|His wartime exploits. Or, more accurately, his telling of his wartime exploits.|
|His "POW rescue operations":|
|His visit to drug warlord Kuhn Sa.|
|His involvement in right-wing lunatic fringe politics.|
This article will address each of these items with most attention paid to the "POW rescue operations."
Gritz's wartime exploits are near-legendary. He wears a chest full of medals. If you visit his web site (named, what else, www.bogritz.com) (As of July 2000, this site is down.), you will be treated to a photograph of Bo in uniform with medals dangling all over him. One would think -- and everything that Bo does encourages this belief -- that he is the most decorated soldier to come out of Vietnam.
In fact, it appears that Bo may not have earned all the awards that he received. There is strong evidence that he worked the rather loosely-administered awards and decorations system to award himself most of the medals he wears. For the details of this matter, read this article: ". . . medals rained from the heavens."
One of the exploits for which Gritz is most often cited is his recovery of the black box. In 1966, while assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, Bo led a team into Cambodia to recover a piece of sensitive material -- a "black box" -- from a crashed U-2. Gritz claims that he found the crash site but the black box was missing. He claims that the followed sandal tracks to a PAVN camp, assaulted the camp, and recovered the black box. Other members of the team say that they found the box at the crash site, picked it up and came out. No firefight. No sandal tracks.
Bo's version of the story appears in General William Westmoreland's book on Vietnam, A Soldier Reports. Problem is, the book was ghost written for Westmoreland and the author stated in an interview that the version of the story in Westmoreland's book was told to him by -- you guessed it -- Gritz himself.
In January 1966, seventeen Special Forces soldiers divided into three teams went into the An Lo Valley area of South Vietnam. One team encountered heavy contact with enemy forces two days after they were inserted. Of the seventeen, five were killed, two are missing in action, and three were wounded. One individual who was not on the mission was retired LTC James "Bo" Gritz. He was not even assigned to the unit and, at the time of this mission, Gritz was hundreds of miles away in another part of Vietnam. Yet, on 29 May 1981, in a speech to a Vietnam Veterans group at the Statler Hotel in Buffalo, NY, Bo told a heroic story about the mission in which he claimed to have been part of the operation. In 1983, Soldier of Fortune magazine published a special POW-MIA issue that included a number of stories revealing the phony claims that Gritz made regarding his own military background and his "POW rescue operations." If you can find a copy of that issue, read it. I have my own copy and I have typed the entire article about the mission that Bo was never on.
Before attempting to explain Bo's "POW rescue operations," we need to examine some of the environment in which the "operations" took place.
Before reading any further, please read these articles:
|Wick Tourison's article on fraudulent reporting;|
|Wick's article on the dog tag reports;|
|My article on the live sightings; and,|
|My article on the phony pictures.|
What you will learn from these articles is that there is a vast cottage industry in MIA "information", centered mainly around the refugee camps in Thailand that, for years, housed Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees who fled their homelands. US Department of Defense interviewers were in the refugee camps from the beginning, interviewing refugees from the Indo-China countries in an effort to find information about missing Americans. These interviewers became very familiar with the phony stories and the charlatans -- both American and local scam artists -- that came out of the refugee camps. Thus, when an individual pulled out a photograph of the one-armed American POW who could be released if we just came up with enough cash, we pulled out our own copy of the same photograph -- it was a photo of a Peace Corps worker that had been passed around the rumor mill time and again.
On the other hand, an individual who had never heard these stories, or who had a tendency or motivation to believe anything he heard, could be led down a long garden path by the phony reports and scam artists around the refugee camps. This is exactly where the bulk of Gritz's information came from. His "sources" were, for the most part, scam artists who were well-known to the Pentagon.
When he left active duty, Gritz maintained contacts with his old special operations and intelligence friends. This connection would later prove valuable to him in his "rescue operations."
Let's turn now to his "POW rescue operations" and shed a little light on these fairy tales. All this activity occurred between 1981 and 1986.
This caper came about as a result of several events and people. Let me try to bring them all together. The background is a little tedious but it is on this background that most of Gritz's adventures are based.
The Army had formed a special intelligence operations unit to deal with attempts to rescue the US hostages at our embassy in Iran. In the early 1980s, the organization -- the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) -- was in search of a mission. One of the senior people at ISA was an old friend of Bo's
US spy satellites were being used to photograph known and suspected prison camps in Southeast Asia. One mission in 1980 took photos of a suspected prison camp in Laos at a place called Nomarrath. An imagery analyst looking at this imagery claimed that he saw: logs or lumber laid out to form the characters B and 52; tools with handles too long for use by Asians; men sitting on the ground which is unusual because Asians squat, they do not sit (at least, that's what the imagery analyst reported). Several other analysts looked at the same imagery and determined that the initial readout was mistaken.
