"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:21 am

Part 2 of 2

The CIA had had a secret role in the Congo that dated back to 1960 when Belgium granted its former colony independence, one of a series of colonies that won their independence in the early sixties. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and superpower struggles, each of these young nations became yet another target of opportunity caught in the tug-of-war between East and West. The United States and its handmaiden, the CIA, were intent upon preventing the Soviets or Chinese from gaining a new foothold anywhere in the world, especially in a land as rich in minerals and as strategically located as was the Congo. Just how far the CIA was willing to go was made plain in the fall of 1960.

It was September 19, 1960, that the CIA sent a message to Lawrence Devlin, its station chief in Leopoldville (today called Kinshasa), the Congolese capital. The message, classified "Eyes Only," was cryptic even by CIA standards. It alerted Devlin that he would soon be receiving a visit from "Joe from Paris" and that he was to take his instructions from him. Not long after, as Devlin was walking to his car near the Cafe de la Presse, he saw a familiar face -- Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, a senior scientist on the technical side of the Agency.

Gottlieb was an odd figure by any measure. Born with a clubfoot and stricken with a severe stutter, he had been a socialist in his youth and a Buddhist as an adult. A chemist by training, he put his formidable talent in the lab to exotic use, making poison darts and handkerchiefs, and overseeing a program with LSD that tested theories of mind control. His subjects were not always privy to the fact they had been dosed. A genius by many accounts, he would have been a perfect model for Dr. Strangelove. In Leopoldville he arrived with a plan for Devlin to carry out.

Devlin took Gottlieb to a safe house, where the two men huddled over a radio whose volume was cranked up high enough to obscure their voices from any eavesdroppers or listening devices. Gottlieb said it was the CIA's directive that Gottlieb assassinate former Congolese premier Patrice Lumumba. A charismatic leftist trained in the Soviet Union, Lumumba was viewed as a threat to U.S. objectives in the region. "Jesus Christ! Isn't this unusual?" asked Devlin, demanding to know upon whose authority such an order had been given. In-house the plan had been approved by none other than Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell. CIA head Allen Dulles had branded Lumumba "a Castro, or worse." But the scheme also, Devlin said, had the blessings of an even higher authority- President Eisenhower.

From his bag, Gottlieb produced a small kit containing a well-known brand of toothpaste. Inside was a deadly poison. The kit also contained rubber gloves, gauze, masks, and even a syringe in the event that the toothpaste could not be slipped into Lumumba's possessions. Devlin had no intention of carrying out the directive, but in the interest of preserving his career, he decided to quietly stall for time. He slipped the kit into a drawer in the embassy safe.

Three months later Devlin's and the Agency's dilemma was resolved. On January 17, 1961, Lumumba was brutally murdered by a rival Congolese faction. Whether that killing was purely fortuitous or given an assist by the Agency has been a subject of debate. One week later, under cover of darkness, a much-relieved Devlin drove to the edge of town and tossed the poison into the rapids of the Congo River.

But neither Lumumba's death nor the intervening four years had done anything to stabilize the Congo. Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson had all secretly deployed the CIA in a desperate effort to shore up the Congolese government as the nation teetered on the brink of anarchy.

So it was when Merriman arrived in Leopoldville on July 17, 1964. A two-month-old revolt in the eastern province of Katanga once again threatened the country. But Merriman's spirits were high, the weather cooler than he expected, and the Congolese ivory and wood carvings caught his eye. "Looks as if I will be able to bring you some pretty' presents from here," he wrote his wife. "Love boys for me and remember that you are the one I love most in the world."

The letter was necessarily brief There was much to do. His assignment was to oversee the Cuban pilots, to help prevent a breakup of the Congo, and to suppress the revolt in Katanga. Merriman spent less than two weeks in Leopoldville before taking command. of the CIA's air operations and. the Cuban pilots who worked. under cover of the Congo Air Force.

On July 20, 1964, he and. three Cuban pilots, all veterans of the Bay of Pigs-Jack Varela, Rene Garcia, and. his friend. Gus Ponzoa ferried. three T-28s to Kamina Air Base in Katanga. As Merriman approached. Kamina flying the lead. plane, he was dumbstruck at the enormity of the base rising up in the middle of nowhere. Composed of hundreds of barracks, depots, and. hangars, it was the largest air base south of the Sahara. But for a skeletal crew of mechanics and engineers from the Belgian Air Force, and. the few Cuban pilots, Kamina was deserted, a ghostly expanse of runways and. empty buildings stretching as far as the eye could see.

Even more haunting was its original purpose. Built at the height of the Cold War by the Belgians, it was intended. to be the relocation site for the Belgian royal family, as well perhaps as the government and. elements of NATO, as they rode out what appeared to be the inevitable nuclear war. Kamina was a completely self-contained redoubt, a concrete and. steel colossus created to withstand. the Cold War's ultimate nightmare. Not far off was an entirely different world. inhabited by zebras, antelopes, elephants, and the occasional cobra sunning itself on the road.

Merriman unpacked his gear in a barrackslike structure known as the Ops Center. He had a two- room suite complete with a private bathroom -- but no running water. The base boasted. an enormous mess hall, but that, too, was abandoned. Instead, Merriman and. his Cuban cohorts ate mostly tins of sardines and basic rations. Merriman was embraced almost instantly by the Cubans. Devoid of pretensions and the John Wayne swagger of some of his CIA predecessors, he was immediately welcomed. For his part he soon appreciated the hazards the pilots faced in the field. The Agency had made it clear to the Cuban pilots that if anything happened to them, if they crashed or were captured, the U.S. government would disavow any knowledge of them.

Nor was there any recourse to the Geneva Convention for those who were downed. Rebel tribesmen, it was said, would eat the testicles of their foes if they thought them brave, and their hearts if wise. Cuban pilot Fausto G6mez had been found literally butchered. By such a standard, Mario Genebra was luckier. His engine failed as he was taking off from Albertville and his plane flipped over into the lake at the edge of the runway. Unable to open the cockpit, he drowned in two feet of water.

Merriman was prepared for the risks, but not the disorder. "The situation here is a real bucket of worms," he wrote his wife the day of his arrival at Kamina. "I thought it would come more clear after I arrived here but so far it hasn't."

On July 25 Merriman returned for the day to Leopoldville for a doctor's appointment. He had been having trouble with his right eye, out of which he saw only "a blank spot." In a moment of downtime, he wrote his wife another letter. " A lot of the work so far is frustrating as the organization is still disorganized," he wrote. "However the one worry I don't have is the personnel. My people are a real bunch of tigers. The pilots are all veterans of the Bay of Pigs & good at their jobs. Some of them are real friends already. Someday maybe we'll visit them in some happier place."

The next day, July 26, 1964, Merriman returned to Kamina. That afternoon he received an intelligence report from the Belgians that a convoy of rebels known as Simba, Swahili for "lion," had been spotted on the road from Kabalo. It was a vulnerable target and Merriman was eager for combat. He approached his friend Gus Ponzoa, hoping he would join Merriman in a strike on the convoy. But Ponzoa and the other pilots had already had a full morning of combat. Besides, Ponzoa's energy was sapped from a lingering case of hepatitis. He tried to discourage Merriman, arguing that it was already 4:00 P.M., that the target was a good hour away, and that it would be dark by the time they returned. Rene Garcia also opposed the idea. If they crashed at dusk in enemy territory, there would be no one to rescue them and, besides, the convoy was of little importance.

But Merriman could not be dissuaded. Garcia and Varela reluctantly agreed to join him. Merriman suited up and climbed into Ponzoa's T-38, plane number 496. The three T-28s flew wing-to-wing, at times so close they could read the names written on each other's helmet. Finally Merriman spotted the convoy, a line of four jeeps and half a dozen trucks snaking their way across the open expanse. Jeeps often indicated someone of senior rank. Merriman pointed below, then peeled oft; his twin .50- caliber machine guns blazing. Varela was close behind. The convoy was riddled with bullets, but now the T-28s themselves became a target of ground fire. Garcia saw that there was still movement below in one of the jeeps and made a third pass, watching the gunners dropping beneath a withering fire. He came out of his strafing run and began to climb but became aware that something was wrong. As he and Varela prepared to join up with Merriman, he waved them off.

"Open up!" said Merriman over the radio, calling for them to widen the formation. "I might explode." They could see a trail of vapor streaming from Merriman's plane. "I am losing oil," he said.

It had been two hours since they left Kamina. They were deep in enemy territory, and there was no ejection seat in the plane. Merriman's only hope was to find a place to land. At the rate that he was losing oil, he would fall out of the sky like a rock long before Kamina. And still, Merriman appeared his usual calm self as he lit up a cigarette.

Garcia remembered a four-thousand-foot landing strip in Kabongo, still an hour from Kamina, but wide and open enough that Merriman might have a chance to bring his plane down -- if the oil lasted that long. Garcia took the lead and dropped down to search for barrels or drums beside the runway, any sign of the enemy's presence. It looked clear. He gave Merriman the go-ahead to land.

Merriman's T-28 descended slowly. He seemed confused. He was making a teardrop approach coming into the wind, a quarter mile from the runway. There would be no time to make another approach. Now it was clear to Garcia that he had taken a hit in the oil return line between the propeller and the tank. He was about to lose his propeller. Still Merriman was coming in perfectly level and straight when suddenly, at eight hundred to one thousand feet, he lost all power.

The plane plummeted. A huge red cloud rose into the air.

"My God: thought Garcia, "he's exploded." But it was only the red dusty earth of the fields. When it cleared, Varela and Garcia could see Merriman's propeller fifty yards from the rest of the plane, spinning absurdly. And they could make out the mangled remains of the plane. The wings were twisted crazily, the fuselage crumbled. They could see Merriman's head, motionless, in the cockpit. Varela wanted to land but Garcia talked him out of it. There was no way, he said, that Merrirnan could have survived such a crash. What good would it do to lose two men and two planes?

Back at Kamina, Ponzoa had begun to worry and had taken to the control tower waiting for some word. Garcia radioed the tower. "Kamina tower, this is Tango flight. We have lost one of our airplanes."

Ponzoa recognized Garcia's voice and called him by the Spanish word for "Baldy." "Calvo, is that you?" Then Garcia broke the news that it was Merriman who had gone down. Ponzoa shook his head in disbelief Merriman, his mentor and ace of aces, was too good to have been shot down.

When Garcia and Valera landed, there were few words spoken. They had lost their commander, an American whom in such short time they had come to call a friend. He was not even supposed to engage in combat. In his logbook Ponzoa scribbled in Spanish, "Tumbaron a Merriman" (They shot down Merriman).

The next morning there was a stir at the entrance to Kamina. A beat-up old truck, driven by two locals, had something in the back they wanted to unload. It was Merriman. He had somehow survived the crash and been discovered by these two men who pried him out of the crumpled cock- pit. Suspecting he had come from Kamina, they were determined to re- turn him before the rebels found him.

Passing in and out of consciousness, Merriman was carried to the base hospital. But it was a hospital in name only. There were no doctors, no nurses, only two local nurse's aides. There was not so much as an aspirin to ease Merriman's pain. Merriman was placed on a bed, the blood wiped off with a clean, damp cloth. His eyes were bloodshot, his face lacerated. His shoulder bone, both ankles, and three vertebrae were broken. His chest and legs were covered with contusions. The force of tile crash had been so great that the harness strap had cut a quarter inch into his flesh. Even the bezel of his Rolex watch had popped out on impact.

Garcia, the son of a doctor, was deeply concerned. He remembered his father's patients, how they could sometimes be up and about the very day they were operated on and then suddenly develop a clot and die. What Garcia noticed was that Merriman's skin had taken on a bluish tint. Garcia understood that as miraculous as it was that Merriman had not died in the crash, his survival now depended on getting him back to the States or Europe where he could receive proper care. Immediately the Cuban pilots notified the embassy in Leopoldville asking someone to come and medevac Merriman.

Each time Merriman regained consciousness, he would plead with Ponzoa: "Gus, please send me home. 1 want to see my family. You can run the operation here yourself. 1 am feeling very bad. Please, Gus." Even his flier's pride was wounded. "You guys fly so long and nothing happens to you," he would say to the Cuban pilots clustered around his bed. "I go on the first mission and ..."

But Ponzoa's appeals to Leopoldville went largely ignored. There was nothing they could do for Merriman but try to make him comfortable. Sometimes lucid, sometimes delirious, he would pass out for five or six hours. Ponzoa and the others could not understand why the Americans had not yet come for him.

But if the U.S. Embassy and CIA were concerned withMerriman's well-being, they were at least as committed to concealing the fact that he, an American, had taken part in combat and crashed. On July 25, 1964, the day before his crash, U.S. Ambassador McMurtrie Godley had sent a telegram to Secretary of State Dean Rusk advising that "we should indulge in no, repeat no, covert operations here that do not have Tshombe's [Moise Tshombe, the Congo's premier] and/or [Congo President Joseph] Kasavubu's blessing."

Adding to sensitivities was a State Department cable sent the day after Merriman's crash. It reported that rebels under Communist influence were now convinced that Americans had taken a direct hand in the conflict. They vowed to punish any and all whites found in the region. Thirty rebels had been killed and eighty wounded in one such attack in which Americans had allegedly participated.

A day later a military attache in the U.S. Embassy referred to a Congo Army report that a "T-28 on its third mission made a forced land- ing 300 yards short of runway at Kabango [sic]," and that helicopters from Kamina were attempting to salvage the parts. "Pilot not badly injured," the embassy erroneously concluded.

"We are concerned: cabled U.S. Ambassador Godley, "about increasing number of reports that if T-28 or mercenaries used by GOC [government of Congo] against rebel-held areas in eastern Congo, rebels will retaliate by killing whites in areas under their control." That was July 28. Two days later Godley reiterated his concerns and expressed his growing opposition to the CIA's reliance on an air campaign. "While we here unable to completely evaluate contribution which T- 8's may be making to security situation Katanga, own present impression is that aircraft alone cannot contain continuing rebel advance unless there are armed men on ground willing to stand and fight. This is not now the case in Katanga. Therefore suggest consideration be given halting T-28 operations temporarily until more dependable ground forces materialize."

Merriman, from a diplomatic and security viewpoint, was an embarrassment and a liability. On July 30 Ambassador Godley, in a cable classified "Secret," reported that the pilot of the downed T- 8 was "Merriman, a U.S. citizen," but instead of expressing concern for Merriman's condition, he expressed relief that Reuters was reporting the pilot was Cuban. That miscue was courtesy of the Belgian consul general who was covering for the United States -- for which Ambassador Godley later expressed his appreciation. Any further inquiries into the crash were to be referred to the Congo Air Force, which the United States had advised to "stick to Reuters story."

Ambassador Godley simply wanted the Merriman situation to quietly fade away. "Should pilot's nationality be revealed we will continue refer inquiries to CAF [ Congo Air Force] but if pressed will emphasize non operational character of mission. Would hope that nothing be said by USG [United States government] officials." That message was passed on to the White House at 6:50 A.M. on July 30.

From the U.S. vantage point, Merriman's misfortune could not have occurred at a more inopportune moment, potentially inflaming as it did rebel passions against whites in the area and threatening to discredit U.S. denials of direct military involvement in the region. At that very moment the Congo seemed to be imploding. The very day the White House learned of Merriman's crash, a second cable, more dire than the first, arrived in Washington. "Security situation North Katanga continues to deteriorate ... ANC [Congolese forces] and ex-gendarmes have fled ... ANC troops deserting Kabongo ... Fall of Kongolo will be further psychological shock. Defection of troops at Kabongo opens way for advance on Kamina ..."

While the diplomats and covert planners fretted over the situation and continued their debate, Merriman lay in a hospital bed at Kamina, his condition worsening.

It was not until at least July 31-five interminable days of anguish-that a DC-4 was finally dispatched from Leopoldville to airlift Merriman out. But it was not to take Merriman home or even to Europe, but rather to a dismal and backward hospital in Leopoldville. So sensitive was the situation that Merriman was admitted into the hospital under the pseudonym of Mario Carlos in an effort to preserve the ruse that he was Cuban.

The days dragged on. His condition worsened. With nothing but pain to occupy his time, and no immediate prospect of a flight home, he tried to fend off depression. Ponzoa visited him in the hospital and was distressed by the care his friend was receiving. Aside from shots to help him sleep, Ponzoa saw little to indicate he was receiving appropriate medical treatment.

Ponzoa returned to Kamina. Even without Merriman the air campaign against the rebels had to continue. On August 4, Ponzoa and the other Cuban pilots strafed a train heading north between Kabongo and Pidi. They raked the locomotive and four cars with a murderous fire from their. 50- caliber machine guns, as men dove off the train in desperation. Only then did Ponzoa and the others discover that the men were wearing uniforms and that it was a troop train of friendly Congolese soldiers. By then some fifteen soldiers were dead. In the chaos that was the Congo, the mistake went utterly unrecorded.

By then, Merriman had been lying in the Leopoldville hospital for five days. Until then, it might have been argued that his fate was subsumed by the larger concerns for the Congo. But on August 4 the Congo and Merriman's future would both be eclipsed by events halfway around the world. On that day two U.S. destroyers were said to have come under attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The incident, of dubious credibility, provided the impetus for what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the legislative basis for the Vietnam War. Provocation or pretext, it consumed all other concerns. Even Ambassador Godley found himself pleading for attention from a Washington that was, in his words, "preoccupied with Vietnam." But there was no one to plead on Merriman's behalf.

Two days later, on August 6, 1964, Merriman took up a pen and wrote his wife a letter. "Dear Darling," it began. "Our letters will probably be a little staggered while I am here so 1 will write as often as I can when I can. 1 received several of your letters today and spent quite a while going through them ... by the way don't pay too much attention to my writing as 1 am not terribly coordinated at the moment. Also everything will be a little slanted." Indeed the words nearly veered off the page.

Merriman did not mention that he had been in a plane crash or that he was suffering. Whether it was to spare his wife worries or to avoid any breach of security is not clear. There were hints of a mishap and clear signs of growing resentment and disillusionment. "There are some people," he wrote, "I don't think I'll ever be able to like whether I want to or not. About the only one I know that is always straight is you." It had been two weeks since the crash and there was little hope that he would be sent back to the States anytime soon.

There was more than a touch of understatement in his letter. "Some of the work is exciting to say the least. Some of it I'll be able to tell you about when I come home. One thing you've probably heard by now is the fact that I've had an accident. Don't let this worry you. For a few minutes it was a near thing but everything so far has worked out O.K. and think everything will." Merriman was wrong. The Agency had apparently not yet made any mention of a plane crash.

As the letter progressed, Merriman's writing slanted more and more, the words themselves belying his fatigue. "I have to stop for now," he wrote, "so I'll use the rest of this page to tell you that 1 do love you so very very very much that you will never realize how much -- I'll try to tell you how much when I come home -- Your very own -- John."

Rene Garcia could scarcely believe that the United States would allow one of its own with such critical injuries to be left in a primitive Congolese hospital. On his first return to Leopoldville he visited Merriman in the hospital and saw that, aside from sedatives and painkillers, little or nothing was being done for him. He went straightaway to the embassy and confronted an air force officer stationed there, imploring him to intervene on Merriman's behalf.

The officer's response: "Rene, to win a war sometimes you have to be a son of a bitch."

Garcia was stunned. "I was always thinking there would be somebody with the decency to take care of the situation but there wasn't anybody to take care of anything. Maybe it was the fear of the press, I don't know why they didn't medevac him out. I knew we were expendable, we the Cubans, but it seemed then the American boys were expendable as well."

Two more weeks passed with Merriman lying in the Congolese hospital. Finally, on August 20, he was put aboard an air force cargo plane back to the States. Even then, the Agency was concerned that such a move not leak out. It was arranged that Merriman be transported under the name of an air force officer.

Somewhere high above Ascension Island, between one and three in the morning, John Merriman's weary and broken body at last gave in, as an embolism lodged in his lungs. That his death might well have been avoided had he been returned to the States weeks earlier is conjecture. Perhaps it was fitting that Merriman, who all his life had wanted nothing more than to fly, should have died in an airplane.

Not long after, it was said the family of the air force officer whose name Merriman had traveled under was notified that they had lost their son. After some moments of shock and a call or two, it was discovered that their boy was fine. But there was no such good news awaiting Val Merriman and her three sons.

On the morning of August 20 the telephone rang in their Tucson home. It was Syd Stembridge asking if he could come out and talk with her. A short time later he arrived. Val poured him a cup of coffee and the two walked out on the patio and took a seat. Stembridge's message was short and to the point. He said John had had an accident -- exactly what kind was not said -- but that he did not think it was life-threatening. If all goes well, said Stembridge, he would be flown to a hospital in Bethesda for an examination and then come home. If there was a problem, the Agency would fly the family to be with him. It was almost presented as good news. John was coming home early.

In preparation for his homecoming, Val prepared his favorite meal, roast turkey. While it was still in the oven the doorbell rang. It was Stembridge again, this time with Dot Kreinheder, Gar Thorsrude's personal assistant. Kreinheder went into the living room, where the boys were watching television. Stembridge walked Val onto the patio. He had bad news, he said. John, he said, had been in a Puerto Rico hospital, that his spirits were good, that he had eaten a solid dinner, and sometime around 11:00 P.M. a nurse had checked in on him. John had asked for ice cream, which he was given. At six the next morning, as the doctor made rounds, Merriman was dead.

Stembridge's arm was around Val's shoulder. When she calmed down enough to hear his words, he told her that Kreinheder would be staying with the family for a time and that the Agency had worked out an elaborate cover story to ensure that Merriman's death would not be linked either to the Congo or to the CIA. It was a story Val would be expected to tell John's parents, his friends, and his sons.

Merriman, so the cover story went, had been flying an airplane with a magnetometer to find minerals on the ground, and when he finished the job, the private firm for which he worked had asked him to fly to Puerto Rico to finalize a contract. When he arrived there, he rented a car and was to drive into the city, but on the way, exhausted from his trip, he ran off the road and crashed into a tree. From there he was taken to the hospital at Ramey Air Force Base. "I remembered every word of it," said Val Merriman.

John Merriman's children and parents were also told the cover story. It would be more than thirty years before Val Merriman would discover that the Agency had lied to her about the circumstances of her husband's death.

The Agency contacted a doctor who came out and gave Val Merriman a tranquilizer and left several others for her to take later. She hadn't asked for them but did what the Agency told her to do. She was so dazed by the medication that she remembers little of the days thereafter, except that either Stembridge or Thorsrude convinced her not to let her children attend the funeral. It was a decision she would forever regret.

The funeral was small, about thirty-five people. Thorsrude had flown in many of John's friends from Marana-Stembridge, Gearke, and many of the Intermountain pilots and smoke jumpers. Later there was a wake. Endless stories of Merriman's exploits as a pilot were told over drinks.

A few days later Merriman's final letter, the one written from his hospital bed in Leopoldville, arrived at the Merriman home.


For Val Merriman, John's death brought with it not only grief but a profound sense of isolation. "When John died, there was nobody I could talk to about this death. A wife that loses her husband in a car accident can go to a meeting with other widows and talk about what happened. I couldn't even tell my friends what happened. It's also pretty tough to lie to your children and your mother- n-law. To sit around telling them flat-out lies is pretty tough."

Not long after Merriman's death, the Merrimans began to receive monthly checks, which Val Merriman assumed were akin to workers' compensation. But these checks were drawn on an offshore bank and the Agency had instructed her to pick them up from a Tucson post office box. The last check arrived when Eric, Merriman's youngest son -- four at the time of his father's death -- turned twenty-one.

There were other ways, too, that the Agency tried to look after her. A local attorney working with the CIA arranged to take care of all tax, Social Security, and insurance matters. But the latter became more complicated than expected. Back when John Merriman was twenty-one and living in Alaska, he and Val had purchased a $3,000 life insurance policy that contained a double indemnity clause. If John Merriman died in a car accident, the policy would pay double.

Val Merriman knew that her husband had been in a plane crash in the Congo, not in a car crash as his death certificate recorded. But she had had no reason to doubt the Agency's story that his injuries had at first appeared minor and that his final day was spent in a Puerto Rican hospital attended by a solicitous medical staff. The grim truth -- that he endured agonizing injuries that went largely unattended -- would not be made known to her for three decades, and even then, not by the Agency. "It was the only story I had," she said. Still, she felt uneasy about accepting the insurance company's $6,000 that included the double indemnity payout. "John died in an act of war and I didn't want that to ever come back and haunt us," she said. "Keeping the money was not something that lor John would want me to do." So she returned the money.

But Robert Gambino, a senior security officer with the CIA's deputy director for plans, flew to Chattanooga where the insurance company was based and privately disclosed to the firm's president that Merriman had died serving his country. The company concluded that Val Merriman was indeed deserving of the proceeds, including the double indemnity provision. Even so, Val Merriman declined to accept it.

Finally there were individual acts of kindness about which not even Val Merriman was aware. At Marana, Merriman's death hit hard. His friend Don Gearke remembered that in the week before Merriman left he had been cited with a violation by the FAA for hassling a general's plane. The fine was still outstanding. Not wishing his widow to have to deal with such matters or to have Merriman's flight record blemished, he pulled some strings and had the violation quietly quashed.

In April 1965, eight months after Merriman's death, his widow was presented with a posthumous medal, the Agency's much-coveted Intelligence Star. It was a private ceremony held on the seventh floor of the CIA's Langley headquarters. Only Merriman's widow and parents were invited. The citation, signed by Director Central Intelligence John McCone, reads. "for his fortitude and courage in an overseas area of extreme hazard. Volunteering for an assignment which he knew to be fraught with danger and hardship, Mr. Merriman lost his life as a result of hostile action while engaged in an activity of great concern to the United States. His exemplary conduct served to inspire his associates and maintains the finest traditions of service to our Nation."

Later they lunched on filet mignon in a private dining room. The meal was abruptly interrupted as word was received that President Johnson wanted to meet Merriman's widow and parents. They were immediately driven to the White House, where Johnson received them. No record of that meeting would appear in White House logs or the presidential calendar, though the family was later permitted to pose for photos in the Rose Garden. Accompanying the Merrimans on their White House tour was Robert Gambino, the senior CIA security officer, and Syd Stembridge. (As if the scene were not already macabre enough, the Merrimans were later joined by the wife of film director Alfred Hitchcock. )

President Johnson solemnly received the family in the Oval Office and expressed his condolences. He said that the nation honored this son and husband, that the country owed him a debt that could never be repaid. He never mentioned John Merriman by name, but his eyes were tearing. He said he took the loss personally and was saddened even further that he could not declare to the public what this man had done. He even referred to Sam Houston, the hero of the Texas war for independence. A few moments later McGeorge Bundy, Johnson's security adviser, introduced himself to the Merrimans, as did Lady Bird Johnson. The president then clasped the Merrimans' hands, squeezing firmly.

He turned to Merriman's father. "So you're from Teru1essee?" said Johnson in an effort to infuse some levity. "We had some Tennesseans helped us out at the Alamo." The senior Merriman, a salty Chattanooga detective, was accustomed to speaking his mind. "Helped you out?" he fired back. "Hell, if you had more of us we would have saved your ass!"

For an instant Johnson, a man rarely at a loss for words, stood speechless. "You're okay," he said, then erupted in laughter, tears stream- ing down his cheeks.

Outside, a helicopter landed as the Johnsons prepared to leave for their Texas ranch. Before departing, Lady Bird handed Val Merriman a book on White House interiors. There was no inscription. A moment later the Johnsons were gone. Afterward the Merrimans were taken to the kitchen and served some finger sandwiches and iced tea. The two Merriman women, widow and mother, were then given an orchid corsage and led by a Secret Service agent on a rare tour of the upstairs residence.


After Merriman's death, Washington would continue to prop up Tshombe and later army strongman Mobuto. In the annals of the CIA the outcome in the Congo would be placed squarely in the win column, as Mobuto remained in the U.S. sphere of influence. He provided a share of his country's rich minerals (including tantalite, used in nuclear weapons) to the United States as well as a strategic base from which the CIA would launch later anti-Communist and counterinsurgency efforts in Angola.

For the people of the Congo, known as Zaire under Mobuto, it was not so clear a victory. For thirty-three years Mobuto's name was virtually synonymous with corruption and repression. Not since King Leopold II of Belgium a century before had the country been so plundered, its people so devastated. Mobuto became a billionaire, bankrupting his country. To describe the avarice and thievery of his regime, a new word had to be coined -- kleptocracy. But though he betrayed his own people, in the Cold War era of "clientitis" he remained "faithful" to the West. As was said of many, he may have been a bastard, but he was our bastard.

Sidney Gottlieb, the eccentric CIA scientist who delivered poison meant for the Congo's Lumumba, died in 1999 at the age of eighty. He spent his final years caring for the dying, running a commune, and fending off lawsuits growing out of his secret CIA experiments decades earlier.

CIA Station Chief Lawrence Devlin, who had tossed the poison meant for Lumumba into the Congo River, later went to work for American diamond magnate Maurice Templesman, paramour and final companion to Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline Onassis. Devlin's courtship of Mobuto had proved most valuable.

As for the Cuban pilots who survived the Bay of Pigs to later fly with Merriman, they remained close comrades, though they took divergent paths. Rene Garcia became Mobuto's personal pilot. From 1969 to 1985 he flew him everywhere, from Paris to China to North Korea to Disneyland. Garcia watched as the diamonds from the mines of Katanga, the province in which Merriman had died while trying to prevent it from seceding, went to Belgium -- except for the largest stones, which were lost to Mobuto's palace.

Gus Ponzoa would later fly for another CIA proprietary and ferry American weapons to an equally repressive U.S. client, the Shah of Iran. He is now retired and living in Miami.

Jack Varela, Merriman's wingman that fateful day, died in a Dominican prison where he was serving time on drug charges.

As for the Merrimans, John Merriman remains very much a daily presence in their lives. The oldest son, Bruce, joined the CIA in the Office of Security. Unbeknownst to him, his mother had gone to Gar Thorsrude and quietly persuaded him to promise that Bruce would never be placed in harm's way, a promise he honored. Bruce Merriman left the Agency after a decade.

The legacy of Agency service is often passed from parent to child, creating a kind of caste system in which sons and daughters are welcomed into the fold. Having been raised within the culture of secrecy, they need no reminders. Today Bruce wears his father's Rolex watch, the one whose bezel popped off in the crash.

Son Jon entered the 82nd Airborne just as his father had done be- fore him. In 1980 he, too, interviewed for an Agency job. As a former fine arts major, he was asked if he was interested in the "manufacturing section," and, in particular, where forgeries and false documents are prepared. Then they asked if he was willing to break the law. "Which laws: asked Merriman, "foreign or domestic?" That question put the interviewers off and no job offer was received.

For years Jon pursued every lead that might shed light on his father's life and death. His den is a kind of living shrine to his father, about whom he speaks in soft and reverential tones.

Merriman's widow, Val, remarried-another pilot, David Folkins, who also flew for the CIA. Increasingly, as the Agency matured, it moved more and more into the role of extended family. But Val Merriman Folkins did not forget John. His portrait hangs in their bedroom. Her second husband had no wish to expunge him from their lives, or to allow John Merriman's sons to forget him. No one had to convince him of the honor and remembrance Merriman was due. And in her purse, just as she did the day of the funeral, Val continues to carry a picture of John Merriman. Not a day goes by when she does not speak with him, silently communing with his spirit.

The CIA's Syd Stembridge, who told Val Merriman the story of her husband's passing in the Puerto Rican hospital and of his request for ice cream, is retired now. He attended the 1977 wedding of Merriman's son Jon. But when the wedding pictures were developed, Jon noticed that the only pictures of Stembridge were of the back of his head. A consummate professional in security matters, he was a study in anonymity.

Stembridge will still not speak of the circumstances surrounding Merriman's death. "It's security reasons with me," he says. "Once you start down that road, I would say something and you will want to know why and that will lead to something else. I've just made it a policy. I knew John Merriman well, and I know John is resting easy if I abide by what he knew to be the rules of the game."

But in 1996 the Merrimans made a dramatic discovery. It came not by way of the Agency, but from Janet Weininger, daughter of the Alabama pilot Pete Ray, who died at the Bay of Pigs. As Weininger pursued her lifelong search for answers about her own father, interviewing veterans of the Bay of Pigs, she came upon a pilot who told her the story of John Merriman. He asked her to help him track down Merriman's family Later the Merrimans were introduced to the Cuban pilots who served with John Merriman. They told her of his suffering and of what they believed was the u.s. government's inexcusable delay in getting him proper treatment. They were convinced that Merriman had suffered needlessly and that, had he received proper care, he might well be alive today.

Val Merriman was appalled. She contacted several lawyers in an effort to sue the Agency for wrongful death, but each one declined to take the case. So thorough was the Agency's security that she had not a shred of paper to document the circumstances surrounding Merriman's death. What Val Merriman said she wanted was not money, but someone to say "I'm sorry."

That same year Merriman's son Jon was idly thumbing through a magazine when he came upon a photo of the CIA's Book of Honor. There on the open page he saw inscribed his father's name. No one from the Agency had bothered to tell the family that Merriman had been so honored.

The next year the Merriman family once again approached the Agency pleading with them to release the file on John. At a December 16, 1997, meeting, CIA officers told the family it would take a prodigious effort on the Agency's part to retrieve the records. A few months earlier one of those same officers had said the file had been lost. But first the Agency insisted that the Merrimans sign a secrecy agreement pledging not to divulge whatever information they might learn. This they did.

It was only the latest in a series of bizarre negotiations between the CIA and the Merriman family. Several months earlier the Agency had made an even more unusual request. In return for any cooperation, the family would be required to tender their copy of Merriman's death certificate, the one that said he had been in an auto accident in Puerto Rico. This, too, the family did.

The only thing the Merrimans came away with from that December 1997 meeting that they did not have before was Merriman's autopsy report detailing the awful extent of his injuries. Val Merriman could not help but remember when the CIA had told her John had not suffered and had received the best of care.

The Agency maintained that it had done all it could for John Merriman, that his delicate condition would not permit him to have been moved any earlier. The idea that it abandoned one of its own in the field strikes a raw nerve even today at an Agency that prides itself in getting its people out when they are in danger. But that's not how the Merrimans see it. "They let him die," says Val Merriman. "I really hope he didn't realize that. He thought the Agency was the greatest thing in the world. He was a flyboy. He would never have thought they would have deserted him."
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:23 am

Part 1 of 2

The Two Mikes

Alas, but Michael fell young:
Hee never fell, thou fallest my tongue.
He stood, a Souldier to the last right end,
A perfect Patriot, and noble friend,
But most a virtuous Sonne.


AT TEN O'CLOCK on a sunlit Sunday morning -- October 10, 1965 -- two young men in khakis, both named Mike, hoisted themselves aboard an Air America chopper and lifted off from a tiny air base in Pakse, Laos. One was named Mike Deuel. The other, Mike Maloney. Both were said to be with the Agency for International Development, AID, helping to resettle displaced refugees. Their true purpose, stamped "Top Secret," would, for decades, keep the Central Intelligence Agency from speaking of their mission or even uttering their names aloud, though not for lack of pride.

From the vantage point of far-off Langley, these two young bulls -- Deuel was twenty-eight, Maloney twenty-five -- were as close to royalty as the CIA possessed. In their faces the Agency's leadership could read the CIA's proud past and what it took to be its illustrious future.

What set the two Mikes apart from other young covert operatives was that they were among the first sons of CIA career officers to take to the field. That Sunday morning flight -- the first time the two Mikes would link up -- was in itself of no great political or military consequence. But to the few at Langley who were cleared to know the names behind the code names and who were familiar with the lineage of these two men, it was something of an epochal event.

It marked the beginning of the end for that first generation of CIA officer who had come out of World War II and Donovan's OSS, and it ushered in a whole new era of clandestine warrior. By 1965, two full decades after World War II, the CIA's wartime veterans were entering their fifties and sixties. Balding and slower of step, they were sagelike presences in the halls of Langley, already cast in supervisory and support roles and, but for a defiant few, reluctantly accepting desk jobs. They understood it was time to leave the action to the "kids," as those of the successive generation were sometimes called. The old-timers had passed along their tradecraft and their vision of a world in peril, one whose salvation rested upon constant vigilance and sometimes desperate measures.

The two Mikes were the very embodiment of that legacy, eager to demonstrate their courage and their skills. Over time, the novelty of a second generation of CIA officer would fade. More and more sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, were drawn into the fold of clandestine service. It was no accident. Through summer jobs and internships, through preferences accorded the scions of Agency employees, and through the natural patterns of socializing among themselves, the CIA's intergenerational ranks swelled.

In time, they would come to form an unseen clandestine class and a culture all its own. Raised within a raucously open society, and yet a breed apart, they were reared to believe in the indispensability of espionage and the virtues of secrecy. They came to accept what the wider population could not -- that even the ultimate sacrifice must sometimes go unrecognized and unrecorded. As public suspicions of the Agency deepened in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs and the quagmire of Vietnam, the CIA increasingly gathered unto itself its own sons and daughters. They, above all others, could be trusted and demanded little explanation.

Mike Maloney and Mike Deuel were a part of that second generation of CIA officer who came of age in the early and mid-1960s and who would leave their own unique hallmark on the clandestine service for decades to come. To understand this second generation of Cold Warrior and its vision of the world, you must first come to know the stock from which they came and why, for the two Mikes, clandestine service was not merely a choice of career but an honored birthright, foreordained.


Mike Maloney's father, Arthur, was born in Connecticut in 1914. To his friends he was known as Art or Mal. No one ever doubted that he had the makings of a tough son of a bitch. He was a barrel-chested, Camel-smoking Irishman with a square jaw, teacup ears, a boxer's nose, and wild, bushy brows. His skin was pinkish and quick to sunburn. He could be gruff and intimidating but in an instant erupt with a roguish laugh from which neither funeral nor High Mass would have been safe.

He attended West Point, where he was the very embodiment of gung ho, even as a member of the backup lacrosse squad. One admiring observer wrote: "A whack from a lacrosse stick spread Maloney's schnoz so he could smell his ears. That normally is an annoying injury in sport but to a B-team player who picks his teeth with the cleats of the varsity stars a smeared bugle is no worse than a bad, but brief cold." Maloney took his soldiering seriously, but not himself. In the Academy's production of a musical comedy, he played an utterly ridiculous Romeo. He graduated from West Point in 1938 and one year later married Mary Evangeline Arens, a chestnut-haired coed with a will all her own. A year later they had a child, a son named Michael Arthur Maloney -- one of "The Two Mikes."

