THE BOOK OF HONOR -- THE TWO MIKES
The Two Mikes
AT TEN O'CLOCK on a sunlit Sunday morning -- October 10, 1965 -- two young men in khakis, both named Mike, hoisted themselves aboard an Air America chopper and lifted off from a tiny air base in Pakse, Laos. One was named Mike Deuel. The other, Mike Maloney. Both were said to be with the Agency for International Development, AID, helping to resettle displaced refugees. Their true purpose, stamped "Top Secret," would, for decades, keep the Central Intelligence Agency from speaking of their mission or even uttering their names aloud, though not for lack of pride.
From the vantage point of far-off Langley, these two young bulls -- Deuel was twenty-eight, Maloney twenty-five -- were as close to royalty as the CIA possessed. In their faces the Agency's leadership could read the CIA's proud past and what it took to be its illustrious future.
What set the two Mikes apart from other young covert operatives was that they were among the first sons of CIA career officers to take to the field. That Sunday morning flight -- the first time the two Mikes would link up -- was in itself of no great political or military consequence. But to the few at Langley who were cleared to know the names behind the code names and who were familiar with the lineage of these two men, it was something of an epochal event.
It marked the beginning of the end for that first generation of CIA officer who had come out of World War II and Donovan's OSS, and it ushered in a whole new era of clandestine warrior. By 1965, two full decades after World War II, the CIA's wartime veterans were entering their fifties and sixties. Balding and slower of step, they were sagelike presences in the halls of Langley, already cast in supervisory and support roles and, but for a defiant few, reluctantly accepting desk jobs. They understood it was time to leave the action to the "kids," as those of the successive generation were sometimes called. The old-timers had passed along their tradecraft and their vision of a world in peril, one whose salvation rested upon constant vigilance and sometimes desperate measures.
The two Mikes were the very embodiment of that legacy, eager to demonstrate their courage and their skills. Over time, the novelty of a second generation of CIA officer would fade. More and more sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, were drawn into the fold of clandestine service. It was no accident. Through summer jobs and internships, through preferences accorded the scions of Agency employees, and through the natural patterns of socializing among themselves, the CIA's intergenerational ranks swelled.
In time, they would come to form an unseen clandestine class and a culture all its own. Raised within a raucously open society, and yet a breed apart, they were reared to believe in the indispensability of espionage and the virtues of secrecy. They came to accept what the wider population could not -- that even the ultimate sacrifice must sometimes go unrecognized and unrecorded. As public suspicions of the Agency deepened in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs and the quagmire of Vietnam, the CIA increasingly gathered unto itself its own sons and daughters. They, above all others, could be trusted and demanded little explanation.
Mike Maloney and Mike Deuel were a part of that second generation of CIA officer who came of age in the early and mid-1960s and who would leave their own unique hallmark on the clandestine service for decades to come. To understand this second generation of Cold Warrior and its vision of the world, you must first come to know the stock from which they came and why, for the two Mikes, clandestine service was not merely a choice of career but an honored birthright, foreordained.
Mike Maloney's father, Arthur, was born in Connecticut in 1914. To his friends he was known as Art or Mal. No one ever doubted that he had the makings of a tough son of a bitch. He was a barrel-chested, Camel-smoking Irishman with a square jaw, teacup ears, a boxer's nose, and wild, bushy brows. His skin was pinkish and quick to sunburn. He could be gruff and intimidating but in an instant erupt with a roguish laugh from which neither funeral nor High Mass would have been safe.
He attended West Point, where he was the very embodiment of gung ho, even as a member of the backup lacrosse squad. One admiring observer wrote: "A whack from a lacrosse stick spread Maloney's schnoz so he could smell his ears. That normally is an annoying injury in sport but to a B-team player who picks his teeth with the cleats of the varsity stars a smeared bugle is no worse than a bad, but brief cold." Maloney took his soldiering seriously, but not himself. In the Academy's production of a musical comedy, he played an utterly ridiculous Romeo. He graduated from West Point in 1938 and one year later married Mary Evangeline Arens, a chestnut-haired coed with a will all her own. A year later they had a child, a son named Michael Arthur Maloney -- one of "The Two Mikes."
But Mal Maloney's homelife, like that of his generation, was interrupted by World War II. Maloney, a crack paratrooper, would find himself in charge of the 3rd Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the fabled 82nd Airborne Division. At 2:30 A.M., June 6, 1944 -- D-Day -- he was the first among his nineteen parachute troops to leap from the plane into occupied France. In addition to his own burly 200 pounds, he shouldered a carbine, a pistol, two knives, a land mine, four grenades, ammo, a watertight escape kit, $40 in French currency, a silk handkerchief map, a compass, and a file -- 350 pounds in all. Never before had he jumped with so little space between himself and the ground.
He landed in a pasture on the west side of the Merderet River. Soon after, his battalion commander was killed, and Maloney took charge. He was not yet thirty, making him by some accounts the youngest commander in the European theater. Seeing that his battalion was being pushed back under withering fire, he reorganized them and led them forward, personally taking a bazooka team to destroy an enemy tank. He showed complete contempt for his own safety. At Chef-du-Pont a bullet from a German sniper pierced his helmet, tore through the toilet paper he carried there, and exited out the other side. His shoulder holster was scarred by a second bullet that bounced off the barrel of his .45. Unshaven and with dried blood streaking his reddish beard, he was a forbidding presence, and damn proud of it. "I was probably the ugliest soldier in Normandy," he later boasted.
On July 7, 1944, on the forward slope of Hill 95 at La Poterie Ridge, a bullet tore through his right leg, grazed his groin, and ripped through his left leg, severing several nerves. A British doctor had him fully prepped and was about to amputate his right leg when Maloney persuaded him otherwise: "No fucking way," he barked. And though he had been told it was doubtful he would ever walk again or be able to have more children, he went on to be a father three times more (he already had two children) and took great pride in proving the doctors wrong. For a year he was in a stateside hospital. He received the Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, and the coveted Distinguished Service Cross. Upon winning the latter, the Hartford Times ran a photo of Mal and his son Mike, as the two posed with the colonel's perforated helmet. The caption read. "'And that's where it came out.' Little Michael explains the two bullet holes in the helmet of his daddy, Lt. Col. Arthur A. Maloney." Already "Little Michael" had been introduced to soldiering. Baptized in the chapel at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Little Michael was given a toy plane and a toy soldier for his first birthday.
In August 1946 Mal retired from the military as a full colonel. Few doubted that, but for his wound, he would soon have been a general. He worked for a time at Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and later the Aetna Insurance Company, but he chafed at desk jobs and hankered for military life. "You couldn't keep him away from anywhere there was shooting going on," recalled his friend Major General Paul F. Smith. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 Mal Maloney volunteered for duty but was rejected because of his bum leg. His beloved military wouldn't have him.
And so it was by default that he came to the CIA in March 1951. The CIA was as close as he could get to the front lines. It was never to be a perfect fit, but his paramilitary skills and command experience proved a valuable asset to the Agency, and he was promptly put to work first in the CIA's Office of Training and later the War Plans Division.
In 1957 Maloney received orders that he was to be transferred to Hawaii, where he would be under military cover -- hardly a stretch for the colonel. He was to dress in uniform and report daily to a nonexistent entity within the Department of Defense, the so-called Pacific Research Office. His actual CIA position was to be chief of the war plans staff, Far East Division, under the deputy director for plans. Specifically he was to help draft contingency war plans should North Korea, China, or both suddenly reach beyond their borders.
But the flight to Hawaii was to be even more harrowing than that which dropped him over wartime France. Maloney, his wife, Mary, sons Mike, Dennis, and Timothy, and daughters Erin and two- month-old Sheila took off from Travis Air Force Base in California in a four-engine Military Air Transport C-97 on August 8, 1957. The destination: Honolulu. Just over halfway to Hawaii, Dennis, then fourteen, looked out the window and saw the propeller from the number one engine on the left wing fly off, loop over the wing, and strike the fuselage. Moments later the second engine on the left wing also died.
With still another thousand miles to the nearest landfall in Hawaii, the plane limped on, barely a hundred feet above the black Pacific. The captain ordered everyone to put on life jackets and sent out a distress signal alerting ships in the area to be ready to help if the plane should need to ditch at sea. In an effort to stabilize the aircraft, the pilot had the Maloney family and the other fifty-two passengers shunted from one side to the other. Finally the captain ordered the passengers to dump their luggage into the sea.
A rear door was opened and seventeen-year-old Mike Maloney, together with the other passengers, formed a line and passed along suitcases as well as fifty-three bags of mail, shoveling them out the back, low enough to hear them splash. Included in the jettisoned baggage was an entire wardrobe of new military uniforms that Mal was to wear as part of his military cover. For six hours the ordeal continued, as the plane skimmed above the waves. Mary Maloney swore that if the flight landed safely she would forever give up cigarettes and potatoes.
As they approached Hilo, the captain discovered that the landing gear had been damaged. Mal Maloney offered to climb down and crank it by hand, but the captain had a crew member do it instead. Finally the plane landed without incident. Mary Maloney would honor her oath never again to smoke a cigarette -- though twenty years later she would eat potatoes after a doctor told her she needed the potassium. In 1958, a year after that traumatic flight, when Mike went off to Fairfield College in Connecticut, Mary Maloney insisted that her son take the cruise ship Matsonia to the States. No Maloney was taking another plane, not if Mary Maloney had anything to say about it. She would forever have a bad feeling about planes.
Nor was it the last trauma for the Maloneys in Hawaii. Mal Maloney enjoyed robust health, but he had acquired something of a shake or palsy. When he held a cup of coffee, it rattled against the saucer. His friends called it nerves. Whether it was a result of the war or something else, he was not always the best of drivers.
A year after arriving in Hawaii, shortly after noon on October 7, 1958, Mal Maloney struck a sixty- one-year-old woman who was crossing at the corner of Hotel and Punchbowl Streets. The woman died in a hospital hours later. Maloney was charged with negligent homicide. The trial hung over the Maloney family for six months. The shock of the accident weighed heavily on Maloney. So, too, did the newspaper articles that drew attention to him, identifying him by his cover, as a Defense Department researcher. From the witness stand, Maloney described the accident to the jurors and concluded, "I will see it for the rest of my life."
