THE BOOK OF HONOR -- HONOR AND HUMILIATION
Honor and Humiliation
BY THE EARLY 1970s more than a decade had elapsed since the Bay of Pigs. Finally it appeared that the CIA might again enjoy some measure of credibility as the Cuban fiasco faded into history. But new and more try- ing ordeals were already taking shape. Cumulatively they would create a crisis of confidence in the CIA from which it would not soon recover. By 1974 the long-festering war in Vietnam was coming to an end. A short-lived and illusory peace was all there was to show for so much sacrifice. The end would be immortalized as a frantic scurry aboard a final chopper out of Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the spectacle of a Communist takeover.
On many fronts the public felt it had been deceived. Watergate, the ultimate scandal, had begun on June 17, 1972, with a break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters. It was followed by the arrest of five burglars, all but one of whom had worked for the CIA and whose Agency roots went back to the Bay of Pigs or before. Other former CIA officers would later be implicated, leading many to muse that the curse of the Bay of Pigs was upon Langley still. On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. With Nixon gone, the CIA would take unwanted center stage.
Investigators on Capitol Hill and in the press began to unravel the CIA's most sensitive secrets, digging into a past that would chill even stalwart patriots and challenge time-honored myths of America's moral superiority. Millions, it was learned, had been spent on toppling duly elected foreign governments. Tens of thousands of Americans had been subjected to illegal CIA scrutiny. Former Agency officers were writing books, threatening to tell all. Detente and its relaxation of tensions with the Soviets undermined support for covert operations and called into question the need for extreme measures.
As if external wounds were not enough, Langley had long engaged in its own bloodletting. The self- destructive hunt for Soviet moles inside the CIA, led by the brilliant but obsessed James Angleton, was finally brought to an end with his forced retirement in December 1974 -- but not before the careers of honorable officers had been ruined and vast resources squandered chasing phantoms.
Ahead lay devastating Senate and House hearings. Out of these would come revelations that would forever alter Americans' view of the CIA and, in the minds of at least one generation, brand it as a rogue agency --"uncontrolled and uncontrollable," to use the words of Senator Frank Church. An incredulous nation learned that for years the Agency had been reading Americans' mail, spying on its own citizens, experimenting with LSD and deadly toxins, plotting to assassinate foreign leaders, and destabilizing other governments. William E, Colby, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, horrified the clandestine service by voluntarily assembling a list of Agency actions that violated its charter. To the outside world it was known as the Family Jewels. Inside the Agency it was called the Skeletons. Nothing so demoralized Langley as the perception that it had been betrayed by one of its own, a career intelligence officer, an OSS veteran, and the overseer of the controversial phoenix Program.
Out of that would come a vast expansion of congressional oversight and a prohibition of assassinations. Few would be exempt from accountability. In 1973 a Senate committee asked former Agency director Richard Helms if the CIA had had a role in the coup attempts to bring down Chile's President Salvador Allende. "No sir," he replied. Four years later, when the truth emerged, Helms was slapped with a $2,000 fine and a two-year suspended prison sentence for misleading Congress "You now stand before this court in disgrace and shame," a federal judge told him. It was a rebuke that! in the public's mind, might just as well have been meted out to the entire Agency.
By the mid-1970s and for decades thereafter, the CIA would be the focal point for every conspiracy theory. The excesses of such accusations were matched only by the CIA's own bizarre and often harebrained schemes. For those inside the Agency who revered it and remembered those who had recently died in its service in Southeast Asia, the mid- seventies were years of high honor and excruciating humiliation. Many Agency veterans remained unbowed and resentful. Among these was Richard Helms.
"Some political commentators lamented the fact the CIA was not the Boy Scouts," an indignant Helms would reflect. "Those of us who worked in the CIA were surprised-we had always assumed that we had been expected to act otherwise. The CIA was damaged, almost crippled, by that dark period in its history." Citing the patriot Nathan Hale, whose statue graces a CIA walkway, Helms would say, "Intelligence is necessary to the public good, and, by being necessary, becomes honorable." At Langley "necessary" and "honorable" had been allowed to become synonymous.
