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Willem Smit (born 1935) was formerly an operative for the United States Central Intelligence Agency in Africa and South America. He was widely believed to have perished in Bolivia in the 1960s, however, in the 1980s a man claiming to be Smit surfaced as a pawnshop owner in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Smit was born in 1935, possibly somewhere in South Africa or South West Africa (present-day Namibia. He was the son of a poor family, but one which scraped enough money together in order to ensure a fairly advanced level of education for their son. In his early years, he enjoyed sport and was found to be an especially excellent marksman. This natural ability led him to pursue a career in the military and eventually led to his being recruited to work for the Caribbean Marine Aero Corporation which was later revealed to be a front company for the CIA. While Smit was not a U.S. citizen, he was skilled at his job and so worked continuously in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (Formerly Zaire), during the tumultuous time the Aero Corporation functioned. Once the conflict finished, Smit found himself in need of a new occupation. The CIA wasted little time in finding new avenues in which to employ his burgeoning set of skills.
The CIA offered a great deal to Smit because of the talent displayed in previous years. He was one of the few who enjoyed the protection of the CIA and began serving US Interests in South America. This, like Africa, was another area where the two opposing sides of the Cold War fought through proxy, they encouraged local divisions and funded opposing sides. Like so many US government operatives of the time, it is here where Smit's story becomes vague and undefined; while on a mission to subdue communist forces in Bolivia, he disappeared. In all likelihood, Smit died in South America sometime in the 1960s.
During the 1970s, however, there were reports that he was working to foment revolution in other parts of the world.
In the 1980s, a man claiming to be Smit was running a pawnshop in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The man explained to a startled researcher that he had retired, using the money he earned over the years to buy the shop in order to “give himself something to do all day”. Unfortunately, the author explained briefly, it was a distinct possibility the man was not in fact Smit. He had little evidence to support the claim except his knowledge of events he would have taken part in, as well as his knowledge of Afrikaans. Given the limited available factual information on Smit, (much is still thought to be classified), it is impossible to tell whether the man encountered was actually the same man who spent time working for the CIA.
Smit’s possible death remains shrouded in the secrecy of many Cold War operations.
References[edit | edit source]
- Furgesen, D. (1973). The Iron Will, The Cold War and its Warriors. London.
- Isaacs, Jeremy; Taylor Downing (1998). Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945-1991. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.. ISBN 978-0-316-43953-4. OCLC 38024183.
- Kelly, Sean (1993). America's Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire. American University Press. ISBN 978-1-879383-17-3. OCLC 59811798.
- Devlin, Larry (2007). Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 978-1-58648-405-7. OCLC 82672210.
- Blum, William (1995). Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press. ISBN 978-1-56751-052-2. OCLC 32242504.
- Helstrom, Leif (2008). The Instant Air Force: The Creation of the CIA Air Unit in the Congo. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag. ISBN 978-3-639-06969-3.
[edit | edit source]
- Johnson, Loche. "Strategic Intelligence". http://books.google.com/books?id=cg39hcj6AxQC&pg=RA2-PA41&lpg=RA2-PA41&dq=Caribbean+Marine+Aero+Corporation&source=bl&ots=QFDhm-TqvT&sig=ddKiPZsJNYYTno78BgAm3NhHCsE&hl=en&ei=UTKiSZaVOJqqtQPri7jdCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- Weiss, Herbert. "War and Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo". http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_16/weiss/weiss_congo1.html. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
- Blum, William. "CIA South America: Ecuador". http://www.thewebspy.com/CIA-South-America-Ecuador.html. Retrieved 2009-02-22.