Henry Hecksher

Henry Hecksher

Henry Hecksher was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1910. His father served in the government of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hecksher emigrated to the United States in 1938. On the outbreak of war he joined the United States Army and took part in the Normandy invasion and was wounded in Antwerp.

Hecksher joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and interrogated some of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, including Julius Streicher. The OSS was disbanded by President Harry Truman, on September 20, 1945. Hecksher now joined the Department of War's Secret Intelligence (SI). In 1946 Hecksher became head of its counter-intelligence section in Berlin where he worked with Theodore Shackley, David Sanchez Morales and William Harvey.

In 1947 Hecksher joined the Central Intelligence Agency and during the 1953 Berlin Riots that followed the death of Joseph Stalin, Hecksher cabled for permission to arm the East Berlin rioters with rifles and stun guns. However, the request was refused.

Hecksher worked undercover as a coffee buyer in Guatemala. He became part of PB/SUCCESS, a CIA operation to overthrow President Jacobo Arbenz. Other CIA officers involved in this operation included David Atlee Phillips, Tracy Barnes, William (Rip) Robertson and E. Howard Hunt. Hecksher's role was to supply front-line reports and to bribe Arbenz's military commanders. It was later discovered that one commander accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. Ernesto Guevara attempted to organize some civil militias but senior army officers blocked the distribution of weapons.

With the help of President Anastasio Somoza, Colonel Carlos Castillo had formed a rebel army in Nicaragua. It has been estimated that between January and June, 1954, the CIA spent about $20 million on Castillo's army. Jacobo Arbenz now believed he stood little chance of preventing Castillo gaining power. Accepting that further resistance would only bring more deaths he announced his resignation.

According to David Atlee Phillips (Night Watch), President Dwight Eisenhower was so pleased with the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz he invited Hecksher, Tracy Barnes, David Sanchez Morales, and Allen Dulles to a personal debriefing at the White House.

In 1958 Hecksher became Chief of Station in Laos. Hecksher disagreed with the official U.S. neutrality policies in the country and his covert activities resulted in a request from Ambassador Horace Smith for his early removal. Allen Dulles refused and he served his full assignment. He later moved to Thailand where he supervised covert trans-border activities in the area of the Golden Triangle.

Hecksher was CIA Station Chief in Japan (1959-60) before becoming involved in the project to overthrow Fidel Castro. As the case officer of Manuel Artime, Hecksher became involved in AM/WORLD in 1963. Carl E. Jenkins oversaw paramilitary support and also served as case officer Artime's second in command, Rafael Quintero. According to Larry Hancock (Someone Would Have Talked), Hecksher and Jenkins were both "involved in the Artime's initial travel to Europe for contact" with Rolando Cubela.

In 1967 Hecksher became Chief of Station in Santiago. He worked closely with Edward M. Korry, the US Ambassador to Chile, in an attempt to prevent Salvador Allende from being elected as president. According to Joseph Trento (The Secret History of the CIA), Korry discovered that Hecksher was working with Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty). CIA associate, Michael V. Townley, who also worked closely with this organization, was later involved in the assassination of Carlos Prats, Bernardo Leighton and Orlando Letelier.

Salvador Allende was elected as president of Chile in 1970. Hecksher, Chief of Station in Santiago, played a major role in FUBELT, the covert operation to overthrow Allende. Thomas H. Karamessines, chairman of the Chile Task Force, sent a secret cable to Henry Hecksher, dated 16th October, 1970, stating: "It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup ... it is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG (Unites States Government) and American hand be well hidden."

Henry Hecksher retired from the CIA in 1971. He died of complications of Parkinson's disease at the Medical Center of Princetown, on 2nd March, 1990.

Primary Sources

(1) David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch; 25 Years of Peculiar Service (1977)

"Tomorrow morning, gentlemen," Dulles said, "we will go to the White House to brief the President. Let's run over your presentations." It was a warm summer night. We drank iced tea as we sat around a garden table in Dulles' back yard. The lighted shaft of the Washington Monument could be seen through the trees. . . . Finally Brad (Colonel Albert Haney) rehearsed his speech. When he finished Alien Dulles said, "Brad, I've never heard such crap." It was the nearest thing to an expletive I ever heard Dulles use. The Director turned to me "They tell me you know how to write. Work out a new speech for Brad...

We went to the White House in the morning. Gathered in the theater in the East Wing were more notables than I had ever seen: the President, his Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State - Alien Dulles's brother, Foster - the Attorney General, and perhaps two dozen other members of the President's Cabinet and household staff....