It was against just such a darkening backdrop that CIA ofticials gathered in the spring of 1973 in an attempt to craft some sort of memorial for the many Agency men and women who had died in the line of service. Up until then, there was no monument, only a secretive gathering of men assembling under the sterile-sounding name of the Honors and Merit Awards Board. It was they who determined who would posthumously receive what, if any, medal or honor. Most such honors and commendations would be presented to the surviving spouse, then quickly retrieved and placed in the deceased's personnel file, deep within the vaultlike chambers of Langley Such deaths, shrouded in secrecy, were deemed a private matter between the family and the Agency representative. That was usually a job for Ben DeFelice, who for two decades comforted the bereaved and provided them with whatever bureaucratic and personal assistance might be needed.
But in the grim days of 1973 and 1974 senior Agency people seized upon the idea that something more was needed, something both to recognize the personal sacrifices of its officers and, equally important, to pro- vide a focal point for the CIA community at large. Such sacrifices in the aggregate, it was thought, might inspire and uplift an increasingly demoralized organization. For a guide, they looked naturally enough to the State Department, which had, over the years, lost scores of men and women in service overseas.
Adopting State Department rituals and criteria was a first step. But Agency officials soon recognized that most of those the CIA would honor would be from the clandestine ranks. That posed unique security problems. At the State Department there was a large plaque at the end of the main lobby listing its honored dead. For years the CIA had quietly salted in among the ranks of the State Department's casualties some of its own covert officers killed in the line of duty. Among these were the names of Douglas S. Mackiernan, "Killed by Gunfire Tibet 1950," and William P. Boteler, "Killed by Grenade Nicosia Cyprus 1956." It was an odd way to do Agency casualties honor, but the only way that the CIA knew. Besides, since those men and women had died under State Department cover, not to include them on that wall would attract unwanted attention and raise suspicions about their true employer and mission. It was a dilemma that would continue for decades.
Creating an Agency memorial would require the organization to first define the criteria for inclusion. Those deemed worthy would then be the subject of an elaborate declassification review to determine whose name could be revealed and whose must remain a secret. Like the State Department, the Agency concluded that such a death must be "of an inspirational or heroic character."
But at the CIA the precise criteria for inclusion were deemed so sensitive that they were classified and would remain so. Unlike the State Department, the Agency concluded that death need not occur outside the United States, though it must occur while in pursuit of an Agency mission. Excluded were deaths occurring from disease, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and simple auto and plane crashes occurring in the ordinary course of one's private life. On this they agreed. But such a provision excluded numerous Agency officers who perished in the field from exotic circumstances to which they would not otherwise have been exposed but for their CIA missions.
Initially they also agreed that those honored should not be limited to CIA staff employees but should include those who died while under contract to the CIA. This was a point of considerable sensitivity in 1973. Scores of pilots and crew members from Air America, the proprietary air wing of the CIA, had died in Southeast Asia while on Agency business. Excluding them from the memorial would have been seen as i.1rawing an untenable distinction between the sacrifices of those who died in service to country, based solely on employment status and bureaucratic hair- splitting. (Yet in the end, such a distinction was invoked, to the consternation of countless Air America families who felt their loved ones' sacrifices were belittled by the CIA. )
There was also an early consensus as to the words that would appear above the memorial.
Finally, after consultation with a noted private architectural sculptor, Harold Vogel, there was agreement that all the deceased would be recognized with a star. Some other instrument, perhaps a book, could provide the years in which the officers were killed. But one thorny question remained: what exactly would such a memorial look like? For this, they relied largely on Vogel.
In some ways he was the perfect choice. An experienced sculptor, he was widely respected and had the sort of forceful vision that would cajole the Agency into reaching a firm conclusion as to the design. Even more important, Vogel brought to the project the sensitivities of a man only too familiar with the causes and values for which these covert operatives had been said to have given their lives.