But Mal Maloney's homelife, like that of his generation, was interrupted by World War II. Maloney, a crack paratrooper, would find himself in charge of the 3rd Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the fabled 82nd Airborne Division. At 2:30 A.M., June 6, 1944 -- D-Day -- he was the first among his nineteen parachute troops to leap from the plane into occupied France. In addition to his own burly 200 pounds, he shouldered a carbine, a pistol, two knives, a land mine, four grenades, ammo, a watertight escape kit, $40 in French currency, a silk handkerchief map, a compass, and a file -- 350 pounds in all. Never before had he jumped with so little space between himself and the ground.

He landed in a pasture on the west side of the Merderet River. Soon after, his battalion commander was killed, and Maloney took charge. He was not yet thirty, making him by some accounts the youngest commander in the European theater. Seeing that his battalion was being pushed back under withering fire, he reorganized them and led them forward, personally taking a bazooka team to destroy an enemy tank. He showed complete contempt for his own safety. At Chef-du-Pont a bullet from a German sniper pierced his helmet, tore through the toilet paper he carried there, and exited out the other side. His shoulder holster was scarred by a second bullet that bounced off the barrel of his .45. Unshaven and with dried blood streaking his reddish beard, he was a forbidding presence, and damn proud of it. "I was probably the ugliest soldier in Normandy," he later boasted.

On July 7, 1944, on the forward slope of Hill 95 at La Poterie Ridge, a bullet tore through his right leg, grazed his groin, and ripped through his left leg, severing several nerves. A British doctor had him fully prepped and was about to amputate his right leg when Maloney persuaded him otherwise: "No fucking way," he barked. And though he had been told it was doubtful he would ever walk again or be able to have more children, he went on to be a father three times more (he already had two children) and took great pride in proving the doctors wrong. For a year he was in a stateside hospital. He received the Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, and the coveted Distinguished Service Cross. Upon winning the latter, the Hartford Times ran a photo of Mal and his son Mike, as the two posed with the colonel's perforated helmet. The caption read. "'And that's where it came out.' Little Michael explains the two bullet holes in the helmet of his daddy, Lt. Col. Arthur A. Maloney." Already "Little Michael" had been introduced to soldiering. Baptized in the chapel at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Little Michael was given a toy plane and a toy soldier for his first birthday.

In August 1946 Mal retired from the military as a full colonel. Few doubted that, but for his wound, he would soon have been a general. He worked for a time at Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and later the Aetna Insurance Company, but he chafed at desk jobs and hankered for military life. "You couldn't keep him away from anywhere there was shooting going on," recalled his friend Major General Paul F. Smith. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 Mal Maloney volunteered for duty but was rejected because of his bum leg. His beloved military wouldn't have him.

And so it was by default that he came to the CIA in March 1951. The CIA was as close as he could get to the front lines. It was never to be a perfect fit, but his paramilitary skills and command experience proved a valuable asset to the Agency, and he was promptly put to work first in the CIA's Office of Training and later the War Plans Division.

In 1957 Maloney received orders that he was to be transferred to Hawaii, where he would be under military cover -- hardly a stretch for the colonel. He was to dress in uniform and report daily to a nonexistent entity within the Department of Defense, the so-called Pacific Research Office. His actual CIA position was to be chief of the war plans staff, Far East Division, under the deputy director for plans. Specifically he was to help draft contingency war plans should North Korea, China, or both suddenly reach beyond their borders.

But the flight to Hawaii was to be even more harrowing than that which dropped him over wartime France. Maloney, his wife, Mary, sons Mike, Dennis, and Timothy, and daughters Erin and two- month-old Sheila took off from Travis Air Force Base in California in a four-engine Military Air Transport C-97 on August 8, 1957. The destination: Honolulu. Just over halfway to Hawaii, Dennis, then fourteen, looked out the window and saw the propeller from the number one engine on the left wing fly off, loop over the wing, and strike the fuselage. Moments later the second engine on the left wing also died.

With still another thousand miles to the nearest landfall in Hawaii, the plane limped on, barely a hundred feet above the black Pacific. The captain ordered everyone to put on life jackets and sent out a distress signal alerting ships in the area to be ready to help if the plane should need to ditch at sea. In an effort to stabilize the aircraft, the pilot had the Maloney family and the other fifty-two passengers shunted from one side to the other. Finally the captain ordered the passengers to dump their luggage into the sea.

A rear door was opened and seventeen-year-old Mike Maloney, together with the other passengers, formed a line and passed along suitcases as well as fifty-three bags of mail, shoveling them out the back, low enough to hear them splash. Included in the jettisoned baggage was an entire wardrobe of new military uniforms that Mal was to wear as part of his military cover. For six hours the ordeal continued, as the plane skimmed above the waves. Mary Maloney swore that if the flight landed safely she would forever give up cigarettes and potatoes.

As they approached Hilo, the captain discovered that the landing gear had been damaged. Mal Maloney offered to climb down and crank it by hand, but the captain had a crew member do it instead. Finally the plane landed without incident. Mary Maloney would honor her oath never again to smoke a cigarette -- though twenty years later she would eat potatoes after a doctor told her she needed the potassium. In 1958, a year after that traumatic flight, when Mike went off to Fairfield College in Connecticut, Mary Maloney insisted that her son take the cruise ship Matsonia to the States. No Maloney was taking another plane, not if Mary Maloney had anything to say about it. She would forever have a bad feeling about planes.

Nor was it the last trauma for the Maloneys in Hawaii. Mal Maloney enjoyed robust health, but he had acquired something of a shake or palsy. When he held a cup of coffee, it rattled against the saucer. His friends called it nerves. Whether it was a result of the war or something else, he was not always the best of drivers.

A year after arriving in Hawaii, shortly after noon on October 7, 1958, Mal Maloney struck a sixty- one-year-old woman who was crossing at the corner of Hotel and Punchbowl Streets. The woman died in a hospital hours later. Maloney was charged with negligent homicide. The trial hung over the Maloney family for six months. The shock of the accident weighed heavily on Maloney. So, too, did the newspaper articles that drew attention to him, identifying him by his cover, as a Defense Department researcher. From the witness stand, Maloney described the accident to the jurors and concluded, "I will see it for the rest of my life."

On March 18, 1960, after six hours of deliberation, a jury found him not guilty. But the accident left a deeper scar on him than even the casualties suffered in combat.

Mal Maloney transferred back to CIA headquarters in August 1961. He was a familiar presence in the halls, the sight of his husky figure dragging his leg, braced and inflexible. Without the brace his left foot flopped in front of him like a flipper, and even with the brace he would on occasion stumble and collapse in a heap like a huge rag doll. Such falls would be followed by a moment of concerned silence, inevitably broken by Mal Maloney's own boisterous laugh as he gathered himself and got up. Except on the golf course where he occasionally cited his injuries in an unsuccessful bid for a few strokes' advantage, he never played up his wounds. Indeed, he disdained such attention. "Sympathy is a word between 'shit' and 'syphilis' in the dictionary," he would often declare until it became a mantra in the Maloney family.

Besides, at the Agency, such injuries were too common to merit special notice. In the years after World War II there were many men like Mal Maloney who loved the military but who, because of disabling combat injuries, were not able to return to active service. Like Maloney, they joined the CIA by default. Among these was one of Mal's dear friends, Ben Vandervoort, a fellow veteran of D-Day, who lost an eye and would later be played by John Wayne in the film The Longest Day. Another was the CIA's executive director, Colonel Lawrence K. "Red" White, who lost the use of one leg in combat. In the halls of Langley such injuries merely enhanced one's credibility. For Maloney and the others the curse of such injuries was that it had prematurely reduced men of action to bureaucrats and desk jockeys.

In Maloney's Washington home the medals were prominently displayed in shadow boxes. Framed on the wall was a handwritten note that read. "To Col. Arthur Maloney, a veteran of one of the truly great fighting units of World War II. With best wishes from a comrade of the ETO [European theater of operations]." It was signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Maloney also kept a yellowing newspaper article about the elite training given paratroopers. The headline read. "Silent, Clever, Deadly." Not one to romanticize war, Maloney penned under the headlines, "Noisy, dumb, scared."

But Maloney continually used his wiles to get as close to the action as Langley would permit. From November 1961 until May 1962 he was on temporary duty in Saigon, consulting on the growing U.S. efforts to contain the Communists. There he worked under Desmond FitzGerald, a legendary CIA covert warrior. In Saigon he also caught the attention of other future CIA standouts. Years later one of them would scribble a note to Maloney in the frontispiece of a book: "With fond memories of our time in Saigon -- and the Irish wit and courage you supplied." It was signed "Bill Colby," Director Central Intelligence.

But the real focus of Maloney's attention by 1962 was not Vietnam but Cuba. In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, President Kennedy did not simply lick his wounds and walk away from the debacle. Instead, he and his brother Bobby, the attorney general, resolved to bring down Castro by any means necessary: to destabilize the country's economy, bankrupt it if necessary, and create such social unrest that the government would topple.


With the Kennedy brothers, it was no longer purely a matter of national security. It was personal. Castro had not only survived the Bay of Pigs but been emboldened by it, openly mocking the United States' effete and quixotic attempts to bring him down. A smoldering President Kennedy demanded action. Sam Halpern, a veteran Agency officer, recalls Richard Bissell summoning him into his office. "He told us he had been chewed out in the cabinet room of the White House by the president and attorney general for sitting on his ass and not doing anything about Castro and the Castro regime." Bissell related the president's order: "Get rid of Castro."

Halpern wanted clarification. "What do the words 'get rid of' mean?" he asked Bissell.

"Use your imagination," Bissell responded. "No holds barred."

In the year ahead the Agency did indeed use its imagination. There was even a short-lived plan to convince the Cuban people of Christ's Second Coming, complete with aerial starbursts. "Elimination by illumination," the scheme was dubbed by one senior officer. But such silliness gave way to more deadly plans, including a contract on Castro's life offered to the Mafia. The Agency was determined to create chaos in Cuba, with a mix of sabotage, propaganda, and, if need be, outright assassination. The project was part of a broad-based action against Castro code-named Operation Mongoose.

The name was chosen by Halpern. He had telephoned a woman at CIA whose job it was to track those operational code names or cryptonyms already in use and provide a list of those still available, usually taken in alphabetical order from the dictionary. Only the first two letters, or digraph, were of any internal significance. In this instance, "MO" signified operations in Thailand, and was chosen to mislead even those within the Agency. Halpern selected the word "mongoose," not knowing its meaning. (Years later he read Rudyard Kipling's story "Rikki-Tikki- Tavi" and learned a mongoose was a ferretlike creature famed for its speed and ability to kill cobras.)

The operation, under a unit designated simply Task Force W, commenced in October 1961. Maloney was chosen to oversee a key component of that project -- the selection of targets for sabotaging Castro's economy. This included copper mines, the sugar crop, and manufacturing concerns. Nothing was off-limits. "We were at war with Cuba," recalled one former member of the unit.

Maloney's sabotage efforts were interrupted a year later by the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. He was then assigned a number of exotic roles. At the height of the crisis the United States had a broad contingency plan calling for the invasion of Cuba. At the CIA Maloney prepared an elaborate diversionary scheme designed to mask the true invasion points on the island. He oversaw an Agency program that was to parachute countless dummies on various landing sites. Each of the dummies was equipped with a timer that would set off firecrackers, in the hope that it would draw attention and fire away from U.S. troops landing elsewhere. As there was no invasion, the plan was put back on the shelf.

The Maloney family, of course, knew that Mal was with the CIA, but they had no inkling of what it was he did for the Agency. Early on, they learned not to ask. "If I told you," quipped Maloney, "I'd have to kill you." It was an oft-repeated line in CIA families, a way to laugh off the deadly serious consequences of a breach of security. As an inside joke, the Maloney's family dog, a white- and-brown-spotted beagle, was named Spook. But whatever it was that Maloney did, his son Mike decided he wanted to do the same. There would sometimes be friction between father and son, both of them husky, headstrong, and competitive, but there was also an abiding adoration.


If Mike Maloney's father was a man of action, Mike Deuel's was a man of words. His name was Wallace, but he was known to family and friends as Wally. He was a bookish figure with an owlish face, horn-rimmed glasses, and a slim frame, the sort of fellow pictured on the beach getting sand kicked in his face. He stood five feet ten, weighed 165 pounds, and had pale blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. As a child he had been pensive and sickly, suffering scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, and boils. His eyesight was poor and his later travels overseas would bring him dengue fever, ringworm, and, at age twenty-nine, a bout of pyorrhea. By age forty-one he had lost the last of his teeth.

More scholar than soldier, he loved his quiet Sundays when he would curl up with a literary classic or sit beside the radio engrossed in Puccini performed by his beloved Metropolitan Opera. He would never be mistaken for a warrior, but he had a kind of gumption that even warriors came to respect.

By trade he was a newspaperman, a world-class foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He had the good fortune in 1934 to be posted to Berlin even as Hitler consolidated power. Deuel would remain there for seven years. During that time he made a study of the Reich and published a book, People Under Hitler a scathing account of German despotism. Columbia University Press placed Deuel among the fifteen American authors -- along with the likes of Pearl Buck, Archibald MacLeish, and Sinclair Lewis -- that Hitler would liquidate first if he conquered America. The Reich dubbed him "the worst anti-Nazi in the whole country." Author and friend William L. Shirer called him "brilliant."

In the Berlin of 1935 Deuel befriended a young United Press correspondent, a bachelor, with whom Deuel would often share meals and break the lonely tedium of a foreign posting. Later, in March 1942, Deuel wrote an effusive letter of recommendation for that correspondent who had applied for a position with the navy's public relations department. He hailed the young man's "personal charm, his intelligence, initiative, energy, honesty, and patriotism." That correspondent would become an integral part of the nascent OSS. His name was Richard McGarrah Helms, a future director of Central Intelligence. It was a friendship that would last for decades and profit Deuel in his second career with the Agency.

It was during his tenure as Berlin correspondent that Wally and his wife, Mary, had two sons. Peter was born in 1935 and Mike on May 13, 1937, in Berlin.

With the outbreak of World War II, Wally Deuel joined the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA. He was named special assistant to Wild Bill Donovan, the charismatic leader of the OSS. Not cut out for the derring-do of covert military operations, Deuel took on a variety of tasks, even working with Walt Disney on a cartoon propaganda project. He was later assigned to the PWD, the Psychological Warfare Division, where he helped to disseminate false stories designed to undermine Germany's will to fight. Among those Deuel would work with during the war was future CIA chief Allen Dulles.

At the end of the war Donovan asked Deuel to write the first history of the OSS, an internal document chronicling some of the service's missions and personalities. In August 1945 Deuel returned to the Chicago Daily News and was asked to write a series on the OSS. He prepared a generally glowing account of the OSS but suggested in one brief phrase that at times the espionage business called for the use of "subversion." In an otherwise flattering portrayal of the service, he wrote, "Some of the methods employed are not nice."

Constrained by both his lifetime secrecy oath and his bond of friendship with Donovan, Deuel submitted the article to the former OSS head for his approval, assuming it would be instantly forthcoming. But Donovan raised his eyebrows at the suggestion that his OSS had ever stooped to ungentlemanly behavior. Donovan pointed out that at that very moment, the FBl, the State Department, and the Navy and War Departments all had their knives out trying to gut his efforts to salvage elements of the OSS and create a postwar central intelligence apparatus.

The exchange that followed was recorded in an August 25, 1961, letter Deuel wrote to his son Mike, then a marine. Deuel recalled Donovan telling him that "if he and/or I admitted in print that we had used methods which weren't nice, this would be used as evidence that we were all wicked, dirty people whose agency should be abolished. 'Besides,' said Bill, looking his most virtuous, his most butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth, 'I defy you to name me one single case in which we used methods that weren't nice.'

"This, of course, was my cue to stammer and stutter and blush and pick my nose in well-simulated confusion, and pretend to cudgel my brains and then confess that, shucks, in actual fact I couldn't cite a single instance of OSS skullduggery.

"But the war was over, and Bill, for all that I adored him, already had a slight overdraft of his moral credit with me," wrote Deuel, "and I was a newspaperman again as of that day and occasion, and no longer a public servant, and Bill's righteousness was just altogether too Goddam silly, and so instead of making the obeisance expected of me, I said:

"'All right, dammit, I will give you an example. I'll give you the example of Baron von _____, of the German diplomatic service, whom we suborned to the betrayal of his country's military secrets in time of war to an enemy -- namely, us -- by the threat that if he didn't give us what we wanted we'd expose him as a homosexual."

"Bill beamed with gratification, highly pleased to be reminded of a coup of which he had always been particularly proud.

"'But he was a homosexual, wasn't he?' said he.

"'Certainly he was,' said I.

"'And the threat worked, didn't it?' said he.

"'Certainly it worked,' said I.

"'Well, then?' said Bill, triumphantly."

Deuel ultimately won permission to publish the offending sentence, but without reference to any specific misdeeds.


Wally Deuel later took a job as diplomatic correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but in 1953 he was laid off. Thereafter he called upon his constellation of well-placed friends to help him find a job. Among these was a prominent fellow Illinois resident and future senator, Adlai Stevenson, and the then president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dean Rusk. But while there were many offers of assistance, no specific job materialized. Deuel's pride was hurt and his finances were frayed. He recalled that a decade earlier Allen Dulles had attempted to enlist his help in an OSS effort. Dulles was now Director Central Intelligence and eager to have Deuel on board.

In January 1954 Deuel took the oath of office, passed his final security interview, and signed a loyalty affidavit at CIA headquarters. He was a GS-15 with a starting salary of $10,800 a year, but he was jubilant, and once again intoxicated with the mystique of espionage, even though his career would rely more on his skills with a typewriter than a garrote or codebook

On May 31, 1954, he wrote his friend Adlai Stevenson, "Dear Adlai. I have gone back to spying," a claim slightly exaggerated, but one in which he took enormous pride. "I thought I could take the stuff or leave it alone, but clearly it had a more powerful hold on me than I realized. Anyway, I'm with the CIA and having the time of my life. It's the most exciting and rewarding work I've done since I was Berlin Correspondent for the Old Daily News. It's like taking holy orders; you are vowed to silence, to obedience, to poverty and to long, long, long hours of extremely hard work No vows of chastity, though."

To Dean Rusk, Deuel wrote. "I am back in the spy business. I am working for my favorite Dulles (Allen, of course) in CIA ..." (The other Dulles, John Foster, brother of Allen, was then secretary of state.)

"The kids in CIA are simply terrific," he wrote another friend. "I never saw anywhere such a gang of brilliant, inspired, dedicated, hardworking, selfless men." Such effusiveness was the hallmark of those early years at the Agency, predating the revelations and allegations that would thereafter stain the Agency's name and create a more subdued and somber atmosphere.

But there was a strange irony to the idea that a man like Deuel who had made his living sharing his vision of events with the world was now bound to keeping his mouth shut. "The silence is the hardest part, of course," he wrote. "Imagine to yourself a Deuel unable to say anything about his work or anything about politics, either foreign or domestic. Imagine to yourself a Deuel whose garrulity is inhibited in any manner or degree whatever. What practical jokes life plays on us, sooner or later, doesn't it?"

At the Agency Wally Deuel held a variety of midlevel and senior positions. He was made chief of staff overseeing all current intelligence publications, including those that each morning went directly to President Eisenhower and, later, Kennedy. From 1957 until 1968 he served as deputy chief and then chief of Foreign Intelligence/Requirements, overseeing those branches that collected, edited, and disseminated the CIA's secret intelligence. He was later assigned to the inspector general's staff; traveling to more than twenty countries, examining the conduct of the Agency's far-flung stations and bases. He even undertook a covert assignment to Beirut, where he made a study of why the Lebanese press was negative toward the United States and what could be done to influence that press and plant stories more favorable to American interests.

In February 1961 Deuel's immediate superior broke his arm, and Deuel was asked to fill in as the CIA's representative to the Kennedy White House. There he attended meetings with Pierre Salinger, Ed Murrow, Walt Rostow, McGeorge Bundy, and other senior officials advising Kennedy on how to deal with the press on sensitive political and intelligence matters. At one such meeting, held on February 21, 1961, Deuel noted that the State Department representative advised Kennedy that the United States should have used the recent assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo to its political advantage. The official argued that the United States "should have mounted a 'black' effort designed to convince world opinion that the Russians were responsible for Lumumba's assassination." Apparently the State Department official was unaware that the CIA had earlier ordered Agency operatives to poison the former Congolese leader.

At another White House meeting, on February 28, 1961, Deuel and others prepped Kennedy for an upcoming news conference. Kennedy was steamed at the CIA's apparent intelligence failures in the Congo, complaining that Agency reports were false or misleading. He turned to Deuel. "What's the matter -- have you got only one man there in the Congo?" Kennedy asked.

"He smiled when he said it," wrote Deuel in a memo to Dulles. "He made it clear however that he meant his criticisms seriously."

In March Deuel was relieved of White House responsibilities. His replacement: his old friend Dick Helms.

But by May 1961 the White House and CIA were already the targets of fierce criticism in the wake of the Bay of Pigs debacle. Deuel understood that henceforth nothing would be the same. He wrote his son Mike: "We've been living -- I won't say in a fool's paradise, but we've been living charmed lives all this time until now. Our immunity from exposure and attack has been partly luck, partly due to the laziness and lack of imagination of some editors and publishers, partly to self-restraint imposed by patriotism on the part of others, partly to trust in the Old Man [Allen Dulles], partly to the Old Man's skill in handling his public relations -- and, above all, to the fact that we've had a series of fantastic successes. We've had a few failures too, but they either haven't amounted to much or we haven't been found out."

With the Bay of Pigs, all that had now changed.


Mike Deuel inherited his father's intellect, but something else as well. Where Wally Deuel had always been most comfortable standing on the sidelines as observer or adviser, his son Mike was determined to be a player. Wherever the action was most intense, that was where Mike Deuel wanted to be. Mike was what his father always hungered to be -- not the scribe but the doer, living on the edge. His son was all of that -- a romantic and roguish figure in whom his father could realize a lifetime of pipe dreams.

Physically Mike Deuel was not particularly formidable, but he had little regard for his own well- being and even as a child took pride in throwing himself in the way of the biggest kid on the playing field. More than once he ended up in the hospital, not because he was accident-prone, but because caution was a concept foreign to him. On March 14 , 1949, the Washington Post ran a picture of eleven-year-old Mike Deuel smiling in his hospital bed after plummeting thirty feet from a two- story house to a concrete pavement. He suffered a concussion, a fractured elbow, and a cracked vertebra, but was delighted to have the time to build a model plane. Even then, he viewed fear and pain as elements to test his will.

On November 9, 1953, sixteen-year-old Mike Deuel was in a bruising football game when, in the second quarter, he became aware of a pain in his side. He felt tired and unable to run. But he played through the entire game without complaining, and it was not until that evening that he mentioned his discomfort. Not long after, an ambulance arrived to take him off to Garfield Hospital. There he would remain for the next four weeks with a ruptured kidney. Two operations later his only concern was that it not interfere with the next season's football.

His father, Wally, was attracted to those in power but also somewhat awed by it. Son Mike was utterly unintimidated by title or rank. In May 1950 he wrote a letter to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: "I have recently red [sic] a slight story about your proposed vacation trip across Iran on horseback.

"Before I go any further I might introduce myself. I'm Mike Deuel, 12, my father is a foreign affairs correspondent for the Saint Louis Post Dispatch." Deuel went on to explain that he had all As and Bs in school, a taste for adventure, and would very much like to accompany Justice Douglas on his next trip abroad.

On May 8, 1950, Justice Douglas replied.

"My dear Mike, I greatly enjoyed your recent letter. I am glad faraway places, high mountains and horses interest you. There is a great joy in exploration. I hope you find time in your life for a lot of it.

"I am not sure that I will make another trip abroad this summer. Should I do so it would be a great pleasure to have you along. But there is a difficulty. I have a son just 18 years old. He was with me last summer in the Middle East and we had a wonderful time together ... He has first claim to go, as you know. If I cannot take him, I don't know how I could take you. You understand, I am sure. I am very sorry for I think you and I would have a great time together. Yours Truly, William O. Douglas."

There was little that Mike Deuel did not excel at. Where natural talent failed, pure gumption kicked in. At Washington's Western High School he played fullback and made the All-Star D.C. team -- while serving as president of the student council. Graduating in 1955, he went to Cornell as one of the school's twenty-five National Scholars.

At Cornell Deuel played lacrosse and eagerly awaited the day his team faced Syracuse and the chance to butt heads with that school's most fiercesome athlete. Butt heads he did, though in each collision he got the worse of the exchange. The player he was so determined to stop was named Jim Brown, and he would go on to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. Deuel's classmates watched in disbelief as the modest-sized Deuel time and again attempted in vain to stand his ground against the broad-shouldered juggernaut from Syracuse. Such pluck became the stuff of myth.

At Cornell's Sigma Phi fraternity Deuel was seen as a spirited and gutsy classmate, with a puckish, sometimes lusty playfulness. As editor of the fraternity newspaper his junior year, he once wrote an article describing the fiancee of a senior fraternity brother as "succulent and squablike" -- apparently an accurate enough description. But the senior whose fiancee was so described was not amused by the phrase, and a short time later a repentant Deuel was observed on hands and knees, indelible marker in hand, blacking out each such reference from a stack of yet-to- be-distributed newsletters.

With prematurely salt-and-pepper hair cropped to a perfect brush cut, a devil-may-care smile, and squared jaw, he was a dashing figure -- never more so than when he once returned to Cornell from the marines in full dress uniform, starched blue collar, white gloves, scabbard, and swagger stick. He was the very image of the sturdy warrior but not quite able to fully conceal the little boy's thrill to be in uniform.

Deuel chose the marines because he hoped they would meet his own standards of toughness. It was not that he spoiled for a fight -- he did not -- but he was constantly looking for ways to test his mettle. During basic training, when it was his turn to lead a platoon, he inadvertently took his men into an ambush. Instead of capitulating, he yelled "Charge!" He was named that month's outstanding platoon leader.

But as a Marine Corps officer, he seemed oddly distanced from the tasks at hand. To a Cornell classmate he wrote on July 16, 1960: "We still take orders from mean men afflicted with chronic flatulence and we still run until puddles of earnest sweat accumulate around us." He seemed mildly amused by the regimentation. "I'm drunk with power but clear of eye," he wrote his family in 1961. "My hair is short and so is my patience. When I say 'frog,' my men jump. When I say 'merde' they say how much and what color?"

But for Mike Deuel, not even the marines supplied enough action. In a letter home, typically candid and irreverent for Deuel, he wrote: "Life here creeps on in an undetectable pace, so much so that I am thrown back on my strong inner resources -- tobacco, (awful) whiskey and pornography."

Hungry for more action, Deuel left the marines and in 1961 joined the CIA. He knew he was in the right place when an Agency lecturer told him: "You were brought into the service to provide new blood. Bleed a little." Instead of a cushy desk job, Deuel sought out the clandestine service and the most rigorous training the CIA offered. While nearly all clandestine officers passed through Camp Perry with its indoctrination courses and basics in tradecraft, Deuel applied to undertake the specialized program in jungle warfare.

On April 2, 1962, Deuel and the toughest of his Camp Perry classmates began what was called Paramilitary Course 3, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, in the Canal Zone. By 1962, most of the old guard of paramilitary experts trained in World War II were now too old to undertake paramilitary operations, and most of the paramilitary training had been discontinued a decade earlier. At the very time when President Kennedy resolved that the United States would blunt Soviet and Chinese aggression whenever and wherever it showed up, the Agency was woefully strapped for so-called paramilitary knuckledraggers. To the outside world such a term might have smacked of ridicule, suggesting Cro-Magnon-like warriors, but to the Agency it was an honorific term recalling the glory days of OSS operations, of raw courage and finely honed survival skills.

The course Deuel and his fourteen CIA classmates found themselves in was billed as "realistic, rough, and hazardous." It was all this and more. The instructor was Eli Popovich, a former OSS operative who had, among countless hair-raising missions, rescued downed American crewmen from behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia during World War II. He had a well- deserved reputation for being afraid of no man and no terrain. Agency recruits would later recall him bagging a huge python, hacking it into steaks, and dining on it as if it were a tender fillet.

The course was designed to turn young CIA recruits into jungle warfare experts in a mere three weeks. Awaiting most of them were jungle assignments as case officers leading counterinsurgency movements in Southeast Asia, particularly the CIA's still-secret war in Laos. The course curriculum acquainted the CIA's junior-officers-in-training (JOTs) in such topics as "Effects of Heat," "Snakes and Animals," "Reconnaissance Patrolling," "Ambush and Counter-Ambush," "Evasion and Escape," and "Guerrilla Operations."

Even Popovich was astounded by the caliber of recruits. In a memo stamped "Secret" he noted: "Our JOT's, often called 'intellectuals' and/or 'Eggheads,' have demonstrated that they are not only intelligent young men, but also are capable of being physically and mentally tough when necessary to carry out the most difficult tasks under adverse tactical conditions ... In spite of drastic change in climate, temperature, and humidity, and while being constantly harassed with cuts, bruises, bites from hornets, ants, and vampires [bats], and infections from black palm and sand box trees, they carried out their assigned tasks without undue gripes or complaints."

Not everyone finished the course. One man fell to fever. Another broke his leg on the "slide for life," a cable stretched across a river.

There was intense competition between the men, each one wanting not only to complete the course but to distinguish himself as the toughest, most resourceful and aggressive officer. Early on, Mike Deuel recognized that classmates Ralph McLean, Robert Manning, Andre LeGallo, and above all Richard Holm were his primary competitors.

But if the course brought out rivalries, it also imbued the men with a lasting esprit de corps. 1n the jungles of the Canal Zone were born friendships that would endure a lifetime. No greater friendships were forged than those between Deuel, McLean, Manning, and Holm. From the beginning, when Deuel and Holm entered the Agency as callow JOTs in June 1961, they had shared a special unspoken bond. They both adored sports, had a deep revulsion to Communism, were religious agnostics, and longed to make a difference in the world.

The two not only endured but reveled in the grueling jungle course, a program also given to elite military units. The CIA contingent was under cover as civilian employees of the U.S. Army Element, Joint Operational Group (8739). Each CIA officer was issued a false set of orders, fake IDs, and bogus medical records. Upon graduation the commanding officer of the exercise wryly noted: "There is a small group of civilians in this course from the United Fruit Company and although some of them have never been in uniform they have carried out their assigned tasks in this course as required with the rest of the class members in a manner that is worthy of praise and deserving of a fine hand." As the applause died down, the officer told CIA Training Director Popovich that Mike Deuel was the top man in the class, though his friends Holm, McLean, and LeGallo had slightly outscored him.

From the jungles of the Canal Zone, Deuel was dispatched to Langley to serve on the Laos desk, providing tactical and logistic support to the men in the field and acting as a transit point for outgoing orders and incoming intelligence. Deuel understood, as did everyone in the clandestine service, that Laos was center-stage in the struggle with Communism.

As far back as January 19, 1961 -- the day before Kennedy's inauguration -- the incoming president and the outgoing Eisenhower had spent more time discussing the prickly issue of Laos than any other subject. Following a 1954 international agreement, Laos was to remain neutral, free of outside intervention and superpower meddling. But the Communists brazenly ignored such restraints, and the United States, in what came to be known as "the secret war," fought bitterly to repel them and disrupt the tide of men and materiel that flowed through the country along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and into the hands of the North Vietnamese.

"Laos," Kennedy once declared, "is far away from America, but the world is small ...The security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered if Laos loses its neutral independence. Its own safety runs with the safety of us all -- in real neutrality observed by all." Instead of neutrality, Laos would be decimated by undeclared war. Not since the Bay of Pigs had the CIA staked so much on a single foreign gambit.

Deuel seized the first opportunity he had to go to Laos. Four members of his JOT class volunteered for that country assignment. Among them was his friend and colleague Dick Holm. Both he and Deuel thrived in the primitive back country. To his mother and father Mike Deuel wrote: "After about a week starts a job big and responsible enough to inspire equal parts of pleasure and panic. In times past, this combination has been enough to overcome my habitual mental lassitude; there may be cause for optimism ... But, now to my rude bower. Tomorrow, I must fight off wild Asian tigers and semi-wild Eurasian girls. Once more into the Breech?"

It was not only the job that captivated Deuel but the physical splendor of Laos as well. "This area is volcanic," he wrote. "A plateau dominates south Laos and then drops from the plateau are sheer and green. Throughout the year, huge waterfalls drop down to the lowlands around the plateau ..."

It was a raw existence that Deuel lived, working fifteen to twenty hours a day, seven days a week, then collapsing in exhaustion. But he never lost his sense of humor. In time he acquired an odd and exotic menagerie of pets, including cats, dogs, monkeys, and civets. "Chou" he wrote his parents, "is the horniest dog that God ever put on earth; he even stares at young girls. At age five months and height at the withers of 7-1/2 inches, he sired a litter out of a middle aged female who stands 15 inches high. I am lost in admiration." In time, his penchant for animals was jokingly referred to as "Deuel's Zoo."

But it was work that kept Deuel's mind focused. At times he saw his role in almost Wagnerian terms, but was always quick to puncture any sense of self-importance. In a letter home, twenty-six-year-old Deuel wrote:

"In fact there are no dramatic reports a'tall a'tall. All is prosaic, too much so ... I dream of glory and future excitements. Of course when I get them, I'll probably ask for the next boat home but I think the time has not yet come for the dread assassin of the sea to become the sacred defenders of the home.

"Besides, the Creeping Red Menace still threatens which should justify continued gainful employment for citizens abroad (and at home). Of course before you can fight the Reds, you must survive local traffic and VD -- and that's no easy thing."


At about the same time that Deuel arrived in Laos, a comely twenty- two-year-old CIA secretary named Judy Doherty was working back at Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. She was asked where she might like to be posted. She had grown up in the small coal-mining town of Bulpitt, Illinois, population 250. She had listed Paris and Rome and Lima, names out of a small- town fantasy. Some time later an Agency officer informed her she had been assigned to Bangkok, Thailand. She had never heard of it. In November 1962 she found herself working at the embassy there under State Department cover. There she met the dashing young Mike Deuel, though she had earlier caught the eye of both Deuel and his friend Dick Holm, when all three were still at Langley. Judith Doherty was far too pretty to have escaped the notice of men like Deuel and Holm. "We didn't walk blindfolded up and down the halls," Dick Holm would say.

But it was Deuel who began courting Judy Doherty. "Saw my favorite secretary for two days in Bangkok," Deuel wrote his father. "She showed her normal distrust of my intentions which gives evidence of good sense on her part. I'm not sure whether she was relieved or not to see me go."

In late August 1964 Deuel "smuggled" Judy Doherty into Pakse, Laos, aboard one of the Air America planes at his disposal. His purpose was to give her a "cold-eyed look" at his lifestyle and to see how she might cope with it. His home was a farmhouse with high ceilings and many windows, a mix of French and Lao. His bed was a cotlike affair, a bamboo platform warmed by two blankets. Judy passed the test brilliantly. "She's so sensible that she's downright unromantic sometimes," he wrote. "This is good. Starry eyes would not be an asset."

"I'd swear an oath before the Commission of the American Baseball League to marry this one, she's that good," he wrote his father a short time later.

At 1:00 P.M. on October 30, 1964, Judy Doherty and Mike Deuel were married in the Holy Redeemer Church in Bangkok. Pat Landry, who helped oversee the CIA's Laos operations, was best man, and Dan Arnold gave away the bride. Deuel slipped a 1.4-carat blue and white diamond solitaire on her quivering finger. Both of them were so nervous that they would later laugh about the muscles twitching in their faces. After a brief honeymoon at the beach, the couple moved to Pakse in southern Laos. There Judy helped manage the Agency's base operations and plotted on a map the reported sightings of enemy convoys and movements of materiel and men.

"All in all," wrote Mike Deuel to his parents on November 29, 1964, "things are a little too good to last; we'll have to have some bad luck ere long. Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I'm making hay as fast as I can move, trying not to look too smug."

Deuel was fast becoming the romantic. In January 1965 his wife, Judy, wrote: "After two and a half months, I was finally carried over the threshold last Thursday ... Mike had arranged all sorts of surprises for me, including a new red bicycle, two beautiful Italian rugs, some perfume." Awaiting her in the hall upstairs was a piano. "His last present for me," wrote Judy, "was waiting at the Moffett's house -- a beautiful tan-colored horse, complete with English saddle. His name is Fahong, which means 'Thunder' in Lao."

But the stress of Mike's work took its toll. He was frequently gone on overnight missions and flying over rough country in all manner of aircraft piloted by the Agency's proprietary air wing, Air America. It was a harrowing beginning to a marriage, and Judy, a worrier by nature, could not help but fret. She feared that Mike could be hurt or killed, but she never spoke a word of it to him, believing it might jinx him or take his mind off his work. Nor did Mike discuss the risks, even after he had been involved in a couple of "minor plane crashes." Such crashes were common among the CIA officers in Laos. An errant water buffalo would stroll across the dirt runways oblivious to incoming planes. A sudden gust of wind off a mountain would toss the slow-moving STOLs -- short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft -- pitching them sideways like discarded toys.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:23 am

Part 2 of 2

Judy had her own brush with danger the night of February 3 during a casual visit to the Laotian capital, Vientiane. As she later wrote in a letter, she spent that night huddled on the floor of the U.S. AID vault, "lulled to sleep by the vibrations of mortars and grenades."

Judy Deuel's parents were concerned for the safety of both their daughter and their gung-ho son-in-law. But on February 16, 1965, Judy's parents received a letter from an Agency employee: "This is to assure you that Judy and Mike are perfectly safe and you have absolutely nothing to worry about ... Mike is a very responsible and mature person in whom you can have full confidence. Judy and he are very much in love and very happy. Do not worry for them."