However, the initial readout had already been released in briefing material and, before long, the Nomarrath imagery was the worst kept secret in Washington. Members of Congress knew about it, several folks at the Special Forces center at Fort Bragg knew of it, and Gritz found out.
Gritz had met, some time earlier, a Vietnamese living in Thailand, Mr. Loh Tharaphant. Loh is a scam artist. His scam was to convince refugees that he could help them obtain passports and visas. He liberated a lot of money from a lot of refugees with no real results in return. Loh had a "network" of "agents" who, he claimed, reported to him on their findings deep in Laos and Vietnam. Of course, no one was surprised when Loh began to report that his "agents" were finding US POWs alive in captivity in the late 1970's. In each case, investigations showed that his "agents" were clowns and their information was worthless.
Now, let's put all this together into Operation Velvet Hammer.
Gritz learned about the "Fort Apache" imagery. It seems that the Defense Intelligence Agency approached the Special Forces folks at Fort Bragg and asked if they could put together a recon team to go into Laos and take a look. As things worked out, no US forces were involved. Instead, a Thai Special Forces team did make their way, undetected, to Nomarrath. They kept the camp under observation for several days and took rolls of photographs. They observed only Asians in the prison camp. (Note: Over the years -- into the 1990's -- DIA interviewed several Laotians who had been incarcerated by the Laotian communist government at Nomarrath, including men who had been held there at the time Nomarrath was under surveillance by US satellites and Thai SF troops. These men reported that there were no Americans or other foreigners at Nomarrath; only Laotian prisoners.)
Gritz had contact with Loh Tharaphant whom he told about the imagery. Surprise, surprise!! Loh told Bo that his (Loh's) agents were reporting that they had seen US POWs at the very place Gritz was talking about (Nomarrath) and the agents believed that the Americans could be rescued.
Gritz went into action. He contacted his friend in ISA who did two things: one right, one very wrong. The right thing that the ISA guy did was to propose, through channels, that Gritz be supported in an operation. The wrong thing that he did was to give Gritz money, cameras, and communications equipment. When the request to use Gritz hit the approval channels, it was immediately rejected because everyone except ISA knew that Gritz was a charlatan, that Loh's "agents" were clowns, and that there were no Americans at Nomarrath. But, Gritz now had official US intelligence community equipment and he claimed that this was proof that he was working for the US government. He was not.
Bo contacted a large number of old SF buddies, telling them to join him in Florida where he was assembling a team to rescue US POWs.
Gritz set up his training at a cheerleading training camp in Leesburg, Florida. He brought along with him: a psychic; a hypnotherapist; Ann Griffiths, executive director of the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in SEAsia; two reporters; and several old SF buddies who had been promised $7,000 for their participation.
Things got a little wacky and the SF troops began to defect. Gritz could never really explain why he had reporters present on a super-secret, US-government sponsored operation. His training regimen consisted of long speeches, group hypnosis, and church services conducted by Bo. He kept to himself the reconnaissance photographs that he claimed to have. The SF folks really became disillusioned when they realized that they were not doing any serious training and did not even know what the target looked like. They began to leave.
Velvet Hammer began to come apart at the seams in March 1981. Gritz had told the reporters that the operation was being funded with money laundered through Federal Express. When two team members contacted FedEx for the money, they ran into a group of very unhappy executives. George Brooks, president of the Board of the National League of Families, father of then-MIA Nick Brooks (remains later returned), visited the camp and wrote Bo a check for $20,000 to cover salaries for team members whose families could not even pay the rent. An Orlando newspaper than broke the story and Gritz cancelled the mission. George Brooks wrote some more checks to provide air fare back home for stranded tem members; George would eventually hand over $30,000 to Gritz.
End of Velvet Hammer. Never left the States, never rescued anyone.
Here's another article on this caper.
Gritz got cranked up again, warming over the old Nomarrath story and adding a few more "agent reports" from Loh Tharaphant. This time, he approached former Laotian General Vang Pao and Congressman Bob Dornan for support. Gritz claimed that BOHICA was a CIA-sponsored caper. Things fell apart when Dornan contacted CIA Deputy Director Bobby Inman to ask why the payments had not been made. Imagine Dornan's surprise when Inman did not know what Dornan was talking about.