On March 18, 1960, after six hours of deliberation, a jury found him not guilty. But the accident left a deeper scar on him than even the casualties suffered in combat.
Mal Maloney transferred back to CIA headquarters in August 1961. He was a familiar presence in the halls, the sight of his husky figure dragging his leg, braced and inflexible. Without the brace his left foot flopped in front of him like a flipper, and even with the brace he would on occasion stumble and collapse in a heap like a huge rag doll. Such falls would be followed by a moment of concerned silence, inevitably broken by Mal Maloney's own boisterous laugh as he gathered himself and got up. Except on the golf course where he occasionally cited his injuries in an unsuccessful bid for a few strokes' advantage, he never played up his wounds. Indeed, he disdained such attention. "Sympathy is a word between 'shit' and 'syphilis' in the dictionary," he would often declare until it became a mantra in the Maloney family.
Besides, at the Agency, such injuries were too common to merit special notice. In the years after World War II there were many men like Mal Maloney who loved the military but who, because of disabling combat injuries, were not able to return to active service. Like Maloney, they joined the CIA by default. Among these was one of Mal's dear friends, Ben Vandervoort, a fellow veteran of D-Day, who lost an eye and would later be played by John Wayne in the film The Longest Day. Another was the CIA's executive director, Colonel Lawrence K. "Red" White, who lost the use of one leg in combat. In the halls of Langley such injuries merely enhanced one's credibility. For Maloney and the others the curse of such injuries was that it had prematurely reduced men of action to bureaucrats and desk jockeys.
In Maloney's Washington home the medals were prominently displayed in shadow boxes. Framed on the wall was a handwritten note that read. "To Col. Arthur Maloney, a veteran of one of the truly great fighting units of World War II. With best wishes from a comrade of the ETO [European theater of operations]." It was signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Maloney also kept a yellowing newspaper article about the elite training given paratroopers. The headline read. "Silent, Clever, Deadly." Not one to romanticize war, Maloney penned under the headlines, "Noisy, dumb, scared."
But Maloney continually used his wiles to get as close to the action as Langley would permit. From November 1961 until May 1962 he was on temporary duty in Saigon, consulting on the growing U.S. efforts to contain the Communists. There he worked under Desmond FitzGerald, a legendary CIA covert warrior. In Saigon he also caught the attention of other future CIA standouts. Years later one of them would scribble a note to Maloney in the frontispiece of a book: "With fond memories of our time in Saigon -- and the Irish wit and courage you supplied." It was signed "Bill Colby," Director Central Intelligence.
But the real focus of Maloney's attention by 1962 was not Vietnam but Cuba. In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, President Kennedy did not simply lick his wounds and walk away from the debacle. Instead, he and his brother Bobby, the attorney general, resolved to bring down Castro by any means necessary: to destabilize the country's economy, bankrupt it if necessary, and create such social unrest that the government would topple.
With the Kennedy brothers, it was no longer purely a matter of national security. It was personal. Castro had not only survived the Bay of Pigs but been emboldened by it, openly mocking the United States' effete and quixotic attempts to bring him down. A smoldering President Kennedy demanded action. Sam Halpern, a veteran Agency officer, recalls Richard Bissell summoning him into his office. "He told us he had been chewed out in the cabinet room of the White House by the president and attorney general for sitting on his ass and not doing anything about Castro and the Castro regime." Bissell related the president's order: "Get rid of Castro."
Halpern wanted clarification. "What do the words 'get rid of' mean?" he asked Bissell.
"Use your imagination," Bissell responded. "No holds barred."
In the year ahead the Agency did indeed use its imagination. There was even a short-lived plan to convince the Cuban people of Christ's Second Coming, complete with aerial starbursts. "Elimination by illumination," the scheme was dubbed by one senior officer. But such silliness gave way to more deadly plans, including a contract on Castro's life offered to the Mafia. The Agency was determined to create chaos in Cuba, with a mix of sabotage, propaganda, and, if need be, outright assassination. The project was part of a broad-based action against Castro code-named Operation Mongoose.
The name was chosen by Halpern. He had telephoned a woman at CIA whose job it was to track those operational code names or cryptonyms already in use and provide a list of those still available, usually taken in alphabetical order from the dictionary. Only the first two letters, or digraph, were of any internal significance. In this instance, "MO" signified operations in Thailand, and was chosen to mislead even those within the Agency. Halpern selected the word "mongoose," not knowing its meaning. (Years later he read Rudyard Kipling's story "Rikki-Tikki- Tavi" and learned a mongoose was a ferretlike creature famed for its speed and ability to kill cobras.)
The operation, under a unit designated simply Task Force W, commenced in October 1961. Maloney was chosen to oversee a key component of that project -- the selection of targets for sabotaging Castro's economy. This included copper mines, the sugar crop, and manufacturing concerns. Nothing was off-limits. "We were at war with Cuba," recalled one former member of the unit.
Maloney's sabotage efforts were interrupted a year later by the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. He was then assigned a number of exotic roles. At the height of the crisis the United States had a broad contingency plan calling for the invasion of Cuba. At the CIA Maloney prepared an elaborate diversionary scheme designed to mask the true invasion points on the island. He oversaw an Agency program that was to parachute countless dummies on various landing sites. Each of the dummies was equipped with a timer that would set off firecrackers, in the hope that it would draw attention and fire away from U.S. troops landing elsewhere. As there was no invasion, the plan was put back on the shelf.
The Maloney family, of course, knew that Mal was with the CIA, but they had no inkling of what it was he did for the Agency. Early on, they learned not to ask. "If I told you," quipped Maloney, "I'd have to kill you." It was an oft-repeated line in CIA families, a way to laugh off the deadly serious consequences of a breach of security. As an inside joke, the Maloney's family dog, a white- and-brown-spotted beagle, was named Spook. But whatever it was that Maloney did, his son Mike decided he wanted to do the same. There would sometimes be friction between father and son, both of them husky, headstrong, and competitive, but there was also an abiding adoration.
If Mike Maloney's father was a man of action, Mike Deuel's was a man of words. His name was Wallace, but he was known to family and friends as Wally. He was a bookish figure with an owlish face, horn-rimmed glasses, and a slim frame, the sort of fellow pictured on the beach getting sand kicked in his face. He stood five feet ten, weighed 165 pounds, and had pale blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. As a child he had been pensive and sickly, suffering scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, and boils. His eyesight was poor and his later travels overseas would bring him dengue fever, ringworm, and, at age twenty-nine, a bout of pyorrhea. By age forty-one he had lost the last of his teeth.
More scholar than soldier, he loved his quiet Sundays when he would curl up with a literary classic or sit beside the radio engrossed in Puccini performed by his beloved Metropolitan Opera. He would never be mistaken for a warrior, but he had a kind of gumption that even warriors came to respect.
By trade he was a newspaperman, a world-class foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He had the good fortune in 1934 to be posted to Berlin even as Hitler consolidated power. Deuel would remain there for seven years. During that time he made a study of the Reich and published a book, People Under Hitler a scathing account of German despotism. Columbia University Press placed Deuel among the fifteen American authors -- along with the likes of Pearl Buck, Archibald MacLeish, and Sinclair Lewis -- that Hitler would liquidate first if he conquered America. The Reich dubbed him "the worst anti-Nazi in the whole country." Author and friend William L. Shirer called him "brilliant."
In the Berlin of 1935 Deuel befriended a young United Press correspondent, a bachelor, with whom Deuel would often share meals and break the lonely tedium of a foreign posting. Later, in March 1942, Deuel wrote an effusive letter of recommendation for that correspondent who had applied for a position with the navy's public relations department. He hailed the young man's "personal charm, his intelligence, initiative, energy, honesty, and patriotism." That correspondent would become an integral part of the nascent OSS. His name was Richard McGarrah Helms, a future director of Central Intelligence. It was a friendship that would last for decades and profit Deuel in his second career with the Agency.
It was during his tenure as Berlin correspondent that Wally and his wife, Mary, had two sons. Peter was born in 1935 and Mike on May 13, 1937, in Berlin.
With the outbreak of World War II, Wally Deuel joined the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA. He was named special assistant to Wild Bill Donovan, the charismatic leader of the OSS. Not cut out for the derring-do of covert military operations, Deuel took on a variety of tasks, even working with Walt Disney on a cartoon propaganda project. He was later assigned to the PWD, the Psychological Warfare Division, where he helped to disseminate false stories designed to undermine Germany's will to fight. Among those Deuel would work with during the war was future CIA chief Allen Dulles.
At the end of the war Donovan asked Deuel to write the first history of the OSS, an internal document chronicling some of the service's missions and personalities. In August 1945 Deuel returned to the Chicago Daily News and was asked to write a series on the OSS. He prepared a generally glowing account of the OSS but suggested in one brief phrase that at times the espionage business called for the use of "subversion." In an otherwise flattering portrayal of the service, he wrote, "Some of the methods employed are not nice."
Constrained by both his lifetime secrecy oath and his bond of friendship with Donovan, Deuel submitted the article to the former OSS head for his approval, assuming it would be instantly forthcoming. But Donovan raised his eyebrows at the suggestion that his OSS had ever stooped to ungentlemanly behavior. Donovan pointed out that at that very moment, the FBl, the State Department, and the Navy and War Departments all had their knives out trying to gut his efforts to salvage elements of the OSS and create a postwar central intelligence apparatus.
The exchange that followed was recorded in an August 25, 1961, letter Deuel wrote to his son Mike, then a marine. Deuel recalled Donovan telling him that "if he and/or I admitted in print that we had used methods which weren't nice, this would be used as evidence that we were all wicked, dirty people whose agency should be abolished. 'Besides,' said Bill, looking his most virtuous, his most butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth, 'I defy you to name me one single case in which we used methods that weren't nice.'
"This, of course, was my cue to stammer and stutter and blush and pick my nose in well-simulated confusion, and pretend to cudgel my brains and then confess that, shucks, in actual fact I couldn't cite a single instance of OSS skullduggery.