The lights were turned off while Brad used slides during his report. A door opened near me. In the darkness I could see only a silhouette of the person entering the room; when the door closed it was dark again, and I could not make out the features of the man standing next to me. He whispered a number of questions: "Who is that? Who made that decision?"

I was vaguely uncomfortable. The questions from the unknown man next to me were very insistent, furtive. Brad finished and the lights went up. The man moved away. He was Richard Nixon, the Vice President.

Eisenhower's first question was to Hector (Rip Robertson): "How many men did Castillo Armas lose?" Hector (Rip Robertson) said only one, a courier... . Eisenhower shook his head, perhaps thinking of the thousands who had died in France. "Incredible..."

Nixon asked a number of questions, concise and to the point, and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the Guatemalan political situation. He was impressive - not at all the disturbing man he was in the shadows.

Eisenhower turned to his Chief of the Joint Chiefs. "What about the Russians? Any reaction?"

General Ridgeway answered. "They don't seem to be up to anything. But the navy is watching a Soviet sub in the area; it could be there to evacuate some of Arbenz's friends, or to supply arms to any resisters."

Eisenhower shook hands all around. "Great," he said to Brad, "that was a good briefing." Hector and I smiled at each other as Brad flushed with pleasure. The President's final handshake was with Alien Dulles. "Thanks Allen, and thanks to all of you. You've averted a Soviet beachhead in our hemisphere." Eisenhower spoke to his Chief of Naval Operations "Watch that sub. Admiral. If it gets near the coast of Guatemala we'll sink the son-of-a-bitch. ' The President strode from the room.

(2) David McKean, Peddling Influence (2004)

As planning for the U.S. plot progressed, Corcoran and other top officials at United Fruit became anxious about identifying a future leader who would establish favorable relations between the government and the company. Secretary of State Dulles moved to add a"civilian" adviser to the State Department team to help expedite Operation Success. Dulles chose a friend of Corcoran's, William Pawley, a Miami-based millionaire who, along with Corcoran, Chennault, and Willauer, had helped set up the Flying Tigers in the early r94os and then helped several years later to transform it into the CIA's airline, Civil Air Transport. Besides his association with Corcoran, Pawley's most important qualification for the job was that he had a long history of association with right-wing Latin American dictators.

CIA director Dulles had grown disillusioned with J. C. King and asked Colonel Albert Haney, the CIA station chief in Korea, to be the U.S. field commander for the operation. Haney enthusiastically accepted, although he was apparently unaware of the role that the United Fruit Company had played in his selection. Haney had been a colleague of King's, and though King was no longer directing the operation, he remained a member of the agency planning team. He suggested that Haney meet with Tom Corcoran to see about arming the insurgency force with the weapons that had been mothballed in a New York warehouse after the failed Operation Fortune. When the supremely confident Haney said he didn't need any help from a Washington lawyer, King rebuked him, "If you think you can run this operation without United Fruit, you're crazy!"

The close working relationship between the CIA and United Fruit was perhaps best epitomized by Allen Dulles's encouragement to the company to help select an expedition commander for the planned invasion. After the CIA's first choice was vetoed by the State Department, United Fruit proposed Corcova Cerna, a Guatemalan lawyer and coffee grower. Cerna had long worked for the company as a paid legal adviser, and even though Corcoran referred to him as "a liberal," he believed that Cerna would not interfere with the company's land holdings and operations. After Cerna was hospitalized with throat cancer, a third candidate, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, emerged as the compromise choice.

According to United Fruit's Thomas McCann, when the Central Intelligence Agency finally launched Operation Success in late June 1954, "United Fruit was involved at every level." From neighboring Honduras, Ambassador Willauer, Corcoran's former business partner, directed bombing raids on Guatemala City. McCann was told that the CIA even shipped down the weapons used in the uprising "in United Fruit boats."

On June 27, 1954, Colonel Armas Ousted the Arbenz government and ordered the arrest of all communist leaders in Guatemala. While the coup was successful, a dark chapter was opened in American support for right wing military dictators in Central America.

(3) Theodore Shackley, Spymaster: My Life in the CIA (2005)

In January 1963 we were visited by Harvey's replacement, Desmond FitzGerald. "Des" made it plain that regime change in Havana was still at the top of Washington's agenda and that the preferred means to this end was a military coup. Haranguing the troops, he told us to recruit more sources in the Cuban Army and militia, giving preference to people high enough in the hierarchy to be able to comment on the leaders' political views.