The son of German immigrants, he was born in the United States. But following the stock market crash of 1929, he and his family re turned to Germany. As a teenager Vogel grew up under Hitler's Third Reich. When it was discovered that his father carried a U.S. passport, his mother was locked up, his father dispatched to Russia, and he, though only fourteen, was interned at a labor camp near Nuremberg. There Vogel was assigned to assist a Russian explosives expert whose job it was to dismantle Allied bombs that failed 1o detonate. Vogel knew he was utterly "disposable." Another lad forced to perform the same task completely disappeared after a bomb he was dismantling went off.
It was unimaginable to him then that he would .survive those years, much less return to the United States and eventually design the frame that held the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol, an LBJ memorial, and other prominent public commissions. But none would prove more challenging than that at the CIA. Problems arose early on. Months after the Agency contacted him, he heard nothing from them and assumed that they had selected someone else. In fact, the Agency was conducting a security check of Vogel and was troubled when it was discovered that he had relatives living in East Germany. Only when the Agency satisfied itself that he was not a security threat did they contact him again. That was in the spring of 1974.
Then came the conundrum of how to pay homage to people whose identities were, due to compartmentation, largely unknown even within the CIA itself. Early on, Vogel, unfamiliar with the Byzantine ways of the Agency, felt as though he had stumbled into some sort of Alice in Wonderland landscape.
Much of the idea for a "book of honor" in which to record the names of the fallen must be credited to Vogel. But as originally envisioned by some at the Agency, the Book of Honor was to contain not just some of the names but all of them. For this reason, Vogel would be asked to design a way to display the volume, albeit closed and under lock and key.
Vogel designed a lecternlike affair of Carrara marble to be fastened with rods into the wall. The book would be placed within the lectern and sealed with a bulletproof plate of glass secured with a stainless-steel frame and a solid lock. Each of four sets of keys would be carefully accounted for. The lectern itself was constructed on a slant so tha1 those who were in wheelchairs could appreciate the beauty of the volume. But because the book was to remain closed, a premium was placed on its outward appearance.
For this Vogel went to New York and selected the finest black Moroccan goatskin for a cover. This he embossed with a 22-karat gold-leaf emblem of the Agency. The cost of the book was $1,500, the lectern $4,300, plus thousands of dollars caused by subsequent Agency revisions.
But there was a problem. Who, the Agency representatives asked, would record all the names, including those still classified? Vogel did not possess the requisite security clearance. Indeed, because the identities were compartmented on a need-to-know basis, no one individual might be entrusted with them all. So the Agency gathered together three of its in-house calligraphers and decided to divide the names among them. But when the calligraphers were informed that they could not make a mistake on the one-of-a-kind handmade rice paper, they withdrew from consideration. That left Vogel.
"Well," said Vogel, attempting to make light of the situation, "you could blindfold me and then I wouldn't know what the hell I wrote." The Agency representatives were less than amused. The entire concept underwent yet another revision.
This time it was decided that only those names cleared for release would be included in the Book of Honor. The others would be marked only by a star and the year of death. No other clues to identity or mission or circumstances of death would be included in the book. Now the concept called for the volume to remain opened, and the costly cover would be unseen. On the top two pages, hand-lettered in black, India ink, were to be written the names and stars. Beneath these two pages and supporting them was a series of blank sheets to give the book heft. With each passing year, as more and more names were to be added, a blank page would be taken from the bottom, inscribed, and placed on the top.
More than a year had passed between the time the Agency had first approached Vogel and the time an agreement was reached on the precise design of the project. For Vogel the final step came in July 1974, as he chiseled the letters of the inscription into the marble:
The actual cutting of the first thirty stars was left to Vogel's sixty-one-year-old assistant, Lloyd "Red" Flint. It was Flint who manned a carbide-tipped chisel fastened to a tiny air hammer. Delicately he incised each five-pointed star into the marble wall, careful not to cut so deep as to crack the seven-eights-inch-thick slabs of Vermont Dan by marble. Hundreds of CIA employees came and went through the cavernous lobby without taking any notice of this man in the work. coat, his face to the wall, absorbed in his task. To them, he was virtually invisible, just an- other workman. A quiet man with no more than an eighth-grade education, he seemed almost a part of the wall itself. But for Flint, the carving of the stars, and the knowledge that each one represented a life lost, was more than just a job.