"But the war was over, and Bill, for all that I adored him, already had a slight overdraft of his moral credit with me," wrote Deuel, "and I was a newspaperman again as of that day and occasion, and no longer a public servant, and Bill's righteousness was just altogether too Goddam silly, and so instead of making the obeisance expected of me, I said:
"'All right, dammit, I will give you an example. I'll give you the example of Baron von _____, of the German diplomatic service, whom we suborned to the betrayal of his country's military secrets in time of war to an enemy -- namely, us -- by the threat that if he didn't give us what we wanted we'd expose him as a homosexual."
"Bill beamed with gratification, highly pleased to be reminded of a coup of which he had always been particularly proud.
"'But he was a homosexual, wasn't he?' said he.
"'Certainly he was,' said I.
"'And the threat worked, didn't it?' said he.
"'Certainly it worked,' said I.
"'Well, then?' said Bill, triumphantly."
Deuel ultimately won permission to publish the offending sentence, but without reference to any specific misdeeds.
Wally Deuel later took a job as diplomatic correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but in 1953 he was laid off. Thereafter he called upon his constellation of well-placed friends to help him find a job. Among these was a prominent fellow Illinois resident and future senator, Adlai Stevenson, and the then president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dean Rusk. But while there were many offers of assistance, no specific job materialized. Deuel's pride was hurt and his finances were frayed. He recalled that a decade earlier Allen Dulles had attempted to enlist his help in an OSS effort. Dulles was now Director Central Intelligence and eager to have Deuel on board.
In January 1954 Deuel took the oath of office, passed his final security interview, and signed a loyalty affidavit at CIA headquarters. He was a GS-15 with a starting salary of $10,800 a year, but he was jubilant, and once again intoxicated with the mystique of espionage, even though his career would rely more on his skills with a typewriter than a garrote or codebook
On May 31, 1954, he wrote his friend Adlai Stevenson, "Dear Adlai. I have gone back to spying," a claim slightly exaggerated, but one in which he took enormous pride. "I thought I could take the stuff or leave it alone, but clearly it had a more powerful hold on me than I realized. Anyway, I'm with the CIA and having the time of my life. It's the most exciting and rewarding work I've done since I was Berlin Correspondent for the Old Daily News. It's like taking holy orders; you are vowed to silence, to obedience, to poverty and to long, long, long hours of extremely hard work No vows of chastity, though."
To Dean Rusk, Deuel wrote. "I am back in the spy business. I am working for my favorite Dulles (Allen, of course) in CIA ..." (The other Dulles, John Foster, brother of Allen, was then secretary of state.)
"The kids in CIA are simply terrific," he wrote another friend. "I never saw anywhere such a gang of brilliant, inspired, dedicated, hardworking, selfless men." Such effusiveness was the hallmark of those early years at the Agency, predating the revelations and allegations that would thereafter stain the Agency's name and create a more subdued and somber atmosphere.
But there was a strange irony to the idea that a man like Deuel who had made his living sharing his vision of events with the world was now bound to keeping his mouth shut. "The silence is the hardest part, of course," he wrote. "Imagine to yourself a Deuel unable to say anything about his work or anything about politics, either foreign or domestic. Imagine to yourself a Deuel whose garrulity is inhibited in any manner or degree whatever. What practical jokes life plays on us, sooner or later, doesn't it?"
At the Agency Wally Deuel held a variety of midlevel and senior positions. He was made chief of staff overseeing all current intelligence publications, including those that each morning went directly to President Eisenhower and, later, Kennedy. From 1957 until 1968 he served as deputy chief and then chief of Foreign Intelligence/Requirements, overseeing those branches that collected, edited, and disseminated the CIA's secret intelligence. He was later assigned to the inspector general's staff; traveling to more than twenty countries, examining the conduct of the Agency's far-flung stations and bases. He even undertook a covert assignment to Beirut, where he made a study of why the Lebanese press was negative toward the United States and what could be done to influence that press and plant stories more favorable to American interests.
In February 1961 Deuel's immediate superior broke his arm, and Deuel was asked to fill in as the CIA's representative to the Kennedy White House. There he attended meetings with Pierre Salinger, Ed Murrow, Walt Rostow, McGeorge Bundy, and other senior officials advising Kennedy on how to deal with the press on sensitive political and intelligence matters. At one such meeting, held on February 21, 1961, Deuel noted that the State Department representative advised Kennedy that the United States should have used the recent assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo to its political advantage. The official argued that the United States "should have mounted a 'black' effort designed to convince world opinion that the Russians were responsible for Lumumba's assassination." Apparently the State Department official was unaware that the CIA had earlier ordered Agency operatives to poison the former Congolese leader.
At another White House meeting, on February 28, 1961, Deuel and others prepped Kennedy for an upcoming news conference. Kennedy was steamed at the CIA's apparent intelligence failures in the Congo, complaining that Agency reports were false or misleading. He turned to Deuel. "What's the matter -- have you got only one man there in the Congo?" Kennedy asked.
"He smiled when he said it," wrote Deuel in a memo to Dulles. "He made it clear however that he meant his criticisms seriously."
In March Deuel was relieved of White House responsibilities. His replacement: his old friend Dick Helms.
But by May 1961 the White House and CIA were already the targets of fierce criticism in the wake of the Bay of Pigs debacle. Deuel understood that henceforth nothing would be the same. He wrote his son Mike: "We've been living -- I won't say in a fool's paradise, but we've been living charmed lives all this time until now. Our immunity from exposure and attack has been partly luck, partly due to the laziness and lack of imagination of some editors and publishers, partly to self-restraint imposed by patriotism on the part of others, partly to trust in the Old Man [Allen Dulles], partly to the Old Man's skill in handling his public relations -- and, above all, to the fact that we've had a series of fantastic successes. We've had a few failures too, but they either haven't amounted to much or we haven't been found out."
With the Bay of Pigs, all that had now changed.
Mike Deuel inherited his father's intellect, but something else as well. Where Wally Deuel had always been most comfortable standing on the sidelines as observer or adviser, his son Mike was determined to be a player. Wherever the action was most intense, that was where Mike Deuel wanted to be. Mike was what his father always hungered to be -- not the scribe but the doer, living on the edge. His son was all of that -- a romantic and roguish figure in whom his father could realize a lifetime of pipe dreams.
Physically Mike Deuel was not particularly formidable, but he had little regard for his own well- being and even as a child took pride in throwing himself in the way of the biggest kid on the playing field. More than once he ended up in the hospital, not because he was accident-prone, but because caution was a concept foreign to him. On March 14 , 1949, the Washington Post ran a picture of eleven-year-old Mike Deuel smiling in his hospital bed after plummeting thirty feet from a two- story house to a concrete pavement. He suffered a concussion, a fractured elbow, and a cracked vertebra, but was delighted to have the time to build a model plane. Even then, he viewed fear and pain as elements to test his will.
On November 9, 1953, sixteen-year-old Mike Deuel was in a bruising football game when, in the second quarter, he became aware of a pain in his side. He felt tired and unable to run. But he played through the entire game without complaining, and it was not until that evening that he mentioned his discomfort. Not long after, an ambulance arrived to take him off to Garfield Hospital. There he would remain for the next four weeks with a ruptured kidney. Two operations later his only concern was that it not interfere with the next season's football.
His father, Wally, was attracted to those in power but also somewhat awed by it. Son Mike was utterly unintimidated by title or rank. In May 1950 he wrote a letter to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: "I have recently red [sic] a slight story about your proposed vacation trip across Iran on horseback.
"Before I go any further I might introduce myself. I'm Mike Deuel, 12, my father is a foreign affairs correspondent for the Saint Louis Post Dispatch." Deuel went on to explain that he had all As and Bs in school, a taste for adventure, and would very much like to accompany Justice Douglas on his next trip abroad.
On May 8, 1950, Justice Douglas replied.
"My dear Mike, I greatly enjoyed your recent letter. I am glad faraway places, high mountains and horses interest you. There is a great joy in exploration. I hope you find time in your life for a lot of it.
"I am not sure that I will make another trip abroad this summer. Should I do so it would be a great pleasure to have you along. But there is a difficulty. I have a son just 18 years old. He was with me last summer in the Middle East and we had a wonderful time together ... He has first claim to go, as you know. If I cannot take him, I don't know how I could take you. You understand, I am sure. I am very sorry for I think you and I would have a great time together. Yours Truly, William O. Douglas."
There was little that Mike Deuel did not excel at. Where natural talent failed, pure gumption kicked in. At Washington's Western High School he played fullback and made the All-Star D.C. team -- while serving as president of the student council. Graduating in 1955, he went to Cornell as one of the school's twenty-five National Scholars.
At Cornell Deuel played lacrosse and eagerly awaited the day his team faced Syracuse and the chance to butt heads with that school's most fiercesome athlete. Butt heads he did, though in each collision he got the worse of the exchange. The player he was so determined to stop was named Jim Brown, and he would go on to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. Deuel's classmates watched in disbelief as the modest-sized Deuel time and again attempted in vain to stand his ground against the broad-shouldered juggernaut from Syracuse. Such pluck became the stuff of myth.
At Cornell's Sigma Phi fraternity Deuel was seen as a spirited and gutsy classmate, with a puckish, sometimes lusty playfulness. As editor of the fraternity newspaper his junior year, he once wrote an article describing the fiancee of a senior fraternity brother as "succulent and squablike" -- apparently an accurate enough description. But the senior whose fiancee was so described was not amused by the phrase, and a short time later a repentant Deuel was observed on hands and knees, indelible marker in hand, blacking out each such reference from a stack of yet-to- be-distributed newsletters.
With prematurely salt-and-pepper hair cropped to a perfect brush cut, a devil-may-care smile, and squared jaw, he was a dashing figure -- never more so than when he once returned to Cornell from the marines in full dress uniform, starched blue collar, white gloves, scabbard, and swagger stick. He was the very image of the sturdy warrior but not quite able to fully conceal the little boy's thrill to be in uniform.