We accordingly reviewed our military assets and found them inadequate to the new task at hand. We had sources that were geared to monitoring Soviet troop movements. Our assets were NCOs, logisticians, and food handlers, useful in the past but hardly what we would need for a coup. We would have to see if these existing sources could put us in touch with tankers and combat infantry units, the elements that would be required by any possible coup plotter.

As we started, we got one small break. We learned that Jose Richard Rabel Nunez, a defector from the Agrarian Reform Institute who had flown a small airplane at wave-top level into Key West, Florida, in November 1962, knew a lot of senior army personnel from his own days in the Cuban Air Force, as well as from his close friendship with Fidel with whom he had done a lot of spear fishing in 1960-1962. Consequently, we put Rabel on a special project to build files on the military commanders he knew.

This worked quite well in terms of data collection. The downside was that with each passing month, Rabel became increasingly impatient with our unwillingness to run a high-risk operation to exfiltrate his wife and three children from Havana. We explained to Rabel that his family was under constant DGI surveillance; as we could not get a communications or exfiltration plan to the wife securely, there could be no rescue operation. Rabel tired of this explanation and in August 1965 went back to Cuba in a small boat to get his family. The foolhardy effort failed, Rabel was arrested on September 4, and the work he had done in Miami on military personalities became known to the DGL That in turn permitted the DGI to conclude that the CIA was looking seriously at the coup option.

The net result was that while we upgraded the quality of our military personalities portfolio, we had no prospects of putting a coup team together. We simply lacked secure access to dissidents and so could not reach an understanding with a potential coup central command. What we were looking for in 1963 did not materialize until mid-1989 when Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez blossomed into a fullblown military threat to Castro as a result of his exploits in Angola.

When I outlined my conclusion privately to Des in about March 1963, his reaction was to say that my judgment was undoubtedly correct. Yet, given the mandate that had been imposed on the CIA by Bobby, we had to keep hacking away at the problem.

Des then lofted the idea of working at arm's length with one or two Cuban exile groups-led respectively by Manuel Artime and Manolo Ray, also known as Manuel Ray Rivero - to see if they could engage in a dialog with a coup group. This effort, if it moved forward, would be run out of Washington. It would require operational support from Miami in the form of caches put into Cuba, perhaps tutorial training of Artime and Ray on how to run operations, and some guidance on how to maintain a fleet of small boats. I told Des all of this was possible, but working with Ray seemed to be a marginal venture at best. He brushed this cautionary note aside with a wave of his hand and countered by saying he would have Alfonso Rodriguez spend a day or two with me in Miami looking at Ray's potential. If this project got off the ground, he said, Rodriguez would be its case officer.

I explained to "Rod" that Ray was not rooted in Miami but in Puerto Rico where he worked in some housing agency and was allegedly close to Luis Munoz Marfn, the governor of Puerto Rico. Rumor had it that pressure from Munoz Mann had moved Bobby to get Ray involved in a new effort to overthrow Castro. There were elements in Miami of Ray's organization, the Revolutionary Movement of the People (MRP). Rod could get a rundown on the group from Dave Morales, Tom Clines, and Bob Wall of the PM branch. I concluded by describing Ray as a far-left ideologue and as much a political and economic threat to American interests in the Caribbean as was Castro. I had no interest, I said, in meeting him.

If I remember correctly, Miami eventually put several caches into Cuba for Ray, which he and his organization never recovered. On the one occasion when Miami was scheduled to have a sea rendezvous with a boatload of Ray's people in order to guide them into a secure Cuban landing site, they did not show up. The explanation they subsequently provided was they had run out of fuel. Talk about the gang that couldn't shoot straight!

Artime was different. He had solid anti-Batista credentials stemming from his early days as a captain in the Rebel Army. He was an early participant in the Movement for Revolutionary Recovery (MRR) and had helped to build the party, although his ambition had then made him a divisive force in the movement. He had prestige in the exile community as a result of having been commander of Brigade 2506 at the Bay of Pigs and as a member of the leadership of the Democratic Revolutionary Front.

So, Des's intention was to subsidize Artime to the tune of $50,000 to $100,000 per month to work from Nicaragua sowing disquiet among the Cuban military as a prelude to an anti-Castro coup; Henry Hecksher would be the case officer for the project. I told Henry that the big unknowns were what the MRR represented in Cuba and what Artime's standing was within the Cuban body politic. Our intelligence suggested that the MRR was not a serious clandestine entity in Cuba, and we had no information indicating that Artime was a popular figure in Cuba around whom a revolutionary movement would rally.

