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Authors: Randall B. Woods

Shadow Warrior

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Shadow Warrior

“This is a superbly crafted biography-cum-history. The evidential standards are exemplary. The interviews, especially the interviews with Colby family members, combine with the author's fluent literacy to make the book a readable account of the life of an official whose career summed up the best and the worst of CIA history.”

—Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of
In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence

“Randall Woods has written the biography that William Colby deserves. Colby, whose 30-year career in US intelligence began as a Jedburgh in the OSS, ended as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and featured the Phoenix program and the Family Jewels, lived and died a mystery. Woods's prodigious research and engaging exposition provide a textured portrait of a means-justify-the-ends patriot whose beliefs and behavior complicate the narrative of America from the origins to the height of the Cold War.”

—Richard H. Immerman,
Professor and Edward J. Buthusiem Family

Distinguished Faculty Fellow in History,
Temple University

“Randall Woods's biography of Bill Colby takes us deep into the secretive world of US intelligence. As a historical figure Colby's importance is clear, but readers will also be drawn to Colby by the mysteries of his personality: one part romantic, one part bureaucratic warrior, one part covert operations fighter, one part unlikely crusader for a candid relationship between the US public, Congress, and the CIA. Randall Woods, a distinguished American diplomatic historian and biographer, tells both the public and private story of Colby with aplomb and great skill.
Shadow Warrior
deserves to be read by anyone interested in the history of the CIA and its involvement in the key moments of US policy in the crucial years between World War Two and the 1970s.”

—Wesley Wark, author of
Secret Intelligence: A Reader
,
Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

SHADOW
WARRIOR

ALSO BY RANDALL B. WOODS

LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

Quest for Identity: America Since 1945

J. William Fulbright, Vietnam, and the
Search for a Cold War Foreign Policy

Fulbright: A Biography

A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941–1946

SHADOW
WARRIOR

W
ILLIAM
E
GAN
C
OLBY
AND THE
CIA

R
ANDALL
B. W
OODS

BASIC BOOKS

A MEMBER OF THE PERSEUS BOOKS GROUP

New York

Copyright © 2013 by Randall B. Woods

Published by Basic Books,

A Member of the Perseus Books Group

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Basic Books, 250 West 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

Designed by Timm Bryson

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Woods, Randall Bennett, 1944–

William Egan Colby and the CIA / Randall B. Woods.

 
p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

 
ISBN 978-0-465-03788-9 (e-book) 1. Colby, William Egan, 1920–1996. 2. United States. Central Intelligence Agency—Biography. 3. Intelligence officers—United States—Biography. 4. Vietnam War, 1961–1975—Secret service—United States. 5. World War, 1939–1945—Secret service—United States. I. Title.

UB271.U52C657 2013

327.12730092—dc23

[B]

2012040332

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For my daughter, Nicole Woods Olmstead

CONTENTS

  
1
   
THE DISAPPEARANCE

  
2
   
THE COLBYS AND THE EGANS

  
3
   
JEDBURGH

  
4
   
A BRIDGE TOO FAR

  
5
   
THE AGENCY

  
6
   
COVERT OPERATIONS ON THE PERIPHERY OF THE COLD WAR

  
7
   
POLITICAL ACTION AND LA DOLCE VITA

  
8
   
COLD WAR COCKPIT

  
9
   
FIGHTING A PEOPLE'S WAR

10
   
THE MILITARY ASCENDANT

11
   
SECRET ARMIES

12
   
LAUNCHING THE OTHER WAR

13
   
CORDS: A PEACE CORPS WITH GUNS

14
   
BIRDS OF PEACE AND BIRDS OF WAR

15
   
THE FAMILY JEWELS

16
   
ASCENSION

17
   
REVELATIONS

18
   
DANCING WITH HENRY

19
   
DEATH OF A DREAM

20
   
FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL

21
   
EPILOGUE

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

1
     
THE DISAPPEARANCE

S
aturday, April 27, 1996, dawned clear and warm; it was going to be a beautiful spring day on the Chesapeake Bay. Although his second wife, Sally, was away visiting her mother in Houston, Bill Colby was a happy man. William Egan Colby, former CIA director, Saigon station chief, and head of America's counterinsurgency and pacification operation in Vietnam, as well as a veteran of World War II's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), spent the day working on his 37-foot sloop,
Eagle Wing II
. The Colbys owned a vacation cottage on Neale Sound in Southern Maryland, about 60 miles south of Washington, DC, and the
Eagle Wing
was moored at the marina on Cobb Island, directly across the sound from the cottage. The seventy-six-year-old retired spy and covert operative had worked hard repairing the torn mainsail on his beloved vessel, scraping the hull, and scouring the hardware in preparation for the year's maiden voyage.