One day after the letter was written, Mike Deuel's close friend Dick Holm was returning from a mission in another part of the world. Deuel and Holm had both been sent to Laos in 1962 to work with the indigenous tribes in fighting against the Communists. But in August 1964 Holm, a French speaker, received orders that he was to be transferred to the Congo to help put down the Simba's rebel insurgency.

It was February 17, 1965, and Holm was in the rear seat of a T-28 flying with Cuban pilot Juan Peron in the northeast corner of the Congo near the border with Sudan. Peron had been trained a year earlier by John Merriman at the CIA base at Marana in Arizona. A second plane was piloted by Cuban Juan Tunon. The mission had been a machine-gun attack on a power plant in rebel-held territory. After a successful assault the weather turned nasty and both planes had too little fuel to make it back to base.

Peron crash-landed in a field of elephant grass. The left wing was ripped underneath and the remaining fuel caught fire. Peron jumped from the plane, assuming that Holm had also jumped. But as Peron ran from the plane expecting the .50-caliber bullets to go off, he heard Dick Holm's desperate screams. Holm was still in the burning aircraft. Dick Holm pried himself free and Peron carried him some distance from the plane seconds before it exploded. It was getting dark and it was raining. The two were in rebel territory. They spent the night under cover of bushes.

Peron did not yet know the extent of Holm's burns, but now, in the first light of morning, he could see his friend twisting in agony. Holm pleaded with Peron to kill him. Peron wrested away Holm's Walther nine-millimeter pistol from him, fearing he would shoot himself to end the pain. Peron could now plainly see the horror of Holm's burns -- his flesh hung from his hands like an oversized pair of plastic gloves. His arms, too, were badly burned and his face swollen beyond recognition. Peron unsheathed his hunting knife and, without any anesthetic, cut off the burned flesh from Holm's limbs. He left Holm beneath a bush beside a stream and told him he would go for help. He swore he would return. Tunon, the pilot of the second plane, Peron would later learn, had been captured and cannibalized. Peron carried thirteen rounds in the magazine of his pistol, twelve for the enemy and the last one for himself. He was not going to allow himself to be taken alive.

By sheer luck, Peron wandered into one of the few friendly villages in rebel-held territory. There a young warrior of the Azande tribe named Faustino offered to help carry Dick Holm to safety. When Peron, Faustino, and two other villagers returned to Holm, they found him completely blanketed with bees. Holm was swollen from the stings and crawling in a vain attempt to escape them. The Azandes fashioned a crude stretcher from branches and limbs and carried the semiconscious Holm to the village. They fed him fruit and water and hid him by the riverbank, regularly salving his burns with snake grease.

Faustino and Peron took the village's only two bicycles and began what was to be an arduous eight-day journey through jungle and five-foot-tall grass. They headed for the base camp at Paulis more than 280 kilometers away. The morning after their arrival, they flew back to the village and picked up Holm. His flesh was now as black as that of the villagers who tended him -- black from the pitchy snake grease that covered his burns. Holm was flown to Leopoldville and then on to the army's special-burn unit in San Antonio, Texas. There army surgeons marveled that he was still alive.

Months later, when the fighting in the area subsided, the air force sent a team to the Azande village to study the remedial properties of snake grease on burns. And the CIA, in an effort to express its gratitude to the village that showed Holm such kindness, sent in a C-14, fully loaded with new bicycles, medicines, tools, and sacks of rice for the villagers.

But for Dick Holm the ordeal was only just beginning. For the next two years physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington would treat his burns, perform skin grafts, and reconstruct portions of his hands and face. Holm had lost his left eye and was in jeopardy of losing sight in the other.

Mike Deuel was devastated by the news of Dick Holm's crash. Though he was a seasoned marine combat officer and had two years in the field with the Agency, this was the first time one of his close friends had been hurt. He brooded about Holm's condition, searching for some way to help him. Finally he sat his wife, Judy, down and told her he had been thinking about what he could do for Dick Holm. Deuel, then twenty-eight and married for less than a year, had an idea. "Would you mind," he asked her, "if I offered one of my eyes to Dick?"

Judy Deuel was speechless. "For heaven's sake," she said, "do you think that's necessary?" But Mike persisted. "It would be better," he argued, "if each of us had one eye than if one of us had two and the other had none." Judy was silent for a moment. "It's up to you," she said. A short time later Deuel wrote Dick Holm's father formally offering one of his eyes.

For months, senior CIA officers quietly made their pilgrimage to Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Ward Nine to visit Dick Holm. Among the visitors were Desmond FitzGerald and Dick Helms -- who smuggled in a thermos of martinis. But none was more faithful than Mike Deuel's father, Wally, who spent each Sunday for nearly a year at Holm's bedside, reading aloud the Sunday paper and keeping him abreast of Mike and Judy's latest exploits in Laos.

After each visit Wally Deuel would dutifully send a detailed report to Mike and Judy of the medical and emotional progress their friend had made. One such letter, dated August 23, 1965, notes: "His morale's especially good these days because Dick Helms went out to see him Friday or Saturday and, of course, completely captivated him.

"The plastic surgeons are ever-so-gently nudging the ophthalmologists to get on with their eye operation so Dick [Holm] can go on outpatient status for the treatments still to come ... The plastic men haven't decided yet whether to rebuild Dick's ears with wee pieces of a rib as the base, or to try to do it all with strips of skin which they would detach from his neck below the ears and roll up into suitable shapes for the ears.

"The only other medical development to report is that they've got Dick's right hand in a Rube Goldberg sort of contraption which holds each finger in a sling which in turn is suspended by a rubber band from a brace above the hand -- the brace being held in place by a plaster cast on the forearm -- all of which is supposed to help the fingers recover a considerably greater capability for use than they now have."

Seven months after the crash, observed Wally Deuel, "Dick's hands are still in such bad shape that he wouldn't be able to pick up a grape, even if he could see it."

In the months ahead Dick Holm underwent an endless series of operations, major and minor, providing him with new eyebrows, rebuilding the bridge of his nose, the corner of his mouth, and the skin between his thumb and index finger.

In September 1965 Judy Deuel wrote her mother-in-law a letter. "Have they found a cornea donor yet?" she asked timidly. "I'm kind of holding my breath on this question for obvious reasons."

After a series of operations, including a corneal transplant from an eye bank, Dick Holm's remaining eye began to improve. The doctors used the word "miraculous." Mike Deuel never had to make good on his offer, but neither was it soon forgotten.


By that summer the covert operations within Laos were expanding daily and more Agency case officers were needed. Mike Deuel was about to get some help and, if things worked out, even a replacement, allowing him to return to the States and begin another assignment, perhaps to Hong Kong or Taiwan.

In September 1965 help arrived in the person of Mike Maloney. Maloney, like Deuel, was a paramilitary officer, a quiet young man with a gleaming smile, deep-set dimples, and -- from his father -- full brows and a barrel chest. He was a soldier's soldier, every bit the man his father, Colonel Mal Maloney, hoped he might be. And like his father, Mike Maloney's first choice had been the military. But the military refused to take him because of asthma. And so, by default, he, too, had joined the CIA.

To break in the younger Maloney, Deuel invited him to Pakse, Laos. That Saturday night, October 9, 1965, the two young officers could get acquainted and Deuel would brief the new man on what to expect. Maloney's wife, Adrienne, was just getting settled in Bangkok. Later they planned to move to Pakse. It seemed a perfect match -- the two Mikes, both young, gung-ho case officers, both the sons of CIA officers, both their wives pregnant.

Mike Maloney had married his college sweetheart, Adrienne La Marsh, on October 5, 1963. Already they had a one-year-old son, Michael, and the second child was due in four months. The Maloneys had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. The Deuels were two weeks from celebrating their first. That night the two Mikes stayed up late talking about the mission and looking forward to a collaboration that seemed certain to mature into a friendship.

It was hard for Mike Maloney not to be impressed with the life Deuel and his wife, Judy, had carved out for themselves in Pakse. Their oversized French Colonial home featured four bedrooms, bright terrazzo floors, the spoils and artifacts of Laotian culture, food flown in from the commissary, a Vietnamese cook, a houseboy, a girl to keep things tidy, and in the upstairs hallway, the blessed piano -- Deuel's gift to his wife.

The next morning, a Sunday, the two Mikes were scheduled to board a chopper, survey the region, make some payroll stops at area villages, and introduce Maloney to the tribal leaders with whom he would be working. Judy Deuel was slightly miffed that her husband had to work even on Sunday. She watched as the two Mikes piled into Deuel's Morris Mini and sped off on the drive across the river to the airstrip. They were scheduled to be back home about two that afternoon.

That morning Judy went by herself to a French Mass held in a small country church, then returned home. At two the men had not yet returned. She began to worry. She sat down at the piano, as she often did, to play a piece of classical music and drown out the voice of fear that often preceded Mike's belated returns. She had one eye on the ivory keyboard, the other on her watch.

It was three. It was four. It was five. Now it was dusk. She knew they would not choose to fly in such poor light. She could not help but suspect the worst.

Not long after, an Agency operations officer arrived at the house. He looked grim. He said that some villagers had reported seeing a chopper go down near a place called Saravane. The officer took Judy to the airport and there they waited for word of what had happened.

Back at CIA headquarters in Langley, a cable was received from Vientiane alerting the operations desk that Deuel and Maloney might have gone down. A plane was ordered up to search for the missing aircraft, but it was already dark and the area where the chopper was believed to have gone down was covered by a smothering double canopy of jungle. Even at noon such a search would have been taxing.

That night a message was sent to the Canal Zone, where Colonel Mal Maloney was stationed under military cover, and where he had been involved in training and paramilitary activities in South and Central America. The first call informed Colonel Maloney that the chopper carrying his son was missing and that there was little chance he had survived. He gently woke his children up and walked them out to the patio overlooking the canal. There he told them his worst fears. It was the first time his children had seen the big man weep.

At the first light of morning, October 11, the Agency dispatched a search team, some of them Lao, others seasoned American smoke jumpers trained at Marana Air Base in Arizona. That afternoon they spotted something through the trees and radioed for help. In Vientiane a medical officer at the embassy, Dr. Burton Ammundsen, was dragooned into a desperate rescue mission. He was told only that four U.S. servicemen had crashed in the jungle, that there was a chance they were still alive, and he was to do what he could for them. By the time the chopper carrying Ammundsen reached the approximate site where the wreckage had been spotted, it was sundown. Ammundsen was told he would be spending the night alone in the jungle and that the next day help would arrive.

Carrying leg splints and a medical bag, he was lowered by rope through the jungle canopy, beside a river. On the way down, the rope swung wide and smashed him into a tree. When he finally reached the ground, he attempted to find the wreckage but was unable to penetrate the dense jungle without a machete. Armed with only a flashlight, he spent the night on a small island just offshore. The next morning an Agency rescue team linked up with him and cut its way through the forest. The wreckage was less than a hundred yards from the river where Ammundsen had spent the night.

But it was evident that there was nothing for Ammundsen to do. The chopper had been badly mangled when it fell through the jungle. There were four bodies -- the two Mikes, and those of an Air America pilot and mechanic. Three of the four -- the mechanic, Deuel, and Maloney -- had been killed instantly, thrown against the forward bulkhead. The pilot had survived the crash just long enough to crawl out of the fuselage. His body lay draped over the side of the chopper. When the rescue team reached the crash site, his body was still warm to the touch.

The bodies of Maloney and Deuel were taken back to Vientiane for identification. It was Ammundsen who witnessed the postmortem examination at a Philippine hospital across the street from the embassy. The men had broken necks and massive internal injuries. For Ammundsen it was a particularly grim task. Just a few weeks earlier he had examined Judy Deuel, monitoring her pregnancy.

Two days later the two young widows, Judy Deuel and Adrienne Maloney, were on Pan Am 2 on their way back to the States. The Agency had arranged for the wife of an Agency officer, Susan Gresinger, to accompany them. The women flew first-class, courtesy of the CIA. It was the first time the young wives, now widows, had ever met. Adrienne, pregnant, and clutching one-year-old Michael, sat next to Gresinger. Most of the flight she spoke of the comfort she drew from her Catholic faith.

Immediately behind her sat Judy Deuel. She spoke not a word and downed more than a few Scotches. Judy Deuel had been twenty-two when she met Mike, twenty-four when they married, twenty-five when she lost him. He had died two weeks shy of their first anniversary.

It was not long thereafter that an Agency employee drove out to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to break the news of Mike Deuel's death to Dick Holm. "It seemed like a heavy price that we were paying," Holm thought to himself. "The Agency, the directorate, us, my colleagues. I was part of that group. Why the best guys?"


The deaths of Mike Deuel and Mike Maloney received scant attention in the newspapers. The brief obituaries spoke of two young AID officers killed in a helicopter crash. But one of Wally Deuel's journalist friends and former Post-Dispatch colleagues, conservative columnist Marquis W. Childs, wrote a panegyric to Mike Deuel. The headline read: "Commitment of Young American to Life Ends in Death in Laos." Childs, unaware that Deuel had been CIA and as much a warrior as a humanitarian, spoke of Deuel's selfless efforts to resettle refugees, extolling him as part of a generation of peace-loving Americans risking their lives in the cause of peace.

There was a grim irony in the CIA's choice of cover story, the idea that Deuel and Maloney and other Agency operatives in Laos were working for AID on refugee resettlement issues. The reality was that their real mission was adding to the refugee problem and creating an ever-greater need for AID's assistance. As the CIA succeeded in attracting more and more indigenous tribesmen into the ranks of its anti-Communist units, there were fewer and fewer men left home to plant and harvest rice and other food crops upon which the villages depended for their survival. In time, so many men were enlisted into the ranks of the CIA-backed units that there might well have been widespread famine had it not been for the intervention of genuine AID missions in the region.

For the Agency it was easy to obscure Deuel's and Maloney's deaths. Most of the nation was engrossed in the broader quagmire of Vietnam and Southeast Asia and by the antics of President Johnson, who was then at Bethesda Naval Hospital recovering from gallbladder surgery. Before being released, he was placed briefly under a sunlamp so he wouldn't appear so yellow to the awaiting press corps. Once released, he would ham it up for reporters, even baring his midriff to show off his scar.

But at Langley those cleared to know the true identities of the two young men and their fathers were decimated by the loss. On October 14, 1965 -- four days after the crash -- Dick Helms penned a letter to his friends Wally and Mary Deuel:

"That your sadness has no limits is well understood by your friends, especially those who knew you thirty years ago even before Mike was born.

"This loss of an uncommon young man is so pointless, so impossible to rationalize. Yet I cannot help wondering whether Mike has not the best of it if the alternative might have been comparable to the kind of thing Dick Holm is going through. It is perhaps a blessing too that young Judith is pregnant. She has something of Mike which may make it easier for her to face the void immediately ahead.

"To you both there is nothing to say. I can only extend the hand of friendship and support which you so warmly offered me so many years ago ..."

It was signed, "Sadly, Dick."

Five days later Helms wrote a second letter, this one to Mike Maloney's father, Colonel Arthur A. Maloney. "Dear Art," it began "All of us are shattered by the death of Michael. Coming so suddenly and so unnecessarily, it had a shock that can only have been worse for you. These events seem so wrong and so unfair. These uncommon young men who are willing to go forth for their country unheralded and unsung are indeed the heroes of our modern age, and I feel sure that some day they will be understood and respected far more than they are now. It was ever thus."

The Deuel and Maloney families were deluged with such letters of condolence from those within the CIA's covert ranks. Despite the outpouring, it was a delicate matter, balancing grief with the need to maintain security. Even in such a moment as this, Art Maloney would thank Des FitzGerald for his kind note of condolence but scrupulously avoid any mention of the CIA. "The loss of Mike," he wrote, "brought forth a reaction by the company for which we will always be extremely proud and grateful." To the outside world the words "the company" would sound callous and remote. But at Langley there were many unseen tears shed in the days after two of its favorite sons were lost.


On October 24, 1965, the day before Michael Deuel's funeral, the Reverend Russell Stroup delivered a sermon entitled "Pointing with Pride" to the congregation of the Georgetown Presbyterian Church. By then, America was already in the tumult of the antiwar movement, and Stroup seized the opportunity to show that there were young Americans who were a credit to the country. He remembered Mike Deuel coming to him as a high school student, on his own, saying that he wanted to join the church and to be baptized. It was Stroup who performed the baptism.

"Tomorrow at Arlington we will bury Mike Deuel," he told the congregation. "But the work to which he gave himself goes on. And there are hundreds and thousands of Mike Deuels who are carrying on the work, and there will be more. Those beautiful Americans. I am not ashamed of America."

Deuel was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in grave 156, section 35, just to the south of the Memorial Amphitheater and the Tombs of the Unknowns. A standard, government-issued stone, it reads.

MAY 13 1937
OCTOBER 12 1965

In a letter to his aging mother, Wally Deuel described the funeral:

"Mikie was entitled to be drawn in the casket, covered with a flag, on an artillery caisson, by beautifully matched horses, and with a band playing funeral marches, from the gateway to the cemetery to the grave, and as Mary said, Mikie would have loved it -- all by Marines in dress blues -- but it was Judy's wishes that counted, and she said as little pomp as possible, which means no caisson, no horses, and no band, but the flag-covered casket driven in the hearse to the grave. Even so, though, it was almost more than could be endured, with a platoon of Marines lined up on the gentle slope above the grave, and six Marines to carry the casket from the hearse the short distance to the grave. The immediate family sat in chairs quite close to the grave -- which was covered over with something green so it looked like grass. There's three volleys fired by the platoon on the slope above, then taps on the bugle, the six Marines at the casket fold the flag, in accordance with a special set of rules, and the Warrant Officer at the grave hands the folded flag to the widow. He said something to her -- more than a few words -- but we never have found out what it was."

As with the graves of so many covert CIA officers buried at Arlington, there was no hint that Mike Deuel had been with the CIA. His cover story went with him to the grave. Behind him, Deuel left a father, a mother, a pregnant widow, and little else -- a bank account with $1,869.14 and his beloved 1952 MG valued at $200.

Wally Deuel managed to persuade AID to return to him the last three letters he wrote to his son, which arrived after Mike's death. In a thank-you note to the AID official, Wally wrote, "God knows what was in them, but probably something ribald or in some other way horribly inappropriate, and I am extremely grateful you didn't send them on to Judy."


Six days after the crash, on October 18, 1965, a telegram stamped "Secret" arrived at Langley. It was routed to the director of Central Intelligence, the executive director, the deputy director of plans, and other senior Agency officials. It was from a Philip K. Radnor, chief of station, and recommended that one Karl W. Aufderheide, a GS-11, recently killed in the field, be awarded the CIA's Intelligence Star. But there was no Radnor or Aufderheide employed by the Agency. These were merely code names. Radnor was really Philip Blaufarb, the CIA station chief in Vientiane running operations in Laos. Karl Aufderheide was Michael Deuel's code name in the field, a fittingly Germanic name for one born in Berlin.

Blaufarb had been keeping a close eye on Deuel, whom he considered headstrong and a little cocky, but one of the most reliable men he had. He summarized Deuel's work for the Agency in two paragraphs: "For two years Aufderheide has been in charge of a major paramilitary program involving tribal groups in South Laos. At the time of his death in a helicopter crash in the line of duty his program was expanding faster than any other program in Laos. The number of men under arms had doubled from 1,205 to 2,400 in the past year As a result of Aufderheide's imaginative and resourceful direction, several new expansions and probes were underway and territory was being recovered from the enemy. Partially as a result of his efforts enemy morale in South Laos has been deteriorating in recent months and their hold over the indigenous populace weakening.

"Although the tribal elements with which he worked are exceedingly primitive, he succeeded by patient and diligent effort in training many of them to be acceptable and reliable reporters of enemy convoy movement, construction activity, etc. His dynamic and confident leadership was an inspiration to those who worked with him. He was never daunted by difficult or dangerous situations, and it was while visiting one of his teams in a remote mountain area to resupply them and boost their morale that he met his death. His performance of and dedication to duty were in the finest traditions of our service."

Eight months after the "secret" wire was received, at noon on June 28, 1966, the Deuel family -- mother and father, widow and brother -- gathered in a small conference room on the seventh floor of the CIA to receive the Distinguished Intelligence Medal on Mike Deuel's behalf. The medal was presented by Admiral W. F. Raborn, then Director Central Intelligence, but it was far more than a presentation ceremony. It was an assemblage of Agency legends and a gathering of the generations. Among those in attendance were Richard Helms, Desmond FitzGerald, William Colby, Ben DeFelice, Lloyd George, Theodore Shackley, and of course, Dick Holm.

It was later determined that mechanical failure, not enemy fire, had brought down the aged helicopter that killed Deuel and Maloney. Indeed, many of the aircraft in use in Laos were in desperate need of replacement. Not long after the crash, Blaufarb made a formal request that his men receive more modern aircraft. His request was denied.


Wally Deuel would never recover from the loss of his son, though he tried to put up a solid front and find meaning in the tragedy. In a letter to Blaufarb, he wrote on November 5, 1965:

"He [Mike] didn't want to be a violent-action man all his life, as you probably know. But he was determined to qualify as one, and see what violent action was like, and how good he would be at it, before going on to other things. So he did his damndest to get all the action he could, and the risk of getting killed in the process was, of course, what gave it its most especial savor and attraction.

"Thus there was nothing irrelevant or incongruous in his getting killed in the way he was killed, and, in this meaning of the term, nothing senseless. It was, on the contrary, exquisitely logical, in the bitter logic that always causes the killing of so many of his kind of the best youngest men.

"But of course this is damnably cold comfort to hearts, like Mary's and Judy's and mine, that are so very cold just now."

The outpouring of grief from friends and Agency colleagues was overwhelming. Among these was Ben DeFelice, the man who had taken it upon himself for two decades already to provide comfort to bereaved CIA families, from Hugh Redmond to the Merrimans. "You've been magnificent," Wally Deuel wrote him.

Dick Holm, Bob Manning, and Andre LeGallo, three friends dating back to the days of jungle warfare school three long years earlier, helped organize a trust fund for Deuel's daughter, Suzanne, born five months after his death. Through it all, Wally and Mary Deuel continued their weekly visits to Dick Holm and reported on his progress to Judy. On one such visit, on November 7, 1965, three weeks after Mike Deuel's death, Wally found Dick Holm alone in his hospital bed listening to a broadcast of a football game. Deuel wrote his son's widow:

"The plastic surgeons have operated on his left hand since we last saw him, removing the bent, charred stub which was all that remained of his little finger and which they could not salvage. They also cut down the palm of his hand between the knuckle and the wrist, so that his left hand is now only a three-finger hand, with a palm the width of three fingers, not four ...The hand and forearm are bandaged up in the shape of a miniature Indian club ..."

Deuel continued to monitor Holm's glacial recovery in excruciating detail, forwarding clinical assessments to his son's widow, Judy, after each such visit. It was as if he could do no less out of memory for his son, or perhaps it was that in some way Dick Holm, who had survived a plane crash and was one of his son's best friends, had become a son to him.

That was as it should be. On September 1, 1968, three years after Mike Deuel died, his widow walked down the aisle once more in marriage. The groom was Dick Holm. Wally Deuel would write: "The really grand and glorious news of this past year, though, has been that our beloved Judy (our son Mike's widow) has married one of her and Mike's and our oldest and most cherished friends, a guy who is everything good you can think of as a husband for Judy, a father for the baby (who adores him) and a son for us."

Years later Wally Deuel would confide in friends that almost anything could trigger in him a profound and disabling sorrow -- the melody of "Taps," a familiar scriptural reading, even the sound of a young man on the street whistling gaily, as Mike so often did as he approached their Georgetown house. On October 31, 1967, upon learning that one of Mike's fraternity brothers had named his firstborn son for him, Wally wrote: "Mike will be vastly pleased, in whatever Elysian Fields he now roams, and Mike's Ma and I were so touched we darned near burst into tears when we got your telegram. Mike's friends are the noblest band of brothers ..."

Wallace Deuel retired from the CIA on August 1, 1968, amid a flurry of bureaucratic awards and letters of appreciation from Dick Helms and others. His health deteriorated until he was, in his words, "chairbound." He continued to write regularly to Judy and Dick Holm, as he would to a son and daughter. On April 13, 1973, he wrote: "Behold comma it is I exclamation. I will not say I am alive and well and living in Washington D.C., because I sure as hell am not well, but I am alive, sort of and I'm in Washington D.C."

He was then in his twelfth year of emphysema and had recently had a pulmonary embolism. But Deuel's "melancholy," as he called it, was brought on not only by his own physical deterioration but by a lingering sense of loss and by the spectacle of his beloved CIA in the throes of what appeared to be an act of self-destruction. It was coming under increasing public scrutiny and criticism, as was the entire U.S. government. Watergate had erupted. Ugly accounts of CIA excess were coming to light, an omen of even darker revelations to come. And then there was Vietnam.

Within the CIA, internal dissension over the conflict in Indochina had taken a profound toll. At the height of the Vietnam War the Agency had occupied three floors of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and dispatched, by one count, some seven hundred employees there. Wally Deuel's friend Dick Helms, Director Central Intelligence, had been buffeted by years of turmoil and by hostility from Presidents Johnson and Richard Nixon. His analysts' vision of prospects for Vietnam was deemed too pessimistic. The intense bombing of North Vietnam -- even ten thousand sorties a month -- would not break the will of the Communists or interrupt the flow of men and materiel, the CIA had concluded. "Not since the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 had the Agency put so much on the line, and lost it through stupidity and mismanagement," wrote the CIA's former senior Vietnam analyst, Frank Snepp.

Public suspicion of the CIA deepened. Support for covert activities was waning. Sordid accounts would surface of domestic surveillance under Operation Chaos, of efforts to destabilize the government of Chile's Salvador Allende Gossens, and of the ruthless Phoenix Program in Vietnam, in which more than twenty thousand were killed. A malaise settled over the Agency from which it would not soon emerge. In February 1973 Nixon sacked Helms as CIA head, appointing him ambassador to Iran. Those who had spent their lives with the Agency and were proud of that affiliation were heartsick and in shock.

Two months after Helms was fired, on April 17, 1973, a disillusioned Wally Deuel wrote Dick and Judy Holm, then stationed in Hong Kong: "As for my former place of employment, not only is there nothing I can do about that, but I don't even know what's going on there. So far, I have heard reports only from an incredibly small number of people, people who are all without exception old, decrepit, out of touch as badly as I am -- and plunged in the blackest despair ... A fine basis for my trying to figure out what the hell is happening in Langley, wouldn't you say?"

Wally Deuel's health deteriorated rapidly. He passed in and out of consciousness, sometimes mistaking his son Peter for Allen Dulles, his revered leader at the Agency so many years before. On May 10, 1974, Peter arranged to accompany his father on an air ambulance from Maryland to Chicago. "I'm taking you home," Peter told him. Wally Deuel had had a tracheotomy and was barely able to speak, but he made his resistance known by shaking his head and whispering a soft "no." He had had enough.

Somewhere over Indiana, he died. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in a cemetery that borders an expressway. Each time Peter drives by he offers his father a respectful salute.

Mike Deuel's daughter, Suzanne, was born in the spring of 1966, two years before Judy Deuel and Dick Holm were wed. For them and for Wally Deuel it was a union that closed many a circle. But it was not without its secrets. Suzanne was raised believing that Dick Holm was indeed her biological father. For the first years of her life, the name Mike Deuel meant nothing to her. She had not yet picked up on the hints and anomalies, like the wedding photo of Dick Holm and Judith in which a baby girl is seen in the background.

Intuitively she sensed something was amiss. For years she was visited by a recurring nightmare in which she was speeding down a steep hill on roller skates. On either side of her was a figure in a children's red wagon. It was Dick Holm, but there were two of him. She knew one to be her father. But the other she knew to be a bomb which would detonate at her embrace. "Pick me," cried the one, "the other is the bomb." Suzanne could never tell which was which.

She could not be blamed for feeling as if she grew up in a world of deception. It was not until she was nine or ten that she remembers stumbling across a box of old records and memorabilia in the basement. For hours she dug through the crate fixated on photos of a man whose smile and eyes bore an uncanny resemblance to her own. She found his lighter, his ring, and newspaper accounts telling of a plane crash. She also found references to his burial at Arlington.

When she turned sixteen and got her driver's license, she secretly drove to Arlington National Cemetery and found her father's grave. After that, the nightmares ended. But whether because of secrecy constraints or the emotional scars left by Mike Deuel's premature death, Suzanne never felt comfortable asking her mother or Dick Holm about the man she had come to know as Mike. He would remain a shadowy presence throughout her adolescence, a face she could see hints of in the mirror but would come to regard as something of a taboo subject.

A second stunning surprise awaited her. It was not until she was in high school that the man she called "Father," Dick Holm, confided in her that he was not with the State Department, as she had been led to believe all those years, but that he was a covert operative with the CIA. Such deception of one's own children to maintain cover is often the hardest and most exacting act of dissembling a covert officer must face. Suzanne, like countless other children of CIA officers, at first felt deceived and then, for the first time, began to perceive a pattern where before there had been only confusion. Suddenly emerged a logic that accounted for a lifetime of mystery and secrecy.

A decade later, when she was living in Paris and engaged, she wrote a Cornell classmate of her father's asking if he might share with her some memory of Mike Deuel. That classmate contacted the entire fraternity house, who, one by one, poured out years of memories in letters sent to Paris. By the time Suzanne married she had come to know her father as few daughters ever do.

As for Dick Holm, after the crash no one would have thought any worse of him if he had retired on full disability. Instead, after two years of surgery and rehabilitation he was back in the field as a covert case officer -- not to mention a spirited tennis player. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a respected CIA chief of station. Based in Hong Kong, he ran several covert operations across the border in the People's Republic of China. For Dick Holm, a man who once contemplated shooting himself to end the unbearable pain, life was once again good, with family, work, and a restoration to health. In a January 16, 1972, letter to Wally Deuel he had written, "All this and interesting work: You can see that life is treating me well. More than ample justification for my determination not to die in that damn Congo."

Holm's long-ago ordeal had become a part of the Agency's lore. Wally Deuel would relate how one day at Langley Dick Holm was speaking to some people in the hall when the director, Dick Holms, passed by, stopped, and said, "Hi, Dick." Holm's associates were astonished that the director would stop to say hello and would know him by name. Holm simply laughed it off. "Listen" he said, "if you'd cost him a million dollars, he'd know who you are too" -- a reference to the medical expenses incurred in his two-year convalescence.

Holm was later named head of the Agency's Counterterrorist Center, overseeing operations to blunt terrorist activities worldwide. As a final plum assignment, prior to retirement, Dick Holm was made chief of station in Paris. It was his fluency in French that had taken him to his ill-fated Congo mission in 1964, and now that same proficiency was cited in rewarding him with Paris.

But in January 1995 a covert CIA operation in France was compromised, as it came to light that a female agent under deep cover had fallen in love with the French official she had targeted. Her mission had been to learn France's position in upcoming world trade talks. The United States was profoundly embarrassed as the tale of economic espionage against a close ally came to light. In March 1996 Holm was pressured to resign under a cloud. It was widely viewed within the CIA that, after years of loyal, even heroic service, Dick Holm had been made a scapegoat to save face for the Agency. His treatment further lowered morale within the CIA's covert ranks.

Six months later, in a transparent effort to boost sagging morale and extend an olive branch to Holm, he was invited to return to Langley, where he was presented the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. But by then it was too late. His reputation was stained. He had tried to defend himself publicly but found that while the Agency felt free to blame him publicly, it invoked its own rigid secrecy constraints on him, preventing him from discussing the case or restoring his good name.


Mike Maloney's father, the colonel, stayed with the Agency until he retired in January 1972. He and his wife moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he became a eucharistic minister, puttered about in the garden, and let his grandchildren stomp about the house in his leg brace. But Mike's death continued to cast a pall over his days. "The spark went out of that man's life," remembers Mike's widow, Adrienne. In his last years Mal Maloney was stricken with Alzheimer's and had to be fed by others. A proud man, he died on August 18, 1994, at age eighty in the Avon Convalescent Home in Connecticut.

As for Mike Maloney's widow, Adrienne, she would never remarry. Four months after her husband died, on February 20, I965, she gave birth to a second son, Craig Michael Maloney. She devoted herself to raising her two boys, Craig and Michael. In time, both boys toyed with the idea of joining the CIA. Craig formally applied but later withdrew his application. "I just came to the realization that I was doing it for the wrong reasons," he would say later. "I was chasing a ghost." His brother, Michael, filled out a CIA application but missed his interview because of flu. "I took it as a sign from God that I wasn't supposed to do it," he concluded. There would be no third generation of Maloneys in the CIA.

Adrienne Maloney, now fifty-seven, never put her young husband's death fully behind her. She had her wedding ring, which had been inscribed "FOREVER M.A.M. TO A.L.M.," set into the base of a gold chalice and given to a church to be used in sacraments. A few years ago she gathered up Mike's letters and put a match to them. Even that could not distance her from the loss. Much of that pain stems from watching her two sons growing up without a father. They knew only that he died in a helicopter crash and that they were not allowed to discuss his death or the circumstances surrounding it with anyone.

Their father's entire life was shrouded in mystery. Son Craig, who was in utero when Mike Maloney was killed, would lament that he had never seen his father's face. Adrienne would comfort him by saying that at least his father had felt him kicking inside her and had chosen for him his name.

There was one moment when the CIA seemed to relent in its otherwise all-encompassing invocation of secrecy. In 1993 the Maloney sons were permitted on one occasion to visit the Agency and were shown a scant few records, many of them heavily redacted, from their father's personnel file. Though the file jacket was stamped "Top Secret," it shed no light on either their father's life or his death. Anything sensitive had been removed. What was left were his college transcripts, his essay on why he wanted to join the CIA, and a few perfunctory application materials. But the visit meant something to the Maloney sons nonetheless. So, too, did the fact that their guide and companion at the Agency that afternoon was none other than Dick Holm. No one had to explain to him how much had been lost that October day in 1965.

For years Adrienne asked the CIA to inscribe her husband's name in the Book of Honor, believing it was something she should do for her two sons and for her husband's memory. As recently as 1996, while at an Agency memorial service, she asked then CIA Director John Deutch if he would examine the Maloney file and reconsider adding her husband's name to the book, thereby releasing her and her sons from the onerous burden of silence they had endured. "Why," she asked Deutch, "must it all be kept a secret after more than thirty years?"

"Why don't you write me a note?" Deutch told her. "Don't put down any explanation, no song and dance, just a note."

Adrienne Maloney did just that and sent it registered mail. Then, as before, the CIA did not respond to her request. Each time she attempted to follow up with a letter or phone call, the Agency told her that her letters had been lost.

Son Michael even wrote a poem for his brother, Craig, about their father and the burdens of a life enshrouded in secrecy. That poem now hangs on Craig Maloney's wall. It reads in part:

Faded Stories, Secrets Told,
A Marble Star To Behold,
Her Pictures Gathered In One Place;
To Suffice For One So Bold?
Track the Ghost Who Wears Your Face
Through The Halls of Time and Space.

"It's thirty years ago," says son Craig Maloney, "and I can't help but think of what kind of rhetorical crap and political crap it is that they can't release his name. His name deserves to be there. We write letters and they never go where they should. I think it's completely unjust."

Finally, in September 1997 an article in the Washington Post by this author identified Mike Maloney as one of the nameless stars. The same day the article was released, Adrienne Maloney received a phone call from the Agency informing her that the CIA had reconsidered her request and had decided that her husband's name could at last be inscribed in the Book of Honor. A short time later his name was added to the book.

But nowhere in the Book of Honor appeared the name of Mike Deuel, who sat beside Maloney on that same fateful helicopter on that same covert mission some thirty-five years ago. His daughter, Suzanne, and other family members had to content themselves with an unnamed star and shoulder the burden of an arbitrary code of secrecy. In this they were not alone. So, too, did the families of John "Lone Star" Kearns, Wayne McNulty, and John Peterson -- all of them still nameless stars from the long-ago secret war in Laos.

That secret war dragged on for more than a dozen bloody years, but it was a secret for a short time only. So many men and supplies could not long be concealed. To some degree it was an act of legerdemain practiced upon the American public, whose patience and support of the Vietnam conflict were already flagging. To some degree, too, it was a feeble attempt to avoid international condemnation for violating a promised neutrality -- one already flagrantly breached by the other side.

The two Mikes, Deuel and Maloney, were neither the first nor the last of the CIA paramilitary officers killed in the conflict. And like Deuel and Maloney, their Agency affiliations would be covered up.

Even as the two Mikes' brief collaboration ended, the Communists were expanding their vast network of roads and resupply routes, creating a major artery for the North Vietnamese war effort. A "Secret" CIA intelligence assessment provided to Lyndon Johnson seven weeks after Deuel and Maloney were killed notes that the Communists were moving largely at night and that they had concealed the roads with overarching trellises and vines, making them virtually invisible.

Even years later Dick Helms and other senior Agency officials would extol the efforts of its men and women in Laos and speak of the CIA's costly campaign as if it had been a success. And those in the jungles and mountains who fought the covert war in Laos continue to say, "We won our war," contrasting it with the Vietnam conflict, which was bitterly lost to the Communists following an unseemly withdrawal.

But in the eyes of history it is a meaningless distinction, an expression of wounded pride. No sooner did Vietnam fall than Laos followed suit. On December 3, 1975, the Lao People's Democratic Republic formally came to power.

Many could argue -- and did -- that Mike Deuel and the others who died in Laos died for naught, that their efforts failed to sway events. But though the mission ultimately failed, their grit is still quietly celebrated at Langley by the aging few who knew them, particularly those from the Agency's class of 1961. They remember Mike Deuel not as a casualty of war, but as the standard- bearer of their class and generation. "I want to make a difference," Mike Deuel would often say. In that, he spoke for them all.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:23 am


IT WAS dubbed "the Summer of Love," though it began in the spring. That April 1S, 1967, some 300,000 demonstrators} among them Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., activist and pediatrician Benjamin Spock, and folk singer Pete Seeger, came together for a peace march through New York City in protest of the undeclared war in Vietnam. For the CIA it was to be a particularly trying year. An article in a magazine called Ramparts drew national attention to the CIA's secret funding of American student groups, educational foundations, and voluntary organizations operating overseas. In response to the public outcry that followed} President Lyndon Johnson set up a commission to investigate the scope of CIA involvement in such groups. It would be the first of many such revelations to rock the Agency, whose natural instinct was to close ranks, further isolating it from the mainstream of American culture.

