Fernando “X” — Cuban Hero, American Spy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Nine years ago, Bayard & Holmes designated October 31 as Love-A-Spook* Day—a day when we honor the men and women of the Intelligence Community who dedicate and sometimes sacrifice their lives to keep the fight from our shores. On this 9thAnnual Love-A-Spook Day, we make our most personal dedication to date to honor a Cuban we will call “Fernando X,” who devoted his life to saving his people from the Castro regime.

If you are a Castro-apologist this article will surely confuse and stress you. For the rest of you, if you ever visit Key West, Florida, stroll to the south end of the island. You will find there a monument heralding the southernmost point in the contiguous forty-eight states. The monument will tell you that Cuba is ninety miles to the south. The monument is mistaken. Cuba is ninety-five miles south. It could be corrected, but we hope it remains inaccurate. In its current condition it serves, albeit accidentally, as a monument to the many popular misconceptions that Western journalists and politicians harbor about the reality of Cuba.

Rather than focus on the many grim aspects of life in Cuba, we prefer to remember the brave Cubans that have risked their lives in the hope of bringing freedom and justice to the island of Cuba. At this point, most of them would settle for just the freedom.

Holmes will tell you about one of them in particular that he was honored to know and call friend—Fernando “X.”

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The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Revolutionaries

~ Jay Holmes

Fernando was older than I am. The last time I saw him, he told me he would not live to see Cuba free. He said in Spanish, “The son of a bitch assassin Fidel will outlive me. Well, that’s life. I have done the best I could, brother.” I knew he was right.

Fernando was in poor health and didn’t look like he had much left in him. I know the look. I was not ready to admit it. I lied to him. I told him with a few of my favorite Spanish curses that Satan couldn’t keep Fidel out of Hell forever, and that he would die soon. We laughed. Fernando looked at me, and he knew that I knew. He said, “It’s OK, hermanito. I can’t stay forever. Take good care of your children. Give them the love that I won’t be here to give them. I would have liked to. It was my one way of thanking you.” I wanted to cry, but I knew I owed him something better than that, so I just smiled and assured him that I would, and that they would not forget him. They haven’t, and they won’t. Neither will the people of Cuba.

Six and a half decades earlier, on an afternoon in October of 1958, Fernando’s life was about to get more exciting.

The teenage revolutionary wanted a rifle and grenades and some excitement on one of the many raids that were being conducted against the incompetent dictator Fulgencio Bautista’s clownocracy. Instead, Fernando was equipped with soap and sponges in his personal battle against the dirty pots and pans in his camp’s kitchen. He was not enjoying the revolution much. He wondered if he shouldn’t have listened to his mother and stayed home to tend the pigs and chickens. He was starting to miss his boring, more pleasant home life.

For reasons unknown, the group’s comandante decided to bring “El Niño,” the boy, along on the day’s raid.

Fernando remembered being excited. He intended to make a name for himself. He had insisted to his cohorts that his nickname was “El Tigre,” the tiger. His cohorts were even more insistent that his nickname would remain El Niño. Before the day ended, they were calling Fernando “El Tigre Con Cojones Imensos,” the tiger with immense balls.

Fernando was given a captured American made M-1 Garand. He was small and the rifle was heavy. Too heavy. The group decided he should carry a much lighter captured American made M-1 carbine. The fact that they had no ammo for it was a disappointment for Fernando. His cohorts assured him that they were just going to occupy a recently-abandoned police station, and that there would be plenty of ammo there for everyone. Fernando should just stay behind everyone else until they secured the building.

The five revolutionaries climbed into a Chevrolet sedan and drove to the supposedly abandoned police station, but the best-laid plans of mice and revolutionaries . . .

They arrived at the plaza where the police station was located and jumped out of the Chevrolet with much bravado. Oddly, none of the locals came out to cheer or jeer. The revolutionaries walked toward the front door of the station, and a shot rang out. The round kicked up dirt near them.

They jumped for cover—all of them except El Tigre. The fifteen-year-old Fernando stood his ground with his empty rifle.

The somewhat loyalist police retreated to the roof top. They had ammo in their weapons. Fernando wasn’t sure how many police there were, nor what they had to fight with, but he stood his ground without flinching. He stared up at the policeman that stared down from the parapet of the roof. The policeman said they didn’t want to kill anyone, and that the revolutionaries should all just get in their car, leave, and not return. Four of the five revolutionaries thought it sounded like a great deal and jumped in the car. They yelled to El Tigre to get the hell back in the car. El Tigre didn’t budge.

The policeman vanished from the parapet for a moment. A few seconds later, one of the police returned to the edge of the roof and yelled down, “Let us leave and you can have the station. Just let us leave without any shooting.” The cops were either impressed by the kid’s courage, or they just didn’t want to shoot a child on behalf of a government that they never much liked. The revolutionary comandante got out of the car and yelled up his agreement. No shots were fired that day, but a hero of the revolution was born.

Fernando was something of a celebrity—a teenage superhero.

A few months later, Cuban dictator Bautista realized that neither his fellow Latin-American despots nor the United States was going to back him up. He hit the road. Fernando and his friends celebrated. They were free. They could build a free and just society.

In the following months, as Fidel Castro consolidated his grip on power, inconvenient dissenters died publicly or vanished.

Then, as Fernando grew into adulthood, like many of his revolutionary cohorts, he grew disillusioned with the new regime. All he could see in Cuba was less freedom, more misery, and a vanishing hope for his people and country. The new bastard-in-chief Castro somehow managed to be even worse at governing than the previous bastard-in-chief Bautista had been.