Deuel chose the marines because he hoped they would meet his own standards of toughness. It was not that he spoiled for a fight -- he did not -- but he was constantly looking for ways to test his mettle. During basic training, when it was his turn to lead a platoon, he inadvertently took his men into an ambush. Instead of capitulating, he yelled "Charge!" He was named that month's outstanding platoon leader.
But as a Marine Corps officer, he seemed oddly distanced from the tasks at hand. To a Cornell classmate he wrote on July 16, 1960: "We still take orders from mean men afflicted with chronic flatulence and we still run until puddles of earnest sweat accumulate around us." He seemed mildly amused by the regimentation. "I'm drunk with power but clear of eye," he wrote his family in 1961. "My hair is short and so is my patience. When I say 'frog,' my men jump. When I say 'merde' they say how much and what color?"
But for Mike Deuel, not even the marines supplied enough action. In a letter home, typically candid and irreverent for Deuel, he wrote: "Life here creeps on in an undetectable pace, so much so that I am thrown back on my strong inner resources -- tobacco, (awful) whiskey and pornography."
Hungry for more action, Deuel left the marines and in 1961 joined the CIA. He knew he was in the right place when an Agency lecturer told him: "You were brought into the service to provide new blood. Bleed a little." Instead of a cushy desk job, Deuel sought out the clandestine service and the most rigorous training the CIA offered. While nearly all clandestine officers passed through Camp Perry with its indoctrination courses and basics in tradecraft, Deuel applied to undertake the specialized program in jungle warfare.
On April 2, 1962, Deuel and the toughest of his Camp Perry classmates began what was called Paramilitary Course 3, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, in the Canal Zone. By 1962, most of the old guard of paramilitary experts trained in World War II were now too old to undertake paramilitary operations, and most of the paramilitary training had been discontinued a decade earlier. At the very time when President Kennedy resolved that the United States would blunt Soviet and Chinese aggression whenever and wherever it showed up, the Agency was woefully strapped for so-called paramilitary knuckledraggers. To the outside world such a term might have smacked of ridicule, suggesting Cro-Magnon-like warriors, but to the Agency it was an honorific term recalling the glory days of OSS operations, of raw courage and finely honed survival skills.
The course Deuel and his fourteen CIA classmates found themselves in was billed as "realistic, rough, and hazardous." It was all this and more. The instructor was Eli Popovich, a former OSS operative who had, among countless hair-raising missions, rescued downed American crewmen from behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia during World War II. He had a well- deserved reputation for being afraid of no man and no terrain. Agency recruits would later recall him bagging a huge python, hacking it into steaks, and dining on it as if it were a tender fillet.
The course was designed to turn young CIA recruits into jungle warfare experts in a mere three weeks. Awaiting most of them were jungle assignments as case officers leading counterinsurgency movements in Southeast Asia, particularly the CIA's still-secret war in Laos. The course curriculum acquainted the CIA's junior-officers-in-training (JOTs) in such topics as "Effects of Heat," "Snakes and Animals," "Reconnaissance Patrolling," "Ambush and Counter-Ambush," "Evasion and Escape," and "Guerrilla Operations."
Even Popovich was astounded by the caliber of recruits. In a memo stamped "Secret" he noted: "Our JOT's, often called 'intellectuals' and/or 'Eggheads,' have demonstrated that they are not only intelligent young men, but also are capable of being physically and mentally tough when necessary to carry out the most difficult tasks under adverse tactical conditions ... In spite of drastic change in climate, temperature, and humidity, and while being constantly harassed with cuts, bruises, bites from hornets, ants, and vampires [bats], and infections from black palm and sand box trees, they carried out their assigned tasks without undue gripes or complaints."
Not everyone finished the course. One man fell to fever. Another broke his leg on the "slide for life," a cable stretched across a river.
There was intense competition between the men, each one wanting not only to complete the course but to distinguish himself as the toughest, most resourceful and aggressive officer. Early on, Mike Deuel recognized that classmates Ralph McLean, Robert Manning, Andre LeGallo, and above all Richard Holm were his primary competitors.
But if the course brought out rivalries, it also imbued the men with a lasting esprit de corps. 1n the jungles of the Canal Zone were born friendships that would endure a lifetime. No greater friendships were forged than those between Deuel, McLean, Manning, and Holm. From the beginning, when Deuel and Holm entered the Agency as callow JOTs in June 1961, they had shared a special unspoken bond. They both adored sports, had a deep revulsion to Communism, were religious agnostics, and longed to make a difference in the world.
The two not only endured but reveled in the grueling jungle course, a program also given to elite military units. The CIA contingent was under cover as civilian employees of the U.S. Army Element, Joint Operational Group (8739). Each CIA officer was issued a false set of orders, fake IDs, and bogus medical records. Upon graduation the commanding officer of the exercise wryly noted: "There is a small group of civilians in this course from the United Fruit Company and although some of them have never been in uniform they have carried out their assigned tasks in this course as required with the rest of the class members in a manner that is worthy of praise and deserving of a fine hand." As the applause died down, the officer told CIA Training Director Popovich that Mike Deuel was the top man in the class, though his friends Holm, McLean, and LeGallo had slightly outscored him.
From the jungles of the Canal Zone, Deuel was dispatched to Langley to serve on the Laos desk, providing tactical and logistic support to the men in the field and acting as a transit point for outgoing orders and incoming intelligence. Deuel understood, as did everyone in the clandestine service, that Laos was center-stage in the struggle with Communism.
As far back as January 19, 1961 -- the day before Kennedy's inauguration -- the incoming president and the outgoing Eisenhower had spent more time discussing the prickly issue of Laos than any other subject. Following a 1954 international agreement, Laos was to remain neutral, free of outside intervention and superpower meddling. But the Communists brazenly ignored such restraints, and the United States, in what came to be known as "the secret war," fought bitterly to repel them and disrupt the tide of men and materiel that flowed through the country along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and into the hands of the North Vietnamese.
"Laos," Kennedy once declared, "is far away from America, but the world is small ...The security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered if Laos loses its neutral independence. Its own safety runs with the safety of us all -- in real neutrality observed by all." Instead of neutrality, Laos would be decimated by undeclared war. Not since the Bay of Pigs had the CIA staked so much on a single foreign gambit.
Deuel seized the first opportunity he had to go to Laos. Four members of his JOT class volunteered for that country assignment. Among them was his friend and colleague Dick Holm. Both he and Deuel thrived in the primitive back country. To his mother and father Mike Deuel wrote: "After about a week starts a job big and responsible enough to inspire equal parts of pleasure and panic. In times past, this combination has been enough to overcome my habitual mental lassitude; there may be cause for optimism ... But, now to my rude bower. Tomorrow, I must fight off wild Asian tigers and semi-wild Eurasian girls. Once more into the Breech?"
It was not only the job that captivated Deuel but the physical splendor of Laos as well. "This area is volcanic," he wrote. "A plateau dominates south Laos and then drops from the plateau are sheer and green. Throughout the year, huge waterfalls drop down to the lowlands around the plateau ..."
It was a raw existence that Deuel lived, working fifteen to twenty hours a day, seven days a week, then collapsing in exhaustion. But he never lost his sense of humor. In time he acquired an odd and exotic menagerie of pets, including cats, dogs, monkeys, and civets. "Chou" he wrote his parents, "is the horniest dog that God ever put on earth; he even stares at young girls. At age five months and height at the withers of 7-1/2 inches, he sired a litter out of a middle aged female who stands 15 inches high. I am lost in admiration." In time, his penchant for animals was jokingly referred to as "Deuel's Zoo."
But it was work that kept Deuel's mind focused. At times he saw his role in almost Wagnerian terms, but was always quick to puncture any sense of self-importance. In a letter home, twenty-six-year-old Deuel wrote:
"In fact there are no dramatic reports a'tall a'tall. All is prosaic, too much so ... I dream of glory and future excitements. Of course when I get them, I'll probably ask for the next boat home but I think the time has not yet come for the dread assassin of the sea to become the sacred defenders of the home.
"Besides, the Creeping Red Menace still threatens which should justify continued gainful employment for citizens abroad (and at home). Of course before you can fight the Reds, you must survive local traffic and VD -- and that's no easy thing."
At about the same time that Deuel arrived in Laos, a comely twenty- two-year-old CIA secretary named Judy Doherty was working back at Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. She was asked where she might like to be posted. She had grown up in the small coal-mining town of Bulpitt, Illinois, population 250. She had listed Paris and Rome and Lima, names out of a small- town fantasy. Some time later an Agency officer informed her she had been assigned to Bangkok, Thailand. She had never heard of it. In November 1962 she found herself working at the embassy there under State Department cover. There she met the dashing young Mike Deuel, though she had earlier caught the eye of both Deuel and his friend Dick Holm, when all three were still at Langley. Judith Doherty was far too pretty to have escaped the notice of men like Deuel and Holm. "We didn't walk blindfolded up and down the halls," Dick Holm would say.
But it was Deuel who began courting Judy Doherty. "Saw my favorite secretary for two days in Bangkok," Deuel wrote his father. "She showed her normal distrust of my intentions which gives evidence of good sense on her part. I'm not sure whether she was relieved or not to see me go."
In late August 1964 Deuel "smuggled" Judy Doherty into Pakse, Laos, aboard one of the Air America planes at his disposal. His purpose was to give her a "cold-eyed look" at his lifestyle and to see how she might cope with it. His home was a farmhouse with high ceilings and many windows, a mix of French and Lao. His bed was a cotlike affair, a bamboo platform warmed by two blankets. Judy passed the test brilliantly. "She's so sensible that she's downright unromantic sometimes," he wrote. "This is good. Starry eyes would not be an asset."
"I'd swear an oath before the Commission of the American Baseball League to marry this one, she's that good," he wrote his father a short time later.
At 1:00 P.M. on October 30, 1964, Judy Doherty and Mike Deuel were married in the Holy Redeemer Church in Bangkok. Pat Landry, who helped oversee the CIA's Laos operations, was best man, and Dan Arnold gave away the bride. Deuel slipped a 1.4-carat blue and white diamond solitaire on her quivering finger. Both of them were so nervous that they would later laugh about the muscles twitching in their faces. After a brief honeymoon at the beach, the couple moved to Pakse in southern Laos. There Judy helped manage the Agency's base operations and plotted on a map the reported sightings of enemy convoys and movements of materiel and men.