That same year, budgetary cutbacks at the State Department reduced the number of cover positions available to CIA cast' officers. Congress was taking an ever-greater interest in intelligence matters. Concern was growing over the Agency's ability to conceal its more ambitious covert operations. Though more than half the Agency's personnel and budget continued to go to the clandestine service, the era of expansion was coming to an end. In June 1966 Richard Helms had been named Director Central Intelligence, but his attentions and energies would be largely consumed by the steadily unraveling situation in Southeast Asia. And not even Langley was immune to the upheaval in political and social values that was sweeping the country.

In such times it was easy to forget the fate of Hugh Redmond, John Downey, and Richard Fecteau, who, a generation earlier, had disappeared behind China's dreaded "bamboo curtain." They had long before been consigned to history. But for Redmond's family the summer of 1967 would be remembered as the summer they received his last letter.

There was nothing foreboding or even memorable about the two-page letter, except, perhaps, as the family would later observe with grim pride, that it was dated July 4, 1967. "It just dawned on me that today is the Fourth of July when I wrote the date above," Hugh Redmond wrote. "Did you have a big celebration with fireworks and all?" It closed, as his letters so often did, with a gentle reminder "Don't forget to buy ice cream for the children. Very best regards to you all Love Hugh." And there was this final postscript. "Please send a bottle of aspirins."

As months passed without further word from him" his mother, Ruth, and sister, Ruthie, grew despondent. They feared that something terrible had happened to him. But if something terrible was happening to Redmond, it was also happening to all of China. It was called the Cultural Revolution. The convulsions it caused China made the unrest in America look tame by comparison. Its object was to foment revolutionary fervor, as millions of Red Guards waving Mao's Little Red Book unleashed their fury against any and all institutions that promoted stability or the preservation of cultural values. Redmond was an incidental victim of that typhoon. He was sentenced not to death, but to silence.

But long before that last letter, there was evidence that the years of imprisonment, many of them spent in solitary confinement and shackles, had taken their toll. Redmond could still fend off the crude attempts at indoctrination, but he was now more vulnerable to the corrosive realization that day by day his life was trickling away. His father had died an in- valid in 1959. Redmond's own body, despite a strict regimen of exercise, was deteriorating, and his knowledge of the world beyond his cell was increasingly gleaned from books. With so much time on his hands, worries were magnified into obsessions.

Not the least of these centered on his wife, Lydia, or Lily, as he called her. She appeared to have inexplicably stopped writing in July 1959. Whether any letters from her were among the correspondence intercepted by the Chinese is not known. Month after month Redmond waited to hear from her. Finally he wrote his mother asking her to find out what had happened to his wife. Ruth Redmond knew the answer. Lydia Redmond had divorced her son. But his mother could not bring herself to tell him. She feared it would shatter him. Instead, she chose to ignore his inquiries and avoided the subject completely.

But the more he pressed, the more she was forced to hint at the answer. She had always detested her daughter-in-law, a woman whom, no matter how irrational her judgment, she secretly blamed for her son's imprisonment. Two years would pass without a word from his wife. For Redmond these were years of anguish.

Then, on November 28,1961, Lydia sent Redmond a letter and a belated birthday card. She told him she was living in Washington, D.C., working on her music and teaching. Redmond drew little comfort from her words. "From her letter," he wrote his mother, "everything is the same as it was and she is still my wife, no mention of divorce, etc. etc. Naturally I am more confused than ever and do not know what to think. Please make a new investigation. This thing must be cleared up. I can't tell what the score is. All she said in her letter was that she was sorry for not writing for so long ... I don't like this in between, in again, out again, off again, on again game." By February Lydia was again writing regularly, with what Hugh Redmond viewed as nothing more than a casual apology for the two-year hiatus. The silence had driven Hugh Redmond to the brink of despair.

Each of Redmond's monthly letters to his mother was now spent pleading with her to find out the truth about Lydia and whether she was in fact still his wife. He was losing patience and uncharacteristically lashed out at his mother and at the world at large. In a June 1, 1962, letter he be- rated her for sending him a copy of Redbook magazine. "This is a disgust- ing magazine," he wrote. "For addled-brained adolescents and harebrained women. Some of the books you send are very poor. I know that you don't read them yourself but please ask that the book shop use a little discretion. No more books about queers and fairies and pansies if you don't mind. I don't know why those kinds of books are even published."

His anxiety over Lydia was compounded by myriad other frustrations and by the awareness of how little control he had over his own life He had entered prison a proud young man. Now he was destitute, reduced to a single pair of tattered underpants, shoes nearly without soles, and a relentlessly insipid diet. He inhabited a vacuum. For months he had been asking his mother for vitamins, unaware that she had been including them in each package but that they were being pilfered by the Chinese. This, too, infuriated him.

But the underlying cause of his angst remained the status of his marriage. "Please let me know what happened to Lily," he wrote. "Is she remarried? 1f so what is her new name? I have been waiting now for nine months to find out. Don't you think that it is about time that you let me know what is going on?"

In June Redmond wrote his wife telling her that he had met someone new in prison and was going to marry her upon his release. It was a pathetic and desperate ploy to smoke out the truth. "Naturally this is not true," Redmond confided in his mother, "but I thought that she might at least in anger write me an honest account of her activities if she thought I intended to marry someone else. After all I have been a prisoner more than eleven years so I don't know any women."

Ruth Redmond was torn. She feared that telling him the truth might be the coup de grace. Withholding it any longer would drive him even deeper into depression.

In June 1962 she wrote Redmond all that she knew of Lydia. The truth was that Lydia had divorced her son in Mexico years earlier. On June 21, 1960, Lydia, then thirty-two and working in a clerical job at Georgetown University, had married a man ten years her junior. His name was Gerasimos Koskinas. He was an immigrant from Greece who made his living as a driver. It had been a civil ceremony at the Arlington County Courthouse in Virginia. On the marriage application Lydia had listed her place of birth as Harbin, China. The maiden name she gave was unfamiliar to the Redmonds or to those once assigned to her case at the CIA.

But within two years that marriage, too, was troubled. It was not until September 1962 that, according to Hugh Redmond, Lydia finally wrote and spelled it all out-the Mexican divorce, her marriage to a younger man, the problems surfacing in her new marriage. There was even a suggestion that he come to her aid, that he challenge the Mexican divorce on the grounds that he had been unaware of it. Such a protest would nullify the divorce and subsequent marriage. But Redmond wanted no part of it. He was devastated.

A few weeks later, in an effort to bring his spirits up, Ruth Redmond arranged, with the cooperation of the CIA, to visit her son in China a second time. Even as one arm of the Agency helped her make travel arrangements and secretly channeled funds to her, the rest of the organization was engrossed in matters even more grave.

At noon on October 19, 1962, Ruth Redmond crossed into mainland China for her second visit. World tensions were never higher. The Cuban missile crisis had begun five days earlier.

Ruth Redmond was permitted four visits with her son. The first of these was on October 22 -- the very day that President Kennedy went on television to announce to the nation both the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and the U.S. quarantine of shipping to that island nation. On her way to the prison that day she saw Chinese militia conducting exercises in the public parks. From every building hung banners that declared "Cuba Yes, Yankee No!" The frail sixty-year-old cafeteria worker from Yonkers found herself in an alien and hostile land readying itself for a nuclear Armageddon.

But even that sobering reality did not prepare her for what awaited her at the prison. In the intervening four years since she had last seen her son, he had gone from a young and vital man to one whose face was now prematurely creased with age and worry. His right eye and cheek were afflicted with a nervous twitch or spasm-a tic she would call it. His lower right eyelashes were missing. Distraught over his condition, she pleaded with the Chinese to allow her to extend her stay an extra day so that she could be with her son on his forty-third birthday. They refused. So she gave her son his birthday gift a day early. It was a wristwatch, a way to measure the passage of time in lieu of any other.

In their final meeting Hugh Redmond seemed curiously upbeat. He repeatedly used the phrase "when I get home; not "if I get home."

A year later Ruth Redmond returned for yet another visit. This time she detected what she called" a vacant look in his eyes." Twice he had been taken to the infirmary for treatment of a condition he was not allowed to mention. His clothes appeared to be falling off of him. When she handed him a new pair of shoes, the guards laughed. They knew his routine, that he would walk fifteen miles a day, pacing about in his tiny cell. But if the walls of the prison seemed to be closing in on him, his intellectual limits were receding. He had taught himself Chinese, Russian, French, and Spanish. As soon as he mastered one language, he would go on to another, fearing that the ennui of prison life would otherwise catch up with him. He asked his mother to send him a copy of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And as she was about to leave, he told her he had but one dream-to come home.

For a time after that, his letters came at the rate of one a month. Most contained lists of books he wished to read The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, by Dimitri Merezhkovsky; The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone; The Creative Process, edited by Brewster Ghiselin. But by 1966 -- with the eruption of China's Cultural Revolution -- incoming letters were increasingly censored, or confiscated in their entirety. Packages no longer arrived. The war in Vietnam was raging and America was seen as the incarnation of evil. Hugh Redmond, its agent, would be made to shoulder the full weight of that animosity.

One of the last letters he received brought news that his mother had suffered a stroke. She was now fragile and birdlike, paralyzed on her left side, and barely able to speak. Redmond wrote his sister suggesting that she make flash cards with one hundred of the most common words to try to teach his mother how to speak again. He also asked that she be provided a typewriter and be taught to peck with one finger. His mother's letters had been a vital link to the world beyond his cell.

But even then, Redmond could steel himself and show flashes of humor to console his mother. On December 7, 1966, he wrote; "I had an accident a few days ago. Sitting reading, I suddenly sneezed, ( a sneeze that Dad would have been proud of.) It would have shaken the bats off the rafters in the attic if I had been in the coal bin. When I stood up I saw that it [his belt] had broken, snapped right in half, so now I have to use a piece of string to hold my pants up ... I don't know what my waist size is. That depends on the time of the year. Sometimes I am not an eagle's talon in the waist, other times I barrel up with a banker's bulge."

Years passed without a letter from Redmond. Occasionally diplomats in Hong Kong would report unconfirmed sightings of him from missionaries and businessmen recently released from Chinese prisons. Some described a man who fit his description but who appeared to be too old to be Redmond.

In the spring of 1968 Ruth Redmond sent a letter to Chinese Premier Chou En-lai pleading with him to provide some information of her son. "If he is ill or unable to write would you not relieve a concerned mother's mind by having the prison authorities inform me of his condition," she wrote. There was no reply.

In August 1968 the CIA, working through Yonkers attorney Sol Friedman, hatched a final desperate plan to win Redmond's release. After years of refusing to offer a ransom for Redmond's freedom, the Agency concluded that there was no other alternative. It devised an elaborate .scheme designed to keep the Agency's role a secret and to maintain the decades- long denial of any connection between Redmond and the CIA. With Friedman's help it would appear that thirty-two anonymous sponsors had contributed money to a fund aimed at winning Redmond's release.

If pressed for the sources of those funds, Friedman stood prepared to provide the names of leading sports figures and celebrities of the day. Among those who had apparently consented to appear as donors and lend their names to the ruse were baseball great Jackie Robinson, and boxer Rocky Marciano, and even an NFL coach. The Agency would provide $1 million.

Advertisements of the ransom were placed in capitals around the world, wherever the Chinese had diplomatic representatives. But apparently unaware of the CIA plan, the U.S. Treasury Department, in August 1968, issued a warning that it would be illegal for an American citizen to transfer money to China without a special license. Undaunted, Sol Friedman, then chairman of the Yonkers Citizens' Committee for the Release of Hugh Francis Redmond, went to The Hague and Paris in mid-November 1968 to meet with diplomats and others close to the Beijing regime, hoping to pique an interest in exchanging Redmond for cash. There were no takers and the plan was abandoned. Two more years of absolute silence followed.


On July 10, 1970, the Chinese issued a press release from Shanghai that contained two simple statements of fact. The first was that that day they were releasing James Edward Walsh, a seventy- nine-year-old Catholic bishop whom they had been holding for twelve years. For an instant the u.s. consulate's office in Hong Kong was jubilant.

Then the consular staff read the second part of the message and were staggered.

On the evening of April 13, 1970, according to the Chinese, Hugh Francis Redmond had slashed himself with an American-made razor blade. He had severed "the artery of the medial aspect of his left elbow and the arteries of his wrists and mortally wounded himself" The Chinese said they had rushed Redmond to the hospital but that it was already too late. He had lost too much blood to be saved.

Redmond had lived nineteen of his fifty years behind bars.

Even in death, Redmond was branded by the Chinese as a "United States imperialist spy." He had, according to the state-run New China News Agency, been sent to carry out "espionage sabotage in Shanghai, Peking and Shenyang and thus committed grave crimes." The Chinese said Redmond's body had already been cremated and that the Red Cross had been instructed to "inform the culprit Redmond's relatives of his death."

A cable from the Chinese Red Cross asked that no more letters or packages be sent to him. There was no explanation for the three months that had elapsed between Redmond's alleged suicide and the announcement of his death. At 10:30 A.M. on July 30, 1970 -- even as an exhausted and unshaven Bishop Walsh was released-an urn said to contain Redmond's ashes was turned over to representatives of the American Red Cross.

It happened on the same Lowu Bridge where, three times before, Redmond's mother had crossed from Hong Kong and the New Territories into mainland China. The handover of the urn that midsummer day was otherwise unremarkable, part of the routine monthly exchange in which Red Cross representatives passed on food parcels destined for American prisoners held in China. Three days later the Redmond family asked that Hugh Redmond's ashes be returned to the United States. 1'he urn was shipped by air to New York.

Redmond was finally on his way home.

For the Chinese it had been a brilliant but cynical ploy, releasing the aging bishop at the same time that they announced Redmond's death. In newspapers and radio reports nearly everywhere but Yonkers, the freeing of Bishop Walsh eclipsed news of Redmond's death. The Chinese had held Redmond for longer than any other American prisoner. They had interrogated him, subjected him to prolonged isolation, and attempted in every way they knew to break him. Yet now, by veiling news of his death in the announcement of Walsh's release, they were being praised for showing compassion. At the State Department many interpreted the release of Walsh as a gesture to the West, an invitation for improved relations.

President Nixon, already anxious to improve ties with China, later met with Bishop Walsh at the White House. The talking points were supplied by the office of Henry Kissinger, special assistant for national security affairs. At the meeting no mention was made of Hugh Redmond.

But at Langley and in Yonkers there was anger and disbelief. Why would Redmond, having endured nineteen years of imprisonment with unbending defiance, suddenly capitulate and take his own life? Why had the Chinese waited three months to tell anyone of his death? And why had they been so eager to cremate the body, if not to conceal the actual cause of death?

None of this made much difference to Ruth Redmond. She was now seventy-two, the victim of three disabling strokes, the last and most devastating of which occurred on April 30, 1970 -- two weeks after Hugh's death. She was now confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed on her right side, and barely able to speak. For three months she had been living at the Hudson View Nursing Home. She was no longer able to recognize even her closest friends.

On Monday morning, August 3, 1970, Yonkers said good-bye to Hugh Francis Redmond. All flags were lowered to half-mast. The funeral cortege, escorted by six policemen on motorcycles, left the Flynn Memorial Home at 10: 15 A.M. and headed for the Church of St. John the Baptist. Along the way, it paused in front of the Hudson View Nursing Home on Ashburton Avenue. As the funeral procession passed by, a frail old woman in a wheelchair could be observed waving to the procession from the window of the sunporch. It was Redmond's mother. She was de- scribed that day as "dressed in a soft pink nightgown under a cotton robe, her hair coifed and a tinge of rouge upon her cheeks and lips." Weighing a scant eighty pounds, she watched with dry eyes. It was whispered by those familiar with Ruth Redmond's suffering that it was a blessing she was in her condition. The stroke had dulled her mind and memory, sparing her the final pain of her son's death. What passed before her window that morning might just as well have been a slow-moving parade.

Some who lined the street saluted as the procession passed. In the church two hundred mourners listened as Rev. Bernard Quinn read the eulogy. "After his long life of suffering and serving God, Hugh Francis Redmond has begun his eternal life in heaven." In the sanctuary the urn containing his ashes was covered with a white linen doily.

Four former mayors -- all who had been in office through the nine- teen years of Redmond's imprisonment -- served as honorary pallbearers. Redmond's friends, middle-aged men and women who had not seen Redmond since their youth, gathered in the church. Sol Friedman, who had headed the Yonkers civic group campaigning for Redmond's release, gave the graveside eulogy. "Today," he began, "we bury the ashes of Hugh Redmond. For certain, no one can ever bury the indomitable spirit and courage of this man ... Never once could the Chinese government extract a confession of an admission of guilt from him."

After a final blessing, the silence was shattered by a four-gun salute from the color guard of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7. A bugle wailed "Taps," and a perfectly folded flag -- the one that now gathers dust in a nephew's cellar-was presented to Redmond's sister.

His ashes were buried in a silver and lead urn on a hillside in Yonkers's Oakland Cemetery beneath a modest granite tombstone featuring a cross and wreath. The inscription reads: "His Country Above All Else." Next to him lay his father, Hugh Redmond, Sr.

Three years later his mother was buried beside him.

Neither the CIA nor the Redmond family was ever persuaded that Redmond had committed suicide. Nor was there any way of proving that the ashes were actually those of Hugh Redmond. Testing them would have revealed nothing except perhaps that they were of human origin.

Redmond's death alarmed the Agency and put new urgency into efforts to free Fecteau and Downey, who had spent eighteen years in prison. There were reasons now to be hopeful. Even as Nixon prosecuted the war in Vietnam, he sought rapprochement with China. In March 1971 he lifted passport restrictions on travel to that country. On April 6 the Chinese invited the U.S. table tennis team to the mainland, in what came to be known as Ping-Pong diplomacy. Years of glacial hostilities were rap- idly melting away.

What might Redmond have thought if he could have known that in July 1971 -- a year after his death -- Nixon's national security adviser, Kissinger, would secretly visit China and agree to share sensitive intelligence reports with Premier Chou En-lai. Might he not have wondered what had been achieved by his years of refusal to admit he was a spy? And what had the Agency to show for so many sacrifices in its covert war against that country ? Beijing would claim that of some 212 Chinese agents who parachuted into the mainland in the early 1950s -- with CIA help -- half had been killed, the other half captured.

Fecteau was luckier. On December 13, 1971 -- two months before Nixon's scheduled trip to Beijing -- he was at last released. He was flown to Valley Forge Military Hospital in Pennsylvania. There he was placed under observation and given a battery of medical tests. The Agency dispatched Ben DeFelice and one of its psychologists to the hospital. Fecteau, then forty-three, had never been outgoing or gregarious, even be- fore his capture. But after years of solitary confinement, he was painfully withdrawn. DeFelice was there not only to assist him in dealing with bureaucratic matters but, perhaps more important, with Fecteau's emotional reentry.

Just three days after Fecteau's return to the United States, DeFelice got permission to take him on a drive through the surrounding country- side and towns. Fecteau had never before seen a shopping mall. He was bedazzled by the colors and contours of cars. They stopped for a burger at a fast-food restaurant. It was all so new, so alien to Fecteau. Afterward, DeFelice scribbled down some notes of the experience. He called it his "Rip Van Winkle piece," after the fictional character who slept for twenty years and awoke an old man, his wife dead, his daughter married, and the portrait of King George replaced by that of George Washington. So it was for Richard Fecteau. His infant twins were now women, and he had missed the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.

One pleasant surprise awaited him. The puny salary he thought was due him had grown, after years of Agency investments and promotions, into a hefty sum. Fecteau declined sizable offers from publishers and movie studios to tell his story, fearing it might jeopardize his Agency col- league Downey's chances for release. Fecteau later remarried his first wife, Margaret, and became assistant athletic director at Boston University.

On February 21, 1972, Nixon arrived in China for his historic meet ing with Premier Chou En-lai and Chairman Mao Zedong In the very city where Hugh Redmond rotted away in prison, the two leaders issued a joint statement on February 27, known as the Shanghai Communique, agreeing to normalize relations.

A year later, in February 1973, Nixon held a press conference. The last question asked was about Downey. At the Agency Downey's friends were convinced that the question was planted and the answer rehearsed. Nixon seized -- if not created -- that opportunity to finally acknowledge what the Chinese had known for two decades: that Downey was a CIA operative. That was all that the Chinese had been waiting for.

On March 10, 1973, the White House announced that Downey would be released so that he could be with his mother, who was then in critical condition in a Connecticut hospital suffering from a stroke. Two days later, on March 12, the Chinese let Downey go. He, too, walked across the Lowu Bridge to Hong Kong, after twenty years in prison. He cut a stark figure in Chinese blue pants and blue shirt, an overcoat slung across his arm and a black suitcase in his hand.

At Langley it was a time for quiet celebration and perhaps some soul-searching as well. Privately some within the Agency believed that Downey and Fecteau -- and perhaps Redmond too -- might well have been released many years earlier, and that their ordeals were avoidable.

Steven Kiba had been an American radioman in a B-29 when he was shot down over North Korea in 1953. He was briefly imprisoned with Downey and Fecteau in Beijing. Just prior to his release in 1955, a Chinese commissar told him that Downey and Fecteau could be released if the U.S. government admitted they were spies.

Upon his return to the United States, Kiba was debriefed by CIA officers. During those sessions in downtown Washington he spoke of the Chinese offer to release Downey and Fecteau if the United States would admit they worked for the Agency. Kiba was told never to mention that he had met Downey or Fecteau and was advised to "forget about the whole period." He was stunned that the CIA officers showed no interest in pursuing the subject. Instead, they told him that "it looked pretty hope- less for them and seemed to indicate they would never get out."

Eighteen years later the United States admitted what was clear to the Chinese from the beginning. And just as Kiba had suggested, freedom followed soon after.

Upon his return to the States, Downey acknowledged that he had told the Chinese what he knew during his imprisonment and interrogation. Still the Agency, in recognition of his ordeal offered him a position at Langley. Downey declined. "You know I just don't think I am cut out for that kind of work," he jested. He dismissed his two decades in a Chinese prison as a "crashing bore." At age forty-three he entered Harvard Law School. Today he is a judge in Connecticut.

It is said that he was the last of his Yale class still on the books as an Agency operative. Everyone else had left. One had gone on to become a photographer, another a clothier, and yet another a lobsterman, in the Solomon Islands. Downey and Fecteau and Redmond had stayed on the Agency rolls long after most of their peers had departed or retired. It was partly a matter of bureaucratic fiction and partly out of deference for their long suffering.

Nor was Redmond forgotten. In 1972 Yonkers renamed Cook Field, a thirty-five-acre recreational site, Redmond Park in honor of their native son.

As for Redmond's wife, Lydia, she is in her seventies, divorced, and living in a Virginia suburb outside of Washington, D. C. She says he CIA lost interest in her the moment she divorced Redmond. She rails against the Chinese. "They are just butchers, butchers sitting on top of butchers," she says. "They have never changed." She has no interest in speaking of Redmond or seeing his letters. "I know all the gruesome details and I have enough letters to last me a lifetime." She has never been to Redmond's grave, nor has she an interest in doing so.

Redmond, Fecteau, and Downey had all paid a profound price for what in hindsight may be viewed as fictions created by government. The United States would not acknowledge what the Chinese already knew: that all three men were spies. Nor would Washington recognize the Communist regime, even if it meant blotting out a quarter of the world's population. Instead, it acted as if mainland China were represented by the effete and exiled Nationalist government on Taiwan. Covert operations against the mainland had been a part of that greater fiction, accepting the most profound acts of personal sacrifice and heroism in a vain effort to modify Chinese political or military conduct.

One last lingering remnant of that fiction remains. The U.S. government has yet to publicly acknowledge that Hugh Francis Redmond worked for the CIA. To this day he remains a nameless star in the Book of Honor.

Only in Yonkers, among the elderly, is his name remembered and revered, and by a nephew who dutifully returns the scant artifacts of Redmond's life to a small mahogany chest destined again for the basement.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:24 am

Honor and Humiliation

This is neither a Boy Scout game nor a boxing bout fought by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules. It is a job to be done.


BY THE EARLY 1970s more than a decade had elapsed since the Bay of Pigs. Finally it appeared that the CIA might again enjoy some measure of credibility as the Cuban fiasco faded into history. But new and more try- ing ordeals were already taking shape. Cumulatively they would create a crisis of confidence in the CIA from which it would not soon recover. By 1974 the long-festering war in Vietnam was coming to an end. A short-lived and illusory peace was all there was to show for so much sacrifice. The end would be immortalized as a frantic scurry aboard a final chopper out of Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the spectacle of a Communist takeover.

On many fronts the public felt it had been deceived. Watergate, the ultimate scandal, had begun on June 17, 1972, with a break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters. It was followed by the arrest of five burglars, all but one of whom had worked for the CIA and whose Agency roots went back to the Bay of Pigs or before. Other former CIA officers would later be implicated, leading many to muse that the curse of the Bay of Pigs was upon Langley still. On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. With Nixon gone, the CIA would take unwanted center stage.

Investigators on Capitol Hill and in the press began to unravel the CIA's most sensitive secrets, digging into a past that would chill even stalwart patriots and challenge time-honored myths of America's moral superiority. Millions, it was learned, had been spent on toppling duly elected foreign governments. Tens of thousands of Americans had been subjected to illegal CIA scrutiny. Former Agency officers were writing books, threatening to tell all. Detente and its relaxation of tensions with the Soviets undermined support for covert operations and called into question the need for extreme measures.

As if external wounds were not enough, Langley had long engaged in its own bloodletting. The self- destructive hunt for Soviet moles inside the CIA, led by the brilliant but obsessed James Angleton, was finally brought to an end with his forced retirement in December 1974 -- but not before the careers of honorable officers had been ruined and vast resources squandered chasing phantoms.

Ahead lay devastating Senate and House hearings. Out of these would come revelations that would forever alter Americans' view of the CIA and, in the minds of at least one generation, brand it as a rogue agency --"uncontrolled and uncontrollable," to use the words of Senator Frank Church. An incredulous nation learned that for years the Agency had been reading Americans' mail, spying on its own citizens, experimenting with LSD and deadly toxins, plotting to assassinate foreign leaders, and destabilizing other governments. William E, Colby, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, horrified the clandestine service by voluntarily assembling a list of Agency actions that violated its charter. To the outside world it was known as the Family Jewels. Inside the Agency it was called the Skeletons. Nothing so demoralized Langley as the perception that it had been betrayed by one of its own, a career intelligence officer, an OSS veteran, and the overseer of the controversial phoenix Program.

Out of that would come a vast expansion of congressional oversight and a prohibition of assassinations. Few would be exempt from accountability. In 1973 a Senate committee asked former Agency director Richard Helms if the CIA had had a role in the coup attempts to bring down Chile's President Salvador Allende. "No sir," he replied. Four years later, when the truth emerged, Helms was slapped with a $2,000 fine and a two-year suspended prison sentence for misleading Congress "You now stand before this court in disgrace and shame," a federal judge told him. It was a rebuke that! in the public's mind, might just as well have been meted out to the entire Agency.

By the mid-1970s and for decades thereafter, the CIA would be the focal point for every conspiracy theory. The excesses of such accusations were matched only by the CIA's own bizarre and often harebrained schemes. For those inside the Agency who revered it and remembered those who had recently died in its service in Southeast Asia, the mid- seventies were years of high honor and excruciating humiliation. Many Agency veterans remained unbowed and resentful. Among these was Richard Helms.

"Some political commentators lamented the fact the CIA was not the Boy Scouts," an indignant Helms would reflect. "Those of us who worked in the CIA were surprised-we had always assumed that we had been expected to act otherwise. The CIA was damaged, almost crippled, by that dark period in its history." Citing the patriot Nathan Hale, whose statue graces a CIA walkway, Helms would say, "Intelligence is necessary to the public good, and, by being necessary, becomes honorable." At Langley "necessary" and "honorable" had been allowed to become synonymous.

It was against just such a darkening backdrop that CIA ofticials gathered in the spring of 1973 in an attempt to craft some sort of memorial for the many Agency men and women who had died in the line of service. Up until then, there was no monument, only a secretive gathering of men assembling under the sterile-sounding name of the Honors and Merit Awards Board. It was they who determined who would posthumously receive what, if any, medal or honor. Most such honors and commendations would be presented to the surviving spouse, then quickly retrieved and placed in the deceased's personnel file, deep within the vaultlike chambers of Langley Such deaths, shrouded in secrecy, were deemed a private matter between the family and the Agency representative. That was usually a job for Ben DeFelice, who for two decades comforted the bereaved and provided them with whatever bureaucratic and personal assistance might be needed.

But in the grim days of 1973 and 1974 senior Agency people seized upon the idea that something more was needed, something both to recognize the personal sacrifices of its officers and, equally important, to pro- vide a focal point for the CIA community at large. Such sacrifices in the aggregate, it was thought, might inspire and uplift an increasingly demoralized organization. For a guide, they looked naturally enough to the State Department, which had, over the years, lost scores of men and women in service overseas.

Adopting State Department rituals and criteria was a first step. But Agency officials soon recognized that most of those the CIA would honor would be from the clandestine ranks. That posed unique security problems. At the State Department there was a large plaque at the end of the main lobby listing its honored dead. For years the CIA had quietly salted in among the ranks of the State Department's casualties some of its own covert officers killed in the line of duty. Among these were the names of Douglas S. Mackiernan, "Killed by Gunfire Tibet 1950," and William P. Boteler, "Killed by Grenade Nicosia Cyprus 1956." It was an odd way to do Agency casualties honor, but the only way that the CIA knew. Besides, since those men and women had died under State Department cover, not to include them on that wall would attract unwanted attention and raise suspicions about their true employer and mission. It was a dilemma that would continue for decades.

Creating an Agency memorial would require the organization to first define the criteria for inclusion. Those deemed worthy would then be the subject of an elaborate declassification review to determine whose name could be revealed and whose must remain a secret. Like the State Department, the Agency concluded that such a death must be "of an inspirational or heroic character."

But at the CIA the precise criteria for inclusion were deemed so sensitive that they were classified and would remain so. Unlike the State Department, the Agency concluded that death need not occur outside the United States, though it must occur while in pursuit of an Agency mission. Excluded were deaths occurring from disease, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and simple auto and plane crashes occurring in the ordinary course of one's private life. On this they agreed. But such a provision excluded numerous Agency officers who perished in the field from exotic circumstances to which they would not otherwise have been exposed but for their CIA missions.

Initially they also agreed that those honored should not be limited to CIA staff employees but should include those who died while under contract to the CIA. This was a point of considerable sensitivity in 1973. Scores of pilots and crew members from Air America, the proprietary air wing of the CIA, had died in Southeast Asia while on Agency business. Excluding them from the memorial would have been seen as i.1rawing an untenable distinction between the sacrifices of those who died in service to country, based solely on employment status and bureaucratic hair- splitting. (Yet in the end, such a distinction was invoked, to the consternation of countless Air America families who felt their loved ones' sacrifices were belittled by the CIA. )

There was also an early consensus as to the words that would appear above the memorial.

Finally, after consultation with a noted private architectural sculptor, Harold Vogel, there was agreement that all the deceased would be recognized with a star. Some other instrument, perhaps a book, could provide the years in which the officers were killed. But one thorny question remained: what exactly would such a memorial look like? For this, they relied largely on Vogel.

In some ways he was the perfect choice. An experienced sculptor, he was widely respected and had the sort of forceful vision that would cajole the Agency into reaching a firm conclusion as to the design. Even more important, Vogel brought to the project the sensitivities of a man only too familiar with the causes and values for which these covert operatives had been said to have given their lives.

The son of German immigrants, he was born in the United States. But following the stock market crash of 1929, he and his family re turned to Germany. As a teenager Vogel grew up under Hitler's Third Reich. When it was discovered that his father carried a U.S. passport, his mother was locked up, his father dispatched to Russia, and he, though only fourteen, was interned at a labor camp near Nuremberg. There Vogel was assigned to assist a Russian explosives expert whose job it was to dismantle Allied bombs that failed 1o detonate. Vogel knew he was utterly "disposable." Another lad forced to perform the same task completely disappeared after a bomb he was dismantling went off.

It was unimaginable to him then that he would .survive those years, much less return to the United States and eventually design the frame that held the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol, an LBJ memorial, and other prominent public commissions. But none would prove more challenging than that at the CIA. Problems arose early on. Months after the Agency contacted him, he heard nothing from them and assumed that they had selected someone else. In fact, the Agency was conducting a security check of Vogel and was troubled when it was discovered that he had relatives living in East Germany. Only when the Agency satisfied itself that he was not a security threat did they contact him again. That was in the spring of 1974.

Then came the conundrum of how to pay homage to people whose identities were, due to compartmentation, largely unknown even within the CIA itself. Early on, Vogel, unfamiliar with the Byzantine ways of the Agency, felt as though he had stumbled into some sort of Alice in Wonderland landscape.

Much of the idea for a "book of honor" in which to record the names of the fallen must be credited to Vogel. But as originally envisioned by some at the Agency, the Book of Honor was to contain not just some of the names but all of them. For this reason, Vogel would be asked to design a way to display the volume, albeit closed and under lock and key.

Vogel designed a lecternlike affair of Carrara marble to be fastened with rods into the wall. The book would be placed within the lectern and sealed with a bulletproof plate of glass secured with a stainless-steel frame and a solid lock. Each of four sets of keys would be carefully accounted for. The lectern itself was constructed on a slant so tha1 those who were in wheelchairs could appreciate the beauty of the volume. But because the book was to remain closed, a premium was placed on its outward appearance.

For this Vogel went to New York and selected the finest black Moroccan goatskin for a cover. This he embossed with a 22-karat gold-leaf emblem of the Agency. The cost of the book was $1,500, the lectern $4,300, plus thousands of dollars caused by subsequent Agency revisions.

But there was a problem. Who, the Agency representatives asked, would record all the names, including those still classified? Vogel did not possess the requisite security clearance. Indeed, because the identities were compartmented on a need-to-know basis, no one individual might be entrusted with them all. So the Agency gathered together three of its in-house calligraphers and decided to divide the names among them. But when the calligraphers were informed that they could not make a mistake on the one-of-a-kind handmade rice paper, they withdrew from consideration. That left Vogel.

"Well," said Vogel, attempting to make light of the situation, "you could blindfold me and then I wouldn't know what the hell I wrote." The Agency representatives were less than amused. The entire concept underwent yet another revision.

This time it was decided that only those names cleared for release would be included in the Book of Honor. The others would be marked only by a star and the year of death. No other clues to identity or mission or circumstances of death would be included in the book. Now the concept called for the volume to remain opened, and the costly cover would be unseen. On the top two pages, hand-lettered in black, India ink, were to be written the names and stars. Beneath these two pages and supporting them was a series of blank sheets to give the book heft. With each passing year, as more and more names were to be added, a blank page would be taken from the bottom, inscribed, and placed on the top.

More than a year had passed between the time the Agency had first approached Vogel and the time an agreement was reached on the precise design of the project. For Vogel the final step came in July 1974, as he chiseled the letters of the inscription into the marble:


The actual cutting of the first thirty stars was left to Vogel's sixty-one-year-old assistant, Lloyd "Red" Flint. It was Flint who manned a carbide-tipped chisel fastened to a tiny air hammer. Delicately he incised each five-pointed star into the marble wall, careful not to cut so deep as to crack the seven-eights-inch-thick slabs of Vermont Dan by marble. Hundreds of CIA employees came and went through the cavernous lobby without taking any notice of this man in the work. coat, his face to the wall, absorbed in his task. To them, he was virtually invisible, just an- other workman. A quiet man with no more than an eighth-grade education, he seemed almost a part of the wall itself. But for Flint, the carving of the stars, and the knowledge that each one represented a life lost, was more than just a job.

Five years earlier Flint had himself been a CIA employee with a top secret clearance. At times his responsibilities were as sensitive as any of those who passed by him. With the blessings of some former OSS officers, Flint had joined the Agency in 1952 and would remain there until his retirement seventeen years later. During that time he would operate the Agency's "Bindery," an innocuous-enough name, suggesting that he put together books. But Flint's work was more esoteric. He was assigned to Technical Services and operated out of the basement of a nondescript downtown Washington edifice known as the Central Building, part of the complex that once served as OSS headquarters. It was far enough from Langley to escape suspicion and sat atop a hill near the State Department, providing easy cover stories for Agency personnel.

There Red Flint used his skills to create a panoply of counterfeit documents to be used by covert operatives, some of whom might well be represented by the very stars he carved. Among his output he could count bogus license plates for clandestine officers driving through the streets of Taiwan, phony passports carried into East Germany, and innumerable leaflets disseminated throughout the Far East. His trained eye looked for minuscule "checkpoints" that the Communists buried in their documents to tip them off to his and others' CIA counterfeits. He helped provide officers with "pocket litter," the scraps of paper, store receipts, theater stubs, and other indigenous junk and refuse that might convince interrogators, when they stopped and searched an officer on hostile streets, of the person's bona fides and could mean the difference between life and death.

For Flint, as for many others, the wall of stars expressed not so much losses suffered by an institution as it did the losses endured by family. Indeed, Flint's own stepson would spend his career in the clandestine service. The Agency was, increasingly, a family affair.


By the fall of 1974 the Book of Honor and the wall of stars were completed, and the criteria for inclusion well settled. But only a few months after the chisels had been put away and the dark lithochrome applied to the last of the original stars, the Agency suffered yet another casualty. He, too, would eventually be honored with a nameless star, though the circumstances of that death diverged from all the others and, to the few familiar with the facts, would remain a lingering mystery.

His name was Raymond Carlin Rayner. Unlike his peers in the Book of Honor, Ray Rayner was not engaged in classic espionage. He ran no agents and, in the CIA's bureaucracy, did not even report to the Operations Directorate that oversaw the clandestine service. Rayner reported to the far more mundane director of administration. His last assignment was as far from the popularized vision of spying and James Bond as one could imagine. Ray Rayner's final job was warehouse- man.