With all the standard Soviet-style rhetoric and Soviet specialists assisting, Fidel and his elite friends assured the public that once they overcame the mostly-imaginary aggression of the evil American imperialists, they would all build their great socialist paradise. The new president of the American imperialists, John F. Kennedy, radically trimmed back the planned support of exiled Cubans for an impending invasion of Cuba. Worse still, the operation had been penetrated by the Cuban government. Eventually, against the advice of the US military, a half-hearted invasion occurred at the wrong location, the Bay of Pigs.

The previous president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was an “invade Normandy with everything we can send” sort of man. He had been successful using that strategy when invading Normandy. However, the new president was a “do way more with way less” PT boat veteran. He had been somewhat successful with that strategy in the wildly dangerous waters of the Solomon Islands. In Cuba, the “way less” was way too little. The invasion failed. Fidel celebrated his “grand victory” over the feeble attempt.

Eventually, Fernando, whose first priority was always the Cuban people, decided it was time to resist against the new despots. He did. He helped the United States try to help Cuba.

As a revolutionary celebrity, Fernando had status and access to many top members of Fidel’s regime. This gave Fernando a great deal of valuable information about the regime’s intentions. Through a like-minded ex-revolutionary cohort, Fernando was able to make contact with the US Intelligence Community, and for several years, he risked his life by sharing valuable information with the United States. I will not elaborate on the nature or extent of that information. Suffice to say that, thanks to Fernando’s efforts, numerous Cuban dissidents were able to escape from Cuba and move to the United States or Spain. Many of these people would have been tortured and even executed if not for Fernando’s quiet help. He saved many lives and asked for nothing in return.

 It couldn’t last forever. Fernando was betrayed.

He ran for his life and hid, but he was eventually captured. To Fidel and his monsters, Fernando was a traitor. To us, he was a hero. Fernando expected to be shot. Instead, he was sent to the infamous political prison on Isla de Juventud to rot in grim conditions for a few decades. Day after day, year after year, he wondered if he would live to feel the sun on his skin before he died. He survived the torture and abuse, though many did not.

One day the prison authorities caught Fernando writing in a hidden journal. They broke several bones in each of his hands. He received no medical attention. For the rest of his life, his hands caused him great pain.

Nearly twenty years ago, by methods that I will not elaborate on or ever admit to, Fernando was able to leave the prison on Isla de Juventud and come to the United States.

Along with several others of my favorite Cuban exiles, we became close friends. In poor health, Fernando lived a sparse life here. My friends and I helped him a bit. He more than deserved it. He was poor in American terms, but in terms of spirit, he was a rich man with much to offer the world. I knew I was blessed to have him as my friend.

One Christmas I was home for the holidays, and I brought Fernando to our house to join my family and many of our mutual Cuban friends.

He had saved a few dollars from his tight budget to buy my children gifts. They were poorly wrapped by his tortured hands, but I thought they were the most beautiful gifts my kids had ever received. They loved Fernando and understood. They were touched by the gifts. My wife had knitted him a nice sweater and scarf. My father gave him a gift certificate for groceries. He was thrilled. I gave him a case of decent rum. He used a couple of shots before bedtime to deaden the pain in his hands enough to sleep for a while.

One of the party attendees, my dear friend, the brilliant Doctor Jesus Jose Acea Rodriguez, was also in attendance that evening. He, too, had taken risks to try to help Cuba. Jesus asked Fernando to recount his well-known heroic events for the benefit of Jesus’s teenage son.

Fernando described in brilliant detail the events of that day when he earned the name El Tigre. I could smell the salt air of the Cuban coast and feel the Cuban earth beneath my feet as I imagined the cop firing that shot. Then Fernando told us a previously unshared detail of that battle. He had not budged when the police fired because he was scared stiff and couldn’t move.

The police apparently misjudged the situation. Fortunately, everyone else except for Fernando misunderstood, as well. El Tigre was forever a hero because he was frozen in fear. We laughed a long time. Fernando comically pantomimed his famous stand-off as my son rolled on the floor laughing. We loved him. Everyone did. . . . Everyone except Fidel Castro and his regime.

Before driving Fernando home the next morning, I took my Garand rifle out of my gun safe and slipped it into my car. When we arrived at his apartment, I told him he had waited a long time for the rifle he wanted. I gave the M-1 to him. He laughed. He was thrilled. We hugged.

I am sitting here at the same antique table that we sat at that beautiful Christmas night. I miss him. The brilliant Jesus is gone now, too. I miss those two the most of the many Cubans that now reside in my past. They and many others stood up for freedom at a great cost.

Fernando once told me to never give up hope for Cuba, and to teach my children to understand that in the end, evil will always fail because freedom and justice are natural and right. He believed that. I do, too.

The Caribbean Sea holds the blood of many brave Cubans. Most of the many Cuban people that have secretly risked their lives in the hope of bringing Cuba a better future will never be known. Many did not live to see Cuba free. I might not live that long, either. But for all my days, I will hold onto my hope and remember my many beautiful Cuban cohorts. I hope that you will, as well.

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In honor of our 9th Annual Love-A-Spook Day, the Kindle and Nook versions of SPYCRAFT: Essentials and The Spy Bride are on sale now through November 3, 2018 for only $0.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Click on these links . . .

SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS on Kindle

SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS on Nook

THE SPY BRIDE on Kindle

THE SPY BRIDE  on Nook

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*The slang term “spook” has been used for centuries in the Intelligence Community to refer to intelligence personnel. It derives from “a ghost that haunts and is undesirable.” Intelligence personnel of all races are commonly called “spooks.” Bigots have enough words. They can’t have this one.

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Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She is also a belly dancer and a former hospice volunteer. She has been working daily with her good friend Jay Holmes for the past decade, learning about foreign affairs, espionage history, and field techniques for the purpose of writing fiction and nonfiction. She currently pens espionage nonfiction and international spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, as well as post-apocalyptic fiction of her own.

Jay Holmes is a forty-something-year veteran of field espionage operations and a senior member of the Intelligence Community with experience spanning from the Cold War fight against the Soviets, the East Germans, and the various terrorist organizations they sponsored to the present Global War on Terror. He is unwilling to admit to much more than that. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

Together, Bayard & Holmes author non-fiction articles and books on espionage and foreign affairs, as well as fictional international spy thrillers. They are also the bestselling authors of The Spy Bride from the Risky Brides Bestsellers Collection and were featured contributors for Social In Worldwide, Inc.

When they aren’t writing or (in Jay’s case) busy with “other work,” Piper and Jay are enjoying time with their families, hiking, exploring back roads of America, talking foreign affairs, laughing at their own rude jokes until the wee hours, and questing for the perfect chocolate cake recipe. If you think you have that recipe, please share it with them at BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

To keep in touch with Bayard & Holmes and to receive notices of their upcoming releases, subscribe to the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes at their Contact page, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard or Bayard & Holmesor at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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Josephine Baker–Dancer, Singer, Mother, Booty Spy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

We often expect our military heroes to come equipped with great athletic prowess and years of grueling training. A few ultramodern, nearly-magic gadgets and good looks don’t hurt either. Josephine Baker showed up with one of the four.

Josephine Baker 1949 Carl Vn Vechten Library of Congress

Josephine Baker in 1950, image from Library of Congress

On June 3, 1906, Freda Josephine McDonald was born in St Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of a black American washerwoman, and, according to her foster son Jeanne-Claude Baker, her father may have been a white German-American for whom her mother had worked.

When Josephine was eight years old, she went to work for a wealthy white family as a washer girl. According to her biography, the women of the house purposely burned her hands for using too much soap on the laundry.

When Josephine was twelve, she quit school and became a homeless person. Josephine lived in cardboard boxes and scavenged food from trash to survive. Is it possible anyone who saw her scavenging for food in the alleys of St. Louis imagined that she would some day do great service to the Allied armies and the people of France during World War Two?

At age thirteen, Josephine obtained a job as a waitress, and she married one of her customers, Willie Wells. By the time Josephine was fifteen, she had earned a reputation as a talented dancer, and she was able to support herself. She left Wells and quickly rose to the top of the Vaudeville dance circuit, spending the next six years entertaining American audiences.

In 1921, Josephine married an American with the last name Baker. She kept that name for the rest of her life, though she divorced him.

In 1925, Josephine traveled to Paris to perform for enthusiastic Paris audiences. She was an instant celebrity. France fell in love with Josephine, and Josephine fell in love with France.

Josephine enjoyed greater integration in Paris than she could at home in the USA. She expanded her career to include movie acting, singing, and song writing. According to Ernest Hemingway, she was the most exciting woman in Paris.

Josephine Baker Banana DanceJosephine Baker in 1920s, Banana Dance, image in public domain

In 1935, Josephine returned to the USA to tour with the Ziegfeld Follies stage show. She had grown accustomed to something close to racial equality in France, and when she failed to “keep her place” in the United States, she generated mixed reviews.

In 1937, Josephine returned to France. She soon married a Jewish French Industrialist named Jean Lion. By marrying Lion, she acquired French nationality.

As World War Two approached, France contacted Josephine and asked if she would report on any interesting information that she picked up while attending parties, including some at European embassies. Josephine agreed. She quickly developed a skill for charming many fascist big wigs, who were desperate to cultivate an appearance of culture by being seen with her.

When Germany invaded France, Josephine received brief emergency instruction in spy craft and was taught to use invisible ink and make safe information passes.

During the Nazi occupation, Josephine was a prized commodity for parties and events held by Nazi and Italian fascist big shots. She was allowed to travel in and out of Vichy, France, Nazi-occupied France, and neutral countries such as Portugal and Switzerland.

Josephine set up a theater and stage company in Marseilles, France and used it as a cover for a large espionage and sabotage organization. Refugees from Belgium and occupied France were taught to pose as stage artists, and the stage artists were taught to perform as spies. Her seemingly harmless musicians and actor types formed a valuable branch of the French Resistance.

In 1941, Josephine was stricken with a bad case of pneumonia. She and some of her recruits traveled to North Africa seeking a dryer, warmer climate. Free French leader General Charles De Gaulle and his staff felt that Josephine had done more than her share and encouraged her to remain safely in French Colonial Africa to recover her health. Josephine was highly committed to the cause of freedom, and instead of remaining safe, she traveled to Morocco and set up an expanded espionage operation.

From her base in Morocco, Josephine safely traveled back and forth to Spain to communicate with allied agents. She was able to assist the badly outnumbered US OSS agents in Europe in setting up improved communications. Josephine apparently was warned to keep her distance from the OSS because it was known that a mole was loose in their European operations. She had to know that she was taking a tremendous personal risk by working with both the multiple branches of the French Resistance and agents of the OSS. Whatever risk she sensed did not slow her down.