Sometime between 5:30 and 6:00
P.M
., Colby knocked off and climbed into his red Fiat for the drive home. On the way, he stopped at Captain John's, a popular seafood restaurant and market, and bought a dozen clams and some corn on the cob for his dinner. He arrived at the cottage around 7:00. The house was modest, a turn-of-the-century oysterman's lodging with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a glassed-in front porch. But the view of the sound—the white frame structure was situated on a spit of land, surrounded by water on three sides—was spectacular.

Weary but content, Colby unloaded his groceries and called Sally. The two had married in 1984. Colby, theretofore a devoted Catholic, had left Barbara Colby, his equally Catholic wife of thirty-nine years and mother of their five children, for Sally—intelligent, attractive, a former US ambassador
to Grenada. The two were besotted with each other. Other than for weddings or funerals, Colby never darkened the door of a Catholic church again. The two chatted warmly but briefly over the phone. Bill told Sally that he was happy but tired; he was going to feast on clams and corn—his favorites—and then turn in.

Around 7:15, Joseph “Carroll” Wise, the cottage's off-season caretaker, turned into the driveway. He had his sister in tow and wanted her to meet his famous client. They found Colby watering his willow trees down near the water. The trio chatted briefly, and then Wise and his sister drove away. It was the last time they would see Bill Colby alive.

On Sunday afternoon, Colby's next-door neighbor, Alice Stokes, noticed that the Fiat was still parked in the driveway. She checked the jetty they shared; the aluminum ladder Colby used to climb down into his canoe was in the water. A frayed rope hung from the iron rung he used to moor his canoe, but there was no sign of the craft. Meanwhile, Kevin Akers, a twenty-nine-year-old unemployed carpenter and handyman, had taken his wife and two kids out on the sound in his small motorboat. At the point where Neale Sound turned into the Wicomico River, Akers spotted a beached green canoe. There was nothing unusual about that. Akers, who had spent all his life around the Chesapeake, had in the past picked up small craft that had broken loose from their moorings and towed them to the marina. Akers later recalled that this canoe was nearly filled with sand; it had taken him and his wife the better part of an hour to empty it. He had been out on the water the day before and had not spotted the canoe. There was no way, he mused, that two cycles of the tide could put that much sand in a canoe.

Around 7:00 Sunday evening, Alice Stokes called 911 to report a missing person. The local police arrived at half past eight. Both doors to the cottage were unlocked. Colby's computer and radio were on. Unwashed dishes and the remnants of a half-eaten meal lay in the sink. A partially filled glass of white wine sat on the counter; the bottle, with very little missing, was on the table in the sunroom. Also on the table were Colby's wallet, containing $296, and his keys. The canoe and its paddle and life jacket were missing from the nearby shed. Policewoman Sharon Walsh alerted the Coast Guard, and the search was on.

Over the next few days, a dozen navy divers, two helicopters, and more than a hundred volunteers scoured the area. They found nothing. On the
morning of May 6, nine days after Colby was last seen, his body was spotted on the shoreline of Neale Sound, approximately 40 meters from where Kevin Akers had discovered the green canoe. The police announced that there were no signs of foul play. Most likely the old man had suffered a heart attack and fallen into the water. The state medical examiner's office issued a preliminary verdict of accidental death.

When Akers learned who had owned the green canoe, alarm bells began going off in his head. There was the unexplained overabundance of sand in the canoe. More significant, the boat and the body were separated by a spit of land. Given the prevailing currents, there was no way the canoe could have wound up on one side of the spit and Colby on the other. The former spook had been murdered, he concluded. Akers gathered his family and went into hiding.

The Neale Sound handyman was not the only doubter. Zalin Grant was in Paris when he heard the news of Colby's death. The former director of central intelligence (DCI) had gone paddling in his canoe at night, fallen out, and drowned? Not a chance. Grant, a Vietnam veteran, war correspondent, and author, had known Colby in Vietnam. Colby had subsequently helped the journalist write his book on counterinsurgency and the CIA. Grant admired him, agreeing with US counterinsurgency expert Edward Lansdale's observation that Colby was the most effective American—soldier or civilian—to serve in the Vietnam War. The man was fit, seasoned, and prudent, not some doddering septuagenarian. And he had enemies, some of them quite dangerous. Finally, Colby's death reminded Grant of the demise of another CIA official some twenty years earlier under eerily similar circumstances. On the moonlit night of September 23, 1978, John Arthur Paisley had vanished in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Paisley was last seen alive that morning, crossing a narrow section of the bay aboard his sloop
Brillig
. A week later, on October 1, a bloated and badly decomposed body was found floating in the water, a 9-millimeter gunshot wound in the back of the head and weighted diver's belts around the waist. The CIA suggested that Paisley had committed suicide, but the Maryland state coroner's office ruled that he had died of indeterminate causes.
1

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