His story begins in 1951. He was then twenty-one and still living at home, the youngest of three brothers born and raised in Brooklyn. He was soft-spoken and possessed a deep soothing voice, an easygoing manner, and a wry sense of humor. And he was tall and well built. His hair was a mix of gold and red, his complexion ruddy, marked by freckles. His father, Edward, had been a truant officer who died when Ray was twelve. His mother, Helen, was a schoolteacher.

In high school Ray had been a solid student, his name appearing often on the honor roll. But since graduating from Brooklyn's St. Francis Preparatory School on June 24, 1948, he had had a series of dead-end jobs, including selling Bibles door-to-door and even a stint as a chimney sweep. His mother fretted what would become of him and called his older brother Bill asking for his advice.

That phone call ultimately put Ray Rayner on a very different career path, for Bill Rayner and his wife, Barbara Ann, both worked for the CIA. Barbara Ann was a secretary in the Agency's Office of Communications recruited at age nineteen straight out of Immaculata Junior College in June 1950. The Agency in those years seemed partial to Catholics, drawn to true believers and staunch patriots. With a top secret clearance, Barbara Ann Rayner would sometimes find herself clicking away at the typewriter keys reading the U.S. war plan in response to a Soviet nuclear attack. At night the typewriter spools were locked in the safe, and even innocent typographical errors were deposited in the burn basket beside her. Her husband, Bill, joined the Agency in 1951, assigned to the signals center. Once again, Agency employment was a family matter.

Bill suggested to his younger brother, Ray, that he apply to the Agency. And so he did. On his application Ray was asked why he left his previous employment. Remembering his work as a chimney sweep, he is said to have written, "Low pay, dirty work." After that, the phrase became a family joke, a way to decline unwanted chores. "No thanks," the Rayners would say. "Low pay, dirty work."

With his brother and sister-in-law vouching for Ray, his acceptance into the CIA was nearly a foregone conclusion. In 1951 Ray Rayner joined the Agency and within a year found himself shuttling between a couple of small rock outcroppings off the Chinese mainland known as Quemoy and Matsu. His cover was as an employee of Western Enterprises, a thinly veiled CIA front organization based in Taiwan. Given the risks and the demands of travel, Western Enterprises relied on young single men. Rayner's job was to covertly man a radio and keep an eye on what was then known as Red China.

He returned to the States just long enough to wed Margaret Mary "Peggy" Tully, a girl who grew up two blocks from him. The wedding was on April 11, 1953, in Brooklyn's Church of St. Agatha. His in-laws would always find it hard to understand what Ray did for a living, given his ever- hanging cover stories and constant transfers. Like many Agency employees, he would have to endure in silence his relatives' doubts and criticisms, unable to share with them his true profession or accomplishments. In 1961 the Agency presented Ray with his ten-year pin, which he was required to keep locked away out of sight. Ironically it was given to him at the very time that his father-in-law was pressing him to get a "steady job."

Every few years, Ray would be transferred to yet another foreign post -- Frankfurt, Germany, Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and in 1970, Banbury, outside of London. His specialty was communications. By all accounts, he was quiet though not reclusive, and had a streak of mischief about him. His sister-in-law would long remember when she and her husband, Bill, were preparing to return to the United States from Southampton aboard the passenger liner Queen Elizabeth II in July 1970. Ray Rayner and his wife, Peggy, not content to see them off at the pier, were hoping to briefly board the ship and then exit before it set sail. But at the pier, Ray was informed that without a boarding pass he could not gain way to the gangplank-and passes were no longer available.

Rayner ducked into a nearby pub where he sought out the acquaintance of a small man enjoying a last pint before boarding the QE II with his wife to see off a friend. Rayner, while charming the man, caught sight of his boarding pass sitting on the bar. He coolly put his cold mug of beer over the pass, raised it for a drink, and deftly pocketed the pass in his in- side breast pocket. With that, he bid adieu to the man and boarded the ship to say his farewells.

Once on board, Rayner shared his tale of chicanery with his brother and sister-in-law. "You didn't." said a disbelieving Barbara Ann. As hi: later exited the ship, he caught sight of the same little man from the bar, this time pleading his case at the gangplank. "I had a pass," he argued furiously. "My wife will kill me."


It was in 1973 that Rayner, then forty-three, his wife, and their five children were assigned to Monrovia, Liberia, on Africa's west coast. Liberia was a notorious hardship post, and Ray had misgivings about the assignment. The country had a reputation for being a lawless place. Monrovia, and particularly the Monrovia to which Rayner and his family would be exposed, was a world unto itself rife with risks, seen and unseen. Only seven years earlier, his family had been evacuated from Jakarta, Indonesia, when that country slipped into chaos. Ray had stayed on with the rest of the CIA contingent. But at least Liberia would take him away from a Washington sinking ever deeper into the scandals of Watergate and CIA excesses. For that, at least, he might count himself among the lucky ones.

On paper the U.S. Embassy staff in Monrovia was unusually large for so small a nation. True, Liberia had enjoyed a special relationship with the United States, dating back to the 1840s when it was resettled with freed American slaves. And the country had a certain strategic importance, as Firestone had one of the world's largest rubber plantations there. But that did not account for the scores of American communications specialists working there under State Department cover. In truth, the communications people, as many as 150, were CIA officers, assigned to run the Area Telecommunications Office, or ATO, a central relay station through which nearly all message transmissions passed between the African continent and Washington. Much of that communications traffic was classified. The ATO had both a transmitter and a receiver, and maintaining the facility required a constant and significant store of replacement parts.

That's where Ray Rayner came in. Under cover as a State Department employee, Rayner was in CIA logistics, overseeing a gigantic inventory of antennae, receivers, transmitters, and innumerable tiny parts imperative to the continued operation of the ATO. The Agency warehouse was a dingy and dark structure on a small islandlike spit of land known as Bushrod Island. This was Rayner's domain. His office was located under a roof gar- den, and when it rained, he would constantly have to move his files around trying to keep them from the raindrops that were splashing on his desk.

He and the other CIA workers under State Department cover lived together in a community known as Caldwell a few miles from town. It was geographically isolated and socially inbred. CIA families passed their time almost exclusively with other CIA families. The work of maintaining the ATO was exhausting -- and reminded many of watch duty in the military. To amuse themselves in their time off; they created a yacht club and dubbed it "the Watch Standers Club." There they and their families swam, boated, fished, and shared Sunday cookouts featuring barbecued barracuda.

But even when off duty, they had to be circumspect. Nature was not always friendly in West Africa. The Rayners' backyard went down to a swamp. In the wet season, when two hundred inches of rain fell, the crocodiles from the St. Paul River would enter the swamp and come up onto their backyard and the yards of the neighbors. Children had been known to trip over a croc or two. One CIA officer, after learning that his child had had such an encounter, fetched his gun, shot the beast, skinned it, and kept the trophy in his freezer.

There were snakes too, deadly mambas, which would sun them- selves on the driveways and whose neurotoxic bites could disable their victims in seconds. Some were found hanging in the palms, others slithering through the lawns. The CIA's orientation had warned against sitting on logs or going barefoot. But that was little comfort to the CIA officer who came home to find a mamba shedding on his living room floor.

There was also the constant threat of burglars and break-ins. So widespread were these that every CIA family in Caldwell paid a local to sit in a chair in the front yard twenty-four hours a day and watch for intruders, known as rogues. These local guards would invariably fall asleep, but their presence gave some false sense of security, enhanced by the presence of "rogue bars" on the doors and windows of the families' homes. But not even the local custom of cutting off a finger or the ear of a burglar seemed to deter intruders.

And just as deadly were the ennui, the insidious boredom, and the lure of vice that crept into homes already sorely taxed by the headaches of living where electricity and water were sporadic, where nothing worked, government corruption festered, and cynicism spread like fungus.

The Agency people, always drawn to acronyms, had a name for the cumulative adversities they faced. They called it WAWA. It stood for "West Africa wins again." Nothing could resist its corrupting influence. It was said that in such a clime even aluminum rusted. Neither was the soul exempt. To combat such fatalism, a few strayed with their neighbors' spouses. Others buried themselves in work. Still others drank. Ray Rayner, by all accounts, was neither unfaithful nor slavish in his devotion to work. Whether his taste for drink exceeded that of those around him was at times a matter of whispers.

As Thanksgiving 1974 approached, the Rayners were planning a trip, a chance to get away. The night of November 23, a Saturday, Ray Rayner was said to be awakened from his sleep by the sound of an intruder, a rogue. He went to investigate and was bludgeoned over the back of his head with a heavy metal object, later thought perhaps to be a flashlight. The intruder fled. Rayner was alive but disoriented and badly shaken. For whatever reason, he did not go to the hospital that night but stayed at home.

In the morning the community of Caldwell was already abuzz with stories of the intruder. Visitors to the Rayner home found silverware strewn about, the house in disarray, and a disoriented Ray Rayner. As he walked down the house's narrow hallway, he seemed to stumble, bouncing from wall to wall. "Like a pinball," remembers one visitor. He lay on the couch, speaking but making little sense. His condition was deteriorating.

He was taken by ambulance to the ELWA Hospital, a tiny forty- five-bed clinic run by evangelical Protestant missionaries and situated thirteen miles from Monrovia on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. ELWA stood for "Eternal Love Winning Africa," as if faith alone might be the antidote to the poisons contained in that other acronym, WAWA. Rayner was taken into private room A, where he was examined by the hospital's lone physician, Dr. Robert Schindler, who diagnosed him with what he described as "a subarachnoid hemorrhage." Rayner's brain was bleeding. Unless Schindler could soon bring down the swelling, Rayner would die. A plane was on standby to take Rayner to G hospital in Germany, but to survive the flight, the pressure on his brain would have to be reduced.

Schindler was not a neurosurgeon and he had no pretensions of being able to perform such a procedure unaided. The closest neurosurgeon was in Abidjan, hundreds of miles away. The hospital, while the best the region had to offer, did not even have a single working telephone. While Ray Rayner lay in a hospital bed, his wife, Peggy, paced the halls with her friend Barbara Teasley, wife of another CIA officer. Peggy Rayner was trying to make sense of what had happened. She spoke of their retirement plans now in jeopardy after twenty-three years of CIA service. Rayner lay unconscious. "I can't talk to him," she lamented. "I can't tell him that I love him."

At Langley there was a desperate effort to come to Rayner's aid. A radio link was set up between Washington and the ELWA Hospital, and a Bethesda neurosurgeon was brought in in an effort to talk Dr. Schindler through the complex procedure. The radio link was open and families in Caldwell clustered early that morning around radio sets on their porches, listening as a doctor an ocean away gave surgical instructions on how to operate on Rayner's brain. They sat in rapt silence, six and eight to a group, their ears to the over-and-out radio. The conversation detailed Dr, Schindler's struggle to save him. The bleeding was deep down in the base of the brain. Things were not going well. "I am losing him, I am losing him," they heard Schindler say. Then there was a prolonged silence. "He is gone," announced Schindler.

The time was 2:40 A.M. eastern standard time, November 26. On the porches of Caldwell, some cried. Others made the sign of the cross.

The next day, November 27, 1974, Ray Rayner's body was loaded aboard Pan American flight 187 for New York. His bogus diplomatic pass- port, number X070360, was returned to the CIA. And on December 2 he was buried in Brooklyn's Holy Cross Cemetery, in St. Joseph section, range 31, plot 203.

Rayner's death was the lead story in the Liberian Star; under the headline "U.S. Embassy Official Dies." But in Washington his death created not a ripple, That week, all eyes were on President Gerald Ford's meeting in Vladivostok with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The two had agreed to put a ceiling on offensive nuclear weapons. Detente was the news of the moment. Ray Rayner had been too minor a player on that grand stage of geopolitics and espionage to warrant even a nod from the hometown paper-which was as the CIA wished it to be.


In the days and weeks ahead, as the boat rides and cookouts resumed in Liberia and life in Caldwell returned to its old ways, the shock of Rayner's death faded. But it was not long before rumors surfaced, rumors questioning the account of Rayner's death, suggesting that it had some- thing to do with his drinking. Over games of bridge, housewives expressed doubts about the very existence of an intruder. The implications of such idle speculation were unspeakable. No one, they pointed out, had been brought to justice. Maybe such gossip made them feel better, gave them some comfort to believe that the rogues who stalked their homes by night meant them no harm and only coveted their possessions. Perhaps it was the only way they could make sense of an otherwise senseless loss.

The Agency dispatched an investigator to examine the circumstances of Rayner's death. His findings were stamped "Secret," but those who read it say it contained no surprises, no whiff of scandal or doubt. It concluded that Rayner had died as his family had said. And the rumors were just that, baseless.

Rayner's widow, Peggy, and the children returned to the States. Peggy would fall ill and die at the age of forty-nine. The death certificate would list the disease, but her in-laws would always believe that a broken heart was at least partially to blame. To this day, Ray Rayner's five children feel duty bound to honor the secrecy under which their father lived and died, fearing that to do otherwise would compromise national security. The Agency has given them little reason to believe that even after twenty-five years of rigid silence the veil should be lifted.

Equally irrational was the guilt that dogged Rayner's older brother Bill. For years he blamed himself for intervening in his brother's future and securing for him that first position in the CIA. But for his help, Bill Rayner reasoned, his little brother might yet be alive. But the search for reason or blame was futile. If Rayner demonstrated heroism deserving of a nameless star in the Book of Honor, perhaps it was not for what happened on that single fateful night in November 1974, but rather in recog- nition of what he had faced day in and day out-a different kind of enemy, one less identifiable than those produced by the Cold War, but no less fearsome. Perhaps it was this thing they called WAWA. West Africa had won again.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:24 am

Privation and Privilege

MACK CHAPELL remembers it well, that Thursday night, just after 9:30. The date was July 13, 1978. The skies over rural North Carolina, undiminished by city lights, were shimmering with summer constellations. The closest community, a crossroads called West Eagle Spring, was miles away. Chapell, worn out from a day in the fields, had just put his feet up to watch television in the den of his farmhouse. Suddenly from outside came a deafening boom. Chapell jumped up, got into his pickup truck, and raced over the half mile of rutted road in the direction from which the sound had come. He had a suspicion what had caused such a ruckus but was praying he was wrong.

Just days earlier he had given some fellows from the army permission to use his private airstrip, a 2, 500-foot stretch of sand and grass that bisected his fields. They had said they wanted to practice night maneuvers. As Chapell drew closer to the airstrip, his headlights fell upon the broken tail section of a plane rising above the shoulder-high stalks of corn. The tail number was N-76214. He turned off the ignition, got out of the truck, and headed for what little he could see of the plane. But when he was no more than fifty feet from the wreckage, he was intercepted by three or four burly soldiers, members of the Special Forces.

"Get back! Get back!" they yelled at him. "It's going to explode!" The air was heavy with the smell of fuel, and the soldiers were running around in utter confusion. They were cursing at each other, arguing over what to do with the bodies and where a helicopter should take survivors. Only moments earlier these same men had been concealed in the shadows of the cornfields waiting for this very plane which now lay scattered in pieces.

Chapell could only listen and look from afar. He saw a blanket stretched out on the ground and, beneath it, the outline of a man's body, a small man it seemed to him.

About that same time, miles away at the Moore County Sheriff's Office, a breathless call came in over the radio: "Code six ... Code six" -- a plane crash. Timmy Monroe sped to the scene along with a rescue squad. By the time they arrived, Special Forces had secured the area and cordoned it off with ropes. Guards were posted to prevent anyone other than Special Forces from getting near the wreckage. Special Forces soldiers were combing through the debris searching for survivors.

Not far from the site, an officer with a flashlight came upon the beginnings of a blood trail. He followed it as it wove through some fifty yards of cornstalks until he came upon a man badly broken and unconscious, but alive. Others at the scene were now going through what was left of the fuselage. They found three bodies, and yet another survivor -- one of their own from Special Forces -- clinging to life. He would die hours later.

It was no great mystery what had happened to the aircraft. The sheared-off top of a towering oak told the tale. The plane had come in low-too low-struck the tree, and flipped nose-first into the ground, cartwheeling and ripping off both wings. The fuselage had split wide open right behind the cockpit. Two of the dead were found fastened into their seats in a cockpit that was torn open like a tin of sardines.

By morning the entire site had been completely cleared by army tractors, virtually swept clean. It was as if the crisis of the night before had all been little more than a bad dream. A few local reporters asked questions and were deftly shunted to Special Forces press officers who gave them the names of those on the plane and nothing else. A few paragraphs appeared in area newspapers along with the names of the dead and the lone survivor. The plane, it was reported, had been on contract from Coastal Air Services to the Army Institute for Military Assistance, a parent organization of the Green Berets. It was said to have been a routine flight, part of an elaborate annual training mission for Special Forces known as Robin Sage.

Sheriff's Deputy Bobbie Hudson filled out the investigative report with what little information he could glean. The plane, a twin-engine Special Light Otter, had been coming in for a low-level landing. There had been five persons aboard the plane. Among the fatalities were a Dennis Gabriel, Walter S. McCleskey, and a "John Doe, name unknown." On this John Doe's person were found a set of car keys and a black watch. Nothing else. It was the body of John Doe that Chapell had seen beneath the blanket. Also killed was a soldier named Luis Lebartarde. The lone survivor was listed as a "Civilian Gov. Employee name unknown." Nothing to attract special attention.

But attached to the typed report was a handwritten note to the sheriff. It read: "Officer on the scene Lt. Harry Pewitt HQT US Army Special Forces Ft. Bragg, N.C. states Highly Classified operation. Civilian plane contracted to the Army for this operation suggest you not release any in- formation ..." Yet another note to the file read: "Classified: CIA & Army Mission." Under orders from the Central Intelligence Agency, nothing more than the names of those who died that summer night would ever be revealed.

The secret was not how the men had died, but rather how they had lived. Their exploits filled entire folders, all of them stamped "Top Secret." The CIA connection was something the Agency was determined to conceal from public view. For decades the cover-tip succeeded.


Four hundred miles north of the crash site, at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, news of the downed plane struck hard. Within minutes the phone beside James Glerum's bed began to ring. It was the middle of the night and Glerum, still half-asleep, reached for the receiver. It was Agency headquarters. Bad news. Berl King and Denny Gabriel wife dead. Alex MacPherson was not expected to live through the night. The names needed no amplification. Glerum knew them well. Each had long been a cornerstone upon which the Agency had depended for its most daring covert missions. Glerum, as chief of Special Operations Group under the CIA:s deputy director of operations, understood the loss not only in human terms but for what it meant to the Agency. To lose three of its very best in a single catastrophic accident was devastating.

Glerum was himself one of the Agency's most seasoned veterans. It was his job to maintain the CIA's capability to wage covert paramilitary actions. There had been none better than King, Gabriel, and MacPherson. Together and individually, their lives circumscribed much of the Cold War's hottest and most secretive history. The less notice the crash received, the less the chance that the secret lives of these men would be- come public.

It was almost unthinkable to Glerum and his colleagues that men who had faced death so many times should die on American soil and in what appeared to be an exercise, perhaps nothing more than a generic rehearsal for some future exploit. That exercise had been part of a broader effort to ensure that elements within U.S. Special Forces retained the exotic skills the CIA might need to supplement its own thinning ranks of paramilitary officers. Crack military units -- the elite of the elite -- had to be ready to do the Agency's bidding whenever the White House gave its nod to covert ops.

Once again, Agency morale was at a low point. As Director Central Intelligence for less than a year, George Bush had been wildly popular within the Agency, perceived as a man who held the reigns loosely, was loyal to a fault, deferred to career officers, and dragged his heels when asked to reduce staff or give up information damaging to the clandestine service.

He was followed in March of 1977 by Admiral Stansfield Turner, a man viewed by some Agency veterans as somewhat imperious and determined to keep a firm hand upon the CIA. His detractors say he was better at giving orders than listening to the needs of his subordinates. To them, he seemed outright suspicious of the old hands at Langley and too eager to implement so- called reforms and cutbacks in staff

Under Turner's watch, technical collection of intelligence prospered at the expense of human intelligence. From the clandestine service, some 820 positions were cut, among these some 200 veteran covert operatives and 600 staff slots, many through attrition. Turner had no interest in shielding the Agency from its own past transgressions and viewed those transgressions as evidence that early directors had permitted too much freedom and too much compartmentation. He excoriated Langley for its inhumane treatment of a Soviet defector named Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko and expressed disgust at the vestiges of earlier drug-testing programs. For this, too, he was reviled by some career case officers. In the dramatic draw-down of manpower that immediately followed the post-Vietnam years and the subsequent cutbacks within the Agency, experienced officers like those aboard the flight that went down in North Carolina were nearly irreplaceable.

But that night the Agency's most immediate concern was breaking the news of the men's deaths to their families. King and Gabriel had been together at the controls that fateful night, sitting side by side in the cock- pit of the twin Otter, linked by years of shared history. It could be said without fear of contradiction that no two men ever had more in common or less than Berl King and Denny Gabriel. And therein lies a story.


The body that lay beneath the blanket that night, listed simply as "John Doe," was that of Ivan Berl King, the pilot of the plane. On the death certificate filled out two days later, the cause of death was given as a "ruptured thoracic aorta" due to massive trauma. Death had been "immediate." King was fifty years old. In the space marked "occupation" were written the words "U.S. Gov't Emp.," and under "kind of business or industry" was scribbled a single word, "Gov't." The medical examiner and North Carolina investigators knew nothing more of King, and that was how the Agency wanted it.

It seemed only fitting that a man whose life was so intensely private should have no less private a death. Berl, as he was known, rarely spoke of himself or of his background, not only because of security restrictions but because it was a life studded with hardship. While the public image of the Agency is often sculpted by the sons of privilege who oversee it-Ivy Leaguers like Allen Welsh Dulles, Dick Helms, and George Bush -- it is the Berl Kings of the world who often as not carried out their orders, individuals of quiet courage steeled by years of early want. They were not only content to be invisible, they would not have had it any other way. Berl King was one of these.

He was born on June 27, 1928, and grew up in a hardscrabble Corner of Arkansas. He was one of fourteen children born to Mabel and William Isiah King. His father was an itinerant Baptist preacher, a circuit rider, who hitchhiked to churches too small to have their own pastors. The elder King received nothing for his services and, but for a $21-a-month veterans pension, seldom brought so much as a penny into the home. He was gone more than he was there. So much the better perhaps for the family, given the frequency with which he reached for the belt and razor strop. It was left to Berl King's mother to make do by taking in others' laundry, often working until midnight.

The family home had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. For a time, when Berl was a toddler during the Depression, the family moved to the Ozarks. There three-year-old Berl contracted typhoid fever. For an entire month he lay in his mother's arms as she rocked in front of the fire- place, getting up only to relieve herself. He recovered but was so weakened that he would have to learn to walk all over again. After that, he seemed to be a magnet for every childhood malady. Like all but two of his siblings, Berl had white hair as fine as the silk of corn.

The family returned to Nettleton, Arkansas, in the spring of 1938 and to a tiny three-bedroom house. Fifty feet from the front door ran the railroad tracks, and as each passenger and freight train rumbled past, the windows of the King home rattled in their panes. Berl shared a bed in the north bedroom-the coldest of the three and farthest from the wood and coal heater. In that same bed slept three of his brothers, each one sleeping toe-to-head. His mother had made the mattress out of cotton and ticking made available from a government program. To tie it off; in- stead of buttons, which were far too precious, she used rounds of felt cut from a discarded hat.

There was seldom meat on the King table. Most meals featured fried potatoes. Occasionally the boys shot a squirrel or blackbird. There were no birthdays celebrated and no exchange of presents, not even at Christmastime. But Christmas was marked with what the King family called "a feast." On that day they dined on chicken.

Early on, Berl had to pitch in, picking cotton and strawberries in the fields, toting ice at the local ice plant, and working a paper route. He wore nothing but hand-me-downs and did his homework by kerosene lamp. 1n elementary school he had few friends He said little in class and was painfully shy. The more he could stay unobserved, the happier he was. Never did he complain about his circumstances.

In high school he began to gain self-confidence, in part from success on the basketball court, then in the classroom. He was an avid reader. His favorite writer was John Steinbeck, whose stories spoke of the life of the poor with an authenticity that King recognized at once. A romance in high school ended badly. Though other women would come in and out of his life, he would never marry. He told a sister he wanted to be sure that he could adequately care for a wife. He never wanted to see another woman endure the hardships that his mother did. He graduated from high school in 1949 and observed the occasion by buying himself his first suit.

No sooner out of school, King enlisted in the navy. During the Korean War he was stationed aboard an experimental ship that would fire a salvo of rockets into North Korea, then withdraw and reload. He was proud of his service but hated life at sea. He likened the experience to being a cork that bobbed up and down the entire time. He never got over his seasickness.

After service, in 1954, Berl moved to California and went to work in the sheet metal department of Douglas Aircraft, where his brother Clarence worked All the while he was putting money away toward flight school. Whenever he had enough saved, he would take another lesson. He adored small planes. For a time he was a pilot for Pat Brown, who was then running for governor. Later he flew commuter flights between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Reno.

But King was not one to be content flying the air equivalent of a bus route. He wanted to see the world, he was deeply patriotic, and he was not afraid of taking risks, especially when he could be compensated for his daring. Nor was keeping his mouth shut a burden. It was second nature to him.

By temperament he was perfectly suited for his next employer -- Air America, the CIA's proprietary airline. For years, King flew countless covert missions over Laos and Vietnam. Mostly he flew Twin Beech Volpars on low-level photo reconnaissance missions. Many of these flights put him over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. King reported to Jim Rhyne, one of Air America's most senior pilots. But Rhyne and King were more than col- leagues, they were friends. Even among the rough-and- tumble cohorts of Air America, the sangfroid of these two low-flying pilots was the stuff of fables.

Berl never discussed his work with his family and they never asked. Still they worried for him and with good reason. Sometime in 1963 he was shot while flying a mission over Laos. The bullet pierced his right thigh and arm. He came home to convalesce and stayed with his brother Clarence, then a policeman living in California. Only Clarence knew the truth of Berl's wounds. The rest of Berl's family was told that he had been involved in a motorcycle accident.

No sooner had he mended than he was back in the air. It was duty, not money, that motivated him, but the money was deeply appreciated, as if he could use it to correct his own grim past. In 1966 he purchased a new home for his mother and father in Nettleton, Arkansas, right next to the home he had grown up in. It was one of his great pleasures in life to know that his mother would at last have some measure of comfort.

But that peace was shattered in February 1969 when one of King's younger brothers, David, was killed by a sniper in Vietnam. King's sister Velma pleaded with Berl not to go back to Southeast Asia after David's death, but Berl was determined. "Sis: he told her, "I have to. I don't know if you realize how close the Communists are to the United States, and how many of them have infiltrated the government and what a mess everything is in."

By the time that the war in Southeast Asia was winding down, Berl King had become one of the unspoken heroes within the ranks of Air America, a pilot who time and again had survived flying through storm and enemy fire, over fog-enshrouded mountains, and in planes whose air- worthiness was often suspect.

It was only fitting that on June 30, 1974, it was Berl King who piloted the very last Air America flight out of Laos. In a modified Twin Beech Volpar, with a short-takeoff-and-landing capability, King prepared to fly from Udorn to Bangkok to Saigon. The Air America base manager in Udom, Clarence Abadie, watched pensively as King lifted off on course "Tango zero eight." At the bottom of this last flight order, Abadie scribbled a few lines of tribute not only to King but also to the other pilots with whom he had served.

"So ends the last sentence of the final paragraph of the saga that may have an epilogue but never a sequel. It has been to each participating individual an experience which varied according to his role and perspective, however there is a common bond of knowledge and satisfaction having taken part in something worthwhile and with just a slight sense of pity for those lesser souls who could not or would not share in it. This last flight schedule is dedicated to those for whom a previous similar schedule rep- resented an appointment with their destiny."

With the end of the war in Southeast Asia there was suddenly a huge glut of former Air America pilots, "kickers," and crew members looking for jobs with the CIA, but the Agency was loath to take them, fearing that their former affiliation with Air America-by then widely identified as a CIA proprietary-would compromise the security of future covert operations. The Agency's James Glerum, chief of Special Operations Group, had to get special dispensation from his superiors to carve out two exceptions to the Agency's ban on Air America pilots, arguing that they possessed extraordinary flight skills. One of these was Berl King, who was brought into the CIA on staff following the collapse of South Vietnam. The other was Jim Rhyne, King's friend and superior.

Less than four years later it was Rhyne who would deliver the eulogy for King following the North Carolina crash. No one understood better than Rhyne the risks that King had taken during his career. Years earlier, in January 1972, Rhyne had been in an Air America Volpar on a mission dropping leaflets along the Chinese border hoping to get information on a miss- ing U.S. C-123 that was believed shot down by the Chinese. Rhyne's plane came under intense ground fire. Bullets ripped through the aircraft. One of them shredded the control wires connected to the rudder. There were but two thin strands of cable left, and these Rhyne plied deftly, guiding the disabled aircraft home. But the same eighty-five-millimeter rounds that had ripped apart the cables had also shredded Jim Rhyne's leg. There would be no saving it.

That should have been the end of Rhyne's covert career, but six months after his leg was amputated at the knee, he was back flying for Air America. He would go on working covert operations well into his sixties. The Green Berets even bestowed upon him an honorary beret, and his work for the Agency was often among the most sensitive. As Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner is said to have remarked in mock disbelief, "You mean I sent a one-legged man on this mission?"

But there was something else that connected Rhyne to King and the fateful North Carolina crash. It had been Rhyne who was scheduled to fly the aircraft that night, and only at King's insistence did he relent. King was not quite as familiar with the precise landing setup as Rhyne, and his death was, ironically, perhaps the result of his own meticulous precision with the aircraft. His approach was exactly as was called for, but for a foot or two more of altitude. All of this Jim Rhyne reflected on as he prepared to read his brief eulogy for King at the Farmer's Union Funeral Home in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The date was July 19, 1978, and Rhyne, supported by his prosthesis, stood close by his friend's body, enclosed in a casket the undertaker's catalog listed as "Roman Bronze."

"I am here today to represent and speak for Berl's many friends, fellow pilots, air crews and associates: Jim Rhyne began. "Among these professionals of the aviation community both overseas and throughout the country he was known and respected for his outstanding airmanship. As a friend, he was sincere, understanding and generous. As a man he was courageous in the face of danger, calm and resolute in times of stress and kind and helpful to those less fortunate.

"Berl had been flying for many years and had logged over 18,000 hours. Much of his flying was done under difficult, primitive and hazardous conditions in southeast Asia. Berl was one of the best of an elite group of pilots known throughout commercial aviation for their versatility, experience and performance in a demanding and dangerous profession. With his passing the select ranks of these intrepid men are irreversibly thinned. The loss is irretrievable. The hard unforgiving school of unique flight operations is of another time-an era past. Men of his caliber, skill and dedication are rare. The pipeline for their development is virtually gone. Berl's image stands proudly as an example for those few who have the fortitude, persistence, and skill to follow him as a true professional. Those of us who honor him today will always remember him as such. Now that he has left, his spirit continues to serve as it will forever. God rest his soul."

King was buried beside his mother, Mabel, in the Jonesboro Memorial Park Cemetery. His father is buried in another cemetery-in keeping with his wishes, close to his son David, killed in Vietnam in 1969. On Berl King's simple gravestone are written the words "RDM3 US NAVY KOREA." There was nothing from the quarter century after the Korean conflict that the family felt it could safely refer to on the stone.

But for the siblings of Berl King, his death brought neither peace nor answers. Clarence King, his older brother who was in law enforcement, attempted to piece together what had happened. He was stymied at every turn. A senior Agency official made it clear that no one was to make inquiries, including the family. "They wanted us never to open our mouth to anybody and we've never been any different," recalled Clarence two decades later. "We were not to talk about this, period."

The family was not even free to select which attorneys could close Berl King's estate. Instead, the Agency provided the names of three Washington-area lawyers who had been cleared by the CIA. The first attorney demanded that the family give him a checkbook and leave the rest to him. Suspicious, the family went to the second attorney on the Agency's list. A short time later he was found dead, floating in the Potomac River. Finally they turned to Jim Rhyne to handle the estate. King's family asked Rhyne if there was any risk that the family could be sued either by survivors of the crash or by the decedents' families. Rhyne assured them they would never hear from anyone again. What he did not mention is that the families of the two military men killed in the crash, Luis Lebatarde and Walter McCleskey, were never told it was a CIA flight.

Like many families who have lost loved ones in the CIA's clandestine service, it is often hard to separate paranoia from reality, so enveloped are their lives in secrecy. King's entire funeral had been photographed, and only certain people were allowed to attend. Clarence King says he was warned by an Agency employee to be careful what he said on the phone, that his and his siblings' telephones were tapped by the Agency. He was also told that for a time he would be followed by someone from the CIA's security section, that he would do well to simply ignore the person and go about his life. So long as no one mentioned the CIA to the press or public, there would be no problem. Some months later the Agency returned King's wallet to the family. It had been cleaned out of all but a driver's license.

Not long after the crash, Clarence and sister Velma went to pack up King's belongings at his northern Virginia home. It was clear to them that the CIA had already been through the house making sure nothing sensitive was left behind. It was an eerie feeling as if everything had been set up by the Agency -- it was all too perfect.

King's bed was still turned down just as it had been when he got up the morning of the flight. His sandals were by the bed, as if awaiting him still. There were only hints as to the nature of his life and travels-Persian rugs, an opium scale of teak in the shape of elephants, a cigarette lighter presented by the president of Thailand. In an effort to identify his assets, the family called King's stockbroker. The moment the broker learned it was with reference to Berl King, she told them to call from another phone, that King's phone was bugged.

Members of King's family are still not completely convinced that Berl was even aboard the ill-fated aircraft. His sister Velma believes that, with the Agency, anything is possible, and knowing her brother's devout sense of duty, she does not put it past him to disappear at the CIA's request and to continue a life of covert operations under a pseudonym. She knows how wildly unlikely all this sounds, but no more so than much of her brother's life in the shadows. "There will always be a tiny bit of doubt in my mind," she says, twenty years after the crash. "I have become so jaded about our government since all this happened. I have become very skeptical. They tell you what they want you to know whether there's a grain of truth or not. A lot of times, they don't tell you anything."


Seated in the cockpit next to Berl King that July evening in 1978 was Dennis Gabriel, a tall, broad- shouldered figure with thick black hair, muscles upon muscles, and a torso that formed a perfect "V." The two men, King and Gabriel, had known of each other for a long time, their paths first having crossed more than a decade earlier in the Far East. Both men were quiet, self-effacing, but supremely confident of their skills. Both were unflappable.

But that is where any similarities ended. Where King had grown up in abject poverty, Gabriel was the son of privilege. His father, Philip Louis Gabriel, was a wealthy California industrialist, a Christian emigre from Lebanon, whose financial interests ranged from automotive components to a television studio. Denny Gabriel grew up with a cook, a housekeeper, and gardeners. He attended private Catholic schools. At eleven his parents divorced, and Denny, who was close to his mother, seemed to withdraw into himself Early on, he demonstrated an interest in a life of travel and adventure. He read the stories of Jack London and talked of becoming a fighter pilot like his two uncles.

Despite scoring a hefty 146 on the IQ test, he showed no particular gift for academics. After a stint at Berkeley, he transferred to Washington State University, majoring in political science and French. To these he would later add Arabic and Spanish. Intensely private, he seldom gave even a clue as to his personal goals or feelings. Physically he was a remarkable specimen. At six feet two and 220 pounds, he excelled in the competitive Pacific Coast Conference in both discus and shot put. He possessed an ex- plosive strength tempered by uncommon gentleness.

Gabriel had grown up in California. By 1961 he had set his sights on training for the 1964 Olympics in the decathlon. He graduated from Washington State on June 3, 1962. During his senior year he was approached by a CIA recruiter, and ill 1963 he entered the Agency through a program code-named IU Jewel, one of the major Agency recruitment efforts of the decade. Most of those who entered the Jewel Program came out of the military, particularly Special Forces. But some, like Gabriel, were recruited right off the college campus, based on their unique interests and skills, be it trekking, mountain climbing, hunting. All were rugged outdoorsmen. Gabriel had it all-a rugged physique, a black belt in judo, a fearless demeanor, and a pilot's license.

Denny's roommate those first months with the Agency was Bill Miller, a solid six feet one inch. But Gabriel could literally lift Miller over his head without the slightest strain. Denny neither drank nor smoked and constantly watched his diet. Like Berl King, he was painfully shy at social gatherings, and though he possessed the looks of a Hollywood movie star, he winced when invited to parties and squirmed if ever the center of attention. Besides, he was already dating Renier Barnes, a vivacious redhead whose own gregarious ways more than offset his own awkwardness. Renier, also an employee of the Agency and fluent in Portughese, Spanish, and French, would become his wife on December 30, 1967, at St. Thomas Apostle Church. (The Agency confiscated all the wedding photos except those of immediate family.)

Gabriel's entry into the Agency was intense and exhausting. For eighteen weeks he trained at Camp Perry, taking courses in indoctrination and tradecraft. From there, Gabriel elected to go to Panama and the jungle warfare school, where he learned such arts as knife-throwing, tracking, and living off the land.

Later he was one of twelve Agency recruits sent to mountainous Camp Hale in Colorado for cold weather survival training. Then came three more months studying parachute rigging at Arizona's Marana Air Base, where he was a contemporary of John Merriman's. Denny was pack- ing a parachute on a long table when the news came over the radio that John F. Kennedy had been shot.

A year later he was in Vietnam. Twice he was involved in minor plane crashes. While in Vietnam, he received the Vietnamese Medal of Honor from Vice-President Nguyen Cao Ky. From Vietnam, Gabriel was assigned to Laos. Like Maloney and Detiel, he trained and organized the indigenous peoples to resist the Communists and to monitor and disrupt any convoys of men or materiel moving along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Denny Gabriel had begun in the Agency's Ground Branch but eventually switched to aviation. His missions remain classified to this day.

