Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Recommended reading - Legacy of Ashes

On July 26, 2007, the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) I briefly posted about it and linked to an excellent review of Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA, by Tim Weiner (photo) a reporter for The New York Times and Pulitzer Price winner for his work on secret national security programs.
The review, posted on July 24th at (my favorite blogger), is by Chalmers Johnson, (one of my favorite authors) who was an outside consultant for the CIA from 1967 to 1973.

I read the review. I bought the book. It’s a page-turner.

Here’s an item that interested me: On page 60, Weiner describes an ill-fated mission (as virtually all covert CIA missions were), which dropped a four-man Chinese guerrilla team into Manchuria in 1952. They were captured and four months later radioed for help. Two young CIA officers and a pilot were sent to rescue them. The plane was shot down, the pilot killed, and the officers, Dick Fecteau and Jack Downey spent 19 and 20 years, respectively, in prison in China. “Beijing later broadcast a scorecard for Manchuria: the CIA dropped 212 foreign agents in; 101 were killed and 111 were captured.” This was typical of the CIA’s covert operations in the first few years.

I Googled “Dick Fecteau,” and came up with a report on him at the Prisoners of War Network, also interesting reading.

I urge you to read Johnson’s review. I’m convinced that if you do, you, too, will want to read Legacy of Ashes

(photo of book: Random House; photo of Weiner – The New York Times)


Anonymous said...

For an alternative view that undermines Weiner's credibility, see the CIA historian's review at

It turns out that Weiner has made some things up.

Gail Jonas said...

Anonymous who posted today at 9:05 a.m.

Thank you very much. I have saved the article and will definitely read it.

It's always hard to hear that someone I admire/promote has clay feet, but I try to remain open to new information.