Henry refused to be drawn into this polemic. He said the Kennedys wanted the Artime project to go forward, and go forward it would. We agreed, therefore, that JMWAVE would support the project by helping to equip Artime's troops in Nicaragua, providing operational intelligence on possible boom-and-bang targets in Cuba, tutoring Artime on the management of PM programs, and placing caches in Cuba for recovery by Artime's people.

At some point over the next year, JMWAVE provided Artime's group with all of the above services. This turned out to be a labor of love that produced no tangible results. Artime tried hard to become a player in fomenting a popular uprising in Cuba, but he came to the game too late and without the requisite skills. As a result he was not a success. Thus, after President Kennedy's assassination, the Artime program was phased out.

(4) David Corn, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades (1994)

On a winter's day, Shackley drove to Capitol Hill for unpleasant business. In Church's office, Levinson and Blum were amused to meet this man. Levinson had heard from his CIA contacts that some spooks referred to the blond fellow sitting across from him as the "Butcher of Laos." He looked more like an uptight businessman-tough, but no secret agent. He was stiff, no-nonsense all the way. He made no small talk. He was there to discuss the ground rules for what would be a historic occasion: the public testimony of a CIA officer.

Shackley was not taking this well. "He was very nasty," Levinson recalled. "He thought this was all a great mistake. We had to keep reminding him that we had an agreement." Helms for William Broethat was the deal. Shackley kept attempting to set limits on what the subcommittee could ask Broe. The committee lawyers did not accept his conditions. When they said, here are the questions Broe must answer, Shackley could not say no.

But there was something that Shackley could do: rig the information provided to the subcommittee. His all-important task was to preserve the cover story that while senior officers of ITT and the CIA in the United States had brainstormed on how to get rid of Allende-the ITT documents were irrefutable-CIA and ITT men in the field had not schemed together. Shackley could only do that with the cooperation of Hal Hendrix and Robert Berrellez, exnewspapermen on the ITT payroll, who had been in contact with the CIA in Chile in 1970. Fortunately, he had a close tie with one. Hendrix was the former Miami News correspondent who supposedly had used information from Shackley to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning articles on the missiles in Cuba.

The subcommittee was interested in what Hendrix and Berrellez had to say about CIA-ITT collusion. As Jack Anderson had reported, the two in September of 1970 had sent a report to ITT executives noting that U.S. Ambassador to Chile Edward Korry had received a "green light" from Nixon to block Allende's election. Levinson and Blum were curious how the ITT men had learned this. The investigators suspected that the source for the cable included local CIA officers, and they believed the cable was proof the CIA and ITT in Chile had cooperated in anti-Allende activities.

For Shackley, it was crucial to keep Church's investigators far from any trail that led them toward the highly secret doings of the very active station in Santiago, Chile. Hendrix's talks with station chief Henry Hecksher were not more scandalous than those in the United States between Broe and ITT corporate executives. But if the subcommittee started to delve into Agency actions in Chile, the CIA would be in deep trouble. At almost any cost, that had to be prevented.

Shackley assigned the case to Jonathan Hanke, chief of covert action for the division. He told Hanke to advise Hendrix what to say when called to testify. Jim Flannery, the deputy chief of the division, opposed sending Hanke to contact Hendrix. Let's stay away from Hendrix, he argued, so there is not even the appearance of collusion. Shackley ignored Flannery's recommendation. Shackley "insisted," Flannery recalled, "we were not telling [Hendrix] what to do. `They're just steering tips,' he said. That was b.s. It was part of his ability, if he deemed something to be useful, to resort to moral or legalistic sleight of hand." Shackley was conspiring to mislead Congress.

Hendrix told Shackley's emissary not to worry. He would deny to the subcommittee that he had learned of the "green light" from Hecksher. Hanke also contacted Berrellez, who also promised to falsely tell the subcommittee he had not known any CIA officers in Latin America. In early February of 1973, Hendrix and Berrellez met with Levinson and Blum of the Church subcommittee. As Shackley hoped, the pair said they had no contact with the CIA in Chile.

(5) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2006)

Henry Hecksher became Chief of Station in Chile during the CIA's massive effort against the Allende government. He retained his outspoken manner, taking exception to the lack of resources being allocated to the project against Allende and calling for sterner measures. One of his particular targets was a supporter of Allende within the Chilean armed forces, a General Schneider. He also worked separately with the DIA on coup plots against Allende. Reuben Carbajal relates that his friend Dave Morales spoke of having arrived in Chile just in time to support the CIA move against Allende; Morales also spoke of personally killing a Chilean General. Although it may be sheer coincidence, General Schneider was mysteriously killed in the midst of Hecksher's crusade against him.