What is known is that for nearly a year in the early sixties, he worked with the Nagas, a tribe indigenous to northern India along the Tibetan border. There he trained the Nagas for cross-border operations against the Chinese, part of the Agency's effort in support of Tibetan independence. He was also active in helping the Nagas bury caches of provisions, arms, and radios for later use against the Chinese. He might also have taken part in an Agency program to smuggle nuclear detection systems across the border. When Gabriel returned from the Tibetan border, he brought back a couple of six-foot-long native spears, the grips wrapped in fur. And he returned with one less tooth-pulled by a Punjabi dentist without benefit of anesthesia.

For much of the late 1960s Gabriel was based in Thailand and affiliated with Air America. So far from the States, he could only read and wonder what was becoming of his homeland-the assassination of Martin Luther King, the race riots, the demonstrations against the war. The year 1969 was an annus mirabilis- -- former CIA director Allen Dulles died, the secret war in Laos was a secret no more, and a massacre by u.s. troops of some 450 villagers at a hamlet called My Lai was making the news When American astronauts set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969, Gabriel had his ear pressed to a shortwave radio in Bangkok.

Throughout those years his father did what he could to keep him apprised of events at home, routinely sending him American magazines as well as care packages of gourmet foodstuffs, including one of Gabriel's favorites, Lebanese goat cheese, though it often spoiled en route. But the life of a covert officer was taking its toll. Gabriel was working seven days a week and was constantly on the move. u.s. policy in the region was also galling to him, as he watched his fellow Agency officers and American troops risk their lives while the U.S. government waffled on its commitment to the war and pursued seemingly contradictory policies of pacification, war-making, and distribution of relief.

In October 1968 he wrote. "I have had it in the East. When I leave here this time I will never come back. If I do it again it will be to the Middle East. I have finally got this part of the world and this stuff out of my system. The Middle East should prove interesting and right up my alley. Anyway, that's for the future."

In December he wrote his father "I am getting a little weary of this. It will be almost eight years when I finish here (13 months) and plan to stay in the States awhile and relax." From Bangkok in June 1969 he wrote: "When I finish here I should be in the states a couple of years before I go again. And when I go it's going to be where I want or no place. Since 1962 I have been around the world many times, now I am going to be selective."

His entire career within the Agency remains shrouded in secrecy. But in addition to his covert missions in the Far East, he is known to have taken part in ultrasensitive missions in the Mideast, calling upon his skills as both an Arabist and a paramilitary officer. Evidence of one such mission may be found today in a California safe-deposit box. There is stored more than a mere token of appreciation from one beneficiary of Gabriel's efforts.

In 1964 Gabriel was presented a one-of-a-kind Rolex watch from the ruler of Jordan, King Hussein. Gabriel had trained and set up an elite corps of bodyguards and officers to protect the king at a time of great peril to him. The watch, 18-karat gold, is studded with diamonds and the face is adorned with the king's crest. On the back, in Arabic, are inscribed the words "Deepest Gratitude." Gabriel's brother, Ron, has kept the watch in the safe-deposit box. One day he will give it to Gabriel's son, Sean, now twenty-seven.

In the mid-seventies Gabriel lived in McLean, Virginia, with his wife and son. He would frequently disappear on month-long TDYs -- temporary duties -- overseas, particularly in the Mideast and Central America. He became increasingly active in training other paramilitary officers. More than once he declined senior administrative positions, knowing that a desk job was not for him.

But if he had had a mind to, he could easily have retired at forty to a life of comparative ease. With a personal real estate portfolio worth $2 million to $3 million, he had no financial motivation for continuing a career as a covert operative, though those who worked with him had no idea either of his rarefied background or of his own financial position. He continued to take pride in being as gutsy as anyone the Agency could put in the field. He was never an ideologue, but he remained a stickler for individual freedom and hostile to any foreign power he viewed as a threat to personal liberty. It was as simple as that.

The night Gabriel died he left on his desk a resume rife with the fictions and inventions of a covert operative. His bogus cover ID said he was a civilian employee of "The Department of the Air Force, Service and Support Group, Detachment Eight, AFESPA, BoIling Air Force Base." He listed himself as a "GS-13 Operations Officer." Also among his possessions was a bogus business card from Jim Rhyne.

Dennis Gabriel is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California, space 4, lot 2713, beside his father. On his gravestone are listed the dates of birth, July 14, 1939, and death, July 13, 1978. He died one day shy of his thirty-ninth birthday. At the funeral on July 19 Ron Gabriel offered a few brief thoughts on behalf of Denny, who was both his brother and his closest friend. "Please remember his loyalty and gentleness to his family: he said. "His quiet service to country ... God bless us as He did him and make the living worthy of the dead."


From the North Carolina crash site, Special Forces officers had followed the trail of blood deep into the cornfields. There, buried beneath a heap of corn husks was a man, broken and twisted. His name was Alexander MacPherson, and he was swiftly medevaced by helicopter first to an army hospital and later to Cape Fear Hospital in Fayetteville, For five days MacPherson lay in a coma. When he came to, he found himself lying naked on a hospital bed, a large light overhead, and two massive tubes, each as big as a garden hose, coming out of his chest. The ribs on the right side of his chest had been smashed, the broken bones driven back out through his lungs. His legs were scarred and bruised, his skull fractured, His arms were laid out flat, his hands sandbagged on either side to pre- vent the slightest movement.

He had no idea where he was or what had happened to him. From the tubes that went in and out of him he surmised that he had been shot. "Oh my God," he thought to himself, "you mean I've got to go back to that place again?" "That place." What place was that! he wondered, through a mind-numbing fog of sedatives. He felt little pain. That would come later.

This man lying in the bed was an enigma for the hospital staff. It was not clear what was keeping him alive. And whenever he spoke, he spoke in flawless German. The hospital brought in a German nurse to tend to him.

MacPherson would remain a mystery patient. At five feet eight and 180 pounds, he was in remarkably robust physical condition for a man of forty-eight -- the product of a lifetime of mountain-climbing and an un- wavering daily regimen of swimming and hiking. But then, the doctors and nurses had no idea what sort of man they were dealing with -- the ultimate CIA paramilitary officer.

Within a few short months MacPherson -- or Mac, as he was known -- would be back in an airplane parachuting again, many high-risk missions still ahead of him.

There are few major hot spots where MacPherson had not been. To a long succession of CIA heads, among them Dick Helms, William Colby, Bill Casey, and Stansfield Turner, he had been viewed as one of the Agency's most reliable operatives. Paratrooper and rigger, anti-Communist and counterterrorist, he had worked behind enemy lines on at least three continents over the course of as many decades. In his North Carolina home are photos, plaques, and medals from a career spent under cover. Not the least of these is a citation, with accompanying gold medallion, that reads.

"The United States of America, To All Who Shall See These Presents, Greeting. This is to certify that the President of the United States of America authorized by Act of Congress has awarded the Airman's Medal to Alexander MacPherson United States Air Force For Heroism Republic of Panama on 20 of August 1964. Given under my hand in the city of Washington this 29th day of April, 1965."

MacPherson smiles coyly when asked what mission won for him this distinction. There is nothing in the newspapers or the history books to suggest that anything of consequence happened on that day in Panama- which is exactly as MacPherson wants it. "Don't bother trying to find out anything," he says. "You'll just be spinning your wheels. You'll never find out."

Eight years later, in 1973, the CIA presented him with the prestigious Donovan Award -- the reason for that recognition also remains a secret. And he may be the only CIA person to have twice received the Exceptional Service Medal from the Agency. What do they mean to him? "That I was there and forgot to duck," he says, laughing. Among his memorabilia is a photo of him with President Ronald Reagan. Everywhere are clues, but none of them add up to anything that would shed light on his clandestine career.

And even after he formally retired from the Agency in 1986, he went on for another eight years to serve in a variety of sensitive positions, particularly in the Mideast gathering intelligence on terrorist organizations. Like the movie character Zelig, his presence is barely discernible in the background of many historical frames. Among the places he is known to have served are Jordan, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

Tom Twetten, former head of the CIA:s clandestine service, remembers him well. "He's a crazy guy," he says. "Crazy," as in daring beyond words. "He did some extraordinary work from time to time and in between times he was a royal pain in the ass." Twetten encountered MacPherson in India in the late seventies, where he apparently left some Indians with the impression he was a four-star general. Later, Twetten recalls, he was instrumental in somehow stopping Palestinians from corning over the border from Syria and firing rockets into Israel. Toward the end of the Cold War he worked behind the Iron Curtain on a mission involving the cooperation of half a dozen governments. That operation is still deemed so sensitive that Twetten will not even hint at its purpose.

But even as MacPherson's career winds down, he will not acknowledge that he is or ever was with the CIA.

Little is known of his background. He was born in Chicago in 1930 or 1931 and was educated in Scotland and Germany, where he studied electrical engineering. He lived in Europe for sixteen years. Given his thick Scottish brogue, he could easily be mistaken for a native of that country. But he also speaks Spanish, French, German, and Russian, and is known to be conversant in an Eastern European tongue or two as well as Arabic. During the 1950s he served as an Air Commando with the u.s. Air Force, a precursor to the elite Special Forces. In the course of his career he has been shot at by Katytisha rockets, AK-47s, a variety of small arms, and even SA-7 missiles.

He has routinely parachuted from altitudes of thirty thousand feet and higher where sixty-below temperatures can freeze a man's eyeballs, where the slightest gap in the filling of a tooth can reduce a man to desperate agony, and where, if the joints are not scrupulously purged of gases, the jumper will exhibit symptoms associated with diver's bends.

In his world -- as well as Berl King's and Denny Gabriel's -- expertise and survival were never more than a hairbreadth apart. And still there was a place for luck The crash in North Carolina was not the first such downed aircraft MacPherson is known to have crawled away from.

MacPherson knew both King and Gabriel. He had flown with them many times in the days of Air America. But in an odd way he knew very little of either man. That was how he wanted it. "I have purposefully cut myself off from these kinds of things, much as I thought these guys were really great. Even when I worked with them I really didn't try to know them too well. It would have made it tougher to do the job we were trying to do. I have made it a point of not getting to know the people I work with. It is one of the cardinal rules I have followed. When engaged in work, I operate on a need-to-know basis, not just nice-to-know.

Today MacPherson wonders at the young stock of Agency officers coming through the ranks and worries for them. One young man, intent upon a career as a paramilitary officer, saw in MacPherson a kind of mentor and expressed an interest in accompanying him on an assignment.

"Do you think you could live in a foreign country?" MacPherson asked the young man.

"Yes," he said boldly.

"Smile," responded MacPherson. The young man smiled a toothy smile. "No," persisted MacPherson, "open your mouth." Inside, MacPherson was looking at some $20,000 worth of American orthodontic work. "Every time you open your mouth," he said, "you will be telling people where you come from. You can still make the trip but we will have to knock out a few teeth and things like that," he said half jokingly. "Living in a foreign country, you have to have absolutely impeccable credentials, right down to the last tooth." Any mistake can be fatal.

After so many brushes with death, MacPherson remains almost at ease with the idea of his own mortality. "I really absolutely no longer fear death. I've sort of been there," he says. "I came within a whisper of dying." That is not to say that he is ready to die. More than death, he fears being crippled. From his earliest mission to his most recent, he does not get on a plane or embark on any mission without first intoning the same silent prayer that he learned from his school days in Europe, a prayer that dates back more than 350 years to the English Civil War. "Lord, we are about to go into battle and I know that most of the day I will forget about you. Please don't forget about me." That prayer has served him well.

He has known many men who have died. Some are represented by nameless stars in the CIA's Book of Honor. And he has known many men who, like himself, have survived against the odds, among them Dick Holm, whose crash in the Congo in 1965 left him disfigured. MacPherson and Holm have been friends for twenty years, though the two of them have never spoken a word to each other of their respective plane crashes. MacPherson believes in honoring those who perished, not in dwelling on near misses. He is fond of citing lines from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen" that appear in a place where many British SAS soldiers are buried:

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We shall remember them.

Just what the three CIA officers -- King, Gabriel, MacPherson -- were doing that July night more than twenty years ago remains something of a mystery. Relatives of Berl King and Denny Gabriel each have their own theories based in part on hints from CIA colleagues and in part from the irrepressible need to find some transcendent meaning in the loss of a loved one.

The King family was given to believe that that night's operation was preparation for a specific hostage rescue mission. Perhaps. Denny Gabriel's brother, Ron, a medical professor, is convinced that that night was a practice run for the insertion of a CIA team into Cuba, where it was suspected that a Soviet brigade was present. In fact, some months later the presence of such a brigade was confirmed, nearly scuttling the SALT II treaty. Also plausible. Hardest of all to accept is the idea that it was merely a routine training exercise, a fluke accident oblivious to consummate skill and courage. One man who knows the truth about that night's mission is Alexander MacPherson. The lone survivor, he's not saying a word.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:25 am

Part 1 of 2


SUNDAY EVENING, April 17, 1983, had been a festive time for CIA employees stationed in Beirut. Thirty-nine-year-old James Lewis, a veteran covert operative, and his Vietnamese-born wife, Monique, had invited Agency colleagues to their apartment for a dinner as only Lewis could prepare. A gourmet chef he had spent hours fixing the meal -- nothing but the freshest ingredients, the best spices, the perfect wine. The Agency's top Middle East specialist, Robert C. Ames, was in town on temporary duty, and there was a sense that what was happening here made this shattered capital city, once likened to Paris, some sort of epicenter -- a place of deadly intrigue, espionage, and ancient rivalries. In short, Jim Lewis's kind of place. Monique, too, had special reason to celebrate this evening. The next day was to be her first on the job, working as a CIA secretary in the embassy. It was spring, a time of hope even in Beirut, and a time for Jim Lewis to put his culinary skills to the test on behalf of friends old and new.

Across town somewhere, other preparations, no less elaborate, were under way. Two thousand pounds of high explosives were being readied. The target: the U.S. Embassy, Beirut. For the driver of the truck that would carry the massive bomb and steer it squarely into the embassy's glass and concrete facade, there were preparations of another kind to be made, for whatever promised glory might await, it would be not in this world, but in the next.

The Beirut embassy had come to be the gathering point to which many seasoned C1A operatives had made their way. Over the years, these same individuals had come to know one another and to share a common history. Like a pooling of mercury, they had been called upon to go their separate ways over the years, but inevitably would be drawn together again in places such as Beirut where the stakes were high and so, too, the rewards. What the Agency could not yet know was that Beirut was the face of its own future, a place where hostilities would have little to do with the Cold War, where the enemy belonged to no foreign embassy, wore no uniform, and would hide behind not a border of barbed wire but a smile.

The Agency operatives in Beirut each had their cover, their bogus stories, their mundane tasks that they hoped would shield them from suspicion. Jim Lewis was listed as an embassy political officer. His wife, Monique, was said to be a State Department secretary. Kenneth Eugene Haas, the Agency's thirty-eight-year-old chief of station, was also listed as a political officer. Recently married, he had served in many sensitive posts -- Bangladesh, Iran, and Oman among them. Frank J. Johnston was carried as an econ officer, as was Murray J. McCann.

Fifty-nine-year-old William Richard Sheil was said to be a civilian employee of the army. A veteran of Vietnam, he had made a name for himself as a superb interrogator, a man who relied on honey, not horror, to wrangle information from his subjects. Deborah M. Hixon, a thirty-year-old from Colorado and daughter of an airline pilot, was said to be a foreign affairs analyst with State. Phyliss Faraci, forty-four, was an "administrative assistant," under cover with the State Department.

Less than twenty-four hours after the Sunday evening dinner, all but one of them would be dead.


James Lewis bore little resemblance to the fictional James Bond, but in Lewis, 007 would have more than met his match A lanky six feet two, he had boyish good looks, a full head of dark hair parted perfectly, kind eyes, and an easy smile. He was most comfortable dicing onions in the kitchen, listening to a French chanteuse, or sipping a good Bordeaux. He might as easily have been taken for a fresh-faced teacher at a prep school as one of the Agency's premier covert operatives.

A personable fellow, he thrived on entertaining and mixed easily with diverse peoples, but even those who worked with him daily would later reflect that they knew almost nothing about him. It was not a dark reclusiveness, but a talent for appearing open and guileless, all the while giving up nothing of himself. But those who underestimated him did so at their peril -- literally. Fluent in Arabic, French, and Vietnamese, he was an expert with an M-14, a .45, a parachute, and scuba gear. He was as capable of underwater infiltration as dropping silently from the skies. His work for the Agency had taken him to every country in Southeast Asia and most of those in Europe and the Middle East.

From earliest boyhood, James Lewis had but one ambition -- to be a soldier. Not just any soldier, but a paratrooper. There was no great mystery to his attraction to the military. His father, James Forrest Pittman, had been a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne. Lewis was born James Forrest Pittman, Jr., on February 29, 1944. His father was overseas fighting World War II. Little Jimmy would be nineteen months old before he would first set eyes on his father. Forrest, as his father was known, returned to his rural hometown of Coffeeville, Mississippi, and like many of his generation, was greeted as something of a local hero. His three sons and daughter would sit wide- eyed listening to his accounts of combat far beyond the confines of Yalobusha County.

But in 1952 Forrest simply walked out on the family. He was never to return again. A heavy drinker and a poor provider, he vanished. Lewis's mother, Antoinette -- Toni to her friends -- moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, and struggled to raise four young children. Much of the burden fell upon the slender shoulders of the oldest, Jimmy, then aged eight. Neither as a child nor as an adult would he permit himself to speak of his father, but the lingering pain of that loss would define the landscape of his life for many years to come. Already a sober child, Jimmy learned to hold his emotions tight within, sharing them with no one. He was as slow to show affection as he was to show pain. It was not that he did not feel both, as would later be abundantly clear, but that he would not allow himself to show any vulnerability. And so, even as a child, he became practiced in the art of deception, accustomed to living with secrets and self-containment -- liabilities in all but a spy's trade.

To his sister and two brothers, he was seen as the consummate leader, a boy who squared his shoulders and naturally assumed command in every situation. An aunt would always think of him as "indestructible." His military demeanor and self-discipline provided a way to conceal the hurt behind a facade of spit and polish, and at the same time, to obliquely express his adoration for the father who had disappeared. It was no coincidence that Jimmy and his two brothers would all become paratroopers in their father's image.

Lewis took it upon himself to watch over this cadre of three younger siblings, not as a protector or ersatz father, but as a drill sergeant, demanding obedience and seeking to toughen them up. His sister, Susan, recalls him leading the three of them out on "a combat expedition" -- that was what he called it -- into a neighboring swamp. Deep into the morass, Jim Lewis announced that the others would have to fend for themselves. He disappeared, leaving his siblings to find their own way home. Hours later when they appeared, safe but exhausted, he reviewed them with pleasure. "Oh, you made it back," he said, confident that he was whipping them into shape.

The world as he knew it was plenty tough. To win his love, one first had to pass muster. When he took his little sister and brothers to the movies, he insisted they walk "ten paces" behind him. It was simply a privilege of rank.

Though a mediocre student, he had a voracious interest in geography and military affairs and was said to have read The World Book Encyclopedia nearly cover-to-cover. Other times he buried himself in comic books featuring square-jawed soldier heroes invulnerable to fear or pain. His favorite hangout was the local army surplus store with its camouflage gear, its footlockers, machetes, vests, and other accoutrements of war -- all of his father's vintage.

As a child he was not a troublemaker, though at times he would do something that would unsettle his mother and reveal something of the turmoil within. At age twelve he ran away to New Orleans, but, ever dutiful, he left a note for his mother, who notified the police. A day later he was returned to the house. Another time he and his sister pilfered three dollars from a collection box at a local church. His mother found out and had them return the money to the preacher along with an apology. In 1959 his mother married George Lewis. He promptly adopted fifteen-year-old James, who changed his name to James Foley Lewis, the Foley being his mother's maiden name. Enraged that the family was moving to Phoenix, he took a stick and shattered the glass in the French doors of the dining room -- perhaps the only such outburst he ever allowed himself to have. But after the move, by all accounts, he settled down and seemed to flourish.

By high school, Jimmy stood six feet two, a rangy kid intent upon putting muscle on his lanky frame. Often he could be found pumping iron in the garage until his face flushed with exhaustion. In a vain attempt to bulk up, he devoured a high-calorie concoction that resembled a pasty mix of flour and water. If others saw him as indestructible, that was how he had come to view himself as well. He once told his brother Tom, "The day I start to get weaker is the day I want to die."

Tough as Lewis was, he was never a brawler, though on one occasion as a teenager he was seen going out with a businesslike look on his face and a six-foot length of steel chain wrapped menacingly around his narrow waist. In high school he was an active member of ROTC. To school he wore only button-down shirts in gray and white, a self-styled uniform, which his sister ironed each morning in exchange for a ride for her boyfriend. The essence of gung ho, he scrupulously followed events in Vietnam, tracking each development on a map of the country that hung in his bedroom.

A leap-year baby, Jim Lewis enlisted in the army on his eighteenth birthday, February 28, 1962. Lewis had his eye on wearing the Green Beret of Special Forces. He instantly distinguished himself first in training, then in combat. His quiet manner, boyish good looks, and unflappable courage led some to compare him to World War II Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy.

By early 1967 Lewis was in command of an elite unit of Vietnamese tribal Montagnards, known as Mike Force. Their mission was to stave off impending disaster, to defend or relieve Special Forces when they found themselves under siege or about to be overrun. "Indefatigable" was how one of his commanding officers would later describe Lewis. "His enthusiasm, aggressiveness, cheerfulness, and energy were not only hallmarks of his personality but they were so contagious that the simple, uneducated, and very suspicious native tribesmen in his unit were infected with the same qualities ... The empathy and compassion which Captain Lewis felt for the Vietnamese people was genuine and sincere. They recognized this rare quality in him and responded to him when no other 'outsider' could make any headway in dealing with them. He comes very close to possessing that unique ability to be all things to all men."

Time and again Lewis proved himself in the field. On April 3, 1967, as a second lieutenant in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), he was wounded. For this he would receive the Purple Heart. Just seven days later he was back on a mission deep within hostile North Vietnamese territory. As the head of a Special Forces reconnaissance platoon he and his men were moving through a dense jungle when they came under intense automatic-weapons fire from three sides. Instead of retreating or hunkering down, he led his men on an attack of Viet Cong positions and drove them back. "His fearless leadership contributed greatly to the defeat of the hostile forces and prevented serious casualties to his men," read his citation for the first of an extraordinary four Bronze Stars he would receive. Add to these an Air Medal, a Gallantry Cross, and innumerable other medals, ribbons, and commendations.

A notebook he carried, though somewhat encoded, reveals something of his life in the field. On one page he wrote:

Message from Catcher to Chestnut

VNSF [Vietnamese Special Forces] have planned an operation and Camp Commander has approved. They have requested that the following items be given to them for the operation.
4 PRC-10 Radios
1 LMG W/1000 RDS Ammo
50 or more Carbine Mags
20 Bar Magazines
20 Hand Parachute Flares
Both USSF [United States Special Forces] This location
Have agreed that the Items are Necessary
For the Successful Completion of the Patrol
Over "Break"

Elsewhere in the notebook are references to tapes of music he carried with him. One tape featured an eclectic mix of Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, and Sarah Vaughan. He even jotted down some random meals. One such entry read: "Lunch = 1 duck egg ... 1 pat rice ... 5 glasses milk."

Many of James Lewis's military operations with Special Forces had been conducted under the direction of the CIA. By the spring of 1969 he had decided that he would apply to work for the Agency directly. With his background in Special Forces, his familiarity with Vietnam, his gift for languages, and his reputation for both valor and discretion, he was exactly what the Agency was looking for.

In a May 21, 1969, letter of recommendation to the Agency, one of Lewis's superiors, Colonel Eleazar Parmly IV wrote: "I can personally vouch for Lou's courage under protracted periods of intense personal danger. Aware of the impropriety of overstatements in letters of this type, I would classify Lou as fearless or, if he experiences any fear there is absolutely no manifestation of that fear in his actions, thinking, or attitudes. His presence instills calm and his tall, muscular, tiger-like physique not only furnishes physical strength in times of stress but also generates an increased sense of confidence, resolution, and strength in his men and his leaders. When everyone else is worried and jumpy, Lou can break the tension by a natural gesture or expression or a pertinent but humorous remark. He is always in the advance guard of his unit when there is danger and he never draws back from the defensive point because of the risk to his own person."

In 1970 Lewis was brought into the CIA under the Jewel Program, which sought out those with unique paramilitary skills. The Agency returned him to Southeast Asia's jungles, where he was made all too familiar with desperate situations, particularly in Laos. There his code name was Sword. On January 26, 1972, James "Sword" Lewis wrote: "I have been at Long Tieng since before Christmas. I took 2500 people from Savannakhet up there to help out. I now have 1500 left. Things are pretty bad, nobody can or will help us now. Every soldier in Laos is committed and we are still being pushed back. Long Tieng will be our Dien Bien Phu. We will make it or break it there. I can't complain about my guys ... but I just don't know how much longer we can hold. The Viet Minh have 130 mm artillery and tanks, we have rifles. The Air Force can't knock out the enemy artillery All those fine weapons systems the U.S. has spent millions on are about 95% ineffective, the ultimate weapon is still the infantryman."


By the end of 1974 even the most stalwart supporters of the war in Vietnam had come to recognize that loss was inevitable. The United States had put its military and political prestige on the line, and the CIA, in support of that policy -- sometimes reluctantly -- had committed untold resources to help hold the line against Communism in the region. To those Agency operatives in the front line, neither the drawing-down of the U.S. military nor the proximity of an end to the conflict brought any relief.

On the contrary, as the mission became more desperate, the demands upon them increased. One of the final missions of the CIA was to assist in waging a delaying action. The final mission was to monitor the inexorable advance of North Vietnamese troops, if for no other reason than to provide U.S. planners with a timetable for the evacuation of those South Vietnamese who had been intelligence or military assets and who would otherwise be imprisoned or executed by the North Vietnamese. In those final frantic months it was the unenviable task of men like James Lewis to chronicle defeat.

In the spring of 1975 James Lewis was acting as an adviser and observer attached to a Vietnamese general named Nghi. Lewis was said to be in the command bunker of an air base that was overrun. The army, beating a chaotic retreat before advancing North Vietnamese troops, was in disarray. Lewis and others attempted to escape by night.

Near a place called Phan Rang, some 160 miles northeast of Saigon, a B-40 rocket landed near Lewis. He found himself in a ditch beside the road, trying to stanch the flow of blood from his wounds. It was there that Lewis fell into enemy hands and was taken prisoner. The date was April 11, 1975. He would eventually be taken to the notorious Sontay prison, twenty-five miles northwest of Hanoi. Five years earlier, on November 21, 1970, that prison had gained a kind of fame when American Special Forces staged a daring raid on the camp in an effort to rescue American POWs said to be held there.

Instead, the elite commando unit found the camp deserted, and though they returned unharmed and were later decorated, the raid was emblematic of a war in which even the utmost of valor often could not produce results.

Sontay prison was a remnant of old French colonial days. The buildings were of concrete and red tile in a U-shape. Around the camp was a high wall and on top of that ran a perimeter of wire. Even without the wall and wire there was little hope of escape and nowhere to escape to. For several months Lewis appeared to be the only prisoner in the camp. When a group of missionaries and an AID worker were la1:er imprisoned there, they were forbidden from speaking to Lewis. To them he was merely a shadowy figure whom they would occasionally see shuffling across the compound's courtyard under the watchful eye of a guard.

For months, thirty-one-year-old Lewis languished in a cell at the largely abandoned prison camp, its earlier American inmates having long since been released. His few possessions included a mirror and a comb.

Lewis tried to convince his captors that he was a civilian employee of the embassy, a State Department consular officer. But his captors were not taken in by his cover story. Agency comrades of Lewis suggest that the State Department inadvertently did something or said something following his capture that further compromised his cover.

For this he would pay a dear price. At Sontay Lewis endured relentless interrogation and torture. For months he was made to live in solitary confinement in a tiny concrete cell. Above him, night and day, burned an agonizingly bright light. Overhead was a loudspeaker blaring Vietnamese music twenty-four hours a day. Sleep was all but impossible. He was given nothing but a small bowl of rice and a smattering of unrecognizable greens -- no meat, fish, or other protein. Already lean, he sloughed off thirty-plus pounds. Nor did his captors ever treat the wounds he suffered from the rocket attack. These he was left to minister by himself, relying on the medical training he had received as a Green Beret. After several months' isolation, dysentery, and sleeplessness, Jim Lewis had been pushed beyond the point that even he could tolerate.

There is some dispute within the ranks of the Agency as to whether he was ever technically "broken" by his tormentors, but this is largely a matter of semantics. The simple fact is that Jim Lewis, the toughest of the tough, finally talked. The consummate soldier, he later came to regard his capitulation as an act of betrayal and weakness for which he would long reproach himself.

Back in the United States his mother, Toni, was receiving sporadic reports from the CIA indicating that her son had been taken prisoner, but as the months dragged on, and the information they provided became more and more scant, she began to get angry, fearing that the Agency had written off her son as the final casualty of the war. There were many in government then who were only too eager to blot out all memory of so ignominious a defeat.

Again and again the Agency urged Toni Lewis not to speak to anyone about her son's situation, suggesting that it might imperil him. Toni Lewis was by turns first trusting, then suspicious, then resentful. She began to wonder whether the Agency's constant request for silence reflected its concern for her son's well-being or for its own tarnished image.

Finally, in the late fall of 1975 Jim Lewis's situation improved markedly. His bowl suddenly held more food. The grueling interrogations ceased. His captors even fitted him out with a new shirt and heavy blue work pants. He was given a new pair of shoes. A trained intelligence officer, Lewis must have sensed that his release was imminent, that he was being fattened up so that it would appear that he had been treated in accordance with the strictures of the Geneva Convention. But before he was released, he and the other prisoners were taken to a museum in Hanoi replete with displays documenting what was said to be the inhumane war waged by the imperialist United States against the country of Vietnam. On October 30, 1975, Jim Lewis found himself on a C-47 cargo plane headed for Vientiane, the Laotian capital. Then it was on to Bangkok and finally California.

For several days Jim Lewis convalesced in a hospital bed. Though he was somewhat emaciated, he appeared to be in good spirits, the same tough and indestructible James Lewis that he had always been. But his family could sense that he had been changed by the experience. Try though he might to keep his emotions in, they were now nearer to the surface, and the months alone in solitary had, for the first time, given him a chance to reflect on his own mortality.

For many years Lewis's sister, Susan, had been working to reestablish ties with their father, Forrest, and one by one, Lewis's brothers and sister had come around to a kind of reconciliation with him. But not Jim Lewis. Not once in all the years since childhood would he permit himself to speak of him. Each time that Susan gingerly broached the subject or suggested that perhaps it was time for Jim, too, to make his peace and reconnect, Lewis had dismissed it out of hand.

But on November 19, 1975, only days after his release from Sontay prison, Lewis, who was then staying with his sister, asked about his father for the first time. "Susan," he said, "I want to get in touch with Forrest."

Susan told him she had an address for him. Lewis asked her to go to the store and buy some white typing paper. When she returned, he went upstairs to the guest room, fed a sheet of paper into an old manual typewriter, and began to write a letter to the man he had not seen or spoken to since he was eight years old. He was now thirty-one, a veteran of wars, overt and covert, and as battle- hardened as any man of his generation. For three hours he composed the letter. When it was done, he came downstairs and hesitatingly asked Susan to read it and make sure it was all right. It was so unlike Jim Lewis to seek the counsel of his younger sister.

Susan sat down to read the three-page letter but could barely get past the first two words. It began "Dear Daddy." After twenty-three years of burying the pain, Jim Lewis had become a child again.

"I guess that you will be a little surprised to receive this letter after so many years," he wrote. "I guess that you know that I just got out of prison in North Vietnam a few days ago. While I was there I had a lot of time to think about things. I realized that there were a lot of things I had neglected to do over the years that I really wanted to do, but for some reason ... I had left these things undone. I resolved that if I ever got out, there were several things that I would do immediately. The first and most important was to write this letter.

"It's hard to explain why I waited so long. The reason is not because I was bitter about you leaving us so long ago. I really believed that it was for the better for both you and Momma. Although I didn't understand it when you left, and it took several more years before I did understand, I really believe that you and Momma were not right for each other and as a result of the separation both of you have found happier lives than if you had remained together. As for me, I guess that I missed the things that most children get from a father who is always there to take care of them, but in the long run I think that growing up on my own gave me something that would serve me much better in my adult life.

"Growing up on my own taught me independence and to take care of myself and not to depend upon others. Before you left home you taught me to be tough, you made me learn to shoot your shotgun even when I had to stand up against an old pine tree to keep it from knocking me down each time I fired it. You taught me not to be afraid of anything by making me ride the wildest horse we had until I overcame my fear. I learned not to be afraid of hard work in the cotton fields behind our house in Coffeeville. All these things have served me well since I left home when I was 17 and joined the Army. Most of the past thirteen years of my life have been spent fighting in Indochina, and those traits I got from you got me through a lot of hard times over there.

"I guess that the reason I never got in touch with you was because I was just so engrossed in what I was doing over there that I lost almost all contact with my family. I've been very poor in keeping in touch with Momma, Susan and everyone else. I can't explain very well why I haven't contacted you, but I can assure you it wasn't because of any bitterness on my part."

Lewis spoke of his sister's recent "reunion" with her father in Coffeeville and of how much he, too, yearned to return and have a reunion of his own. "I'd really like to go back there and see you and all the rest of the family. Susan and I have been talking about going to Coffeeville this summer if it's all right with the rest of the family and you. I hope that we could all have sort of a reunion there this summer. It may seem strange, but I always think of Coffeeville when I think of home. I was only there for a short while, but I think of it as my hometown."

At the time, Lewis was engaged to a twenty-one-year-old Vietnamese woman named Hang. "I want her to meet you," he wrote.

He spoke sympathetically of the accident his father had recently suffered. He had been working on a shrimp boat out of Galveston, Texas, and a thick rope had become wrapped around his ankle as the boat pulled out, mangling his leg. A short time later it had to be surgically amputated from the knee down, and he was fitted with a prosthesis. Jim Lewis wrote that he was glad to hear that his father was now doing better.

"You can write to me at Susan's address. I will be here long enough to receive a letter from you, and as soon as I get to Washington I will write and send you my address ... I'll be waiting to hear from you, and plan to stay in close contact with you in the future." The letter closed simply, "Love, Jimmy." It had taken a lifetime to utter those words.

But unbeknownst to Jim Lewis, his letter would be lost in the mail. His father recovered from the physical injuries of the boating accident, but not from the emotional scar of losing his leg. Always a man doubtful of his own self-worth, Forrest Pittman sank deeper and deeper into drink and self- pity. He considered himself to be useless. He lamented the breakup of his family, and the decades of silence between him and his eldest son, James, weighed upon him. On August 21, 1977, Forrest Pittman drove to his favorite place, the boat landing on Enid Lake. There he took his own life with a .22-caliber pistol shot to the head. He left no note. He was sixty years old.

Jim Lewis was never to receive a reply to his letter, or to see his father again. The courage it had taken him to break his long silence had been for naught. At the burial of James Forrest Pittman in Coffeeville, his eldest son was nowhere to be found.

It was not long after the death of Forrest Pittman that a letter arrived at the home of his sister. It was Jim Lewis's "Dear Daddy" letter. Nearly two years had elapsed since it had been mailed, then suddenly, without explanation, it appeared in the mailbox. Forrest Pittman's sister Elizabeth wonders to this day how that letter might have changed the lives of both Forrest and his son James had it arrived on time. "We wished that letter had been delivered," she says. "If Forrest had gotten the letter it might have changed his thinking." It might, she believes, have persuaded him not to take his own life. And had Forrest answered the letter, as his sister Elizabeth says he surely would have, it might have given Jim Lewis the sense of peace that had so long eluded him.

Both men yearned for a reconciliation. As it was, father and son would go to the grave mistakenly believing that the other no longer cared.


Jim Lewis underwent a slow and difficult reentry into society following his release from Sontay prison. It was his nature to seek refuge in work, but the Agency understood that he would first have to come to terms with his prison experience. He returned to Washington, and, having survived interrogation as a prisoner, he submitted himself to a far friendlier but grueling debriefing at the hands of fellow CIA officers who needed to determine the extent to which his prison confessions may have compromised security. Agency colleague Larry Baldwin recalls meeting a dispirited Lewis in the halls of headquarters at Langley.

Baldwin had known him as "a man of great bravery." The Lewis he encountered now was subject to more introspection. "He felt he had failed himself and failed the Agency." But Baldwin and his Agency colleagues knew better. Many of them had been trained in the art of interrogation, learning how to prey upon a man's worst fears, to exploit his anxieties and feelings of vulnerability. They knew that no man, not even the steely James Lewis, could long withstand a concerted effort by skilled interrogators. Colleagues went to great lengths to reassure him that he had not been weak, but merely human.

The Agency provided Lewis with psychological counseling and a period to "decompress." In 1976 and 1977 it paid for him to attend George Washington University, where he got his bachelor's degree in French language and literature. When he had completed his academic course and the Agency's "rehabilitation" program, he was ready to be reassigned. But rather than simply throw him back into an international post, they sought something less stressful and more familial: Chicago.

It was an unconventional assignment and politically sensitive. In 1977 Lewis moved to Des Plaines, a suburb northwest of Chicago. At that very time, the Senate and House were conducting hearings into CIA abuses and instances of domestic spying. Now here was James Lewis, a covert CIA operative, setting up shop in America's heartland, still assigned to the Agency's Operations Directorate, East Asia Division. On his resume, years later, he would write that he spent those two years with the State Department in Washington.

In Des Plaines he married Monique, a soft-spoken Vietnamese woman whom Lewis had met in North Carolina during one of many returns to Fort Bragg. Monique, then thirty, had been educated in Switzerland and France, spoke fluent French, and had a degree in pharmacology. She was a woman of considerable beauty and intelligence but asked few questions of her husband and his work.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:26 am

Part 2 of 2

The only hint of what Jim Lewis was doing in Chicago comes from his sister, Susan, who found herself momentarily a player in CIA intrigue. For years she had kidded her brother that she was fully capable of doing the kind of shadowy espionage work that he did, never imagining that he would take her up on it. Then one night Jim Lewis called and asked if she wanted to play a small but key role in one such mission. "Of course," said Susan. Not long after, she was asked to fill out some government forms and to provide her brother with a photograph. To assist in the scheme, she would need some marginal clearance.