Five years earlier Flint had himself been a CIA employee with a top secret clearance. At times his responsibilities were as sensitive as any of those who passed by him. With the blessings of some former OSS officers, Flint had joined the Agency in 1952 and would remain there until his retirement seventeen years later. During that time he would operate the Agency's "Bindery," an innocuous-enough name, suggesting that he put together books. But Flint's work was more esoteric. He was assigned to Technical Services and operated out of the basement of a nondescript downtown Washington edifice known as the Central Building, part of the complex that once served as OSS headquarters. It was far enough from Langley to escape suspicion and sat atop a hill near the State Department, providing easy cover stories for Agency personnel.
There Red Flint used his skills to create a panoply of counterfeit documents to be used by covert operatives, some of whom might well be represented by the very stars he carved. Among his output he could count bogus license plates for clandestine officers driving through the streets of Taiwan, phony passports carried into East Germany, and innumerable leaflets disseminated throughout the Far East. His trained eye looked for minuscule "checkpoints" that the Communists buried in their documents to tip them off to his and others' CIA counterfeits. He helped provide officers with "pocket litter," the scraps of paper, store receipts, theater stubs, and other indigenous junk and refuse that might convince interrogators, when they stopped and searched an officer on hostile streets, of the person's bona fides and could mean the difference between life and death.
For Flint, as for many others, the wall of stars expressed not so much losses suffered by an institution as it did the losses endured by family. Indeed, Flint's own stepson would spend his career in the clandestine service. The Agency was, increasingly, a family affair.
By the fall of 1974 the Book of Honor and the wall of stars were completed, and the criteria for inclusion well settled. But only a few months after the chisels had been put away and the dark lithochrome applied to the last of the original stars, the Agency suffered yet another casualty. He, too, would eventually be honored with a nameless star, though the circumstances of that death diverged from all the others and, to the few familiar with the facts, would remain a lingering mystery.
His name was Raymond Carlin Rayner. Unlike his peers in the Book of Honor, Ray Rayner was not engaged in classic espionage. He ran no agents and, in the CIA's bureaucracy, did not even report to the Operations Directorate that oversaw the clandestine service. Rayner reported to the far more mundane director of administration. His last assignment was as far from the popularized vision of spying and James Bond as one could imagine. Ray Rayner's final job was warehouse- man.
His story begins in 1951. He was then twenty-one and still living at home, the youngest of three brothers born and raised in Brooklyn. He was soft-spoken and possessed a deep soothing voice, an easygoing manner, and a wry sense of humor. And he was tall and well built. His hair was a mix of gold and red, his complexion ruddy, marked by freckles. His father, Edward, had been a truant officer who died when Ray was twelve. His mother, Helen, was a schoolteacher.
In high school Ray had been a solid student, his name appearing often on the honor roll. But since graduating from Brooklyn's St. Francis Preparatory School on June 24, 1948, he had had a series of dead-end jobs, including selling Bibles door-to-door and even a stint as a chimney sweep. His mother fretted what would become of him and called his older brother Bill asking for his advice.
That phone call ultimately put Ray Rayner on a very different career path, for Bill Rayner and his wife, Barbara Ann, both worked for the CIA. Barbara Ann was a secretary in the Agency's Office of Communications recruited at age nineteen straight out of Immaculata Junior College in June 1950. The Agency in those years seemed partial to Catholics, drawn to true believers and staunch patriots. With a top secret clearance, Barbara Ann Rayner would sometimes find herself clicking away at the typewriter keys reading the U.S. war plan in response to a Soviet nuclear attack. At night the typewriter spools were locked in the safe, and even innocent typographical errors were deposited in the burn basket beside her. Her husband, Bill, joined the Agency in 1951, assigned to the signals center. Once again, Agency employment was a family matter.
Bill suggested to his younger brother, Ray, that he apply to the Agency. And so he did. On his application Ray was asked why he left his previous employment. Remembering his work as a chimney sweep, he is said to have written, "Low pay, dirty work." After that, the phrase became a family joke, a way to decline unwanted chores. "No thanks," the Rayners would say. "Low pay, dirty work."