"All in all," wrote Mike Deuel to his parents on November 29, 1964, "things are a little too good to last; we'll have to have some bad luck ere long. Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I'm making hay as fast as I can move, trying not to look too smug."
Deuel was fast becoming the romantic. In January 1965 his wife, Judy, wrote: "After two and a half months, I was finally carried over the threshold last Thursday ... Mike had arranged all sorts of surprises for me, including a new red bicycle, two beautiful Italian rugs, some perfume." Awaiting her in the hall upstairs was a piano. "His last present for me," wrote Judy, "was waiting at the Moffett's house -- a beautiful tan-colored horse, complete with English saddle. His name is Fahong, which means 'Thunder' in Lao."
But the stress of Mike's work took its toll. He was frequently gone on overnight missions and flying over rough country in all manner of aircraft piloted by the Agency's proprietary air wing, Air America. It was a harrowing beginning to a marriage, and Judy, a worrier by nature, could not help but fret. She feared that Mike could be hurt or killed, but she never spoke a word of it to him, believing it might jinx him or take his mind off his work. Nor did Mike discuss the risks, even after he had been involved in a couple of "minor plane crashes." Such crashes were common among the CIA officers in Laos. An errant water buffalo would stroll across the dirt runways oblivious to incoming planes. A sudden gust of wind off a mountain would toss the slow-moving STOLs -- short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft -- pitching them sideways like discarded toys.
Judy had her own brush with danger the night of February 3 during a casual visit to the Laotian capital, Vientiane. As she later wrote in a letter, she spent that night huddled on the floor of the U.S. AID vault, "lulled to sleep by the vibrations of mortars and grenades."
Judy Deuel's parents were concerned for the safety of both their daughter and their gung-ho son-in-law. But on February 16, 1965, Judy's parents received a letter from an Agency employee: "This is to assure you that Judy and Mike are perfectly safe and you have absolutely nothing to worry about ... Mike is a very responsible and mature person in whom you can have full confidence. Judy and he are very much in love and very happy. Do not worry for them."
One day after the letter was written, Mike Deuel's close friend Dick Holm was returning from a mission in another part of the world. Deuel and Holm had both been sent to Laos in 1962 to work with the indigenous tribes in fighting against the Communists. But in August 1964 Holm, a French speaker, received orders that he was to be transferred to the Congo to help put down the Simba's rebel insurgency.
It was February 17, 1965, and Holm was in the rear seat of a T-28 flying with Cuban pilot Juan Peron in the northeast corner of the Congo near the border with Sudan. Peron had been trained a year earlier by John Merriman at the CIA base at Marana in Arizona. A second plane was piloted by Cuban Juan Tunon. The mission had been a machine-gun attack on a power plant in rebel-held territory. After a successful assault the weather turned nasty and both planes had too little fuel to make it back to base.
Peron crash-landed in a field of elephant grass. The left wing was ripped underneath and the remaining fuel caught fire. Peron jumped from the plane, assuming that Holm had also jumped. But as Peron ran from the plane expecting the .50-caliber bullets to go off, he heard Dick Holm's desperate screams. Holm was still in the burning aircraft. Dick Holm pried himself free and Peron carried him some distance from the plane seconds before it exploded. It was getting dark and it was raining. The two were in rebel territory. They spent the night under cover of bushes.
Peron did not yet know the extent of Holm's burns, but now, in the first light of morning, he could see his friend twisting in agony. Holm pleaded with Peron to kill him. Peron wrested away Holm's Walther nine-millimeter pistol from him, fearing he would shoot himself to end the pain. Peron could now plainly see the horror of Holm's burns -- his flesh hung from his hands like an oversized pair of plastic gloves. His arms, too, were badly burned and his face swollen beyond recognition. Peron unsheathed his hunting knife and, without any anesthetic, cut off the burned flesh from Holm's limbs. He left Holm beneath a bush beside a stream and told him he would go for help. He swore he would return. Tunon, the pilot of the second plane, Peron would later learn, had been captured and cannibalized. Peron carried thirteen rounds in the magazine of his pistol, twelve for the enemy and the last one for himself. He was not going to allow himself to be taken alive.
By sheer luck, Peron wandered into one of the few friendly villages in rebel-held territory. There a young warrior of the Azande tribe named Faustino offered to help carry Dick Holm to safety. When Peron, Faustino, and two other villagers returned to Holm, they found him completely blanketed with bees. Holm was swollen from the stings and crawling in a vain attempt to escape them. The Azandes fashioned a crude stretcher from branches and limbs and carried the semiconscious Holm to the village. They fed him fruit and water and hid him by the riverbank, regularly salving his burns with snake grease.
Faustino and Peron took the village's only two bicycles and began what was to be an arduous eight-day journey through jungle and five-foot-tall grass. They headed for the base camp at Paulis more than 280 kilometers away. The morning after their arrival, they flew back to the village and picked up Holm. His flesh was now as black as that of the villagers who tended him -- black from the pitchy snake grease that covered his burns. Holm was flown to Leopoldville and then on to the army's special-burn unit in San Antonio, Texas. There army surgeons marveled that he was still alive.
Months later, when the fighting in the area subsided, the air force sent a team to the Azande village to study the remedial properties of snake grease on burns. And the CIA, in an effort to express its gratitude to the village that showed Holm such kindness, sent in a C-14, fully loaded with new bicycles, medicines, tools, and sacks of rice for the villagers.
But for Dick Holm the ordeal was only just beginning. For the next two years physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington would treat his burns, perform skin grafts, and reconstruct portions of his hands and face. Holm had lost his left eye and was in jeopardy of losing sight in the other.
Mike Deuel was devastated by the news of Dick Holm's crash. Though he was a seasoned marine combat officer and had two years in the field with the Agency, this was the first time one of his close friends had been hurt. He brooded about Holm's condition, searching for some way to help him. Finally he sat his wife, Judy, down and told her he had been thinking about what he could do for Dick Holm. Deuel, then twenty-eight and married for less than a year, had an idea. "Would you mind," he asked her, "if I offered one of my eyes to Dick?"
Judy Deuel was speechless. "For heaven's sake," she said, "do you think that's necessary?" But Mike persisted. "It would be better," he argued, "if each of us had one eye than if one of us had two and the other had none." Judy was silent for a moment. "It's up to you," she said. A short time later Deuel wrote Dick Holm's father formally offering one of his eyes.
For months, senior CIA officers quietly made their pilgrimage to Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Ward Nine to visit Dick Holm. Among the visitors were Desmond FitzGerald and Dick Helms -- who smuggled in a thermos of martinis. But none was more faithful than Mike Deuel's father, Wally, who spent each Sunday for nearly a year at Holm's bedside, reading aloud the Sunday paper and keeping him abreast of Mike and Judy's latest exploits in Laos.
After each visit Wally Deuel would dutifully send a detailed report to Mike and Judy of the medical and emotional progress their friend had made. One such letter, dated August 23, 1965, notes: "His morale's especially good these days because Dick Helms went out to see him Friday or Saturday and, of course, completely captivated him.
"The plastic surgeons are ever-so-gently nudging the ophthalmologists to get on with their eye operation so Dick [Holm] can go on outpatient status for the treatments still to come ... The plastic men haven't decided yet whether to rebuild Dick's ears with wee pieces of a rib as the base, or to try to do it all with strips of skin which they would detach from his neck below the ears and roll up into suitable shapes for the ears.
"The only other medical development to report is that they've got Dick's right hand in a Rube Goldberg sort of contraption which holds each finger in a sling which in turn is suspended by a rubber band from a brace above the hand -- the brace being held in place by a plaster cast on the forearm -- all of which is supposed to help the fingers recover a considerably greater capability for use than they now have."
Seven months after the crash, observed Wally Deuel, "Dick's hands are still in such bad shape that he wouldn't be able to pick up a grape, even if he could see it."
In the months ahead Dick Holm underwent an endless series of operations, major and minor, providing him with new eyebrows, rebuilding the bridge of his nose, the corner of his mouth, and the skin between his thumb and index finger.
In September 1965 Judy Deuel wrote her mother-in-law a letter. "Have they found a cornea donor yet?" she asked timidly. "I'm kind of holding my breath on this question for obvious reasons."
After a series of operations, including a corneal transplant from an eye bank, Dick Holm's remaining eye began to improve. The doctors used the word "miraculous." Mike Deuel never had to make good on his offer, but neither was it soon forgotten.
By that summer the covert operations within Laos were expanding daily and more Agency case officers were needed. Mike Deuel was about to get some help and, if things worked out, even a replacement, allowing him to return to the States and begin another assignment, perhaps to Hong Kong or Taiwan.
In September 1965 help arrived in the person of Mike Maloney. Maloney, like Deuel, was a paramilitary officer, a quiet young man with a gleaming smile, deep-set dimples, and -- from his father -- full brows and a barrel chest. He was a soldier's soldier, every bit the man his father, Colonel Mal Maloney, hoped he might be. And like his father, Mike Maloney's first choice had been the military. But the military refused to take him because of asthma. And so, by default, he, too, had joined the CIA.
To break in the younger Maloney, Deuel invited him to Pakse, Laos. That Saturday night, October 9, 1965, the two young officers could get acquainted and Deuel would brief the new man on what to expect. Maloney's wife, Adrienne, was just getting settled in Bangkok. Later they planned to move to Pakse. It seemed a perfect match -- the two Mikes, both young, gung-ho case officers, both the sons of CIA officers, both their wives pregnant.
Mike Maloney had married his college sweetheart, Adrienne La Marsh, on October 5, 1963. Already they had a one-year-old son, Michael, and the second child was due in four months. The Maloneys had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. The Deuels were two weeks from celebrating their first. That night the two Mikes stayed up late talking about the mission and looking forward to a collaboration that seemed certain to mature into a friendship.
