Memoir Literature

S - Sm

Sager, John. Uncovered: My Half-Century with the CIA. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2013

For Peake, Studies 57.4 (Dec. 2013), readers of this memoir will no longer have to imagine what life in the CIA before the Internet was like. The author served from the 1950s until 1991, and he "provides a useful glimpse of a valuable career."

Secord, Richard V., and Jay Wurts. Honored and Betrayed: Irangate, Covert Affairs, and the Secret War in Laos. New York: John Wiley, 1992.

From publisher: "The inside account of Irangate by the man who coordinated and operated the Iran Initiative.... Delineates his dealings with Oliver North, William Casey, Admiral Poindexter, and others. Reveals new information on what President Reagan's and then Vice President Bush's roles were. A point-blank response to Secord's accusers and the administration that hung him out to dry." Armstrong, WPNWE, 19-25 Oct. 1992, believes that Secord's version of Iran-Contra adds "little that is new" and "is marred by myriad mistakes of fact.... [I]t is difficult to take seriously Secord's protestations that he is blameless and upright."

Shackley, Theodore, and Richard A. Finney. Spymaster: My Life in the CIA. Dulles, VA: Potomac, 2005.

Theodore (Ted) G. Shackley, retired CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations, died on 9 December 2002 at the age of 75. He was a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. J.Y. Smith, "Theodore Shackley Dies; Celebrated CIA Agent," Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2002, B8.

Peake, CIRA Newsletter 30.4 (Winter 2005) and Studies 49.4 (2005), notes that Shackley comments "selectively on various aspects of his career.... For those who expected a more expansive tale of clandestine operations, Spymaster may be something of a disappointment. On the other hand, what Ted Shackley was able to give us is extremely valuable -- a first hand account with lessons for all."

For Schecter, I&NS 20.4 (Dec. 2005), "Shackley's first-person account is rich in remarkable detail.... They take CIA memoirs to a new level of specificity and revelation of tradecraft that makes for fascinating, and at times hilarious and bizarre reading." Huck, Periscope (Summer 2006), feels that much was left out of this work, first by Shackley's death (not to denigrate the "tireless and faithful" work of Richard Finney to complete the book) and by the publisher's requirement that the manuscript be reduced in length.

Sileo, Thomas. CIA Humor: A Few True Stories from A 31-Year Career. Alexandria, VA: Washington House, 2004.

Peake, Studies 49.2 (2005), notes that this small book (108 pages) contains "five chapters of anecdotes.... Not all of the stories are funny, but they are all instructive.... This little book will bring pleasure to many and probably invoke similar memories in other officers."

Singlaub, John K. [MGEN/USA (Ret.)], and Malcolm McConnell. Hazardous Duty: An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century. New York: Summit, 1991. [pb] Old Tappan, NJ: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

On 20 March 2015, "[t]wo paver stones outlining the career of retired Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub were installed outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum" (ASOM) in Fayetteville, NC. The museum executive director "noted that ASOM policy limits veterans to be honored on only one paver, but an exception was made for Singlaub. 'We just couldn't do it,' he said of fitting Singlaub's career on one stone." Drew Brooks, "Retired Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub Honored at Airborne & Special Operations Museum," Fayetteville Observer, 20 Mar. 2015.

Clark comment: John Singlaub is a political troglodyte of the first order, but saying that neither describes him nor does him justice. Singlaub's honesty and integrity are so real that they have an almost tangible quality. Foolish, he may have been but never false. From his jump into occupied France with the OSS (Bill Casey was his case officer) to postwar China with the CIA to Korea and Vietnam and back to Korea with two stars and an attitude, John Singlaub lived for service to the country he loves and believes in. The funny thing is that Carter's plan to withdraw U.S. ground forces from Korea really was ill-advised. His story after the end of his military career is much less interesting, even with the involvement in Iran-Contra. I would not choose to side with the General in a political discussion, but I sure would want him on my side in a fight.

Surveillant 1.6/2.6 says that "General Singlaub ... provides a window on four decades of overt and covert operations with personal accounts of the heroes and scoundrels of America's intelligence and military elite." For Gugliotta, WPNWE, 23-29 Sep. 1991, Singlaub is "on safe ground" as long as he sticks with narrating events, but his political commentary on events "remains shallow and one-dimensional." Despite working with most of the main characters in Iran-Contra, Singlaub "offers few fresh insights" into the affair.

Smith, Joseph B. Portrait of a Cold Warrior. New York: Putnam's, 1976. New York: Ballentine, 1981.

Constantinides notes that Smith served with the CIA from 1950 to 1973. This book looks at the CIA "from the perspective of the case officer" and "gives the reader the feel and smell of operations." Smith does not clarify his motives for publishing these memoirs, which leaves the reader unsure of the author's objectivity.

Smith, Russell Jack. The Unknown CIA: My Three Decades with the Agency. Washington, D.C.: Pergamon-Brassey's, 1989. Berkeley Press, 1991. [pb]

Former DDI R. Jack Smith died on 27 April 2009 at the age of 95. See Rebekah Davis, "Russell Jack Smith CIA Deputy Director," Washington Post, 10 May 2009, C7. See also, Nicholas Dujmovic, "Russell Jack Smith, Giant of CIA Analysis, Dies at 95," Studies in Intelligence 53, no. 2 (Jun. 2009): 1-3.

Clark comment: Smith served as Deputy Director of Intelligence (DDI) 1966-1971.

Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003), 386/fn., calls Smith's book "an excellent text on the Directorate of Intelligence, and a fundamental document in CIA history." For Lowenthal, the book has "some useful detail on key analytical issues" through the mid-1970s and contains "a detailed and sympathetic portrait of DCI Raborn." The book gets a "highly recommended" rating from Surveillant 2.2; it gives a "rare glimpse into the analytic hub of the CIA." However, there are "some factual errors."

Wark, I&NS 6.2, believes that Smith's memoirs are "relatively unrevealing about the man, and function more as a kind of insider's history of the institution that he served." The work helps reinforce the perception that "the working relationship between intelligence assessment and presidential politics has scarcely been sorted out." To Stein, CIRA Newsletter, Fall 2000, Smith "describes the [analysis] process vividly and enhances it with descriptions of his personal interactions with policymakers of the five administrations he served.... And he relates the often amusing, sometimes harrowing experiences he encountered in a lively, sometimes droll manner that is a delight to read."

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