Josephine suffered a miscarriage and received an emergency hysterectomy due to infection. The recovery rate from emergency hysterectomies at the time was astonishingly low; however, Josephine survived. The Free French Government ordered that she be transported to England and to a desk job. She refused her evacuation and remained active in the field until the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.

After the fall of the fascists, Josephine carried out one last, very personal mission. She traveled to Buchenwald and performed what must have been her single most important stage performance. She performed for the rescued death camp prisoners who were still too sick and weak to be moved.

For her long and distinguished service in the war against Nazi tyranny, Josephine was decorated for bravery on three occasions. She received the French Croix de Guerre, the Rosette de la Resistance, and a knighthood from General Charles De Gaulle as a member of the order, Legion de Honeur.

After the war, Josephine left her life of espionage behind and returned to the stage. She adopted orphans of Algerian, Korean, Japanese, Finnish, French, Israeli, Moroccan, and Hispanic extraction. She referred to them as her “Rainbow Troupe.”

Josephine Baker in 1951, image by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress

In 1951, when Baker was refused service at the Stork Club in Manhattan, Grace Kelly was in attendance and took exception. The future Princess Grace of Monaco took Josephine’s arm, and they stormed out together, followed by the rest of Grace’s party. Grace Kelly and Josephine became life long friends, and when Josephine and her large family of orphans faced financial trouble, Princess Grace gave her a palace and financial assistance.

In 1963, Josephine was the only female to speak at the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, she was offered and declined the leadership of King’s civil rights organization. She felt that her slew of young children needed her.

Ten years after the March on Washington, Baker opened a show in New York at one of the world’s most prestigious venues, Carnegie Hall. Before the first note of the show could be performed, a packed house rose and gave her a very long standing ovation. The homeless orphan girl from the alleys of St. Louis had finally come home, and America had finally come home to her.

On April 12, 1975, Josephine died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was the first American woman to receive a military funeral with full honors. Twenty thousand French, Europeans, and Americans who had not forgotten her extraordinary service in the liberation of France joined her funeral procession.

Without benefit of athletic prowess, much formal education, gadgetry, military or intelligence training, and armed with little more than her courage and commitment, the homeless girl from the alleys of St. Louis had made a difference in the world.

“The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.” ~ Josephine Baker

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

US/Asia-Pacific Alliances — Decision Time in Jakarta

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

As part of overall US strategy in the Pacific region, the US is attempting to forge a closer economic and military relationship with Indonesia. The Obama administration made improving ties with Indonesia a major priority when President Obama first took office in 2009. The White House and US State Department have maintained that priority during Obama’s seven years in office.

 

Indonesia Pres. Joko Widodo and US Secy. of State John Kerry (center) Image by US State Dept, public domain

Indonesia Pres. Joko Widodo
and US Secy. of State John Kerry (center)
Image by US State Dept, public domain

 

The White House has always been quick in declaring diplomatic victories following overseas trips by the President as well as after meetings with visiting heads of state and their ministers. In reality, the US-Indonesia “new alliance” remains a work in progress.

With the Philippines, Japan, and to a lesser extent Malaysia, we can clearly measure progress in the formation of a transpacific alliance in response to increased aggression from the People’s Republic of China. It is much more difficult gauge Indonesia’s intentions toward the US, its Pacific neighbors, and Communist China.

To interpret the foreign policy news from Indonesia, we need to consider a few critical facts concerning the Indonesian national identity.

First, like the Philippines and Malaysia, and unlike Japan, Indonesia lacks cultural unity.

Indonesia’s 250 million citizens are quite diverse and, in many areas, quite parochial. The official language is Indonesian, but tribal languages still persist in rural regions. When Indonesian President Joko Widodo wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t need to hear a morning report to know what his priority for the day is. That priority has been the same for every Indonesian President since the country achieved its independence in 1945 – to “unite the people.”

Foreign policy is important to Indonesia, but internal issues remain their day-to-day first priority. This does not mean that we cannot build real cooperation with Indonesia. It means we can’t expect it to be represented the same way in the Indonesian media as it would be in other countries in the region.

Second, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, but it is a secular democratic state.

Over 85% of Indonesians describe themselves as practicing Muslims, but Islam in Indonesia is far less “centralized” and regimented than in Saudi Arabia. The national legal system is secular. Radical Islamic groups do exist, but they lack anything approaching popular support. Indonesia acts independently of their fellow Muslim countries in the Mideast, but the country is never comfortable publicly disregarding “Muslim interests” in favor of US-Indonesia relations. The White House should not expect Indonesia to trumpet US-Indonesian cooperation loudly.

Indonesia is showing clear signs of growing cooperation against China and growing cooperation with its neighbors, but it has to handle the public relations battle in the way that best suits its government and its people. Indonesia’s neighbors seem to understand this better than the US does. While the US and Japan are always concerned with the public message that is delivered to the People’s Republic of China, we cannot expect Indonesia to pursue a similar public relations strategy in the near future. The good news is that it is quietly willing to increase military cooperation with its neighboring states and the US.

A third fundamental fact concerning Indonesian national identity is that Indonesia sees itself as being the leader of the region.

Indonesia was instrumental in founding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The headquarters for ASEAN is in Jakarta, Indonesia. ASEAN remains a major point of pride for the Indonesian government and people. It is something that they accomplished without the US, the UN, or anyone outside of the region. ASEAN is, in a sense, a symbol of Indonesian power and political identity.