The full details of the mission were never revealed to her, but this much her brother shared with her: He had persuaded an "Arab student" in Chicago to routinely monitor and report on some activities, presumably within the Arab community or among other Arab students. In exchange for the intelligence the student provided, the Agency was paying him a $1,000 monthly retainer. Lewis had told the student that he lived in California with his girlfriend. That was the role Susan was to play. Lewis asked her to give him the name of a girl, the first one that came to mind. "Janet," she blurted out. Fine, Janet it would be.

Susan was to purchase a telephone with an unlisted number and keep it out of sight. This she did, hiding it in a desk drawer. No one was to have the number except for Jim and the student informer. When the student called, she was to answer the phone as "Janet" and say that Jim was not at home but that she would take a message and have him return the call. A few days later Lewis called to test the system. "Susan?" he said. "The phone is working."

"No," said his sister. "This is not Susan."

"Susan?" Lewis repeated with growing impatience.

"No," she repeated. "This is Janet."

A miffed Lewis had to admit his sister was even more savvy at this business than he had expected. But several months passed and not once did the caller from Chicago telephone. The phone was eventually removed and the subject was never spoken of again.

Meanwhile Lewis continued to live with his wife, Monique, in a huge Victorian house on River Street in Des Plaines. There he had dinner parties for his Washington contacts and would routinely retrieve vintage bottles of wine from his ample wine cellar. In his spare time, he played an active role in the army reserve, completing a course in psychological operations, advancing to the rank of major, and winning a Certificate of Achievement from Headquarters Company, 12th Special Forces Group, in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The certificate was in recognition of his efforts in recruiting "intelligence analysts and target area language experts for the 5th Psychological Operations Group." No matter how many years he was with the CIA, Jim Lewis would always see himself as a soldier.

In late 1979 he began to prepare himself to return to a covert post in the Mideast. First he would need to undergo rigorous Arabic-language training. After completing an intensive course at the Foreign Language Institute in suburban Virginia he was assigned to Tunis to complete his language training. But in the summer of 1982, as events in Lebanon heated up, the Agency cast about for an experienced case officer with solid nerves and a knowledge of Arabic to gather intelligence on the deteriorating situation in that country.

Already it had a reputation as a hazardous post. Five years earlier, on June 16, 1976, U.S. Ambassador Francis E. Meloy, U.S. Economic counselor Robert P. Waring, and the ambassador's bodyguard and chauffeur, Zohair Moghrabi, had been assassinated. Their bullet-riddled bodies were later found at a construction site. In September 1981 the French ambassador had been murdered. In December of that year a bomb had killed sixty-four people at the Iraqi Embassy, including the ambassador. In May 1982 twelve people were killed and twenty-seven injured at the French Embassy. It was no secret that Beirut was a place of peril. But if that was where the Agency needed Lewis, that was where he would go.

On August 13, 1982, Lewis arrived in war-ravaged Beirut. His intelligence-gathering mission was linked to the arrival seven days later of eight hundred U.S. marines, part of a multinational force to supervise the withdrawal of Palestinians from the city.

It began as a temporary assignment. Beirut was a volatile place, and spouses of Agency officers were not yet permitted to accompany them. Still Lewis was bent on setting his mother's mind at ease. Four months after arriving in Beirut he wrote: "Everything is fine here. The war (in the Beirut area) is over and I have survived as usual (not even a scratch)."

The temporary assignment became a full tour of duty, and the prohibition on spouses was lifted. Lewis and Monique found a temporary apartment in a commercial area of the city, an easy ten minutes to the embassy. Monique had not yet started working. She spent the days at home studying Arabic and preparing meals. "Just a note to let you know that we are fine here in Beirut," Lewis wrote his mother and father. "Guess that you have been seeing the worst on T.V. and have the impression that things are worse than they really are. There has been no anti-American action at all here. There are incidents taking place in the surrounding mountains and in the City itself from time to time. However, we feel safe and are at ease ... Our maid, a Tunisian girl, has arrived and as usual is really making life easy for us. Monique says that she doesn't think that she can remember how to iron a shirt anymore."


It was a few minutes after one on the afternoon of April 18, 1983, when a truck with a tarp over it was observed making its way purposefully toward the U.S. Embassy, along the Corniche, the main thoroughfare that runs along the Mediterranean in Beirut. One pedestrian would later note that it was so laden down with cargo that the tires bulged beneath the weight.

At the very time the truck came in sight of the embassy, personnel were finishing lunch in the cafeteria. Thirty-seven-year-old Richard Gannon, the State Department's regional security officer, or RSO, was at his desk reviewing security procedures. Gannon was a tall and gangly figure with gentle eyes and a coal-black mustache. Across from him sat his superior, Dave Roberts, the regional director of security who had flown in from Casablanca.

Gannon's job, making sure the embassy was secure, was an impossible task. The embassy was housed in an aging eight-story structure, originally a hotel, that was built up against the Corniche. It provided a spellbinding view and a deadly vulnerability. Gannon had been fretting about the exposure of the embassy ever since arriving in country eight months earlier.

Tensions had been running high for months. The Israelis had invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982, and there was an uneasy standoff between their occupying forces and various Palestinian and Syrian forces. On September 15, 1982, the Israelis had entered Beirut. The next day, at the camps of Shattila and Sabra, some six hundred Palestinians, most of them women and children, had been massacred by Phalangist militia who, it was suspected, had been given the green light by the Israelis.

To many in the strife-torn country who saw Israel as merely a U.S. proxy, the ultimate blame for the invasion, the massacre, and the subsequent strife rested with America. In a part of the world where revenge is axiomatic, it was only a matter of time. Already, American David Dodge, acting president of American University Beirut, had been kidnapped.

It was the job of the CIA station in Beirut to try and make some sense of the bewildering intrigue and animosities that periodically erupted. Almost daily, CIA Station Chief Ken Haas briefed Ambassador Robert S. Dillon on what the Agency had learned. An energetic and assertive figure, Dillon would listen carefully but quietly hunger for more definitive information. Haas adopted a secretive mien even with the ambassador, perhaps because there was sometimes little of substance to pass along. The country was in fragments, and many of the traditional tools of Agency tradecraft had proved peculiarly ineffective.

The CIA in Beirut had many objectives: find out what had become of the hostage David Dodge, gather intelligence on the growing threat of Shiites, the role of Syria, Iran, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Maronites. There was trouble brewing in the Bekaa Valley, but penetrating the tight ethnic and familial units there had proved nearly impossible. The Agency had woefully few "assets" in the area. In addition, Haas and Lewis were continually getting requests from Washington to chase down Israeli intelligence reports, many of which proved to be bogus or self- serving. "Your friends are just as unreliable as your enemies," Ambassador Dillon would conclude.

For months security officer Gannon had made no secret of his concerns for the embassy's safety. On October 1, 1982, he had sent a telegram out under Ambassador Dillon's name, the subject of which was "Public Access Controls." Gannon had met with some resistance. There were concerns of cost. To the uninitiated, the embassy might have appeared well fortified. Stern-faced marine sentinels stood watch, and heavy masonry walls appeared impervious to attack. In case of trouble, inside there were steel doors with armor rings that could be closed to seal off the building, as on a ship. In the entryway concealed holes could be used to flood the area with tear gas. The windows were covered with Mylar, a plasticlike material designed to prevent the glass from becoming a hail of deadly projectiles.

But so grave was the concern for security that in February Washington had sent out a team of experts to examine the building. The embassy had asked for sweeping security improvements. The team made numerous sketches detailing what would later be made obvious -- that the embassy, for all its precautions, was virtually indefensible, pressed as it was against the Corniche without any buffer to protect it from attack.

But the team from Washington faced financial constraints. No sooner had they left when the embassy sent off a telegram to the State Department pleading its cause. "We thought we had a special case," recalls Robert Pugh, then deputy chief of mission. The essence of the cable was "we need it all and we need it now."

But by mid-April, after the Israelis had pulled back and a multi-national force had come on the scene, there was a kind of lull in the violence that raised hopes. Spring itself seemed to promise a relaxation of tensions.

All such buoyancy of spirit would soon come to an abrupt halt. As the explosives-laden truck turned into the embassy driveway and gunned the accelerator, Ambassador Dillon was in his eighth-floor office, one hand holding the phone, the other awkwardly putting on a thick red marine T-shirt in expectation of his afternoon jog. Three floors below him, virtually the entire CIA station was assembled for a staff meeting -- James Lewis, his wife, Monique, Phyliss Faraci, Frank Johnston, Bob Ames, William Sheil, and Deborah Hixon were all there.

Dick Gannon's back was to the sea, a roll-down metal shutter raised to let in the afternoon light. In Gannon's in-box was a handwritten memo, what he called a note to himself laying out the vulnerabilities of the Beirut embassy. It read in part: "Post has increasing concerns with deteriorating security situation in Beirut ... Ability of LAF [Lebanese armed forces] or local law enforce to prevent such attacks is non-existent. May only be a matter of time before U.S. is includ in list of opportune targets. With avail explosives, suffic. motive and in absence of any deterrent (effective law enforcement) U.S. interests could be target w/ minimal risk. What might we face ...1.) Car bomb/package bomb at Chancery." Like Cassandra, Dick Gannon's prophetic warnings went largely unheeded, lost in the welter of bureaucratic concerns and budgetary restraints.

At precisely 1:06 P.M. his worst fears were realized. The truck carrying the bomb drove into the building and simultaneously detonated a ton of high explosives. Cars were tossed into the air, a blinding fireball rose up, and a murderous shock wave scaled the front of the building, bringing down its midsection as if it were no more than a house of cards. Some of those in the adjacent cafeteria closest to the explosion were blown through the wall. Support pillars disintegrated. Black smoke engulfed the entire building, air conditioners were blown inside of rooms, walls collapsed, and safes flew open. Canisters of riot control gas erupted, mingling with the black smoke and dense debris, making breathing even more difficult. Flying metal cut a tree in half and heat from the blast melted nearby traffic lights. So great was the force of the blast that it was said the helicopter carrier Guadalcanal, several miles offshore, felt a shudder.

Amid a landscape of twisted metal, concrete, and broken glass, the wounded and disoriented stumbled about in utter shock.

Security officer Gannon and his boss, Roberts, were blown to the floor. Roberts, who had been facing the window, was cut by flying glass. In the next room a secretary was screaming.

On the eighth floor Ambassador Dillon had slipped the heavy T-shirt halfway over his head at the moment of the blast. The shirt absorbed the glass that was blown in and saved his face, if not his life.

But much of the worst damage occurred in the upper floors, which collapsed and pancaked one atop the next.

Within minutes the frantic search for survivors began. From the street there was a grim vision of a body literally hanging over the edge. It was that of CIA officer Frank Johnston. Pinned between slabs, he was being crushed to death. A military team reached him and pried up one of the slabs just long enough to loosen its grip and free him. Johnston lived just long enough to ask that his wallet be given to his wife, Arlette.

On the upper floor where the CIA station had been meeting -- where Monique had been enjoying her first day on the job -- there was now nothing but air and the dismal view of seven floors of concrete, steel, and glass reduced to rubble far below. Jim Lewis, Monique, Bill Sheil, Deborah Hixon, Phyliss Faraci, Bob Ames, station chief Ken Haas -- all lost. Cranes carefully lifted slabs searching for survivors. From inside the wrecked building a rescuer yelled into a bullhorn, "If anybody can hear me, please call for help." He was met with utter silence.

Scenes of horror would forever etch themselves on the memories of those combing through the debris. From the cafeteria emerged a worker carrying a plastic bag containing human hands.

It would be two, even three days before their bodies would be found. The awful duty of identifying the bodies fell to Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Pugh. Among the bodies he identified were those of Jim and Monique Lewis, Bob Ames, and the other CIA officers. "They were not mangled," he remembers. "They looked very much like themselves. They had been suffocated by debris and dirt. It looked almost as if they had died in their sleep."

Of the entire CIA Beirut station only one covert officer had survived. His name was Murray J. McCann. At the time the bomb detonated he had been out of the building on a personal errand -- taking a second look at an oriental rug he was considering buying.

And, unknown to even the embassy, there was yet another covert CIA officer in Beirut that day. He was Alexander MacPherson, the veteran of clandestine missions who five years earlier had crawled away from the fiery North Carolina plane crash that had killed Berl King and Dennis Gabriel. MacPherson, then under deep cover, was on temporary duty in Beirut and had scrupulously avoided contact with the embassy lest it compromise his cover. Standing a mile or so from the embassy, he heard the deafening blast. Once again he had proved to be the consummate survivor.

In all, seventeen Americans and thirty-three foreign nationals had died in the embassy bombing.

While the search for survivors continued, security officer Gannon and the CIA's McCann bumped into each other amid the confusion. McCann was worried about classified documents strewn about in the rubble. He wanted to sift through the documents and try to preserve that which was needed, getting rid of the rest. But Gannon was convinced there would be no time for such a procedure.

"Burn everything!" he barked to the marines standing nearby. The soldiers gathered up armfuls of classified materials and dumped them into fifty-gallon drums, then set them on fire. Armful after armful of sensitive papers was put into the flames, while an officer stirred it with a stick, making sure that nothing survived the blaze.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the State Department was besieged by reporters asking for the identities and biographies of those killed in the attack. Without time to coordinate stories with the CIA, State released thumbnail sketches of the victims based upon the cover stories provided. Reporters were told, for instance, that CIA operative William Sheil was a civilian employee of the army, but there had been no time to give the army a heads-up. "Sheil?" said an army spokesman. "We have no William Sheil."

There would be many attempts to remember the dead. Five days after the bombing, President Ronald Reagan boarded a helicopter for the flight to Andrews Air Force Base to meet the arrival of a cargo plane bearing the bodies of sixteen Americans killed in the bombing. Seven of the coffins held CIA officers. Among them were the bodies of James and Monique Lewis. It was a cold rain that fell that late afternoon as the Lewis family huddled together inside the hangar, their eyes on the flag-draped coffins.

An angry Ronald Reagan spoke of the loss and declared: "Let us here in their presence serve notice to the cowardly, skulking barbarians in the world that they will not have their way." But such resolve was of little use without the underlying intelligence needed to bring the guilty to justice. Even as he spoke, Lebanese authorities were rounding up anyone who might be a suspect. Even some who were bodyguards to the U.S. ambassador were swept up in the net and beaten by their interrogators. But ultimately the call for accountability would go unanswered. Reagan would later speak of that afternoon's trip to Andrews Air Force Base as "one of the saddest journeys of my presidency." The nation, too, watched on television in an extraordinary outpouring of public grief.

Six days later, on April 29, the CIA conducted its own ceremony for the victims of the bombing. This one was held in the Agency's auditorium and was closed to the public. Such losses were viewed as intensely familial. It began with a playing of the national anthem and a scriptural reading from Romans 14. "None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible for the Lord and when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord's ... Let us then make it our aim to work for peace and to strengthen one another." Then William J. Casey, Director Central Intelligence, spoke of the heroism of those who had died. He cited the lines written at Thermopylae, where in 480 B.C. the Greeks, though ultimately defeated, heroically resisted the Persians. "Go, passerby, and to Sparta tell that we in faithful service fell."

A year later, in his private office on the Agency's seventh floor:, Casey would present to Lewis's mother, Toni, posthumous medals for her son's valor. The citation for the Certificate of Distinction for Courageous Performance reads: "In recognition of his superior performance with the Central Intelligence Agency from August 13, 1982, to 18 April 1983. During this period of civil anarchy and turmoil at an overseas location, he demonstrated exceptional devotion to duty under conditions of grave personal risk. His professionalism was a constant source of strength and encouragement to his colleagues and upholds the finest traditions of the Operations Directorate. Mr. Lewis' flawless efforts, commitment to excellence and unstinting courageous service reflect credit on himself, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal service."

Even in a posthumous commendation to the mother of a fallen covert officer, the Agency would not put in writing the country of service.

But it was the letters of condolence from Jim Lewis's colleagues within the covert ranks that moved Toni Lewis most deeply. "I -- and many others -- regard Jim as one of the true latter-day American Heroes," one colleague wrote. "Unfortunately, the world may never become fully aware of the depth of his experience and service and sense of duty. 1 hope that you can take comfort in knowing that there are many who not only know of Jim's gallant history, but who will also remember him as a model for our own lives." Another covert officer wrote: "Your son was a friend and colleague for the past twenty years ... Our sorrow, frustration, and anger over his loss in Beirut cannot be expressed to you in a way that will soften the blow or dull the pain ... All of us have learned to create, a reserved place in our hearts for memories of men like Jim -- to be brought occasionally to the forefront of our thoughts, carefully burnished, and recalled with a mixture of sadness and pride. Remembering Jim's efforts to make a difference in this world will help us continue."

The Agency lost more staff operatives in the Beirut bombing than at any time since the Vietnam conflict. Many of those individuals were among the most skilled the Agency had. Casey would later call Bob Ames, the CIA's senior Middle East expert, who was killed in the blast, "the closest thing to the irreplaceable man." Casey said he had "the keenest insights into the Arab mind of any individual in government." Ames had been something of an idealist. He had believed that "things need not always end in disaster."

But the loss in Beirut could not be measured in lives alone. Its psychological impact would be felt for years to come. Just as James Lewis, the "indestructible" one, had been killed, so, too, the Agency would find itself faced with a new and profound sense of vulnerability. It was a feeling shared by the entire foreign service.

Before Beirut there was a feeling that, in the words of diplomat Robert Pugh, "embassies were sacrosanct, that they were safe ground." True, other American embassies had been targeted in the past -- Teheran and Saigon among them -- but the sheer magnitude of the Beirut assault was stunning.

After that day in Apri11983, the term "diplomatic immunity" had a different, almost anachronistic ring. The violence of the world would no longer stop at the embassy door or respect the lives of those engaged in representing nations. After Beirut, embassies worldwide underwent renewed security exams and hardening against attack. But no amount of protection could fend off a terrorist willing to sacrifice his own life to take the lives of others. It was often observed that the United States had to be vigilant all the time, but the terrorist only had to get lucky once.

The old world and the rules by which it lived were dissolving quickly, but in the Oval Office and at Langley -- as well as in the Kremlin -- the old guard was having its final days. In Washington two aging Cold Warriors called the shots. President Reagan, who had spoken of the Kremlin as "the evil empire," was determined not to allow Soviet influence to expand even by a single inch. William Casey, a shrewd and combative former OSS veteran, now Director Central Intelligence, was committed to restoring pride to the Agency and reenergizing the clandestine service. With Reagan's unflagging support, Casey's CIA was the beneficiary of a multibillion-dollar buildup. Thousands of new officers were brought into the Agency, so many that future DCI Robert Michael Gates would say they were "stacking people like cordwood in the corridors."

Under Reagan's watch, Casey launched ambitious new covert operations and engaged the Agency in numerous superpower proxy wars. Support was given to the Contras in their effort to topple the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Military aid, including Stinger missiles, was provided Afghan guerrilla fighters seeking to expel a Soviet aggressor. At Langley the Cold War showed little evidence of winding down. Even after so many years of scrutinizing the Soviets, tensions ran high and intelligence was much less than perfect.

On September 1, 1983, the Soviets shot down a Korean commercial airliner, KAL 007, killing all 269 people, including 61 Americans. And in November 1983 the Soviets actually believed that the United States was possibly preparing a preemptive nuclear strike against them. The attack, they believed, was to come under cover of a planned NATO command post exercise known as Able Archer. The Kremlin's military was placed on heightened military alert, and it was not until many months later that Casey's CIA came to understand that the Soviets viewed such a strike as potentially imminent. "The hottest year of the last half of the Cold War -- the period when the risk of miscalculation, of each side misreading the other, and the level of tension were at their highest -- as 1983," reflected Robert Gates, then the Agency's deputy director for intelligence. He would remember 1983 as "the most dangerous year."

But even then, the specter of a new and faceless enemy, that of the terrorist, stalked the Agency. It was suggested by some that the Cold War had provided a kind of unwritten understanding between Moscow and Washington that we would not kill their case officers and they would not kill ours, as if espionage were subject to Robert's Rules of Order or some higher code of chivalry. Not so, though it is true that direct attacks on one another's case officers rarely if ever occurred. This was less the result of mutual respect or restraint than simple pragmatism. "We coexist," KGB Director Vladimir Krychkov once remarked. "They work, and we work." Once a case officer was identified by the other side, be he CIA or KGB, it was easier to monitor his or her comings and goings than to assassinate him and risk a replacement who might take months or years to identify, and who in the interim could wreak havoc. Besides, the consequences of assassinating the other side's case officers working under diplomatic cover could indeed be grave.

No such concerns applied in the post-Beirut era. The object was not to gather intelligence, but to create chaos and spill blood. Men and women of superior training and valor were as likely to be incidental victims as intended targets. Indeed, it was the very randomness of such mayhem that gave acts of terrorism their potency.

Within months of the bombing terrorists struck again. On October 23, 1983, Islamic Jihad targeted the U.S. Marines barracks. Two hundred and forty-one marines and fifty-eight French paratroopers were killed. In December a Mercedes dump truck heavy with explosives rammed the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Between 1984 and 1986 some eighteen Americans were taken hostage in Beirut. Station Chief Ken Haas was succeeded by William Buckley, winner of a Silver Star in Korea and a man whose Agency career spanned four decades. He would be kidnapped and tortured. In 1991 his remains were discovered in a plastic sack beside the road to the Beirut airport.


In time, Jim and Monique Lewis and the other CIA officers who died in the Beirut bombing would be accorded nameless stars in the Agency's Book of Honor. But nearly two decades after the bombing, the names of the dead remain classified. As in other cases, the Agency maintains that identifying its casualties, even decades later, would endanger foreign nationals who may have provided the CIA with intelligence. But the oft-invoked argument wears thinner and thinner as the years wear on and bereaved families are asked to bear their losses in continued silence.

Such secrecy takes on a life all its own. The family of Barbara Robbins understands this well. In 1965 Barbara was a fresh-faced twenty-one-year-old CIA secretary, working under cover of the State Department in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. She was at her desk when she heard a commotion outside. She rushed to the window to view the disturbance at the very moment that a Viet Cong car bomb detonated. She was impaled by the iron grating surrounding the window and died instantly.

Her father, Buford Robbins, was a quiet and patriotic man who made his living as a butcher in a Denver suburb. His daughter, he argued, had been no more than a secretary. She had no covert role to play, no agents reporting to her, no one who could be endangered if the truth of her employment were to be revealed after so many years. The burden of three decades of silence weighed upon him. He wanted only that he live long enough to see his daughter's name inscribed in the CIA's Book of Honor where only a star appeared. He died in 1998, his dream unrealized. Barbara Robbins's name does, however, appear on a bronze plaque in the State Department, where more than thirty years later her cover story is intact.

Nearly two decades after the Beirut bombing, the emotional scars for some have yet to heal. The lone survivor of the CIA Beirut station, Murray McCann, whose errand the day of the bombing saved his life, is still trying to put the horror of that day behind him.

"It's ancient history," he says, "and I just don't want to talk about it." In 1993, on the tenth anniversary of the bombing, he honored those comrades with a few brief remarks at the Wall of Honor, recognizing their sacrifices but not uttering their names aloud. Security forbade it and besides, there was no reason to. Before him sat the families of the deceased. He had done what he could to comfort them. He even told Jim Lewis's sister, Susan, that when her brother Jim's body was found, he and Monique were holding hands.

The family of James Lewis has much to remember him by. They have the medals presented by Director William Casey. Lewis's brother Donald has the stainless-steel Rolex watch Jim was wearing at the time of the blast, its crystal scratched from the impact of his fall. His mother still has a box of Lewis's personal effects that he brought with him when he was released from Sontay prison -- the simple shirt and pants, a green beret, a cracked mirror, a razor, a comb, and his field notebook. And then there are his many books -- art books on Monet and Degas, and cookbooks for French, Creole, Indian, and Chinese cuisine.

But perhaps the greatest onus of the Beirut bombing fell on two survivors of the blast, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Pugh and embassy regional security officer Richard Gannon. Today Pugh lives in retirement in an antebellum home in Mississippi, deliberately far from Washington. He still remembers the wife who, day after day, stood at the sidewalk in front of the bombed-out Beirut embassy waiting for word of her husband, an embassy employee. Nothing was ever found of him, not even a trace.

Richard Gannon would, for years, be haunted by the tragedy and by the gnawing feeling that he could have done something more, that the disaster might have been averted or at least mitigated. "In hindsight," he says, "I should have taken a stand. I should have said, 'We either make this something secure and do these things or I want a plane ticket out of here.' I didn't do that and that was costly -- worse than costly."

Gannon alone had found himself wanting. State Department experts concluded that no security enhancement could have adequately shielded the building against a two-thousand-pound explosion in the hands of a suicide bomber. Indeed, State determined that many of the 136 U.S. embassies worldwide were similarly vulnerable.

And yet, for all the horror that Bob Pugh and Dick Gannon had endured at Beirut, each would soon have to face an even more grievous ordeal in the years ahead. As with lightning, there was no immunity to terrorism. Not even for those already struck once.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:26 am

Part 1 of 2

Deadly Symmetry

AS THE Boeing 747 lifted off from London's Heathrow Airport into a calm December sky, thirty-four-year-old Matt Gannon had every reason to believe that good fortune rode with him. He had survived the perils of yet another clandestine assignment in Beirut, arguably the CIA's most hazardous post. With his swarthy complexion, thick black mustache, and gift for Arabic, Gannon had demonstrated once again his talent for blending into Mideast cultures, even one so wary of outsiders. He had exited unscathed, his cover intact, his superiors enamored with his performance. Just hours before takeoff the CIA's Beirut station chief had sent a glowing cable to headquarters at Langley; a further testament to an already gilded career. The classified missive read in part:

"Matt's performance during his three-and-one half week TDY [temporary duty] in Beirut was outstanding. He produced 24 intelligence reports in as many days, several of which were multi- section studies of terrorist organizations or facilities in Lebanon which added substantive information to our knowledge of these subjects. He met seven different assets, bringing back on stream all of our Arabic-speaking assets that had been unexpectedly abandoned after [name deleted] was prevented from returning to Beirut ...

"In short Matt made a major contribution to our operational and reporting mission which could not have been equaled by many other officers in the service. His operational judgment was consistently sound, his instinct for intelligence was unerring and, most important, his willingness to work the eighty to ninety hour weeks that characterize Beirut operations meant that he left with a series of major accomplishments during a relatively brief TDY. He is welcome back any time."

As a token of the Agency's appreciation, Langley had granted Gannon's request to leave Beirut a day earlier than scheduled. But it was sheer luck that Gannon had been able to book a flight at that late date and at the height of holiday travel. It was just three days before Christmas. As he reclined in his seat some 31,000 feet above the Scottish countryside, he could at last breathe easy with the knowledge that Beirut and its insidious dangers were behind him. For a time at least, he could put out of his mind the agony of American hostages that had so haunted him and his Agency colleagues and whose liberation had preoccupied him in Beirut. Within hours he would be back in Washington. There he would again hold in his arms his twenty-seven- year-old wife, Susan, and his daughters, four-year-old Maggie and Julia, not yet one. In particular, he had been anxious to get home to help his wife with Maggie, who was autistic and had yet to utter her first words. But Maggie's hard-fought progress in recent months meant so very much to him.

"We (I should say Susan) are working with her every day & we see the gains in her better behavior. Julia is a little doll, walking and beginning to talk -- growing up way too quickly." Those were the words he had written four days earlier from Nicosia, Cyprus. That letter was now tucked into his garment bag. It was written to his brother Dick Gannon -- the same Dick Gannon who five years earlier, as a State Department employee, had overseen security at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut when it fell to a terrorist car bomb. The two were not only brothers but best friends, and now they shared something else in common. They both inhabited a world overshadowed by the threat of terrorism. Matt had decided to mail the note from the States. It was written on a festive Yuletide card produced by UNICEF to benefit "the world's children."

Now less than an hour out of London, Matt Gannon could finally relax. Lulled by the monotonous drone of the engines and the promise of a quiet Christmas at home, Gannon had much to look forward to. It was the evening of December 21, 1988. The flight was Pan Am 103.


Matthew Kevin Gannon's story neither begins nor ends with that evening's flight, but straddles a critical moment in the CIA's history, a time of profound change. When Gannon joined the Agency in 1977, it was still fixated on containing Communism, as it had been for three decades. But with the gradual implosion of the Soviet Union and its waning capacity for mischief, the Agency found itself facing new and unfamiliar enemies. The superpower struggles of the Cold War, for all the human suffering and vast resources that were expended in that titanic contest, had imposed a kind of constraint on their respective client states. The world that Matthew Gannon and his colleagues in the clandestine service were to inherit was even more treacherous and uncharted a territory.

Terrorists and ultranationalists, some equipped and trained by Washington or Moscow in the era of proxy wars and realpolitik, could care less about the finer points observed in the Cold War. To them, DMZs, safe havens, and diplomatic immunity were meaningless. Old refuges presented fresh targets.

The new struggle played itself out in all the venues heretofore largely forbidden -- civilian aircraft, cruise ships, city buses, embassies, hospitals, department stores, marketplaces, even funerals. For all its well-earned reputation for Machiavellian measures, the CIA's clandestine service was filled with choirboys compared with some of the predators they now faced.

The bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 served notice that one era was ending and another beginning. Within three years the Agency established a Counterterrorist Center, or CTC, an interagency entity that combined cutting-edge hardware with old-fashioned human cunning. For the first time, the fire wall between CIA operations and analysis was torn down in the interest of providing the most current data to those in the field. CTC's single-minded purpose, its raison d'etre, was to stave off the sort of catastrophe that had cost so many lives in Beirut and elsewhere.

But even as the CIA geared up to wage war with myriad shadowy cells of terrorists, some of them enflamed with visions of a jihad, or holy war, the Agency found itself under new constraints -- increasing congressional oversight, a prohibition on assassinations, closer scrutiny of its budget, an aggressive U.S. press, and a residual public revulsion to the cowboy tactics revealed in the course of stunning public hearings on Capitol Hill just a few years earlier.

"The playing field, itself an expression of an earlier age, was uneven at best. American society in the late 1970s and early 1980s demanded of its covert operatives that they respect both law and morality even as they went up against often diabolical foes who openly embraced chaos and horror.

Upon just such a field strode Matt Gannon, a perfect gentleman by all accounts, dispatched to the front lines of the war on terrorism. Matt Gannon lived on the very edge of a dilemma that would plague the CIA and the nation for years to come: can those who operate within the tenets of a civilized society effectively combat the unchecked powers of fanaticism? Gannon's brief life suggested that the answer was a qualified "yes." His death, to many, represented a portentous "no."


To a stranger, there was nothing in Matthew Gannon's early years to suggest that he would become a spy in the Mideast, or that a life of intrigue would suit him. A calm and easygoing Southern California boy, he spent much of his childhood in San Juan Capistrano. Slow to anger and gentle by nature, he was one who, when a playmate pulled a toy out of his hands, would turn away and find something else to occupy him. As an adolescent he was neither a risk-taker nor possessed of particular physical prowess. But throughout those same years Gannon was immersed in the virtues of service and sacrifice that would define his personal and, later, professional values.

Born on August 11, 1954, the eighth of ten children, Matthew Gannon came from a devoutly Catholic family where commitment to others was seen as a natural extension of the catechism itself: most of his siblings found their way into positions that served others. In addition to brother Dick, who chose the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, two other brothers would go into law enforcement. Among his sisters, two became grade school teachers and a third, a nurse.

Despite years of Catholic schooling, Matt Gannon was never religious, at least not outwardly. But what he lacked in public expressions of piety, he made up for in his own deeply held belief that individuals owed something to each other. Of course, he would have cringed at any such baldly altruistic talk. Faith for him demanded action, not words.

Gannon attended the University of Southern California and the University of Grenoble. His senior year he studied at the University of Tunis. It was there that his fascination with the Arabic language and cultures was first whetted. It appeared that an academic with Agency contacts, recognizing Gannon's passion for distant cultures and his natural discretion, suggested he consider the clandestine service. So Gannon did just that in 1977, undergoing the basic training program at Camp Perry on the way to becoming a case officer in the Operations Directorate.

Not long after completing the course, on September 24, 1978, Gannon was dispatched to Egypt to study Arabic at the American University Cairo, where he enrolled as a student. His Agency checks were deposited into his Washington bank account, but no one in Cairo knew he was with the CIA. He was not to go near the U.S. Embassy. It was his first experience living with a cover story.

He immersed himself in studies of Arabic, Mideast history and culture, and Islam, He routinely left the confines of the campus to explore the crowded streets of Cairo. Often he would visit the main mosque, al-Azhar, where he would stand in the shadows and observe. He would tape the sheikh's services and play them over and over throughout the week, until he had memorized them and mastered the accent. As a break from studies he took a modest role in a play produced by the university. It was a Henrik Ibsen play, An Enemy of the People.

"In a sense I feel as though I've steeped myself in so much work in several areas so as not to have time to feel alone or at a loss," young Matt Gannon wrote:

His first formal CIA posting overseas was to Sanaa, Yemen Arab Republic, a natural assignment for a junior case officer. It was well off the main path of covert activities but a perfect place to observe and test a young recruit. Gannon's time was divided between the mundane consular duties that devolved upon him as a part of his cover, and the evenings spent in covert matters, including his attempts to recruit and run agents. Hints of his philosophy seep out in the letters he wrote to his brother Dick.

Gannon recounted one planning session that apparently preceded a covert operation. "There was a long complicated discussion of a pending op, in which one of the participants, after three hours of debate, finally said that the issue had been tossed back and forth too long, that to think about something too much, to intellectualize a problem for too long, is detrimental in that it rules out acting out of instinct. He advised that action come 'clean' ... fortunately we did and everything is fine. Had we not gone ahead the other night, the chance would have been irretrievably lost. We gambled and won, the point being, I guess, is that decisive action is oftentimes required without agonizing over the decision itself."

No one who knew Matt Gannon doubted his patriotism or devotion to duty, but for him there was also the lure of Arabic cultures. He took an almost childlike pleasure in "going native." He spoke Arabic, devoured the local foods, and melted in with the people on the street. He treasured his copy of T. E. Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and was not above fantasizing a role for himself like that of Lawrence of Arabia, who roused the Arabs to rebel against the Turks during World War I.

"It was hard to imagine he was Irish Catholic," his brother Dick mused. While others dreamed of cushy assignments in Paris or London, Gannon longed for Baghdad and Beirut. On a home visit from Yemen, he showed up unannounced at his sister Cabrini's door, dressed in full Yemeni garb -- from the headdress to the billowy white pants and tunic. With his roguish mustache and dark complexion, his sister momentarily failed to recognize him. Gannon could scarcely contain his delight.

His brother Dick remembers that on one visit home he noticed that Matthew's teeth were stained a yellowish brown. He asked if he had taken up smoking. Matthew laughed it off, explaining that the stain was the result of chewing qat leaves, a mild stimulant commonly used in Yemen in the afternoon, particularly as men gathered to talk business or politics.

But if Gannon could maintain a laserlike focus on work, he was considerably less adept at the management of his own personal affairs. Notoriously absentminded, he was so preoccupied with Agency work that all else suffered. Some of those who spoke with him were convinced that he failed to hear a single word so lost was he in his own thoughts and Agency business. He rarely found time enough to even trim his mustache, which was often unruly and in dire need of scissors. Accounts of his forgetfulness and distractibility are legion. On the way to Dulles Airport before leaving the country for an extended foreign posting he casually turned to his brother Dick and declared, "By the way, I forgot my clothes in the dryer." As always, Dick Gannon baled him out, sending the clothes through the diplomatic pouch.

Gannon was sometimes slow to pay bills, and on one occasion he wrote a flurry of checks on an account that had long before been closed. In Amman, Jordan, he took his typewriter to a shop to be repaired and forgot about it for more than a year. He took little notice of the necessity to file tax returns on time, and once, it was said, he had to be literally locked in his Agency office to get him to do his expense reports Once, in a rush to catch a plane at Washington's National Airport, Gannon flashed his diplomatic passport at a parking attendant and left his car for an entire week in a lot reserved exclusively for Supreme Court justices and other VIPs.

He accumulated a formidable collection of unpaid District of Columbia parking tickets, which brother Dick paid off. One July evening in 1978, a year after joining the CIA, Matt Gannon was driving his brown Datsun 210 -- still with California plates -- through Georgetown, going the wrong way down a one-way street. Coming from the opposite direction was another car that happened to be a police cruiser. When the officer asked for Gannon's registration and license, the policeman discovered that both had expired. The car was towed to an impound lot. Once again Dick Gannon came to the rescue.

That was just Matt Gannon's way and it endeared him to his friends and family, who felt a certain responsibility to keep an eye on him, lest things got out of hand.

Only rarely did his inattention to personal detail spill over to his work. One such instance occurred in July 1980 as he landed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It was not until the next morning when Gannon flew to Jidda that he discovered he had left his passport at the airport in Dhahran. He managed to convince a security officer in Jidda to issue him a tourist passport so he could return to Dhahran and pick up his diplomatic passport -- which established his cover identity as a State Department employee. His superior was none too happy with the mishap.

As a young officer, Gannon was virtually oblivious to material needs. His first year at the Agency his room in suburban Virginia was furnished with only a desk and a sofa purchased at a yard sale. When he ate or studied, he simply pulled the sofa up to the desk. At night the sofa was his bed. There was something of the Inspector Clouseau about Matt Gannon. Those who worked with him took it in stride. Gannon himself had long ago come to accept such contretemps as a minor though noisome character flaw -- one that he was readily able to accept in himself.


From Yemen, Gannon was assigned to Jordan. It was a move that would profoundly affect the course of his life and that of one of the CIA's most venerated and senior case officers, Tom Twetten, then chief of station in Amman. It was the summer of 1981. The Agency had notified Twetten that, barring objection, it would be posting Gannon to his station. Twetten was a twenty- year veteran of the Agency, a courteous man with a scholarly bent, a love of old books and maps, and a manner that suggested he might be well suited to the university. It took no leap of faith to picture him lecturing on the early Ottoman Empire.