It was hard for Mike Maloney not to be impressed with the life Deuel and his wife, Judy, had carved out for themselves in Pakse. Their oversized French Colonial home featured four bedrooms, bright terrazzo floors, the spoils and artifacts of Laotian culture, food flown in from the commissary, a Vietnamese cook, a houseboy, a girl to keep things tidy, and in the upstairs hallway, the blessed piano -- Deuel's gift to his wife.
The next morning, a Sunday, the two Mikes were scheduled to board a chopper, survey the region, make some payroll stops at area villages, and introduce Maloney to the tribal leaders with whom he would be working. Judy Deuel was slightly miffed that her husband had to work even on Sunday. She watched as the two Mikes piled into Deuel's Morris Mini and sped off on the drive across the river to the airstrip. They were scheduled to be back home about two that afternoon.
That morning Judy went by herself to a French Mass held in a small country church, then returned home. At two the men had not yet returned. She began to worry. She sat down at the piano, as she often did, to play a piece of classical music and drown out the voice of fear that often preceded Mike's belated returns. She had one eye on the ivory keyboard, the other on her watch.
It was three. It was four. It was five. Now it was dusk. She knew they would not choose to fly in such poor light. She could not help but suspect the worst.
Not long after, an Agency operations officer arrived at the house. He looked grim. He said that some villagers had reported seeing a chopper go down near a place called Saravane. The officer took Judy to the airport and there they waited for word of what had happened.
Back at CIA headquarters in Langley, a cable was received from Vientiane alerting the operations desk that Deuel and Maloney might have gone down. A plane was ordered up to search for the missing aircraft, but it was already dark and the area where the chopper was believed to have gone down was covered by a smothering double canopy of jungle. Even at noon such a search would have been taxing.
That night a message was sent to the Canal Zone, where Colonel Mal Maloney was stationed under military cover, and where he had been involved in training and paramilitary activities in South and Central America. The first call informed Colonel Maloney that the chopper carrying his son was missing and that there was little chance he had survived. He gently woke his children up and walked them out to the patio overlooking the canal. There he told them his worst fears. It was the first time his children had seen the big man weep.
At the first light of morning, October 11, the Agency dispatched a search team, some of them Lao, others seasoned American smoke jumpers trained at Marana Air Base in Arizona. That afternoon they spotted something through the trees and radioed for help. In Vientiane a medical officer at the embassy, Dr. Burton Ammundsen, was dragooned into a desperate rescue mission. He was told only that four U.S. servicemen had crashed in the jungle, that there was a chance they were still alive, and he was to do what he could for them. By the time the chopper carrying Ammundsen reached the approximate site where the wreckage had been spotted, it was sundown. Ammundsen was told he would be spending the night alone in the jungle and that the next day help would arrive.
Carrying leg splints and a medical bag, he was lowered by rope through the jungle canopy, beside a river. On the way down, the rope swung wide and smashed him into a tree. When he finally reached the ground, he attempted to find the wreckage but was unable to penetrate the dense jungle without a machete. Armed with only a flashlight, he spent the night on a small island just offshore. The next morning an Agency rescue team linked up with him and cut its way through the forest. The wreckage was less than a hundred yards from the river where Ammundsen had spent the night.
But it was evident that there was nothing for Ammundsen to do. The chopper had been badly mangled when it fell through the jungle. There were four bodies -- the two Mikes, and those of an Air America pilot and mechanic. Three of the four -- the mechanic, Deuel, and Maloney -- had been killed instantly, thrown against the forward bulkhead. The pilot had survived the crash just long enough to crawl out of the fuselage. His body lay draped over the side of the chopper. When the rescue team reached the crash site, his body was still warm to the touch.
The bodies of Maloney and Deuel were taken back to Vientiane for identification. It was Ammundsen who witnessed the postmortem examination at a Philippine hospital across the street from the embassy. The men had broken necks and massive internal injuries. For Ammundsen it was a particularly grim task. Just a few weeks earlier he had examined Judy Deuel, monitoring her pregnancy.
Two days later the two young widows, Judy Deuel and Adrienne Maloney, were on Pan Am 2 on their way back to the States. The Agency had arranged for the wife of an Agency officer, Susan Gresinger, to accompany them. The women flew first-class, courtesy of the CIA. It was the first time the young wives, now widows, had ever met. Adrienne, pregnant, and clutching one-year-old Michael, sat next to Gresinger. Most of the flight she spoke of the comfort she drew from her Catholic faith.
Immediately behind her sat Judy Deuel. She spoke not a word and downed more than a few Scotches. Judy Deuel had been twenty-two when she met Mike, twenty-four when they married, twenty-five when she lost him. He had died two weeks shy of their first anniversary.
It was not long thereafter that an Agency employee drove out to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to break the news of Mike Deuel's death to Dick Holm. "It seemed like a heavy price that we were paying," Holm thought to himself. "The Agency, the directorate, us, my colleagues. I was part of that group. Why the best guys?"
The deaths of Mike Deuel and Mike Maloney received scant attention in the newspapers. The brief obituaries spoke of two young AID officers killed in a helicopter crash. But one of Wally Deuel's journalist friends and former Post-Dispatch colleagues, conservative columnist Marquis W. Childs, wrote a panegyric to Mike Deuel. The headline read: "Commitment of Young American to Life Ends in Death in Laos." Childs, unaware that Deuel had been CIA and as much a warrior as a humanitarian, spoke of Deuel's selfless efforts to resettle refugees, extolling him as part of a generation of peace-loving Americans risking their lives in the cause of peace.
There was a grim irony in the CIA's choice of cover story, the idea that Deuel and Maloney and other Agency operatives in Laos were working for AID on refugee resettlement issues. The reality was that their real mission was adding to the refugee problem and creating an ever-greater need for AID's assistance. As the CIA succeeded in attracting more and more indigenous tribesmen into the ranks of its anti-Communist units, there were fewer and fewer men left home to plant and harvest rice and other food crops upon which the villages depended for their survival. In time, so many men were enlisted into the ranks of the CIA-backed units that there might well have been widespread famine had it not been for the intervention of genuine AID missions in the region.
For the Agency it was easy to obscure Deuel's and Maloney's deaths. Most of the nation was engrossed in the broader quagmire of Vietnam and Southeast Asia and by the antics of President Johnson, who was then at Bethesda Naval Hospital recovering from gallbladder surgery. Before being released, he was placed briefly under a sunlamp so he wouldn't appear so yellow to the awaiting press corps. Once released, he would ham it up for reporters, even baring his midriff to show off his scar.
But at Langley those cleared to know the true identities of the two young men and their fathers were decimated by the loss. On October 14, 1965 -- four days after the crash -- Dick Helms penned a letter to his friends Wally and Mary Deuel:
"That your sadness has no limits is well understood by your friends, especially those who knew you thirty years ago even before Mike was born.
"This loss of an uncommon young man is so pointless, so impossible to rationalize. Yet I cannot help wondering whether Mike has not the best of it if the alternative might have been comparable to the kind of thing Dick Holm is going through. It is perhaps a blessing too that young Judith is pregnant. She has something of Mike which may make it easier for her to face the void immediately ahead.
"To you both there is nothing to say. I can only extend the hand of friendship and support which you so warmly offered me so many years ago ..."
It was signed, "Sadly, Dick."
Five days later Helms wrote a second letter, this one to Mike Maloney's father, Colonel Arthur A. Maloney. "Dear Art," it began "All of us are shattered by the death of Michael. Coming so suddenly and so unnecessarily, it had a shock that can only have been worse for you. These events seem so wrong and so unfair. These uncommon young men who are willing to go forth for their country unheralded and unsung are indeed the heroes of our modern age, and I feel sure that some day they will be understood and respected far more than they are now. It was ever thus."
The Deuel and Maloney families were deluged with such letters of condolence from those within the CIA's covert ranks. Despite the outpouring, it was a delicate matter, balancing grief with the need to maintain security. Even in such a moment as this, Art Maloney would thank Des FitzGerald for his kind note of condolence but scrupulously avoid any mention of the CIA. "The loss of Mike," he wrote, "brought forth a reaction by the company for which we will always be extremely proud and grateful." To the outside world the words "the company" would sound callous and remote. But at Langley there were many unseen tears shed in the days after two of its favorite sons were lost.
On October 24, 1965, the day before Michael Deuel's funeral, the Reverend Russell Stroup delivered a sermon entitled "Pointing with Pride" to the congregation of the Georgetown Presbyterian Church. By then, America was already in the tumult of the antiwar movement, and Stroup seized the opportunity to show that there were young Americans who were a credit to the country. He remembered Mike Deuel coming to him as a high school student, on his own, saying that he wanted to join the church and to be baptized. It was Stroup who performed the baptism.
"Tomorrow at Arlington we will bury Mike Deuel," he told the congregation. "But the work to which he gave himself goes on. And there are hundreds and thousands of Mike Deuels who are carrying on the work, and there will be more. Those beautiful Americans. I am not ashamed of America."
Deuel was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in grave 156, section 35, just to the south of the Memorial Amphitheater and the Tombs of the Unknowns. A standard, government-issued stone, it reads.
In a letter to his aging mother, Wally Deuel described the funeral:
"Mikie was entitled to be drawn in the casket, covered with a flag, on an artillery caisson, by beautifully matched horses, and with a band playing funeral marches, from the gateway to the cemetery to the grave, and as Mary said, Mikie would have loved it -- all by Marines in dress blues -- but it was Judy's wishes that counted, and she said as little pomp as possible, which means no caisson, no horses, and no band, but the flag-covered casket driven in the hearse to the grave. Even so, though, it was almost more than could be endured, with a platoon of Marines lined up on the gentle slope above the grave, and six Marines to carry the casket from the hearse the short distance to the grave. The immediate family sat in chairs quite close to the grave -- which was covered over with something green so it looked like grass. There's three volleys fired by the platoon on the slope above, then taps on the bugle, the six Marines at the casket fold the flag, in accordance with a special set of rules, and the Warrant Officer at the grave hands the folded flag to the widow. He said something to her -- more than a few words -- but we never have found out what it was."
