8th Annual Love-A-Spook Day — Honoring Analysts

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Bayard & Holmes created Love-A-Spook Day eight years ago on October 31 to honor the contributions of those in the clandestine services. In previous Love-a-Spook Day articles, we have focused on remarkable individuals who have made great contributions to our national security, usually at great personal risk. This year let us consider a group of spooks who will likely never receive a medal, a handshake from a US president, or even much of a “thank you” on their way out the door after decades of hard work and loyalty.

You may have met some of these spooks, and unless you are in their “need to know” zone, they probably never told you what they did.

You might live next door to one. They will discuss gardening, sports, PTA meetings and lots of other topics with you, and they will be happy to tell you about their “job,” just not their real job. The higher they are in their field and the more critical their work is, the less you will know about it. The chances are that long after they retire, they will hold to their “cover story.” The more exciting their career was, the more mundane their cover will be.

 

We don’t know if this woman is an analyst. Her neighbors would never know, either.

 

The spooks that I am referring to are those that we collectively refer to as “analysts.” They sound every bit as humdrum as Wall Street bond analysts. They aren’t.

In the military aviation world, bomber pilots are fond of saying, “Fighter pilots make movies; we make history.” Intelligence analysts might say, “Covert operatives make movies; we make history.” They would be fairly well-justified in saying it.

We in the covert operations side of the business may at times undervalue the work of analysts, and at times we become impatient with them.

From our point of view, we found it, saw it, recorded it, photographed it, and at times even blew it up. It might seem like the intelligence picture in front of us is as clear as a sunny day. If not that, then at least as clear as the best technology will illuminate a dark night or see through a fog-filled day in Beijing. So why, then, would the analysts fret or question our interpretations?

For example, when standing at a window in a foreign country observing a major terrorist come and go day after day, we operatives might wonder why action has not been taken.

From where we stand at that moment, we cannot see that the analytical team is also receiving valid information from a wide range of other sources. We may have solidly identified a nasty and dangerous jihadi skumbag. We may have a team in good position to gift said skumbag his seventy-two virgins—which are probably Chinese blow up dolls. We may even be in a position to make sure that the local cops report it as an attack by a rival group of jihadi skumbags. At the same time, some drone pilot sitting in a cargo container thousands of miles away might also be wondering why he can’t go ahead and fire. Let’s get this party started!

More experienced field spooks know better than to make assumptions about what’s going on “back at the office.”

 

Actual photo of a jihadi’s heavenly reward.

 

While we in the field are ready to rumble, an analytical team may have good reason to believe that the skumbag in question is soon going to attend a meeting with a dozen higher-ranking skumbags, and if we are all patient, then we can arrange a much more profitable use of a $25,000 JDAM bomb or a $110,000 drone-fired Hellfire missile. At any price point, why settle for one dead bad guy if you can kill or capture a dozen? More experienced operatives have learned that there is always more at stake than what is in front of a single team or even entire groups of teams in a region.

It can be difficult to remain patient when suffering from a few exotic and unpleasant diseases in a filthy, dangerous corner of the world where cruise ships don’t visit while wondering how the wife and children are doing at home. We can’t contact them. It would be nice to go home. We might start telling jokes amongst ourselves about the analysts,* deputy directors, and various politicians. We have to keep ourselves laughing somehow. But let us assume then that in spite of our jokes, our team and other teams remain patient.

If the risks and the patience pay off, and a dozen jihadi skumbags find themselves trying to inflate plastic blowup dolls in hell, we will all be happy, and that happiness traces back to the analysts.

If the success story is shared with the media, the public will envision Navy SEALs, Green Berets, fighter pilots, cranky ill-mannered spooks, or any other manner of heroes as having scored another victory. Few members of the public and even fewer members of the government will stop to consider that without long hours, days, weeks, months, and in many cases years of very difficult work on the part of anonymous analysts in the background, the success would not have been possible.

Let us dispel a few popular myths about analysts.

  • They are analysts because they couldn’t cut it inthe field.

No. They are analysts because they have very high IQs, a strong work ethic, stable egos, trustworthiness, the ability to remain objective at all times regardless of their passions, and a dogged devotion to the pursuit of the truth.

  • Analysts are all alike and all do similar work.

No. Analysts are quite varied in education, skill sets, personalities, and jobs. Some might be brilliant scientists, engineers, or computer experts. They might analyze scientific data collected in the field, or they might invent new methods of analysis. Some might specialize in the personalities of foreign leaders, such as Vladimir Putin, and spend years examining every available piece of information about them. Others might specialize in counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence. There are about a dozen main types of analysts and various groups within each type. They work together as needed to meet the day’s demands for intelligence.

  • Analysts spend their careers doing the same thing on the same team.

No. The CIA and other agencies are certain that it is best for analysts to change teams after a few years so that they will not lose perspective or start missing valuable clues. A career analyst will have worked in several different areas of focus.

  • Analysts never go to the mythical and glorious field.

They sometimes do, and some more than others. At times, a particular analyst might be the best person for a meeting with an agent or potential agent. Analysts also may take assignments at US embassies or other foreign locations.

  • Analysts never face danger.

I wish that were true. It is not. What do you think Team Jihadi would pay for the location of the person that led the hunt for Bin Laden? What do you think they would do with that information? Before SEAL Team Six could fly to that compound in Pakistan, a large and very dedicated team led by a brilliant man worked for years to get a solid location on Osama. Many lunches were skipped. Nights at home were skipped. Vacations were missed. Sleep was lost, and who can even calculate the thousands of hours of unpaid overtime that those team members worked? They wouldn’t call it “overtime.” They wouldn’t call it anything. They won’t even tell you they were there doing the work.

So as we celebrate our 8th Annual Love-a-Spook Day, let us remember the thousands of unsung heroes that dedicate their lives to the difficult process of turning data and evidence into useful intelligence with which the president can make better decisions—the analysts.

 

Happy Love-A-Spook Day, Analysts,

and thank you for your dedication and hard work.

 

*To all the analysts out there, I am 90% certain that I take back 90% of the unkind jokes that “me and mine” have told about you over the years. Thank you. ~ JH

 

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Virginia Hall–Bayard & Holmes 7th Annual Love-A-Spook Day Honoree

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

In 2010, Bayard & Holmes declared Halloween to be Love-A-Spook Day. It is the day when we honor the remarkable unsung heroes of the Intelligence Community, without whom we could not hope to enjoy the benefits of this great nation. This year, our honoree is Distinguished Service Cross recipient Virginia Hall, who served with distinction behind enemy lines during WWII with the British Special Operations Executive and later with the OSS and the CIA.

 

Virginia Hall receiving Distinguished Service Cross from OSS Gen. William Donovan, 1945 Image by US Govt., public domain.

Virginia Hall receiving Distinguished Service Cross
from OSS Gen. William Donovan, 1945
Image by US Govt., public domain.

 

Virginia was born on April 6, 1906, to a wealthy family in Baltimore, Maryland. Having a gift for languages, she studied French, German, and Italian at Radcliffe College and Barnard College and then traveled to Europe to continue her education in Austria, France, and Germany. Virginia hoped that her language skills would allow her to enter the US Foreign Service.

After finishing her studies in 1931, she was hired as a Consular Service clerk at the US Embassy in Warsaw.

From there, she was assigned to a consulate office in Izmir, Turkey. While in Turkey, Virginia had a hunting accident and had to have her lower left leg amputated. She obtained a wooden prosthetic leg, which she named “Cuthbert,” and was then assigned to the US consulate in Venice.

Virginia requested permission to take the US Foreign Service Exam, but she was informed that due to her injury, she could not apply for a position as a diplomat. She returned to the US and attended graduate school at American University in Washington, DC.

In 1940, Virginia was visiting Paris when Germany invaded France.

She responded to the invasion by volunteering with the French Ambulance Corps and driving ambulances to evacuate wounded French soldiers from the front. When France surrendered to Germany, Virginia escaped to Spain, and then on to England.

In London, Virginia met Vera Atkins, a recruiter for British Special Operations Executive (“SOE”).

The circumstances of that fateful meeting are not clear. Some sources say they met on a train while evacuating France, and others claim that they met at a party in London. Never one to avoid danger, Virginia applied for service in the British SOE and was accepted.

Virginia trained in weapons, communications, and as a resistance organizer for occupied France. In August of 1941, she infiltrated Vichy, France. Some sources state that she was the first female SOE agent to do so.

The US was not yet directly involved in the war, so Virginia posed as a news correspondent for the New York Post. Once the US entered the war in December of 1941, the sensible thing for her to do would have been to quickly make her way back to England. Fortunately for the allied effort, she declined to escape and went underground.

When Virginia infiltrated Vichy, France in 1941, the Vichy Republic region was not yet occupied by the Nazis because the Petain government fully collaborated with the Nazis. At that time, operating in Vichy was more dangerous for an SOE agent than operating in the Nazi occupied region of France. The Vichy government had command of the French police departments, and with so many reliable local assets, it could more easily discover infiltrators and resistors. Most SOE agents sent into Vichy, France in 1941 and 1942 were killed or captured within days.

Virginia clearly had the right talents, education, courage, and determination for her difficult work. She quickly earned a reputation as a great recruiter and resistance organizer in France.

She was instrumental in the rescue of hundreds of downed allied aviators, and she arranged their safe return to England. She also organized a network of safe houses and coordinated numerous air drops of weapons and supplies to the French Resistance at a time when most drops were being intercepted by the Vichy police and the Gestapo.

Virginia’s successes did not go completely unnoticed by the Vichy government and the Nazi Gestapo. The Gestapo branded her as the most dangerous spy in all of France, and they made her capture a priority.

In November of 1942, most of the Vichy-controlled French colonial military forces in northwest Africa offered only token resistance to the allied landings in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The Nazis decided that the Vichy government was not collaborating to Hitler’s satisfaction, and they took over control of the Vichy Republic. Infamous Gestapo leader Clause Barbie demanded that “the woman with the limp,” as Virginia was known, be captured and brought directly to him so that he could personally strangle her.

Virginia managed to stay one step ahead of the Gestapo, and that winter, she escaped on foot over the Pyrenees to Spain.

During her trek over the snow-covered Pyrenees, Virginia radioed her progress to the SOE and mentioned that she hoped that “Cuthbert” would not give her too much trouble. The SOE officer that responded, apparently not in on the joke, messaged back that if Cuthbert gave her trouble, he should be “eliminated.” Fortunately, Virginia managed to keep Cuthbert in her service and made it to Spain, where she was captured by the Spanish police.

After the US embassy learned of her internment, they claimed her as a legitimate US citizen and demanded her release. Virginia then began working undercover in Spain. After four months, she decided that she was no longer achieving enough, and she returned to England in hopes of doing more “useful” work. In 1943, England’s King George VI presented Virginia Hall with an Honorary Membership in the Order of the British Empire for her remarkable courage and successes.

Though she could have accepted a position as an instructor or agent handler in England, Virginia left the SOE in order to join the fledgling American Office of Strategic Services, the OSS. Remarkably, she volunteered to return to occupied France.

Virginia dyed her hair gray and disguised herself as an elderly farmer. Since her wooden leg made a nighttime parachute drop too dangerous for her, she was infiltrated back to Bretagne, France on a British torpedo boat. Using the alias “Marcelle Montagne” and the code name “Diane,” she made her way to central France, where she set up radio communications with London. In addition to transmitting intelligence back to London, Virginia again organized successful supply drops for the French Resistance, established safe houses, helped train three battalions of Free French guerilla forces, and linked up with a Jedburgh team after the Allied invasion. In spite of Clause Barbie’s personal vendetta against her, Virginia avoided capture and continued operating until the Allies liberated central France in 1944.

In September of 1945, on behalf of a grateful nation, OSS General William “Wild Bill” Donovan presented Virginia Hall with a Distinguished Service Cross.

That was the highest honor received by any female civilian during World War II. President Truman had intended to present her the award in a public ceremony at the White House, but Virginia insisted that the ceremony be kept from public view because she was “anxious to get back to work” and still needed her cover. She wasn’t finished yet.

Virginia went to work undercover in Italy operating against Soviet efforts to cultivate Italian communist groups. Afterward, she worked with a CIA front group, the National Committee for a Free Europe, which was associated with Radio Free Europe.

In 1950, Virginia married OSS Agent Paul Goillot, and in the following year, both Virginia and her husband joined the newly-established CIA. Virginia became an expert on resistance groups in Soviet-occupied Europe. She remained in the shadows and worked on a variety of projects until her retirement in 1966.

Virginia Hall Goillot passed away of natural causes at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Maryland, on July 8, 1982. To this day, her remarkable history of selfless service in the cause of freedom remains a shining example for the intrepid few who might dare to follow in her footsteps.

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Previous Love-A-Spook Day Posts

1st Annual Love-A-Spook 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

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

Love-A-Spook Day: Billy Waugh – On Teams that Found Carlos the Jackal & Osama Bin Laden

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Three years ago on October 31, Piper started the Annual Love-A-Spook Day. It’s the day when we pause and offer a moment of thanks for our hard-working men and women in our nation’s clandestine services. We would not be able to enjoy the benefits of this great nation without them. Today, we honor the un-fate-able Billy Waugh as a representative of the many who serve in our intelligence community.

SGM Billy Waugh

They say old soldiers never die; they just fade away. Then there’s Billy Waugh. On December 1, 1929 the Waugh family of Bastrop Texas added a baby boy to their ranks. It would have been difficult for his parents or anyone else in Bastrop to imagine the remarkable life that boy would live.

In 1948, Billy joined the US Army and graduated Airborne school the same year. In 1951, he fought in the Korean War with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.

After the Korean War, Billy was accepted for Army Special Forces training. In 1954, he earned his green beret and joined the 10th Special Forces in Germany. Little has been published about Waugh’s time with the 10th in Germany, but he likely spent much of his time preparing for work behind Warsaw Pact lines, preparing for the possibility that the Soviet Army might cross the Fulda Gap into West Germany.

In 1961, US President Kennedy was optimistic about what US Army Special Forces teams might achieve in Viet Nam. Billy Waugh was one of the many remarkable American soldiers who proved JFK right, and in fact exceeded his wildest dreams for US Military Special Forces.

In 1961, Waugh left the United States for a quick tour of duty in Southeast Asia and forgot to tell anyone that he would be gone for nearly a decade.

In 1965, Billy lead an advance patrol of a Civilian Irregular Defense Group to what had previously been identified as a North Vietnamese Army (“NVA”) camp with less than 200 NVA soldiers. Unfortunately, the camp had since been reinforced by both NVA and Chinese forces and contained over 4,000 enemy troops.

After inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, Waugh was badly wounded in his head and legs and left for dead by the counter-attacking communist forces. Waugh later regained consciousness and managed to make it back to where his team maintained a defensive position against the communist forces. He was successfully evacuated to a field hospital. In spite of his severe wounds, Waugh survived and underwent reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy at Walter Reed Hospital.

Everyone understood that Billy’s army career was over. Everyone except Billy, that is. Remarkably, he regained enough of his health and ability to avoid a medical discharge from the Army. Everyone then knew that with his long combat experience and years of training, he would make a fine administrative Non-Commissioned Officer. However, Waugh had something else in mind. He managed to wrangle a transfer back to Viet Nam to serve in a Special Forces Headquarters. After getting himself back to Viet Nam, it wasn’t long before he managed to get away from a desk and back into the jungle with combat teams.

In 1966, Waugh joined the elite, inter-service Studies and Observation Group. This group frequently engaged in hair-raising but successful schemes to harm the NVA and Viet Cong Guerillas while assisting Laotians, Cambodians, and rural Viet Namese in developing defensive skills.

In 1971, Billy took part in the first recorded High Altitude Low Opening jump into enemy territory ever conducted.

SGM Billy Waugh on left, image from militaryphotos.net

After the Viet Nam War, Waugh retired from the US Army. During his Army career he was decorated with many medals including the Silver Star, The Legion of Merit, four Bronze Stars, four Purple Hearts, four Army Commendation Medals (with V for valor), and an incredible fourteen Army Air Medals. If not for the clandestine nature of so many of his combat missions in Southeast Asia, he likely would have received multiple awards of the Distinguished Service Cross, or possibly a Medal of Honor. I doubt that it would have mattered much to Billy Waugh. He got what he had wanted all along, a chance to serve his country and to defend freedom. He and his many fine cohorts did both magnificently.

After spending so many years in combat and suffering so many severe injuries, a reasonable man would have spent his retirement years gardening and perhaps teaching Sunday School. Fortunately for the United States, Billy Waugh cannot be accused of being anything like “reasonable.”

Waugh’s idea of retirement was to spend decades in the CIA, both on the employee side of the shop and the contractor side of the shop. Between his various periods of service with the CIA, he used his “fun time” to earn a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University. Note to graduate students: Stop whining. What you’re doing is what people like Billy Waugh do for vacation.

Waugh’s decades of service for the CIA included time in corners of Africa and central Asia where reasonable men don’t go. As a result, Billy was instrumental in locating and tracking Carlos the Jackal in his refuge in Khartoum. Thanks to him and his coworkers, the US was able to give France the details concerning Carlos’ location and activities, which allowed the French to capture and imprison Carlos in France without any diplomatic entanglements for the US.

Billy also tracked another infamous scumbag criminal that was at the time less known, Osama Bin Laden. Billy and his team tracked Bin Laden and were prepared to kill him, but, unfortunately, they did not receive permission to do so.

After Bin Laden’s followers committed the 9/11 atrocities against the US, a youthful 71-yr-old Billy was among that small handful of Americans who entered Afghanistan to coordinate with the Northern Alliance against the radical Islamic Taliban. They succeeded quickly and efficiently at a remarkably low cost in lives and wealth. The fact that the US later squandered their success by propping up a weak, corrupt facade of a government in Kabul while failing to gain real cooperation from the splintered government in Pakistan in no way lessons the remarkable achievements of the CIA personnel who lead the charge against the Taliban.

At the spry age of 82, Billy continues to serve his country. The full extent of his past and current activities remains unknown, but I know this. Billy Waugh asked for nothing and gave his all. On this Third Annual Love-A-Spook Day, we extend our gratitude to Billy Waugh and his many fellow Viet Nam Era veterans who have done so much for the intelligence community and for this nation.

You can learn more about Billy Waugh at his website, SGM Billy Waugh. There, you can find his books, HUNTING THE JACKAL and ISAAC CAMACHO, AN AMERICAN HERO. Be prepared to be amazed.

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Related Articles:

October 31: First Annual Spook Appreciation Day

She Wasn’t Really Naked: Josephine Baker–Dancer, Singer, Spy

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

October 31: First Annual Love-A-Spook Day

By Piper Bayard

There are many men and women around the world who risk their lives daily to bring us the news that isn’t published on CNN or Wikileaks. Some are stationed undercover overseas, some are scientists and engineers who devote their lives to developing the technology that protects our soldiers, and some are the retired servicemen and women who manage the local grocery stores, teach at community colleges, or tend to this year’s corn harvest until they are called up to serve in the Reserves — regular people doing their best to help keep our country safe.

That’s why I’m proposing a new holiday, Love-A-Spook Day, to recognize these regular people who sometimes do extraordinary things in service to their country.

It seems most appropriate to kick off the First Annual Love-A-Spook Day by honoring two regular paratroopers, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, who became immortal in the world of espionage by accomplishing one of the most daring and consequential feats in history — the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.