Rather than disregard ASEAN, the US can work with ASEAN on the same issues over which the Obama administration has been trying to gain Indonesian cooperation for the last seven years. The US sees itself as being the leader in improving regional security against growing Communist Chinese aggression in Southeast Asia. The US strategy in the Pacific is based on shared concerns, but it relies heavily on US technology, military expertise, and US cash to improve defense capabilities in the region.

 

US & Indonesian Troops in Joint Training Exercise Image by USMC, public domain

US & Indonesian Troops in Joint Training Exercise
Image by USMC, public domain

 

In the case of Indonesia, the US will have to remain patient and allow that country the opportunity to redefine a US-Indonesian relationship that can fit into its national agenda. If that includes Indonesia being less publicly supportive of US-led initiatives in the area, then so be it. The White House must measure Indonesian policy and actions and ignore Indonesian rhetoric. In Indonesia, the rhetoric will never align with real policy quite the same way as it does in the Philippines or Japan.

A fourth major formative issue in Indonesia’s relations with the US is the People’s Republic of China.

China has lots of cash, and Indonesia needs Chinese trade and investment. We are asking Indonesia to abandon investment and trade from China at a time when the US national debt does not present a bright promising picture of economic perfection. This is not 1960, when the US was able to present a breathtakingly brilliant comparison to the dismal economies of the USSR or Communist China. Like any government, Indonesia cannot ignore its own business sector when conducting foreign relations. When it comes to economics, ASEAN can help bring Indonesia and the US closer in economic terms. Healthier regional and transpacific trade will help allow Indonesia to more confidently decrease economic ties with China.

Deciphering US-Indonesian relations takes some work, but one important positive fact gives reason for optimism. Indonesian democracy is stronger and more stable today than it was ten years ago, and the practice of democracy seems to be growing more complete each year. The Indonesian people know that their democracy is not perfect, but for the majority of Indonesians, expectations for democracy appear to be growing. In assessing the current state of US-Indonesian relations, there are reasons to be optimistic.

One of the greatest forces driving a closer US-Indonesia relationship is China itself.

Communist China has consistently shown itself to be unable to resist using intimidation and brute force when dealing with its Pacific neighbors. In theory, China believes in the “carrot and stick” method of diplomacy, but it has shown itself to be unskilled with the carrot and impatient to use the stick. Until very recently, Indonesia was carefully hedging its diplomatic strategies with regard to China. Recent news reports from Indonesia indicate a reluctance to see the US take a leading role in regional security. Indonesian actions tell a different story.

Indonesia recently (again) warned the People’s Republic of China that Chinese fishing boats illegally fishing in Indonesian waters would be detained. When Indonesia recently attempted to seize a Chinese fishing boat that was illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, the Chinese Coast Guard intervened and prevented the seizure. Indonesia was publicly outraged by the incursion and has filed a formal complaint against the People’s Republic of China. China will ignore the complaint, but in exchange for proudly saving one illegal fishing vessel, it has seriously damaged relations with Indonesia.

If the Obama administration has been somewhat clumsy in its attempts to expand the US-Indonesian alliance, it can at least count on its one sure bet – China enjoys flaunting its increased military ability in the Pacific. It plays well in the government-controlled media in China, but it undermines China’s own foreign policy goals.

In my estimation, relations and economic ties between Indonesia and the US will improve and, more importantly, Indonesia will focus on improving relations with its own neighbors in the region.

Next week we will consider US-Australian relations and the part that Australia plays in regional security in the Pacific.

Flying Spooks–6th Annual Love-A-Spook Day

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Halloween is not just a day for spooks of the ghost variety, but also of the human variety. October 31 is Love-A-Spook Day — a day when Piper and I honor the unsung heroes of the clandestine community. This year, we focus on those spooks who fly missions over “denied” airspace to glean intelligence we cannot gather any other way.

 

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Image by NASA, public domain.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Image by NASA, public domain.

 

When we think about military aviation heroes, most of us think about the well-known heroic deeds of fighter pilots and bomber crews. While those pilots and crewmen deserve the recognition that they receive, there are thousands of pilots and air crewmen that have performed less glorious but very dangerous missions. Most of them will remain forever unknown.

During the Cold War, from September 1945 until December 1991, the United States and her allies relied on a variety of intelligence and reconnaissance sources for information about the USSR, Communist China, and their allies.

Most of us are familiar with the basic idea of “spies,” or “HUMINT,” as the intelligence community generally refers to human intelligence. Satellites we keep aloft for collecting visual, radar, infrared, communications, and electronic signal data over “denied” areas are also common knowledge. Other publicly known sources for intelligence and reconnaissance are the once secret SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 flights and electronic surveillance stations. And though they are largely ignored in popular media, spy ships and other various ships play an important role in gathering intelligence.

During the Cold War, lesser known, but highly important, intelligence programs conducted by the US and its allies involved seemingly boring looking aircraft that flew extremely dangerous missions along borders of the USSR, North Korea, and Warsaw Pact countries.

These Cold War Era missions gathered types of information that satellites and the higher-flying U-2s and SR-71s were unable to collect. Because the missions were classified, as far as the friends and families of the flight crews ever knew, their loved one were only involved in mundane weather reconnaissance, cargo flights, or training missions with various allies.

These intelligence-gathering flights involved a wide variety of seemingly boring aircraft packed with an assortment of photographic, infrared, and electronics monitoring equipment. Many of these flights were conducted in international airspace, but some were assigned to enter enemy airspace.