As with the graves of so many covert CIA officers buried at Arlington, there was no hint that Mike Deuel had been with the CIA. His cover story went with him to the grave. Behind him, Deuel left a father, a mother, a pregnant widow, and little else -- a bank account with $1,869.14 and his beloved 1952 MG valued at $200.
Wally Deuel managed to persuade AID to return to him the last three letters he wrote to his son, which arrived after Mike's death. In a thank-you note to the AID official, Wally wrote, "God knows what was in them, but probably something ribald or in some other way horribly inappropriate, and I am extremely grateful you didn't send them on to Judy."
Six days after the crash, on October 18, 1965, a telegram stamped "Secret" arrived at Langley. It was routed to the director of Central Intelligence, the executive director, the deputy director of plans, and other senior Agency officials. It was from a Philip K. Radnor, chief of station, and recommended that one Karl W. Aufderheide, a GS-11, recently killed in the field, be awarded the CIA's Intelligence Star. But there was no Radnor or Aufderheide employed by the Agency. These were merely code names. Radnor was really Philip Blaufarb, the CIA station chief in Vientiane running operations in Laos. Karl Aufderheide was Michael Deuel's code name in the field, a fittingly Germanic name for one born in Berlin.
Blaufarb had been keeping a close eye on Deuel, whom he considered headstrong and a little cocky, but one of the most reliable men he had. He summarized Deuel's work for the Agency in two paragraphs: "For two years Aufderheide has been in charge of a major paramilitary program involving tribal groups in South Laos. At the time of his death in a helicopter crash in the line of duty his program was expanding faster than any other program in Laos. The number of men under arms had doubled from 1,205 to 2,400 in the past year As a result of Aufderheide's imaginative and resourceful direction, several new expansions and probes were underway and territory was being recovered from the enemy. Partially as a result of his efforts enemy morale in South Laos has been deteriorating in recent months and their hold over the indigenous populace weakening.
"Although the tribal elements with which he worked are exceedingly primitive, he succeeded by patient and diligent effort in training many of them to be acceptable and reliable reporters of enemy convoy movement, construction activity, etc. His dynamic and confident leadership was an inspiration to those who worked with him. He was never daunted by difficult or dangerous situations, and it was while visiting one of his teams in a remote mountain area to resupply them and boost their morale that he met his death. His performance of and dedication to duty were in the finest traditions of our service."
Eight months after the "secret" wire was received, at noon on June 28, 1966, the Deuel family -- mother and father, widow and brother -- gathered in a small conference room on the seventh floor of the CIA to receive the Distinguished Intelligence Medal on Mike Deuel's behalf. The medal was presented by Admiral W. F. Raborn, then Director Central Intelligence, but it was far more than a presentation ceremony. It was an assemblage of Agency legends and a gathering of the generations. Among those in attendance were Richard Helms, Desmond FitzGerald, William Colby, Ben DeFelice, Lloyd George, Theodore Shackley, and of course, Dick Holm.
It was later determined that mechanical failure, not enemy fire, had brought down the aged helicopter that killed Deuel and Maloney. Indeed, many of the aircraft in use in Laos were in desperate need of replacement. Not long after the crash, Blaufarb made a formal request that his men receive more modern aircraft. His request was denied.
Wally Deuel would never recover from the loss of his son, though he tried to put up a solid front and find meaning in the tragedy. In a letter to Blaufarb, he wrote on November 5, 1965:
"He [Mike] didn't want to be a violent-action man all his life, as you probably know. But he was determined to qualify as one, and see what violent action was like, and how good he would be at it, before going on to other things. So he did his damndest to get all the action he could, and the risk of getting killed in the process was, of course, what gave it its most especial savor and attraction.
"Thus there was nothing irrelevant or incongruous in his getting killed in the way he was killed, and, in this meaning of the term, nothing senseless. It was, on the contrary, exquisitely logical, in the bitter logic that always causes the killing of so many of his kind of the best youngest men.
"But of course this is damnably cold comfort to hearts, like Mary's and Judy's and mine, that are so very cold just now."
The outpouring of grief from friends and Agency colleagues was overwhelming. Among these was Ben DeFelice, the man who had taken it upon himself for two decades already to provide comfort to bereaved CIA families, from Hugh Redmond to the Merrimans. "You've been magnificent," Wally Deuel wrote him.
Dick Holm, Bob Manning, and Andre LeGallo, three friends dating back to the days of jungle warfare school three long years earlier, helped organize a trust fund for Deuel's daughter, Suzanne, born five months after his death. Through it all, Wally and Mary Deuel continued their weekly visits to Dick Holm and reported on his progress to Judy. On one such visit, on November 7, 1965, three weeks after Mike Deuel's death, Wally found Dick Holm alone in his hospital bed listening to a broadcast of a football game. Deuel wrote his son's widow:
"The plastic surgeons have operated on his left hand since we last saw him, removing the bent, charred stub which was all that remained of his little finger and which they could not salvage. They also cut down the palm of his hand between the knuckle and the wrist, so that his left hand is now only a three-finger hand, with a palm the width of three fingers, not four ...The hand and forearm are bandaged up in the shape of a miniature Indian club ..."
Deuel continued to monitor Holm's glacial recovery in excruciating detail, forwarding clinical assessments to his son's widow, Judy, after each such visit. It was as if he could do no less out of memory for his son, or perhaps it was that in some way Dick Holm, who had survived a plane crash and was one of his son's best friends, had become a son to him.
That was as it should be. On September 1, 1968, three years after Mike Deuel died, his widow walked down the aisle once more in marriage. The groom was Dick Holm. Wally Deuel would write: "The really grand and glorious news of this past year, though, has been that our beloved Judy (our son Mike's widow) has married one of her and Mike's and our oldest and most cherished friends, a guy who is everything good you can think of as a husband for Judy, a father for the baby (who adores him) and a son for us."
Years later Wally Deuel would confide in friends that almost anything could trigger in him a profound and disabling sorrow -- the melody of "Taps," a familiar scriptural reading, even the sound of a young man on the street whistling gaily, as Mike so often did as he approached their Georgetown house. On October 31, 1967, upon learning that one of Mike's fraternity brothers had named his firstborn son for him, Wally wrote: "Mike will be vastly pleased, in whatever Elysian Fields he now roams, and Mike's Ma and I were so touched we darned near burst into tears when we got your telegram. Mike's friends are the noblest band of brothers ..."
Wallace Deuel retired from the CIA on August 1, 1968, amid a flurry of bureaucratic awards and letters of appreciation from Dick Helms and others. His health deteriorated until he was, in his words, "chairbound." He continued to write regularly to Judy and Dick Holm, as he would to a son and daughter. On April 13, 1973, he wrote: "Behold comma it is I exclamation. I will not say I am alive and well and living in Washington D.C., because I sure as hell am not well, but I am alive, sort of and I'm in Washington D.C."
He was then in his twelfth year of emphysema and had recently had a pulmonary embolism. But Deuel's "melancholy," as he called it, was brought on not only by his own physical deterioration but by a lingering sense of loss and by the spectacle of his beloved CIA in the throes of what appeared to be an act of self-destruction. It was coming under increasing public scrutiny and criticism, as was the entire U.S. government. Watergate had erupted. Ugly accounts of CIA excess were coming to light, an omen of even darker revelations to come. And then there was Vietnam.
Within the CIA, internal dissension over the conflict in Indochina had taken a profound toll. At the height of the Vietnam War the Agency had occupied three floors of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and dispatched, by one count, some seven hundred employees there. Wally Deuel's friend Dick Helms, Director Central Intelligence, had been buffeted by years of turmoil and by hostility from Presidents Johnson and Richard Nixon. His analysts' vision of prospects for Vietnam was deemed too pessimistic. The intense bombing of North Vietnam -- even ten thousand sorties a month -- would not break the will of the Communists or interrupt the flow of men and materiel, the CIA had concluded. "Not since the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 had the Agency put so much on the line, and lost it through stupidity and mismanagement," wrote the CIA's former senior Vietnam analyst, Frank Snepp.
Public suspicion of the CIA deepened. Support for covert activities was waning. Sordid accounts would surface of domestic surveillance under Operation Chaos, of efforts to destabilize the government of Chile's Salvador Allende Gossens, and of the ruthless Phoenix Program in Vietnam, in which more than twenty thousand were killed. A malaise settled over the Agency from which it would not soon emerge. In February 1973 Nixon sacked Helms as CIA head, appointing him ambassador to Iran. Those who had spent their lives with the Agency and were proud of that affiliation were heartsick and in shock.
Two months after Helms was fired, on April 17, 1973, a disillusioned Wally Deuel wrote Dick and Judy Holm, then stationed in Hong Kong: "As for my former place of employment, not only is there nothing I can do about that, but I don't even know what's going on there. So far, I have heard reports only from an incredibly small number of people, people who are all without exception old, decrepit, out of touch as badly as I am -- and plunged in the blackest despair ... A fine basis for my trying to figure out what the hell is happening in Langley, wouldn't you say?"
Wally Deuel's health deteriorated rapidly. He passed in and out of consciousness, sometimes mistaking his son Peter for Allen Dulles, his revered leader at the Agency so many years before. On May 10, 1974, Peter arranged to accompany his father on an air ambulance from Maryland to Chicago. "I'm taking you home," Peter told him. Wally Deuel had had a tracheotomy and was barely able to speak, but he made his resistance known by shaking his head and whispering a soft "no." He had had enough.
Somewhere over Indiana, he died. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in a cemetery that borders an expressway. Each time Peter drives by he offers his father a respectful salute.
Mike Deuel's daughter, Suzanne, was born in the spring of 1966, two years before Judy Deuel and Dick Holm were wed. For them and for Wally Deuel it was a union that closed many a circle. But it was not without its secrets. Suzanne was raised believing that Dick Holm was indeed her biological father. For the first years of her life, the name Mike Deuel meant nothing to her. She had not yet picked up on the hints and anomalies, like the wedding photo of Dick Holm and Judith in which a baby girl is seen in the background.
Intuitively she sensed something was amiss. For years she was visited by a recurring nightmare in which she was speeding down a steep hill on roller skates. On either side of her was a figure in a children's red wagon. It was Dick Holm, but there were two of him. She knew one to be her father. But the other she knew to be a bomb which would detonate at her embrace. "Pick me," cried the one, "the other is the bomb." Suzanne could never tell which was which.
