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|Edward Geary Lansdale|
Edward Lansdale in 1963
February 6, 1908 |
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
February 23, 1987 (aged 79) |
McLean, Virginia, U.S.
|Allegiance||22x20px United States of America|
|Service/branch||25px United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1943-1963|
|Rank||30px Major General|
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal|
National Security Medal
Philippine Legion of Honor
Philippine's Medal of Military Merit
Edward Geary Lansdale (February 6, 1908 – February 23, 1987) was a United States Air Force officer who served in the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency. He rose to the rank of Major General and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1963. He was an early proponent of more aggressive US actions in the Cold War. Lansdale was born in Detroit, Michigan and died in McLean, Virginia. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was twice married and had two sons from his first marriage.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Edward Geary Lansdale was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1908, the second of the four sons of Sarah Frances Philips of California and Henry Lansdale of Virginia. He attended school in Michigan, New York and California before attending the UCLA where he earned his way largely by writing for newspapers and magazines. He moved on to better paying work in advertising in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
World War II[edit | edit source]
In World War II, he served with the Office of Strategic Services and in 1943 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, working various military intelligence assignments throughout the war. In 1945 after several wartime promotions, he was transferred to Headquarters Air Forces Western Pacific as a major, where he became chief of the Intelligence Division.
Philippines[edit | edit source]
He extended his tour to remain in the Philippines until 1948 helping the Philippine Army rebuild its intelligence services and he was responsible for resolving the cases of large numbers of prisoners of war. He was commissioned as a captain in the United States Air Force in 1947, with the temporary rank of major. After leaving the Philippines in 1948, he served as an instructor at the Strategic Intelligence School, Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, where he received a temporary promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1949. In 1950 President Elpidio Quirino personally requested that he be transferred to Joint United States Military Assistance Group, Philippines, to assist the intelligence services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines combat the Communist Hukbalahap. Ramon Magsaysay had just been appointed secretary of national defense and Lansdale was made liaison officer to him. The two men became close friends, frequently visiting the combat areas together. Lansdale helped the Philippine Armed Forces develop psychological operations, civic actions, and the rehabilitation of Hukbalahap prisoners in projects such as EDCOR. He was temporarily promoted to colonel in 1951.
Vietnam[edit | edit source]
Lansdale was a member of General John W. O'Daniel's mission to Indo-China in 1953, acting as an advisor on special counter-guerrilla operations to French forces against the Viet Minh. From 1954-57 he was stationed in Saigon as the head of the Saigon Military Mission (SMM). During this period he was active in the training of the Vietnamese National Army (VNA), organizing the Caodaist militias under Trình Minh Thế in an attempt to bolster the VNA, a propaganda campaign encouraging Vietnam's Catholics to move to the south as part of Operation Passage to Freedom, and spreading claims that North Vietnamese agents were making attacks in South Vietnam. Before the widely discredited 1955 referendum that saw Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm depose head of state Bảo Đại and proclaim himself President of the newly formed Republic of Vietnam, Lansdale advised Diệm, with whom had a close friendship, to not rig the poll and be content with a realistic 60-70% result, advice Diệm did not take. Diệm was credited with 98.2% overall and 133% in Saigon.
Lansdale mentored and trained Phạm Xuân Ẩn, a reporter for Time magazine who was actually a highly placed North Vietnamese spy. In 1961, he helped to publicize the story of Father Nguyen Lac Hoa, the "fighting priest" who had organized a crack militia called the Sea Swallows from his village of anti-communist Chinese Catholic exiles. In 1961, Lansdale recruited John M. Deutch to his first job in government, working as one of Robert McNamara's 'Whiz Kids'. Deutch would go on to be the 17th Director of Central Intelligence.
Anti-Castro Campaign[edit | edit source]
From 1957 to 1963 Lansdale worked for the Department of Defense in Washington, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations, Staff Member of the President's Committee on Military Assistance, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations. During the early 1960s he was chiefly involved in clandestine efforts to topple the government of Cuba, including proposals to assassinate Fidel Castro. Much of this work was under the aegis of "Operation Mongoose" which was the operational name for the CIA plan to topple Castro's government. According to Daniel Ellsberg, who was at one time a subordinate to Lansdale, Lansdale claimed that he was fired by President Kennedy's Defense Secretary Robert McNamara after he declined Kennedy's offer to play a role in the overthrow of the Diem regime.
Late in his career[edit | edit source]
From 1965 to 1968 he returned to Vietnam to work in the US Embassy. He retired on November 1, 1963. His memoir, published in 1972, was In the Midst of Wars. His biography, The Unquiet American, was written by Cecil Currey and published in 1988; the title refers to the common, but incorrect belief, that the eponymous character in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American was based on Lansdale. According to Norman Sherry's authorized biography of Greene The Life of Graham Greene (Penguin, 2004), Lansdale did not officially enter the Vietnam arena until 1954, while Greene wrote his book in 1952 after departing Vietnam. More likely is that he was the inspiration for the character Colonel Hillandale in Eugene Burdick's novel The Ugly American published in 1958. Many of Lansdale's private papers and effects were destroyed in a fire at his McLean home in 1972. In 1981, Lansdale donated most of his remaining papers to Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
JFK controversy[edit | edit source]
In the 1990s interest in Lansdale was sparked, in part, by the inclusion of a character named "General Y" (portrayed by Dale Dye) in the 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK. It was implied that Lansdale was "General Y", who sent Colonel Fletcher Prouty (Air Force) off on an odd assignment out of country. Prouty specialized in presidential security and Kennedy's death during his absence aroused suspicion that this was part of a plot. This hypothesis is inspired by questions raised about Lansdale's presence in Dealey Plaza by Prouty, who claimed to have recognized Lansdale in a photograph taken that day by a Dallas Morning News photographer immediately after the assassination.
The photo allegedly shows Lansdale walking away from the "three tramps" who were arrested by Dallas police. Prouty worked next door to Lansdale for 9 years and recognized the shape of his head, class ring and the stoop in his walk. Prouty's identification of Lansdale has been corroborated by Lt. General Victor H. Krulak. Daniel Ellsberg, a consultant to Oliver Stone on JFK and former subordinate of Lansdale's, claims to have told Stone not to include this in the script, believing Lansdale to be innocent of the allegations.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Tim Weiner (1995-12-10). "The C.I.A.'s most Important Mission: Itself". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE0D81F39F933A25751C1A963958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.
[edit | edit source]
- Official Air Force Biography
- James Gibney, "The Ugly American." Review of Edward Lansdale's Cold War, by Jonathan Nashel. New York Times, January 15, 2006.