Lacking the altitude of a U-2 or the altitude and extreme speeds of an SR-71, these flights always avoided anything resembling a routine schedule or set flight areas. They often tried to take advantage of bad weather and nighttime to reduce their “sitting duck” status. The precautions helped, but they were far from a foolproof defense.

The exact number of aircraft that were shot down by enemy missiles and fighters will probably never be known. Not only were the flights classified, but also more than one authority conducted them. The CIA, the USAF, and the US Navy were all involved in various programs that sent crews into “denied” airspaces.

In addition, other civilian groups were at times contracted by US intelligence agencies to run flights in denied air space. In some cases, US agencies even employed foreign contractors to conduct these missions. That lack of a single reporting agency or a single chain of command makes it difficult to accurately determine the number of aircraft that were downed by enemy defenses.

Lacking a clear, accurate number, I estimate that approximately one hundred twenty “spy” aircraft were lost during the Cold War. The number of lives lost is unknown and difficult to calculate, because missions in larger aircraft did not always carry the same number of air crewmen.

What we know is that the US Cold War veterans groups have been able to tabulate 428 military and civilian air crewmen as dead or missing from “spy plane” missions. These numbers do not take into account missions flown by allied air crews.

Some of the aircraft shot down were small planes with just a single pilot onboard. On the other end of the spectrum, some missions were flown in modified B-29 bombers (RB-29s) converted for intelligence missions. These RB-29s were able to carry large cameras and other equipment, but they were neither quick nor stealthy.

 

First F-10-1A on lakebed at Edwards AFB Image by USAF, public domain.

First F-10-1A on lakebed at Edwards AFB
Image by USAF, public domain.

 

One of the speedier and more common platforms for photoreconnaissance missions was the US Air Force’s F-101 Voodoo. Unfortunately, small, fast planes like the Voodoo were limited in how much of a mission package they could carry. Many missions involved large airliner-type aircraft converted for military use, such as the US Navy’s P-3 Orion, which was based on the Lockheed Electra airliner.

In the Post-Cold War Era, the P-3 is being replaced by the new P-8, which is based on the Boeing 737 airliner. Another popular and highly capable US Air Force spy plane, based on the Boeing 707 airliner, is the innocent looking Northrup Grumman J-Star.

Since the end of the Cold War, the advent of highly sophisticated drones and improvements in satellite technologies have decreased the need for manned spy plane missions into denied airspace.

Any current manned intelligence mission flights into enemy airspace remain highly classified, but it’s a safe bet that some aircrew members are risking more than just the usual mechanical problems and bad weather when they take to the air.

This Love-A-Spook Day we honor the thousands of past and present flying spooks. These unsung heroes will probably never make a big splash in Hollywood, but they risk their lives in hopes of preventing the next Pearl Harbor.

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Previous Love A Spook Day Posts

1st Annual Spook Appreciation Day — Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik

2011 post on Josephine Baker currently being added to a book.

Billy Waugh–On Teams That Found Carlos the Jackal and Osama Bin Laden

An Insignificant Irish Quaker Woman

The Untalented Bank Clerk

5th Annual Love-A-Spook Day–The Untalented Bank Clerk

By Jay Holmes

Every year at Halloween, Bayard & Holmes honor one of the unsung heroes of the intelligence community with our Annual Love-A-Spook Day. This year, we recognize British spook Eric Arthur Roberts, an “untalented” bank clerk in the UK who conducted valuable work against Nazi Germany’s Gestapo during World War Two. His identity was one of MI-5’s tightly guarded secrets until only last week.

 

Eric Roberts posing as a bank clerk. Click on picture for a link to the copyrighted photo of this master spy.

Eric Roberts posing as a bank clerk.
Click on picture for a link to the copyrighted photo of this master spy.

 

Before and during World War Two, Germany had a well-trained professional intelligence service, the Abwehr, which was operated by well-trained German military personnel. Nazi party membership was not required to work in the Abwehr. However, there was a predominance of well-educated personnel in the service, which likely contributed to the organization’s lack of enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazi party.

The Nazi party was aware of the Abwehr’s lack of Nazi devotion, so Hitler relied heavily on his secret police organization known as the Gestapo, which was led by Heinrich Himmler. Hitler also counted on the SD, which was the intelligence branch of the Nazi Party’s Waffen-SS, a.k.a. the Storm Troopers. Eventually, Himmler took control of the entire German SS, along with the secret police.

Himmler used his secret police authority against his political opponents within the Nazi Party with great success, and he tried to convince Hitler to let him take command of all German intelligence resources. However, it seems that Hitler was well aware of his senior minions’ machinations against each other, and he skillfully encouraged it as a way to keep himself safe from any “second-in-command” that might become too powerful.

 

 

We now know that the Nazi’s distrust of the Abwehr was well founded. After the war ended, as more secret information was slowly released to the public, it became apparent to historians that Admiral Canaris and many of his top deputies in the Abwehr not only lacked enthusiasm for the Nazi party, but they actually actively plotted against it, including involvement in multiple assassination attempts against Hitler.

Based on their lack of trust in the Abwehr, the Gestapo and the SD branch of the SS invested heavily in intelligence operations against the UK and the allies.

While understanding the structure and organization of German intelligence operations must have been an ongoing nightmare for a well-established and tradition-bound organization like MI-5, MI-5 never allowed that to slow them down in their secret war against Axis intelligence operations.

