervision at the Ford Motor Company in Paris. 

This was a decision that positioned him to aid the French Resistance. During this time, he helped sabotage German efforts by providing intelligence, which aided Allied pilots and led to the destruction of critical machinery bound for Germany. 

Following the war, Pichard joined the French Navy. His service eventually brought him to the United States, where his dream of an American citizenship intertwined with a desire to serve his new, adopted country. Despite initial challenges, he joined the Michigan National Guard and later the Air National Guard. 

Pichard joined OSI as a Special Agent in Aug. 1954. At OSI, he was assigned to Europe, where he leveraged his unique skills and experience to become a liaison between the U.S. and French governments for the rest of his career. 

His efforts were critical during the tense period in the 1960s when France demanded the withdrawal of foreign military forces. However, Pichard's work ensured OSI could continue its operations in France, underscoring his role as a liaison. 

Throughout his time at OSI, both in uniform and as a civilian, Pichard took on multiple operations, from investigating black market activities to escorting high-profile visitors in Paris, which included U.S. presidents, heads of state and top Defense Department officials.

Pichard also made an impact on OSI's mission in Europe through his counterintelligence work. For example, his ability to identify threats was crucial for protecting American interests against espionage and ensuring the security of operations during the Cold War.

He retired from the Air Force in Dec. 1974 as a senior master sergeant. However, without pause, he transitioned to a civilian role within OSI, where he served as a civilian until 1990. All the while, he continued his efforts in France. 

Pichard's decorations include the French President’s National Order of Merit Medal and the Air Force Legion of Merit, a dual testament to his work in both nations. Pichard died July 27, 2020. He was 90. 

Last year, Pichard was officially inducted into the OSI Hall of Fame, alongside Joe R. Worley for the Class of 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, formal inductions were put on hold for several years. 

This recognition ceremony provided OSI was unique opportunity to celebrate Pichard’s life and service to the nation directly with his family, who were unable to make the induction ceremony that occurred in 2023, said Robert Vanderpool, OSI’s command historian. 

“Rene Pichard’s legacy with OSI was immeasurable,” Vanderpool added. “He set the benchmark on how a Seat of Government office should operate. His work as a liaison officer and his skills as a counterintelligence collector were unmatched. His name is still spoken with reverence and frequency throughout U.S. and French military and law enforcement circles in Paris, more than three decades after his retirement.” 

Related links

Seven inducted into OSI Hall of Fame following 5-year hiatus