Peter Ortiz was born on August 5, 1913, in New York City, and was raised and educated in France. He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1932, and served until leaving the service in 1937, during which time he participated in several campaigns in French colonies in Africa. After returning to the U.S. in 1937, Ortiz served as a technical director for military films in Hollywood, but returned to the French Foreign Legion in October 1939, receiving a battlefield commission in May 1940. He was wounded and captured by the Germans in June 1940, and was held in Prisoner of War camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria, before escaping in October 1941. Ortiz made is way to Lisbon, Portugal, and then to the United States in December 1941, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on June 22, 1942. He was given a commission as a 2nd Lt in the Marine Corps based on his previous combat experience on July 24, 1942, and then served at Parris Island, South Carolina, as a training officer until October 1942. His next assignment was with the 23rd Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from October to December 1942, followed by service with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in North Africa from December 1942 to April 1943. After being wounded in North Africa, he returned to Washington, D.C., in May 1943, and then flew to London, England, in July 1943. He parachuted into Southern France in January 1944, serving there until his return to England in May 1944. Maj Ortiz returned to France on August 1, 1944, but was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War by Germans during a firefight on August 16, 1944, and was held until being liberated at Westertimke, Germany, on April 27, 1945. He then went to England before returning to the U.S. in June 1945. Maj Ortiz served with the OSS in Washington, D.C., from June 1945 until he left active duty and joined the Marine Corps Reserve on December 6, 1945, retiring as a Colonel on March 1, 1955. Peter Ortiz died on May 16, 1988, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His 2nd Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism while serving with the Office of Strategic Services during operations behind enemy Axis lines in the Savoie Department of France, from 1 August 1944, to 27 April 1945. After parachuting into a region where his activities had made him an object of intensive search by the Gestapo, Major Ortiz valiantly continued his work in coordinating and leading resistance groups in that section. When he and his team were attacked and surrounded during a special mission designed to immobilize enemy reinforcements stationed in that area, he disregarded the possibility of escape and, in an effort to spare villagers severe reprisals by the Gestapo, surrendered to this sadistic Geheim Staats Polizei. Subsequently imprisoned and subjected to numerous interrogations, he divulged nothing, and the story of this intrepid Marine Major and his team became a brilliant legend in that section of France where acts of bravery were considered commonplace. By his outstanding loyalty and self-sacrificing devotion to duty, Major Ortiz contributed materially to the success of operations against a relentless enemy, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.