Twetten had been raised in Spencer, Iowa. His family was in the furniture business and he had studied psychology at Iowa State. After a graduate degree from Columbia University and a hitch in the military, Twetten joined the CIA in 1961. He had been a part of that most remarkable class of junior-officers-in-training. His classmates included Mike Deuel and Dick Holm.

One of Twetten's early memories of the Agency was when he and his fellow JOTs were taken to meet Director Allen Dulles, an august figure only recently humbled by the Bay of Pigs. Dulles asked who among the junior officers was named Mike Deuel and commented that his father, Wallace Deuel, was a stalwart of the Agency. Decades later Twetten could still remember the pang of envy that his peer was so well wired in with the Agency brass. Already there were hints that Twetten, brilliantly invisible, had his ambitions.

The arc of Tom Twetten's career began in Africa. One of his earliest postings, from 1966 to 1967, was in the north of Libya, where he was under cover as a consular officer in Benghazi. There Twetten kept an eye on the Russians and East Europeans in town, one of myriad such sideshows in the global Cold War. In the same town was a young and ambitious lieutenant in the Libyan military. His name was Muammar Gadhafi. The two men, Twetten and Gadhafi, never met face- to-face, though in the years ahead their paths would cross in deadly ways. Libya would long remain a focal point of Twetten's career.

On June 7, 1967, the Arab-Israeli War erupted, and Egyptian President Gamal Nasser called for a pan-Arab uprising. Twetten and those in the U.S. consulate knew they were in for trouble. Seventeen U.S. embassies across the Mideast were attacked. The first to come under assault was Benghazi, where Twetten was stationed. On the way into town Twetten heard the news on the radio and went straight to the consulate, knowing that a mob would soon form. A dozen Americans worked in the embassy, including three Agency employees -- Twetten, the lone case officer, a secretary, and a communicator. A week earlier Twetten had begun shredding sensitive CIA documents, convinced that either Nasser would attack Israel or vice versa.

No sooner had Twetten ordered the doors of the consulate barred than the assault began. The first wave came over the roof of an adjacent building. A signal corps officer standing watch on the roof announced he would shoot anyone who attempted to bring down the U.S. flag. Twetten relieved him of his .45 and put it in the safe. Then Twetten removed the embassy's remaining classified materials and stuffed them into self-destruction barrels containing a kind of nitrate charge to incinerate the papers. The barrels were placed on the second-floor balcony, where they were to be ignited if the mob attacked.

Then Twetten doled out the embassy's six gas masks to the secretaries and gathered together the consulate's tear gas grenades. As the perimeter of the embassy was breached and the mob came in, Twetten and the others lobbed the grenades down the stairwells and retreated into the vault, sealing it off and stuffing wet rags beneath the vault door. There Twetten and eleven other consular employees hid while the mob torched the curtains, destroyed furniture, and attempted to set the walls on fire. Within minutes the rioters withdrew, unable to withstand the tear gas. For six hours Twetten and the others remained hidden in the vault.

When they emerged, the consulate was a shambles. There was fire in the streets as the mob torched cars. Twetten stood at the window and watched as someone put a wick into the gas tank of his year-old MG Sprite and blew it up. As he and others ignited the barrels containing classified documents, black smoke enveloped the consulate. A cheer went up from the crowd below, mistakenly believing the consulate itself was on fire. It was an unintended deception that may have saved Twetten's and the others' lives.

A year later Twetten left Libya, never to return again. But Libya remained on Twetten's priority list. On September 1, 1969, Gadhafi and others mounted a successful coup and overthrew Libya's King Idris. At the time, Twetten was the Libya desk officer at CIA headquarters in Langley. Any cables from the field or operations against a Libyan passed through Twetten's hands. Above him was a branch chief and a division chief.

At the time of the coup, there was no immediate announcement of who the new leader was. That was learned about a week later. Initially Gadhafi was viewed by U.S. Ambassador Joe Palmer as someone the United States could readily work with. But soon enough it became clear that Gadhafi had other plans. He shut down Wheelus Air Force Base and prepared to nationalize the oil industry. The days of wishful thinking were over.

About a year and a half after Gadhafi came to power Twetten was summoned to the seventh-floor office of the deputy director of operations, the man who oversaw all covert activities worldwide. His name: was Desmond FitzGerald. He was a figure like Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner and Dick Helms, of Olympian stature in the eyes of the Agency's clandestine rank and file. "It was like a phone call from God," remembers Twetten. "I went up to his office with a good deal of trepidation, having never before even seen the man let alone been in his office." FitzGerald invited Twetten to take a seat.

"What do you know about the Black Prince?" FitzGerald asked

The Black Prince, so called because of the darkness of his skin, was a relative of King Idris. Twetten knew a good deal about him, none of it flattering. Twetten told him that the prince allegedly had been known to import Greek prostitutes for entertainment on the weekends, that he supposedly frequented the American PX and bought up numerous watches pledging to pay for them at a later date, and that he shamelessly exploited his royal connections.

"Well," asked FitzGerald, "what do you think of him leading a coup against Gadhafi?"

"I can't think of anybody who could be worse," answered Twetten.

"Thank you very much," said FitzGerald, accepting the fact that the Black Prince was, in Twetten's words, "the wrong horse."

And that was the end of it. The CIA would not again weigh mounting a coup to dislodge Gadhafi. A year later Twetten learned that it was the Israelis who had proposed arming the prince and organizing the tribes in the south into a Bedouin march to overthrow the Libyan leader. It was, said Twetten, "a harebrained scheme."

But as it turned out, the Agency might have been overjoyed to have the Black Prince in power, or for that matter, just about anyone else but Gadhafi. Those within the CIA who were fighting terrorism would come to regard him as the devil incarnate. And in the end, none would have better reason to do so than Tom Twetten himself.


As chief of station, Twetten had the authority to block Matt Gannon's move to Amman, but there was no cause to do so and nothing on the face of Gannon's file to suggest that he was anything other than a standout. When the two of them finally met in Amman in August 1981, Twetten saw in the callow young case officer great promise. If there was any reservation about Gannon, it was a tiny one and left unspoken. Twetten wondered to himself if perhaps this well-heeled lad of gentle demeanor might not be a tad too nice, maybe a little soft in the center, indecisive. Would he, Twetten wondered, have the stuff to make the tough decisions called for in the Mideast?

Gannon for his part must have felt a twinge of awe for this station chief who had already garnered for himself a reputation for extreme coolness under fire and exceptional tradecraft as a spy.

It was not long after twenty-eight-year-old Gannon arrived in Amman that he found himself distracted by a pretty twenty-year-old who frequented the embassy. She had brown eyes, auburn hair, and pale skin. Her name was Susan, as in Susan Twetten, daughter of his boss, the CIA's chief of station. In the Agency, as elsewhere, it was not a good idea to court the boss's daughter, particularly given the personal and security complications such a relationship could entail.

Besides, Gannon was already involved with a woman named Susie who was then planning to visit him in Amman. "The past week has been tough ... Have landed myself in a real spot," Gannon wrote his brother Dick on November 6, 1981. "Have begun to see Susan Twetten the daughter of the Embassy Political Officer [Gannon referred to Twetten by his cover position]. She teaches at a kindergarten here having arrived in early October. Am trying to sort myself out, taking a step back. at the same time, 1 decided to tell Susie NOT to come out as we had planned in early December, just four weeks away ... The fact that I am drawing myself into seeing someone else doesn't help in the least ... in the meantime, I feel like burying myself in my work ... not seeing anyone, but I have made a commitment here and have to work that out some way ... Why I bring this on myself I don't know. I'll keep in touch on how all works out, or doesn't work ..."

Dick Gannon did not have long to wait to hear how things worked out. Three months later, at a February 11, 1982, embassy party hosted by the Twettens, it was announced that Matthew and Susan were engaged. In a letter to Dick Gannon written eight days after the party, Matt Gannon wrote: "I have joined Susan in the catechism classes! I know you are shaking your head as I have been deemed a 'lost cause' for quite some time." And in a vain effort to muzzle his brother from telling his bride too many of his foibles too early, Matt wrote: "I want you to promise that you will tell only a certain number of stories about me to Susan, preferably only ones dealing with the parking tickets. We can leave passports and finances for another visit!"

Less than four months later, on June 3, 1982, Matthew Gannon and Susan Twetten were married at Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C.

As a parent Tom Twetten could not have been more pleased with his daughter's choice for a husband. But as CIA chief of station, Twetten regarded the union between his daughter and Matthew Gannon as potentially nettlesome. After that, Twetten would sometimes go to absurd lengths to avoid even the appearance of furthering his son-in-law's career. As Twetten rose through the Agency's senior-most ranks, Gannon's own innate talents distinguished him as a rising star in his own right. Inside Langley, there was inevitably the sense that Matthew Gannon had been anointed for great things, be it by pure merit, by blood, or by a combination of the two.

Early on, Gannon's obsessive devotion to Agency work and the travel that went with it put a strain on the new marriage. "Matthew has been very busy at work, staying at the Embassy for long hours and then doing work-related activities in the evenings," Susan wrote three months before the wedding. "He has a very bad cold now, which is probably due to a lack of sleep and good meals. He is also a bit stubborn in this area. (There, I've told!)"

Marriage did not alter his work habits. Less than two weeks after the wedding, Susan, then twenty- two, wrote Dick Gannon from Amman: "We have settled into as much of a routine as one can settle into when living with Matthew ... He's off to Paris next month. I will stay here with the cat and plants."

Matthew Gannon, like many case officers, seemed wedded first to his work and second to his family. "Came down with a mild case of typhoid fever on 6 September," he wrote. "Basically two weeks out of the office. Susan tried to keep me in bed, but work here has been a bit heavy lately, and I couldn't afford to drop it altogether." But he, too, fretted about the impact of his work on his marriage.

Four months after the wedding, he wrote his brother Dick, then stationed in Beirut: "I worry that I don't see her enough during the work week. Not the best way to start off." Like all case officers, he had to contend with the nocturnal life of running agents while during the day he had to fulfill his responsibilities as an economics officer, his cover in Amman. Sometimes the pressure of the two jobs was more than even he could take, fraying nerves and patience. "The embassy here appears sometimes like the monkey cage at the San Diego Zoo," he wrote, "everyone running in different directions, and no control of the show. Susan told me I had better start running again BEFORE I come home from work to get out all the frustrations. She has a point."

The letter, dated October 7, 1982, closed, "Hope all is well, Dick, and Beirut is not proving too dangerous." Gannon was by all accounts an excellent intelligence officer, but it was something more than intelligence that troubled him about Beirut. Call it a premonition. "The tension is in the air," he wrote, "and Palestinians are rightfully angry at our support for Israel ...Amman though is not a high risk place for Americans; but Beirut, what worries me is the unexpected event, the sniper, car bomb, mine. You are the best Sy [security] has to offer," he wrote his brother, "and I am pleased, in a sense that you are in Beirut, but the unexpected incident, despite all planning, is really unsettling. We're praying for you." Six months later the Beirut embassy toppled and Dick Gannon narrowly escaped with his life.

From the summer of 1983 until the summer of 1986, Matthew Gannon was based in Damascus, Syria, a country long suspected of supporting terrorism. Nowhere in the Mideast could one be sure to avoid the ravages of terrorism. On October 7, 1985, an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Laura, was seized by four Palestinian hijackers and held for forty-four hours.

Among those passengers looking on in horror was a sixty-nine-year-old American named Leon Klinghoffer. Disabled by a stroke, he was confined to a wheelchair. Terrorists put a machine gun to his wife's head and forced her to leave him. A short time later she heard two shots. Klinghoffer's body was dumped into the Mediterranean, along with his wheelchair. The notion that an old man in a wheelchair could be so coldly executed became one of the defining images in the war on terrorism, erasing any lingering illusions about the nature of this new enemy.

Worse yet were the denials that followed Klinghoffer's murder. "News about the death of the crippled American passenger was fabricated by the American media to smear the image of Palestinian fighters," declared Abu Abbas of the Palestine Liberation Front, to which the terrorists belonged. "This American could have been dead in his cabin out of fear or shock." The Palestine Liberation Organization groused that the United States was making "an ado" over Klinghoffer's death and refuted suggestions he was murdered. "Where is the evidence?" demanded Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO's foreign policy spokesman.

The evidence, Klinghoffer's body, washed ashore a week later near the Syrian port of Latakia. Two bullet holes left little doubt as to the cause of death. But still there was the need for someone from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to claim the body and oversee its preparation for a return to the United States. Such unpleasant tasks as this fall to those assigned to the consular affairs section, which is precisely where Matthew Gannon was working under cover. Despite the misgivings of some within the Agency that his going to claim the body might attract unwanted press attention, he volunteered for the assignment. It was the first time, but not the last, that he would face the casualties of terrorism.


Though a generation apart, Tom Twetten and his son-in-law, Matthew Gannon, shared much in common. Both entered the CIA as young men profoundly committed -- some would say obsessed -- with work. Both had come into the Agency in troubled times. Twetten joined in 1961, three months after the Bay of Pigs. At an orientation program an Agency officer had declared that the CIA would never fully distance itself from that fiasco. Twetten momentarily wondered why, if that was true, he had bothered to join so mortally wounded an institution. Gannon had joined in 1977 as the Agency was mired in scandal and investigations into the excesses of the past.

In the mid-eighties Twetten and Gannon shared the drive together from their homes to Langley, leaving in Twetten's VW bus at 6:00 A.M. and often not returning until 800 P.M. Both men had brilliant futures to look forward to and both would suffer intensely personal losses at the hands of terrorists. That their paths should cross and their families unite was less a matter of serendipity than the realities of the clandestine service, itself a kind of extended family doubly bound by a culture of secrecy and a distrust of outsiders. By the time Susan Twetten took a part-time job at the Agency, it had become the center of their personal and professional lives.


As the years passed, young Matthew Gannon gathered for himself an enviable record and established himself as one of the foremost Arabists within the Agency. His ascent through the ranks seemed foreordained. Tom Twetten's career also thrived. In the summer of 1975 he had been made deputy branch chief of North Africa, overseeing operations in Libya and Egypt. Later he was chief of station in Amman. In 1982 he returned to Washington and was made chief of operations of the Office of Technical Services, the vast support arm of the Agency that provides everything a spy in the field might need -- instruments of secret writing, bugging devices, disguises, concealable cameras, and other exotic gear. In 1983 he was made deputy chief of the Near East Division, once again overseeing Libyan operations, among others. In the ensuing years, hostility and suspicion between the United States and Libya deepened. Each seemed destined to provoke the other.
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:27 am

Part 2 of 2

In March 1986 a daunting thirty-ship U.S. Navy task force conducted exercises in the waters just off Libya, an action seen as taunting Gadhafi. On March 25 U.S. and Libyan forces clashed as Libya fired missiles on U.S. planes and the U.S. responded by attacking Libyan patrol boats and a missile site. The United States did not have to wait long for Libya's response.

On April 14, 1986, a West Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. servicemen was bombed. Two American soldiers were killed and 229 were wounded. President Reagan, relying on U.S. intelligence reports, announced that there was "irrefutable" evidence that the bombing was the work of Libya. The United States had been waiting for just such a provocation to unleash a retaliatory strike.

The disco bombing gave the White House and CIA license to enact the most punishing attack on Libya, exposing Gadhafi's vulnerabilities, degrading his terrorist training facilities, and perhaps even destabilizing his regime. The army barracks in particular were selected as a target in the hopes that the troops would turn their wrath against Gadhafi.

A key participant in those consultations was Tom Twetten, then deputy chief of the CIA's Near East Division. Twetten and his staff provided intelligence that helped focus American targets in Tripoli, including Gadhafi's living quarters, though it was the air force that selected the sites and the National Security Council that gave ultimate approval.

Nine days after the disco was bombed, the United States launched Operation El Dorado Canyon. Dozens of U.S Navy A-6 Intruders and A-7 bombers as well as air force F-111's pummeled Libyan airfields, command posts, and training centers in Tripoli and Benghazi. The CIA was banned by law from any direct assassination attempt on a foreign leader, but the bombing of Gadhafi's Tripoli residential compound could be understood as little else but an attempt on his life. Indeed, Twetten would later acknowledge that that was precisely what a senior Pentagon planner had in mind. Reagan himself had declared that Gadhafi was "this mad dog of the Middle East." And if there was any ambiguity left, a senior U.S. official was quoted as saying, "We all know what you do with a mad dog."

In the massive U.S. air assault Gadhafi's adopted eighteen-month-old daughter, Hana, was said to have been killed; two of his sons, aged four and three, were injured; and his wife was left shell- shocked. Gadhafi, for all his ruthlessness, was said to be shattered by the loss and more intent than ever to exact revenge upon his tormentor, the United States. "Child- murderer," Gadhafi branded Reagan, who had authorized the attack. But Gadhafi decided to bide his time before retaliating.

In 1987 Twetten was chief of the Near East Division and taking an active role in all intelligence operations against Libya. During this period he was intent not to take any action that might create the appearance of favoritism or particular interest in his son-in-law's career. Gannon was assigned to the Counterterrorism Center, taking him somewhat outside of Twetten's direct line of authority.

An Arabist by training with nearly a decade's experience in the Mideast, Gannon was a major asset to the center. Those who knew him were amused that Twetten had gone to such ends to avoid meddling in his career. Gannon's self-effacing brand of courage and his chameleon-like ability to adapt to life in the Mideast had long since ensured a meteoric rise within the CIA. For that, he needed no help from his father-in-law or anyone else.


By the summer of 1988 Gadhafi and Libya seemed to slip off the front pages of the news. The focus of the fight against terrorists had moved from Tripoli to Beirut, where American hostages continued to be held. At that point the Agency suspected that support for such terrorism came from Iran.

Tensions with that country ran high in the summer of 1988. On July 3, 1988, officers aboard the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes, deployed in the Persian Gulf, believed they detected an incoming Iranian F-14 and fired a surface-to-air missile to intercept the aircraft. The target proved to be not a fighter, but a civilian Iranian airliner, an Airbus A300. Flight 655 was blown apart by the missile and disintegrated midair. Two hundred and ninety passengers and crew members were killed. Once again Iran railed against the United States as "the Great Satan," and once again there was a feeling of waiting for the second shoe to drop -- for Iran to take its revenge.

Five months after the downing of Iran's flight 655, the CIA's Counterterrorism Center needed an Arabic-speaking case officer to send to Beirut on temporary duty. A CTC officer informed Twetten that his son-in-law had been selected for the assignment.

"I am not a part of that decision," Twetten responded. "He's your officer." In his mind he knew he had no other choice. "It's all a sham if I intervene and say, 'No, you can't send Matthew to Beirut,'" he told himself. But there was no one in the Agency who understood better the perils of Beirut. Terry Anderson, a correspondent for the Associated Press, had by then been a hostage for more than three years, along with other Americans, including agronomist Thomas Sutherland and university administrator David Jacobsen. And they could be counted among the lucky ones.

The CIA's Beirut station chief William F. Buckley, was not so fortunate. He had been seized by gunmen four years earlier, on March 16, 1984. A man who had quietly supported war orphans in Vietnam, Laos, and Beirut, Buckley had been widely admired by senior Agency officers and was a favorite of CIA head Bill Casey. For fifteen months Buckley was tortured and interrogated. He is believed to have died in captivity on June 3, 1985. Six more years would pass before his remains would be recovered.

At Langley and at the Oval Office, the hostage issue had long been an obsession. The murder of Buckley had convinced the Agency that the other hostages were likewise in imminent peril. Frustrations grew. So, too, did comparisons with the Iran hostage crisis that came to define the Carter administration as weak and ineffective. Reagan's victory had in part been in revulsion to the humiliating spectacle of American hostages paraded about day after day. But in Lebanon, despite its best efforts, not even the location of the hostages was known to the CIA.

It was precisely such frustrations that led the administration and several within the CIA to appeal to Iran, which was believed to have sway over the captors. The plan that was concocted called for a trade of arms for hostages. Specifically the United States secretly sent TOW missiles to Iran in the hope of securing the hostages' release. The plan had a second aspect: proceeds from such sales would be diverted to fund the Contras in Nicaragua in their fight against the Sandinista regime, despite a congressional ban on such support. In November 1986 the scheme erupted into a public scandal known as Iran-Contra.

It would nearly bring down the Reagan administration and once again fix in the public mind the idea that the CIA was out of control and contemptuous of congressional oversight. Fending off congressional investigators and reporters would consume massive amounts of CIA Director William Casey's time and flagging energy. On May 5, 1987 just as the congressional Iran-Contra hearings were getting under way, the once-indefatigable William Casey died of a brain tumor. His successor as Director Central Intelligence was William H. Webster, a former federal judge and director of the FBI. Selected for his reputation for probity and candor, it was hoped that he might restore credibility to the Agency and hold a firmer reign over Langley. In the wake of Iran-Contra he fired two CIA employees, demoted another, and sent out letters of reprimand to four more. By then it had become a recurrent and all-too-familiar pattern at Agency headquarters, wherein men of action -- a Dulles, a Helms, a Casey -- are eventually followed by more disciplined administrators -- a McCone, a Turner, a Webster -- who are expected to pick up the pieces and restore credibility.

But the American hostages in Lebanon would long remain in captivity, some of them chained for upwards of a thousand days. It was their plight and the threat of even more terrorism that drew Matt Gannon to Beirut. In late November 1988 Gannon set off; traveling via Cyprus. For the next three weeks he worked relentlessly to reestablish contact with agents who provided him with critical intelligence on terrorist organizations in and around Beirut. But as Christmas drew near, Gannon thought of his family in suburban Maryland, of the burdens his wife faced without him, of his two daughters, Julia and Maggie.

He had been scheduled to fly out on December 23, but as exhausted as he was, he asked the Beirut chief of station if he might leave a day early. His request was granted and Gannon arranged to fly to Frankfurt and then on to London and New York. He booked his flight on Pan Am 103. Some weeks before the flight the United States had received what it considered to be credible threats that there would be an attack on a civilian airliner and the warning was posted to State Department personnel, though not to travelers at large. Even if Matt Gannon had been made aware of such a warning, it is doubtful he would have given it much notice. Such a risk would have paled in comparison to those he faced daily in Beirut.

The plane, named Clipper Maid of the Seas, was twenty-five minutes late in taking off from Heathrow, not unusual given the volume of travel at the Christmas holidays. Seven and a half hours later Matthew Gannon could look forward to landing at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Pillows were puffed up and in the galley flight attendants prepared to serve dinner. Sitting in business class, Matthew had room enough to stretch out.

Then, at precisely 7:03 P.M. GMT; the plane simply disappeared from the air controllers' screen at Prestwick, southwest of Glasgow. At 31,000 feet above the Scottish countryside it had blown apart. Moments later debris and body parts rained down on the village of Lockerbie. Matthew Gannon was one of 259 passengers and crew members who died. It was later speculated that many of the passengers did not die in the blast but rode their seats down in a terrifying six-mile descent. Eleven residents of Lockerbie also lost their lives.


Early in the afternoon of December 22 Twetten was in his Agency office when the phone rang. His secretary answered the call. It was the Counterterrorist Center. The message was brief. Pan Am 103 had gone down and Matthew Gannon was believed to have been on board. Twetten was at his desk when the secretary passed along the dreaded message. He asked that she inform him the moment anything more definitive was known, then he called his wife, Kay. He may also have called his daughter, Susan, that afternoon. He cannot now recall. "You're looking at a defense mechanism," he says. "I don't remember much of that afternoon. I know I made a decision that the moment there was any confirmation that he had indeed left Beirut a day early I would go home." And home he went.

A senior Agency officer wrote to those who needed to know: "It is with profound regret and sadness that I advise that Matthew Gannon was on board the PA 103 flight which crashed yesterday. Although as of this writing remains have not been identified, there is no chance he survived."

Twetten's superior, Deputy Director for Operations Dick Stolz, later asked if Twetten wanted his son-in-law buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Matthew had not been in the military, but the Pentagon had extended certain burial privileges in the past to CIA officers killed in the line of duty. Twetten left the decision to his daughter Susan, who said a burial in Arlington would be an honor. The arrangement was made between Stolz and senior Pentagon officials. "I doubt my position had anything to do with it," Twetten would reflect years later. "I didn't think it was appropriate to lift a finger myself." A consummate stickler for the rules, Tom Twetten was determined not to meddle in his son-in-law's career -- even in death.

On the government-issued gravestone was written:

AUG 11 1954
DEC 22 1988

The abbreviation stood for "Foreign Service Officer." He had died under State Department cover. Now it was chiseled in stone.


Not long after the crash of Pan Am 103, Matthew Gannon's brother Dick received a letter of condolence from Robert Pugh, who had been the number two ranking official at the Beirut embassy when it was bombed. He knew how much Dick Gannon had already suffered as a result of the car bombing of the embassy and its unspeakable aftermath. Pugh understood only too well the irony that Dick Gannon's brother Matt should have survived the perils of gathering intelligence on terrorists in Beirut only to perish at the hands of terrorists while aboard a civilian airliner. There was no safe haven. Dick Gannon, already touched once by terrorism, had now to endure that much more pain again. Pugh's letter meant a great deal to Dick Gannon.

On Apri1 20, 1989, Dick Gannon wrote Pugh, thanking him and his wife, Bonnie, for their kind expression of sympathy at the loss of his brother. "Matthew was a wonderful brother -- he is never far from my thoughts. He leaves his wife, Susan and two beautiful daughters, Maggie age 4 and Julia age 1. They appear to be bearing up well. Our family and Matt's friends attended a funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown where he and Susan were married in the summer of 1982. Matt was buried in Arlington on January 5th not far from some of our colleagues from Beirut."

Just five months after Dick Gannon wrote his letter -- on September 19, 1989 -- a DC-10, UTA flight 772, was blown up over Africa by a terrorist bomb that had been tucked in the forward baggage compartment. The aircraft disintegrated, spreading wreckage across the desert of Niger in a scene all too reminiscent of Lockerbie, Scotland. Some 171 people lost their lives. Among the fatalities were 7 Americans. And among these was Bonnie Pugh, wife of Robert Pugh, then U.S. ambassador to Chad. It was now Dick Gannon's turn to write a letter of condolence to Pugh. Both men, twice struck by terrorism, shared a common bond that neither would have wished upon his worst enemy. But there was something not yet known to either man that would link their tragedies and point to the same sinister hand that may have been ultimately responsible for both Pan Am 103 and UTA 772.

In October 1989 Dick Gannon and his wife, Betsy, made a sort of pilgrimage to Lockerbie. They went through a series of trailers lined up side by side where the yet-unclaimed belongings of the deceased were set out on tables, organized by type of item. On one table were rows and rows of shoes, on another glasses, on another shirts, and on yet another pants. It was a grim scene, curiously neat. Each item had been meticulously laundered and folded or arrayed in rows by the townspeople.

Dick Gannon saw nothing of his brother's among the articles, but then a local constable escorted them to a table with a bag. Inside were many things Dick Gannon instantly recognized to be Matt's -- a Catholic missal, its delicate pages damaged by exposure to the rains, a check for $43 protected in a plastic sleeve, a plaid flannel shirt Matt often wore.

The constable befriended them and drove them to an open field where sheep grazed on rolling green hills and the grass was high. It was a peaceful place beside a narrow country lane. The officer helped the Gannons as they stooped to clear some open slats in an old wood rail fence. He walked them well out into the pasture to a place undisturbed by the business of death and reclamation that still absorbed the town This was the precise place, he said, where he had found Matthew Gannon's body.

The loss of Matt Gannon had hit particularly hard on the sixth floor of the old headquarters building at Langley where the Counterterrorist Center was located. The first reports of the crash had come not from some CIA agent in the field or satellite imagery, but from CNN. The entire CTC staff had congregated around the television in the so-called Fusion Center, the communications hub with other agencies, particularly the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism and the FBI. They had all watched in disbelief. First came the report that the plane was out of contact with Heathrow. Then came the haunting live pictures of wreckage strewn across the Scottish countryside. They had lost one of their own. The room filled with the sound of sobbing from those who had known Matt Gannon and who had worked so closely with him.

Now came the leviathan task of finding out who was responsible for bringing down Pan Am 103. It would be a couple of days before explosive residue was found on the debris signaling that an "improvised explosive device," or IED, had brought down the plane. Almost immediately the CTC set up a Pan Am Task Force, commencing what was to be one of the most intensive intelligence operations in the history of the Agency. The five officers assigned to the task force often worked around the clock. Twetten purposely kept his distance from the daily investigative operations, but everyone on the task force understood that his desire to solve the case went well beyond a professional interest. More than once the CTC ran into a bureaucratic snag and it was Tom Twetten who quickly cleared the way.

Initially the CTC presumed that the attack on Pan Am 103 was in retaliation for the July 3, 1988, downing of the Iranian airliner by the U.S. naval vessel Vincennes. Suspicions were strong within the CIA that the Iranians had worked with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command, or PFLP-GC, a view that Israeli intelligence also promoted.

But two breakthroughs in the investigation pointed to a far different culprit. The first clue came from an analyst assigned to the task force who determined that the device used to trigger the Semtex explosive on Pan Am 103 bore an uncanny resemblance to that used to bring down the civilian aircraft in West Africa -- the terrorist action that had claimed Bonnie Pugh's life.

That attack had been linked to the Libyans. The digital electric timers were traced back to a Swiss firm that had allegedly sold its products to the Libyan military and Jamahirya Security Organization, the country's intelligence service. In the case of Pan Am 103, a large brown Samsonite suitcase stuffed with clothes was believed to contain a portable radio cassette tape player that held the explosive. That suitcase had been transferred from an Air Malta aircraft to Pan Am 103 in Frankfurt, Germany, and then onto the Boeing 747 in Heathrow, the continuation of that flight. It was thought that little more than a pound of high explosive placed in the forward cargo hold had brought down the 600,000 pound jumbo jet.

A second, more serendipitous break reportedly came from within the ranks of the Libyans themselves. A code clerk stationed in a Libyan embassy in Europe cabled a cryptic message on a frequency readily accessible to the CIA. In what one senior CTC official said appeared to be a deliberate effort to contact the Agency, the code clerk claimed that the Libyans were behind the bombing. The message offered a detailed account of how the decision was made within Libya.

In 1991 the United States and Britain charged two alleged former Libyan intelligence officers, Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, with the bombing of Pan Am 103. But the two had sought asylum in Libya, whose government steadfastly refused to turn them over to prosecutors to face trial. It was not until April 5, 1999, more than a decade after the bombing of Pan Am 103, that the two suspects were finally turned over to authorities to be tried under Scottish law in the Netherlands, the result of a carefully brokered deal with Libya.


More than a year after the downing of Pan Am 103 a farmer walking through a field in Scotland came upon the remnants of a suit bag lodged in a tree. Inside the bag was found the note that Matthew Gannon had written to his brother Dick, dated December 18, 1988. "You won't believe this," it began, "but I've spent the last three weeks in Beirut. The Embassy needed an Arabic speaker so I volunteered." Matthew Gannon spoke of his wife, Susan, and daughters Maggie and Julia. "I couldn't have taken this TDY if Maggie hadn't improved so much in the last 6 months," he wrote. "We (I should say Susan) are working with her every day & we see the gains in her better behavior. Julia is a little doll, walking and beginning to talk -- growing up way too quickly." The letter ended, "Love, Matthew."

There was this postscript: "We didn't tell Mom and Dad I was in Beirut because they would worry too much." The letter was handwritten and the ink had blurred and run from exposure to a year's worth of rains that had washed over it. In time the letter found its way into the hands of Matthew Gannon's widow, Susan, and ultimately to his brother Dick, to whom the letter had been written.

For months thereafter, pieces of the plane and personal items turned up. The emotional wreckage caused by the crash was strewn over several continents and seemed to be without end.

At 2:30 P.M. on January 9, 1989, just weeks after Gannon's death, the CIA held a memorial service for him in the auditorium known as the Bubble, directly across from the old headquarters building. Scores of covert officers, analysts, senior administrators, and members of the Counterterrorist Center filed somberly down the aisles and took their places. Tom Twetten escorted his daughter, Susan, into the auditorium. At the entrance was an enlarged photographic portrait of her husband. It was more than she could take. But for Tom Twetten's taking her by the arm and propping her up, she would have collapsed in grief.

In the memorial ceremony's printed program was a picture of a smiling Matthew Gannon, and beneath it, fittingly enough, were words from the Koran: "And God gave them a reward in this world and the excellent reward of the Hereafter. For God loveth those who do good." There were so many ironies surrounding his death, not the least of which was that Matthew Gannon had been among those within the Agency most sympathetic to the interests and causes of the Arab world. In killing him, they had slain not an enemy but an ally.

Susan Gannon would remarry in 1993, five years after the downing of Pan Am 103. She and her father, Tom Twetten, and mother, Kay, invited the entire Gannon clan to the wedding. The night before, there was a festive square dance at a farm outside of Washington and the sound of fiddles filled the air. Amid such merriment there was no mention made of Matthew Gannon, nor was there need to. Those who had known him simply exchanged knowing glances or paused an extra moment in each other's embrace.

As for Tom Twetten, the only setback to his otherwise charmed Agency career came as a result of his position as CIA liaison to a National Security Council staff member named Oliver North. It was North who oversaw the scheme to sell arms to Iran in the hope that it would win the release of American hostages.

"I like to call myself the chaperon for Ollie North," Twetten would joke years later. "I didn't aspire to the job but I got it anyway." For his reluctant role, Twetten would be called to testify some twenty-seven times, four of them to a grand jury. Six years after the calamitous operation was exposed he was still being called to testify.

But his Agency career was intact. On January 1, 1991, at the age of fifty-five, Twetten was named deputy director for operations. As DDO, Twetten was the nation's spymaster overseeing an estimated $1-billion empire that included all of the CIA's worldwide covert operations, safe houses, overseas stations and bases, and a network of communications facilities.

Twetten's seventh-floor office at Agency headquarters had a distinctly Middle Eastern flavor reflecting his scholarly interest in the region. On the walls were portraits of men in turbans and prints of antique maps, including one of Jerusalem and another of Turkey dated 1705. Under the coffee table was a Bedouin's camel saddlebag. Twetten had tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the desk of Wild Bill Donovan, the founder of the OSS, but settled for a standard wooden desk. On it were three STUs, secure telephone units, as well as a buzzer system by which the three Directors Central Intelligence under whom he served as DDO -- Webster, Gates, and Woolsey -- could ring him directly. Twetten could also have rung the director, but such an action was understood to be forbidden by Agency protocol.

These were good years for Twetten. After a lifetime of undercover work he seemed relaxed and comfortable with his new authority. Though sober and serious, he could also be playful. One Halloween, after being placed in charge of all CIA spy operations, he had a "spook party" for his friends and colleagues at the Agency. Twetten gave instructions that guests were to arrive by passing through a neighborhood graveyard. Twetten, dressed as a ghoul, had dug a hole on his property, and as guests arrived, he rose ominously from the makeshift grave to greet them.

But such moments of levity were rare. On June 2, 1993, still as deputy director for operations, he stood before the CIA's Wall of Honor and delivered the commemorative remarks for those who died in the line of service. Among those honored by a star on the wall -- but never named -- was his son-in-law, Matt Gannon. It was hard for Tom Twetten to deliver his remarks. His eyes filled with tears and his voice choked with emotion, but he never faltered.

After thirty-four years, Twetten retired from the CIA at the end of September 1995. Today he lives in a rustic 1840s home built on the edge of Little Hosmer Pond in the north of Vermont, a quiet place by a tiny spillway where children sometimes look for frogs. From inside his den, Twetten can watch the mergansers searching for fish. Once a week he visits Montreal to study the art of rebinding fine leather books, his second passion. Downstairs, in his library and bindery, are his precious books, a copy of The Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb, dated 1896, beside it New Improvements of Gardening, dated 1739, and an undated copy of Christian Lyrics.

Once one of the most powerful figures in the CIA, he now contents himself with socializing with locals who know little of his background and could care less. In a sense, in retirement, he is again under cover. At a recent village barbecue at the Albany Church five miles from his home a woman patted him on the back for the fine 140-foot stone wall he erected, but scolded him lightly for a house she deemed too large. Twetten only smiled. He could not be further from power, or the violent world in which terrorists and those who stalk them live and die.

For Twetten the battle with Gadhafi and terrorism is over. The Agency in which he had risen to the senior-most ranks, working together with the U.S. military, had played a key role in the bombing of Tripoli that cost Gadhafi his eighteen-month-old daughter. Two years later Twetten's own Agency would conclude that Libyan agents had brought down Pan Am 103, costing Twetten his son-in-law, widowing his daughter, and leaving his granddaughters fatherless.

Terrorism and the war that sought to contain it had created a deadly symmetry in the lives of two men who had never met and had even less in common -- Muammar Gadhafi and Tom Twetten. "It's an irony that certainly has occurred to me," says Twetten. "I have never thought of it as a grotesque irony. It's never occurred to me for more than two seconds that there was a causal link. The Libyans aren't that good. Their timing was entirely accidental."

Twetten is right. There is no evidence to suggest that the Libyans targeted Pan Am 103 because Matthew Gannon, Tom Twetten's son-in- law, was on board. It was a chillingly simple act of random violence. "It's fairly easy for me to dismiss the connection," says Twetten, "I have never permitted myself to feel any remorse or responsibility for his death. This is not a part of my baggage. I had so much authority over so many lives that I don't think I'd be among the sane if I permitted all the connections with all the people I had who are no longer living. I am saved some of that in terms of rationality because I didn't send Matthew to Beirut. This was the blessing of making sure that there was no potential nepotism."

As for Matthew Gannon's brother Dick, he remains with the State Department. Far from retiring, he took on the ultimate job for a security officer -- overseeing the security of the new U.S. Embassy in Moscow. In his Virginia office just across the Potomac is a picture of Matthew cradling a small kitten and standing before a large wall map of the world. He is wearing a conservative white button-down shirt and a striped tie, but with his long hair and drooping mustache he has the hint of a desperado about him.

A decade after his brother's death, Dick Gannon still sorely misses him. He is envious of his mother's faith and the comfort it has afforded her at the loss of Matthew Gannon, aged thirty-four.

"God," she concluded, "must have wanted him awful badly."
Site Admin
Posts: 30799
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Political Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests