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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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.

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.”

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

 

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.