She could not be blamed for feeling as if she grew up in a world of deception. It was not until she was nine or ten that she remembers stumbling across a box of old records and memorabilia in the basement. For hours she dug through the crate fixated on photos of a man whose smile and eyes bore an uncanny resemblance to her own. She found his lighter, his ring, and newspaper accounts telling of a plane crash. She also found references to his burial at Arlington.
When she turned sixteen and got her driver's license, she secretly drove to Arlington National Cemetery and found her father's grave. After that, the nightmares ended. But whether because of secrecy constraints or the emotional scars left by Mike Deuel's premature death, Suzanne never felt comfortable asking her mother or Dick Holm about the man she had come to know as Mike. He would remain a shadowy presence throughout her adolescence, a face she could see hints of in the mirror but would come to regard as something of a taboo subject.
A second stunning surprise awaited her. It was not until she was in high school that the man she called "Father," Dick Holm, confided in her that he was not with the State Department, as she had been led to believe all those years, but that he was a covert operative with the CIA. Such deception of one's own children to maintain cover is often the hardest and most exacting act of dissembling a covert officer must face. Suzanne, like countless other children of CIA officers, at first felt deceived and then, for the first time, began to perceive a pattern where before there had been only confusion. Suddenly emerged a logic that accounted for a lifetime of mystery and secrecy.
A decade later, when she was living in Paris and engaged, she wrote a Cornell classmate of her father's asking if he might share with her some memory of Mike Deuel. That classmate contacted the entire fraternity house, who, one by one, poured out years of memories in letters sent to Paris. By the time Suzanne married she had come to know her father as few daughters ever do.
As for Dick Holm, after the crash no one would have thought any worse of him if he had retired on full disability. Instead, after two years of surgery and rehabilitation he was back in the field as a covert case officer -- not to mention a spirited tennis player. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a respected CIA chief of station. Based in Hong Kong, he ran several covert operations across the border in the People's Republic of China. For Dick Holm, a man who once contemplated shooting himself to end the unbearable pain, life was once again good, with family, work, and a restoration to health. In a January 16, 1972, letter to Wally Deuel he had written, "All this and interesting work: You can see that life is treating me well. More than ample justification for my determination not to die in that damn Congo."
Holm's long-ago ordeal had become a part of the Agency's lore. Wally Deuel would relate how one day at Langley Dick Holm was speaking to some people in the hall when the director, Dick Holms, passed by, stopped, and said, "Hi, Dick." Holm's associates were astonished that the director would stop to say hello and would know him by name. Holm simply laughed it off. "Listen" he said, "if you'd cost him a million dollars, he'd know who you are too" -- a reference to the medical expenses incurred in his two-year convalescence.
Holm was later named head of the Agency's Counterterrorist Center, overseeing operations to blunt terrorist activities worldwide. As a final plum assignment, prior to retirement, Dick Holm was made chief of station in Paris. It was his fluency in French that had taken him to his ill-fated Congo mission in 1964, and now that same proficiency was cited in rewarding him with Paris.
But in January 1995 a covert CIA operation in France was compromised, as it came to light that a female agent under deep cover had fallen in love with the French official she had targeted. Her mission had been to learn France's position in upcoming world trade talks. The United States was profoundly embarrassed as the tale of economic espionage against a close ally came to light. In March 1996 Holm was pressured to resign under a cloud. It was widely viewed within the CIA that, after years of loyal, even heroic service, Dick Holm had been made a scapegoat to save face for the Agency. His treatment further lowered morale within the CIA's covert ranks.
Six months later, in a transparent effort to boost sagging morale and extend an olive branch to Holm, he was invited to return to Langley, where he was presented the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. But by then it was too late. His reputation was stained. He had tried to defend himself publicly but found that while the Agency felt free to blame him publicly, it invoked its own rigid secrecy constraints on him, preventing him from discussing the case or restoring his good name.
Mike Maloney's father, the colonel, stayed with the Agency until he retired in January 1972. He and his wife moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he became a eucharistic minister, puttered about in the garden, and let his grandchildren stomp about the house in his leg brace. But Mike's death continued to cast a pall over his days. "The spark went out of that man's life," remembers Mike's widow, Adrienne. In his last years Mal Maloney was stricken with Alzheimer's and had to be fed by others. A proud man, he died on August 18, 1994, at age eighty in the Avon Convalescent Home in Connecticut.
As for Mike Maloney's widow, Adrienne, she would never remarry. Four months after her husband died, on February 20, I965, she gave birth to a second son, Craig Michael Maloney. She devoted herself to raising her two boys, Craig and Michael. In time, both boys toyed with the idea of joining the CIA. Craig formally applied but later withdrew his application. "I just came to the realization that I was doing it for the wrong reasons," he would say later. "I was chasing a ghost." His brother, Michael, filled out a CIA application but missed his interview because of flu. "I took it as a sign from God that I wasn't supposed to do it," he concluded. There would be no third generation of Maloneys in the CIA.
Adrienne Maloney, now fifty-seven, never put her young husband's death fully behind her. She had her wedding ring, which had been inscribed "FOREVER M.A.M. TO A.L.M.," set into the base of a gold chalice and given to a church to be used in sacraments. A few years ago she gathered up Mike's letters and put a match to them. Even that could not distance her from the loss. Much of that pain stems from watching her two sons growing up without a father. They knew only that he died in a helicopter crash and that they were not allowed to discuss his death or the circumstances surrounding it with anyone.
Their father's entire life was shrouded in mystery. Son Craig, who was in utero when Mike Maloney was killed, would lament that he had never seen his father's face. Adrienne would comfort him by saying that at least his father had felt him kicking inside her and had chosen for him his name.
There was one moment when the CIA seemed to relent in its otherwise all-encompassing invocation of secrecy. In 1993 the Maloney sons were permitted on one occasion to visit the Agency and were shown a scant few records, many of them heavily redacted, from their father's personnel file. Though the file jacket was stamped "Top Secret," it shed no light on either their father's life or his death. Anything sensitive had been removed. What was left were his college transcripts, his essay on why he wanted to join the CIA, and a few perfunctory application materials. But the visit meant something to the Maloney sons nonetheless. So, too, did the fact that their guide and companion at the Agency that afternoon was none other than Dick Holm. No one had to explain to him how much had been lost that October day in 1965.
For years Adrienne asked the CIA to inscribe her husband's name in the Book of Honor, believing it was something she should do for her two sons and for her husband's memory. As recently as 1996, while at an Agency memorial service, she asked then CIA Director John Deutch if he would examine the Maloney file and reconsider adding her husband's name to the book, thereby releasing her and her sons from the onerous burden of silence they had endured. "Why," she asked Deutch, "must it all be kept a secret after more than thirty years?"
"Why don't you write me a note?" Deutch told her. "Don't put down any explanation, no song and dance, just a note."
Adrienne Maloney did just that and sent it registered mail. Then, as before, the CIA did not respond to her request. Each time she attempted to follow up with a letter or phone call, the Agency told her that her letters had been lost.
Son Michael even wrote a poem for his brother, Craig, about their father and the burdens of a life enshrouded in secrecy. That poem now hangs on Craig Maloney's wall. It reads in part:
"It's thirty years ago," says son Craig Maloney, "and I can't help but think of what kind of rhetorical crap and political crap it is that they can't release his name. His name deserves to be there. We write letters and they never go where they should. I think it's completely unjust."
Finally, in September 1997 an article in the Washington Post by this author identified Mike Maloney as one of the nameless stars. The same day the article was released, Adrienne Maloney received a phone call from the Agency informing her that the CIA had reconsidered her request and had decided that her husband's name could at last be inscribed in the Book of Honor. A short time later his name was added to the book.
But nowhere in the Book of Honor appeared the name of Mike Deuel, who sat beside Maloney on that same fateful helicopter on that same covert mission some thirty-five years ago. His daughter, Suzanne, and other family members had to content themselves with an unnamed star and shoulder the burden of an arbitrary code of secrecy. In this they were not alone. So, too, did the families of John "Lone Star" Kearns, Wayne McNulty, and John Peterson -- all of them still nameless stars from the long-ago secret war in Laos.
That secret war dragged on for more than a dozen bloody years, but it was a secret for a short time only. So many men and supplies could not long be concealed. To some degree it was an act of legerdemain practiced upon the American public, whose patience and support of the Vietnam conflict were already flagging. To some degree, too, it was a feeble attempt to avoid international condemnation for violating a promised neutrality -- one already flagrantly breached by the other side.
The two Mikes, Deuel and Maloney, were neither the first nor the last of the CIA paramilitary officers killed in the conflict. And like Deuel and Maloney, their Agency affiliations would be covered up.
Even as the two Mikes' brief collaboration ended, the Communists were expanding their vast network of roads and resupply routes, creating a major artery for the North Vietnamese war effort. A "Secret" CIA intelligence assessment provided to Lyndon Johnson seven weeks after Deuel and Maloney were killed notes that the Communists were moving largely at night and that they had concealed the roads with overarching trellises and vines, making them virtually invisible.
Even years later Dick Helms and other senior Agency officials would extol the efforts of its men and women in Laos and speak of the CIA's costly campaign as if it had been a success. And those in the jungles and mountains who fought the covert war in Laos continue to say, "We won our war," contrasting it with the Vietnam conflict, which was bitterly lost to the Communists following an unseemly withdrawal.
But in the eyes of history it is a meaningless distinction, an expression of wounded pride. No sooner did Vietnam fall than Laos followed suit. On December 3, 1975, the Lao People's Democratic Republic formally came to power.
Many could argue -- and did -- that Mike Deuel and the others who died in Laos died for naught, that their efforts failed to sway events. But though the mission ultimately failed, their grit is still quietly celebrated at Langley by the aging few who knew them, particularly those from the Agency's class of 1961. They remember Mike Deuel not as a casualty of war, but as the standard- bearer of their class and generation. "I want to make a difference," Mike Deuel would often say. In that, he spoke for them all.