With his brother and sister-in-law vouching for Ray, his acceptance into the CIA was nearly a foregone conclusion. In 1951 Ray Rayner joined the Agency and within a year found himself shuttling between a couple of small rock outcroppings off the Chinese mainland known as Quemoy and Matsu. His cover was as an employee of Western Enterprises, a thinly veiled CIA front organization based in Taiwan. Given the risks and the demands of travel, Western Enterprises relied on young single men. Rayner's job was to covertly man a radio and keep an eye on what was then known as Red China.
He returned to the States just long enough to wed Margaret Mary "Peggy" Tully, a girl who grew up two blocks from him. The wedding was on April 11, 1953, in Brooklyn's Church of St. Agatha. His in-laws would always find it hard to understand what Ray did for a living, given his ever- hanging cover stories and constant transfers. Like many Agency employees, he would have to endure in silence his relatives' doubts and criticisms, unable to share with them his true profession or accomplishments. In 1961 the Agency presented Ray with his ten-year pin, which he was required to keep locked away out of sight. Ironically it was given to him at the very time that his father-in-law was pressing him to get a "steady job."
Every few years, Ray would be transferred to yet another foreign post -- Frankfurt, Germany, Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and in 1970, Banbury, outside of London. His specialty was communications. By all accounts, he was quiet though not reclusive, and had a streak of mischief about him. His sister-in-law would long remember when she and her husband, Bill, were preparing to return to the United States from Southampton aboard the passenger liner Queen Elizabeth II in July 1970. Ray Rayner and his wife, Peggy, not content to see them off at the pier, were hoping to briefly board the ship and then exit before it set sail. But at the pier, Ray was informed that without a boarding pass he could not gain way to the gangplank-and passes were no longer available.
Rayner ducked into a nearby pub where he sought out the acquaintance of a small man enjoying a last pint before boarding the QE II with his wife to see off a friend. Rayner, while charming the man, caught sight of his boarding pass sitting on the bar. He coolly put his cold mug of beer over the pass, raised it for a drink, and deftly pocketed the pass in his in- side breast pocket. With that, he bid adieu to the man and boarded the ship to say his farewells.
Once on board, Rayner shared his tale of chicanery with his brother and sister-in-law. "You didn't." said a disbelieving Barbara Ann. As hi: later exited the ship, he caught sight of the same little man from the bar, this time pleading his case at the gangplank. "I had a pass," he argued furiously. "My wife will kill me."
It was in 1973 that Rayner, then forty-three, his wife, and their five children were assigned to Monrovia, Liberia, on Africa's west coast. Liberia was a notorious hardship post, and Ray had misgivings about the assignment. The country had a reputation for being a lawless place. Monrovia, and particularly the Monrovia to which Rayner and his family would be exposed, was a world unto itself rife with risks, seen and unseen. Only seven years earlier, his family had been evacuated from Jakarta, Indonesia, when that country slipped into chaos. Ray had stayed on with the rest of the CIA contingent. But at least Liberia would take him away from a Washington sinking ever deeper into the scandals of Watergate and CIA excesses. For that, at least, he might count himself among the lucky ones.
On paper the U.S. Embassy staff in Monrovia was unusually large for so small a nation. True, Liberia had enjoyed a special relationship with the United States, dating back to the 1840s when it was resettled with freed American slaves. And the country had a certain strategic importance, as Firestone had one of the world's largest rubber plantations there. But that did not account for the scores of American communications specialists working there under State Department cover. In truth, the communications people, as many as 150, were CIA officers, assigned to run the Area Telecommunications Office, or ATO, a central relay station through which nearly all message transmissions passed between the African continent and Washington. Much of that communications traffic was classified. The ATO had both a transmitter and a receiver, and maintaining the facility required a constant and significant store of replacement parts.
That's where Ray Rayner came in. Under cover as a State Department employee, Rayner was in CIA logistics, overseeing a gigantic inventory of antennae, receivers, transmitters, and innumerable tiny parts imperative to the continued operation of the ATO. The Agency warehouse was a dingy and dark structure on a small islandlike spit of land known as Bushrod Island. This was Rayner's domain. His office was located under a roof gar- den, and when it rained, he would constantly have to move his files around trying to keep them from the raindrops that were splashing on his desk.