Any study of MI-5’s wartime operations leads to various interpretations, depending on the student. One conclusion that would be difficult for any serious student of espionage to miss would be the fact that, while MI-5 was remarkably ineffective in combating Soviet espionage, they were remarkably efficient in dealing with the massive intelligence efforts conducted by the Nazis against Great Britain.

MI-5 could never be certain which German organization was running which intelligence operation against the UK, but they were certain that all German intelligence operations needed to be defeated. On Friday, October 24, 2014 we learned precisely how the Gestapo and SD espionage operations were so successfully defeated.

In large measure, it was due to a bank clerk, or at least he appeared to be a bank clerk.

This particular spook was so successful in maintaining his cover as a bank employee that when the British War Office requested that his bank employers release him from his work for war service, the bank management resisted. They claimed that their employee clearly lacked any special talent that would make him particularly useful for the war effort. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The bank’s seemingly untalented clerk, Eric Arthur Roberts, was in fact a master spy and had been since before World War Two even started.

Someone in MI-5 leadership understood that countering the German Abwehr would not be enough. They had the foresight to realize that not only would the Nazi SS SD conduct operations against Great Britain, but also that Himmler might use his Gestapo personnel to conduct his own operations against the allies. In an example of excellent judgment, MI-5 selected Eric Roberts to run an operation against the Nazi’s.

So how does one bank clerk with nothing more than a suspicion that Germany would recruit more spies in the UK manage to foil the Gestapo? It occurred to our seemingly dull bank clerk that the best way to locate any disloyal, Gestapo-inclined British citizens was to recruit them first.

Roberts set up a system that any pyramid scheme con man would envy.

He posed as an undercover Gestapo agent and recruited the would-be traitors. They thought they were working for the Gestapo. Rather than arrest them, MI-5 trained them and used them to recruit their own networks of “Nazi” spies.

Roberts’s operation dried up the pools of Nazi sympathizers and kept them occupied, hindering the Nazi efforts to find real British traitors to work for them. Meanwhile, MI-5 and MI-6 both fed a healthy diet of double agents to the Abwehr, the SS SD, and the Gestapo. These double agents presented the Germans with various case files of imaginary agents, producing tons of delightful and delicious, but usually fake, information. They fed the Germans enough real information to keep them happy, but that real information was just late enough for it to not quite be useful.

Eric Roberts’s operations against the Gestapo, along with similar operations by MI-5 and MI-6 against the Abwehr and SS SD, explain why Hitler was so certain that the allied D-Day invasion would land at Calais rather than at Normandy. Hitler held stubbornly to that conviction against the advice of his General Staff and the advice of his Army Headquarters Staff.

After World War Two, Eric Roberts and his family moved to Salt Spring Island in Canada.

 

Salt Spring Island, Canada Image by Paperandglue, public domain.

Salt Spring Island, Canada
Image by Paperandglue, public domain.

 

There, he pursued a quiet rural life on the Canadian Pacific. Roberts took up writing and, not surprisingly, he was popular with the local inhabitants. Clearly, the man had a great talent for establishing friendships.

Eric Arthur Roberts passed away in 1972 with no recognition for his fantastic work against the Nazis. Like so many intelligence service personnel, he took his secrets to the grave with him. We now know that this seemingly insignificant bank clerk played an important role in defeating the Nazi plague.

Piper and I offer our humble but sincere salute to Eric Arthur Roberts and his cohorts, both known and unknown, on this 5th Annual Love-A-Spook Day.

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4th Annual Love-A-Spook Day – An Insignificant Quaker Woman

By Jay Holmes

Three years ago, my writing partner, Piper Bayard, declared October 31st to be Love-A-Spook Day in appreciation of the quiet contributions of the intelligence community. In real life, versus Hollywood, not all spooks are highly trained supermen and superwomen who look like Daniel Craig and Scarlett Johansson. Many are simple people who rise to the occasion of their moment in history. Lydia Darragh was one of those people.

Lydia Barrington Darragh

Lydia Barrington Darragh

To learn about this remarkable nurse, midwife, and spy who affected the course of history, please click on the link below, and remember to transfer your subscription. We want to welcome you all to our new digs.

Bayard & Holmes

4th Annual Love a Spook Day

An Insignificant Quaker Woman

The Fall of the Falcon and How Top Security Access Changed — Or Didn’t

By Jay Holmes

In the past two weeks, we looked at how two of America’s recent traitors, Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee, developed from childhood friends into spies for the Soviet Union. See When Altar Boys Get Bored–The TRW National Security Disaster, and Why You Don’t Want Chemically-Enhanced Partners in Treason.

Top Secret Canstock

After their brief and all-too-productive careers as spies, Federal Marshals arrested Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee in January, 1977. By May, they were convicted of espionage. Boyce was given a 40-year sentence. Due to his higher number of convictions and the fact that he had violated his parole from prior drug dealing convictions, Lee was given a life sentence.

The trial was markedly speedy. I’ve always wondered if the federal judges and prosecutors were in a hurry to get it done and out of the news as quickly as possible. There was plenty of embarrassment to go around, and too many taxpayers might have asked too many questions too loudly about how much tax money they were giving TRW to carelessly allow so much Top Secret information stroll out their door.