 

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik Image by UK Govt., public domain

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik
Image by UK Govt., public domain

 

Reinhard Heydrich was known as the Butcher of Prague, the Blond Beast, and the Hangman. His entire resume of ruthless deeds is too long for this forum, but notably, he concocted the idea of the Einsatzgruppen, the death squads of the S.S. Their main mission was to eliminate all sources of resistance to German domination — to kill all “undesirable” people, including Jews, Slavs, Polish intelligentsia, communists, Roma (“Gypsies”), homosexuals, and the disabled. He is the man who brought you the Holocaust.

In 1941, Heydrich became the governor of the Nazi-occupied territory between Germany and Russia. He ran his pseudo-kingdom from Prague, where he executed 300 Czechs within the first five weeks and imprisoned thousands more.

Enter Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik. Jan and Jozef were in a Czechoslovakian infantry brigade exiled to the United Kingdom. Jan was an electrician, and Jozef was a mechanic. They both fought in France in 1940 and were continuing their military service doing parachute training under British instruction. Personality-wise, they were good friends. Jan was the straight man, and Jozef was the funny guy, known for his good cheer.

They weren’t officers or Oxford grads or prominent rich people. They were two regular guys doing their best to serve their country, who just happened to be called on to take down one of the most powerful, evil men in history.

After extensive training in commando tactics and, for Jan, riding a bicycle, the men parachuted into Czechoslovakia. Their instructions were to assassinate Heydrich and escape south to Slovakia. According to some sources, they were instructed that under no circumstances were they to contact anyone in the Underground. They were undercover, in Nazi-occupied territory, targeting a genocidal titan with nothing but guns, a small bomb, and their cyanide pills as a last resort should they fail.

Fortunately for Jan and Jozef, as well as for the rest of the world, Heydrich was cocky. Not only did he like to ride in an open car, he kept the same routine, travelling the same roads on a regular basis. After six weeks of hiding out near Prague, Jan and Jozef took their chance. On the morning of May 27, 1942, at a sharp curve on the road into Prague, Jan covered with a machine gun, and Jozef threw a grenade into Heydrich’s car. Then, they made their escape across the St. Nicholas bridge on bicycles. Heydrich, fatally wounded by shrapnel that imbedded the stuffing from his car seat deep in his spleen, developed septicemia and died in agony a week later.

Himmler, himself, led the search for the assassins. For twenty days, mass arrests and mass executions were the rule, punctuated with massacres. He arbitrarily leveled the town of Lidice and plowed it into the ground, shooting two hundred men and boys, driving the women to concentration camps, and shipping the children off to Germany. Still no trace of the assassins. He  repeated this with the hamlet of Lezaky in southwestern Bohemia. After a month, he offered 1,000,000 marks for information and said that, in 48 hours, he would decimate Prague. At that, a man came forward, Alois Kral, who had served with Jan and Jozef in the U.K.

On Kral’s information, the Gestapo surrounded St. Bartholomeus Orthodox Church, where Jan and Josef hid in the cellar. By coincidence, two other Czech patriots were with them, Lt. Opalka and Josef Valcik. Some sources say there were seven men all together. There are some discrepancies depending upon the source. What is not in question is that the men fought with machine guns and pistols as long as their ammunition held out. Then, the Germans flooded the cellar. Jan, Jozef, and the others committed suicide to avoid capture.

The Nazis continued their retribution killings, totaling over 5,000 deaths in retaliation for Heydrich’s assassination. Some would say his assassination wasn’t worth it. However, many would respond that Heydrich was the mastermind behind the slaughter of millions, and, at thirty-eight, he was just getting warmed up.

Like most extraordinary men, Jan and Jozef were regular men made outstanding by their circumstances. So keep that in mind this first Love-A-Spook Day. As you’re passing out candy to all of the little ghosts who come to your door, spare a thought and a thank you to all of those men and women who work in the shadows to keep our country safe from the would-be Heydrichs who are born in every generation.

Related posts:

Holocaust Education & Archive Team Research Team WordPress Blog, The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich

Cinema Free Europe, Lidice Lives Again