He and the other CIA workers under State Department cover lived together in a community known as Caldwell a few miles from town. It was geographically isolated and socially inbred. CIA families passed their time almost exclusively with other CIA families. The work of maintaining the ATO was exhausting -- and reminded many of watch duty in the military. To amuse themselves in their time off; they created a yacht club and dubbed it "the Watch Standers Club." There they and their families swam, boated, fished, and shared Sunday cookouts featuring barbecued barracuda.
But even when off duty, they had to be circumspect. Nature was not always friendly in West Africa. The Rayners' backyard went down to a swamp. In the wet season, when two hundred inches of rain fell, the crocodiles from the St. Paul River would enter the swamp and come up onto their backyard and the yards of the neighbors. Children had been known to trip over a croc or two. One CIA officer, after learning that his child had had such an encounter, fetched his gun, shot the beast, skinned it, and kept the trophy in his freezer.
There were snakes too, deadly mambas, which would sun them- selves on the driveways and whose neurotoxic bites could disable their victims in seconds. Some were found hanging in the palms, others slithering through the lawns. The CIA's orientation had warned against sitting on logs or going barefoot. But that was little comfort to the CIA officer who came home to find a mamba shedding on his living room floor.
There was also the constant threat of burglars and break-ins. So widespread were these that every CIA family in Caldwell paid a local to sit in a chair in the front yard twenty-four hours a day and watch for intruders, known as rogues. These local guards would invariably fall asleep, but their presence gave some false sense of security, enhanced by the presence of "rogue bars" on the doors and windows of the families' homes. But not even the local custom of cutting off a finger or the ear of a burglar seemed to deter intruders.
And just as deadly were the ennui, the insidious boredom, and the lure of vice that crept into homes already sorely taxed by the headaches of living where electricity and water were sporadic, where nothing worked, government corruption festered, and cynicism spread like fungus.
The Agency people, always drawn to acronyms, had a name for the cumulative adversities they faced. They called it WAWA. It stood for "West Africa wins again." Nothing could resist its corrupting influence. It was said that in such a clime even aluminum rusted. Neither was the soul exempt. To combat such fatalism, a few strayed with their neighbors' spouses. Others buried themselves in work. Still others drank. Ray Rayner, by all accounts, was neither unfaithful nor slavish in his devotion to work. Whether his taste for drink exceeded that of those around him was at times a matter of whispers.
As Thanksgiving 1974 approached, the Rayners were planning a trip, a chance to get away. The night of November 23, a Saturday, Ray Rayner was said to be awakened from his sleep by the sound of an intruder, a rogue. He went to investigate and was bludgeoned over the back of his head with a heavy metal object, later thought perhaps to be a flashlight. The intruder fled. Rayner was alive but disoriented and badly shaken. For whatever reason, he did not go to the hospital that night but stayed at home.
In the morning the community of Caldwell was already abuzz with stories of the intruder. Visitors to the Rayner home found silverware strewn about, the house in disarray, and a disoriented Ray Rayner. As he walked down the house's narrow hallway, he seemed to stumble, bouncing from wall to wall. "Like a pinball," remembers one visitor. He lay on the couch, speaking but making little sense. His condition was deteriorating.
He was taken by ambulance to the ELWA Hospital, a tiny forty- five-bed clinic run by evangelical Protestant missionaries and situated thirteen miles from Monrovia on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. ELWA stood for "Eternal Love Winning Africa," as if faith alone might be the antidote to the poisons contained in that other acronym, WAWA. Rayner was taken into private room A, where he was examined by the hospital's lone physician, Dr. Robert Schindler, who diagnosed him with what he described as "a subarachnoid hemorrhage." Rayner's brain was bleeding. Unless Schindler could soon bring down the swelling, Rayner would die. A plane was on standby to take Rayner to G hospital in Germany, but to survive the flight, the pressure on his brain would have to be reduced.