Boyce and Lee were clearly guilty of espionage and deserved the infamy that came their way. In my view, they deserved worse than they got. But Boyce never should have had access to the information that he sold to the Soviets in the first place. The sloppy practices that allowed Top Secret communications and telemetry codes to be so easily stolen deserved close scrutiny by the federal government. If any such scrutiny occurred, it happened very quietly and remains a remarkably well-guarded secret. Any ramifications to TRW Corporation, the NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the CIA—if they occurred at all—were far better hidden than all of the Top Secret data in their collective care.

Boyce and Lee started serving their sentences at Terminal Island federal prison in California.  After a while, Boyce was moved to a jail in San Diego. I assume that the move was to make it easier for investigators to do follow up interrogations, as they were never certain that they had the full story. Counter Intelligence agents in the FBI and CIA likely wondered if there were even more spies at TRW.

On July 10, 1979, Boyce was transferred to a federal prison in Lompoc, California. Neither Boyce nor Lee was fond of prison life. The social status of a convicted traitor in prison is close to that of a pedophile. Life was appropriately unpleasant for them at the bottom of the prison social ladder.

Boyce was smart enough and patient enough to carefully plan an escape. He took up jogging and ran laps to build his endurance. On January 21, 1980, Boyce escaped from Lompoc prison. He ran all night to gain as much distance as possible. He stole some clothes from a clothes line and managed to elude capture.

After Boyce’s escape, Lee was moved to a higher security federal prison in Marion, Illionos.  Lee claims that that ended his “friendship” with Boyce.

Now free but on the lamb, Boyce faced serious challenges. How would he escape the notice of alert passerbys or the occasional FBI agents and US Marshals that he might run in to in his day? How would he eat? Boyce’s one career skill, the “my FBI daddy got me this job” option, was no longer available to him.

Boyce started on a new career in bank robbery as the cornerstone of his financial planning. He befriended a single mom with a strong anti-establishment, anti-social outlook, and she became his bank robbing assistant.

Generally, bank robbers plan and execute profitable enough robberies to net enough cash to keep them from having to take the risk too often. Bank robbery is a dangerous crime. It can easily escalate to multiple murders, which then attract the interest of major law enforcement assets such as the FBI and state police. Bank robberies in Western states have an additional risk. Sometimes an impatient customer doesn’t like having his busy schedule interrupted by a snotty little bank robber, and he simply pulls a weapon and shoots the crook. Unfortunately, Boyce never robbed a bank that I happened to be standing in, so I never got the chance to shoot him. Neither did anyone else.

Boyce and his pickup team of latter day bank robbers may not have been too clear on the best model for successful heists, but they managed to rob 17 banks without being killed or captured. I have to give them credit for getting away with their hides intact.

Boyce developed the alias of “Anthony Edward Lester.” He knew he couldn’t live as a fugitive in the US forever, so he took flying lessons and planned to fly to the Soviet Union. He naively believed that the KGB would offer him an active commission as an officer in the Soviet military.

The USSR always maintained reputable training facilities for military officers. They turned out well-trained, intelligent officers, and Boyce would not have been given any sort of real commission. Might they have given him some cute medals and certificates to hang on the limited wall space of a small apartment in Moscow? Sure. Would they have given him a manuscript to sign off on and then publish it for him? You bet they would have. Would the Soviets have been so dumb as to treat Boyce like a real adult and make him an active officer in the KGB or Soviet military? Unfortunately, they were always smarter than that. The Soviets would have probably propped him up for propaganda purposes, but his life in the USSR would have been little better than life in a federal prison in the US.

As Boyce slowly increased his piloting skills, the FBI and US Marshals Service were each conducting “manhunts” for him and closing in. In August of 1981, the feds received a viable tip from one of Boyce’s  bank robbery teammates that Boyce was in Port Angeles, Washington. A task force of eighteen US Marshals, six FBI agents, and a US Border Patrol agent was formed and began a systematic investigation in Port Angeles.

On August 21, 1981, two US Marshals pulled into a drive-in restaurant, The Pit Stop. There sat Christopher Boyce. The temptation to immediately draw down on him must have been intense. The Marshals were calm and disciplined. They called for back-up. Once they had five agents in place, they arrested Boyce. Boyce received another conviction for his escape and was returned to prison.

In recent years, both Boyce and Lee were paroled. Their life as spies is over, but questions remain about their cases. Why was there apparently no negative consequence to the people at TRW who were responsible for the handling and security of the Top Secret information? TRW has since been involved in other scandals, including illegal dumping of dangerous chemicals and hazardous work place practices. They and many other companies with histories of shabby security practices remain beneficiaries of multibillion dollar defense and intelligence contracts.

TRW in Asia

Boyce and Lee were amateurs. Lee all but begged to be caught. But were there other and more sober employees at TRW and other contractors that remain at large? Since 9-11, we have seen sweeping changes in law enforcement and politics. The US Congress and the past and present Presidents all claim a desperate need for more invasive domestic surveillance in order that we might survive one more day. And yet we have the same open borders and the same sloppy handling of our own top secrets.

As I send this article to my fearless warrior-editor, TRW and other federal contractors are in a legal fight over alleged improper bidding practices by TRW in its attempt to gain yet another huge contract for the next generation of US spy satellites. It is my considered opinion that what occurred at TRW in the 70s could still be happening there today, and at any other contractor that handles secret information for the US government. Private Bradley Manning has demonstrated that it can just as easily still be happening with government employees, as well.

Remember the old saying about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped?  The Falcon has long fallen, and the Snowman melted, but in our ever-increasing zeal to know everything about every citizen, have we even bothered to close the barn door?  I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think so.