Schindler was not a neurosurgeon and he had no pretensions of being able to perform such a procedure unaided. The closest neurosurgeon was in Abidjan, hundreds of miles away. The hospital, while the best the region had to offer, did not even have a single working telephone. While Ray Rayner lay in a hospital bed, his wife, Peggy, paced the halls with her friend Barbara Teasley, wife of another CIA officer. Peggy Rayner was trying to make sense of what had happened. She spoke of their retirement plans now in jeopardy after twenty-three years of CIA service. Rayner lay unconscious. "I can't talk to him," she lamented. "I can't tell him that I love him."
At Langley there was a desperate effort to come to Rayner's aid. A radio link was set up between Washington and the ELWA Hospital, and a Bethesda neurosurgeon was brought in in an effort to talk Dr. Schindler through the complex procedure. The radio link was open and families in Caldwell clustered early that morning around radio sets on their porches, listening as a doctor an ocean away gave surgical instructions on how to operate on Rayner's brain. They sat in rapt silence, six and eight to a group, their ears to the over-and-out radio. The conversation detailed Dr, Schindler's struggle to save him. The bleeding was deep down in the base of the brain. Things were not going well. "I am losing him, I am losing him," they heard Schindler say. Then there was a prolonged silence. "He is gone," announced Schindler.
The time was 2:40 A.M. eastern standard time, November 26. On the porches of Caldwell, some cried. Others made the sign of the cross.
The next day, November 27, 1974, Ray Rayner's body was loaded aboard Pan American flight 187 for New York. His bogus diplomatic pass- port, number X070360, was returned to the CIA. And on December 2 he was buried in Brooklyn's Holy Cross Cemetery, in St. Joseph section, range 31, plot 203.
Rayner's death was the lead story in the Liberian Star; under the headline "U.S. Embassy Official Dies." But in Washington his death created not a ripple, That week, all eyes were on President Gerald Ford's meeting in Vladivostok with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The two had agreed to put a ceiling on offensive nuclear weapons. Detente was the news of the moment. Ray Rayner had been too minor a player on that grand stage of geopolitics and espionage to warrant even a nod from the hometown paper-which was as the CIA wished it to be.
In the days and weeks ahead, as the boat rides and cookouts resumed in Liberia and life in Caldwell returned to its old ways, the shock of Rayner's death faded. But it was not long before rumors surfaced, rumors questioning the account of Rayner's death, suggesting that it had some- thing to do with his drinking. Over games of bridge, housewives expressed doubts about the very existence of an intruder. The implications of such idle speculation were unspeakable. No one, they pointed out, had been brought to justice. Maybe such gossip made them feel better, gave them some comfort to believe that the rogues who stalked their homes by night meant them no harm and only coveted their possessions. Perhaps it was the only way they could make sense of an otherwise senseless loss.
The Agency dispatched an investigator to examine the circumstances of Rayner's death. His findings were stamped "Secret," but those who read it say it contained no surprises, no whiff of scandal or doubt. It concluded that Rayner had died as his family had said. And the rumors were just that, baseless.
Rayner's widow, Peggy, and the children returned to the States. Peggy would fall ill and die at the age of forty-nine. The death certificate would list the disease, but her in-laws would always believe that a broken heart was at least partially to blame. To this day, Ray Rayner's five children feel duty bound to honor the secrecy under which their father lived and died, fearing that to do otherwise would compromise national security. The Agency has given them little reason to believe that even after twenty-five years of rigid silence the veil should be lifted.
Equally irrational was the guilt that dogged Rayner's older brother Bill. For years he blamed himself for intervening in his brother's future and securing for him that first position in the CIA. But for his help, Bill Rayner reasoned, his little brother might yet be alive. But the search for reason or blame was futile. If Rayner demonstrated heroism deserving of a nameless star in the Book of Honor, perhaps it was not for what happened on that single fateful night in November 1974, but rather in recog- nition of what he had faced day in and day out-a different kind of enemy, one less identifiable than those produced by the Cold War, but no less fearsome. Perhaps it was this thing they called WAWA. West Africa had won again.