That's all for BOHICA. (Note: BOHICA would surface later in the form of a book by an idiot named Scott Barnes. I will produce a separate article about Barnes. He was featured in a Soldier of Fortune article by Alan Dawson, "My Favorite Flake.")
Realizing that he was not going to get anywhere if he had to deal with the US government, Gritz decided to go it alone. He found support from a strange mixture of folks:
Phoumi Nosavan, himself a Laotian scumbag of major proportions. Phoumi, although a former deputy premier of Laos, was shady to the extreme. Bo thought that he could "rent" troops from Phoumi; Phoumi's "army" was largely a figment. So, with Bo and Phoumi, you get two scam artists picking each other's pocket.
Jack Bailey. Bailey is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel who runs his own "rescue operation" out of Thailand. Read all about Bailey in the articles that I cited at the first of this article. Bailey and Gritz were made for each other.
Two MIA daughters, Lynn Standerwick and Janet Townley, who were to serves as his communications link to the US.
Clint Eastwood and William Shatner. Gritz is a convincing, charismatic fellow. Knowing that he needed money, he managed to contact Eastwood and Shatner and convince them that he had official support. He used a forged letter bearing the signature of former DIA deputy director General Harold Aaron to establish his bona-fides with Eastwood and Shatner. Eastwood gave Gritz $30,000 and Shatner bought the movie rights for $10,000.
Litton Industries, on the basis of Gritz's forged letters and contacts from his friend in ISA, gave him some specialized communications gear.
Gritz packed up everything he had and headed for Thailand where things began to fall apart. Phoumi swindled Bo out of several thousand. Jack Bailey, to whom Bo paid five grand or so, could not deliver the use of his boat -- it would not start. Eastwood never did tell President Reagan; a "contact" who was supposed to deliver the weapons for the team never came across; and, the payroll -- reported to be $27,000 -- disappeared.
Undeterred, Gritz decided that he and his band of merry men would embark on their mission. They did not know exactly where they were going, they had three weapons for 19 men, and there was supposed to be a rendezvous with some Laotian mercenaries who would lead them to this still unknown POW camp. About two days into the adventure, Bo's team was ambushed and one team member, Dominic Zappone, was captured. Everyone else beat feet, making it back to Thailand. It turned out that the ambush was by Phoumi's men who held Zappone for ransom, reportedly $17,000.
Bo headed back for the States, leaving Zappone as a guest of Phoumi. He also left a lot of guys with no cash and no way back home At least one family of a team member was evicted for non-payment of rent.
Bo started raising money for the next operation, Lazarus Omega. When funds were not available, Bo hit on a really brilliant scheme. Litton was after him for their equipment back. Bo advertised the equipment for sale in the Los Angeles Times at which point Litton paid him $40,000 and he was back in business.
Back to Thailand, this time with the two MIA daughters and a former SF supply sergeant, Vinnie Arnone. (Note: Arnone is a sad character. From the contacts that we had with him, I suspect that his elevator stops short of the top floor. His prize possession was a photo of him in his Boy Scout troop leader uniform with a gang of Thai children swarming over him.)
Lazarus Omega get off to a rollicking start. Bo used some of the money to hire prostitutes (at least one was reported be transvestite). One of the team members, known as "Doctor Death" was to make poison darts for the team to use. In a really strange affair, Bo decided to award a US Legion of Merit to Loh Tharaphant. He did so, complete with a certificate signed by Richard Nixon and General Creighton Abrams. The award was made in 1983, ten years after Nixon left office and nine years after General Abrams died (September 1974). Loh did not seem to notice.
Zappone, still held by Phoumi from Operation Lazarus, got his hands on a grenade and threatened to blow up himself and his guards. Phoumi's people released him.
Gritz decided to move. He assembled his team and some Laotian "irregulars" recruited from the refugee camps, and launched. No one was certain where they were going. Bo has claimed that they went into Laos, found a POW camp, and rescued two Americans. As they were returning to Thailand, they were ambushed and had to abandon the two rescued POWs. Bo never did get their names. Thai authorities tell another story. They had Bo and his crowd under surveillance all the while they were in country and they report that Bo holed up in a series of houses owned by Tharaphant. Take your pick -- Bo's story or the story told by the Thai police.
Either way, Bo was charged by the Thai with espionage activities and put on trial. Really bizarre. Bo brought into the court room one of his old Army uniforms, complete with a full complement of medals. He was found guilty and Gritz and his whole crowd were tossed out of Thailand.
End Lazarus Omega.
Gritz took one more shot at it. In late 1984, he started organizing another "rescue operation" that would be called "Operation Brokenwing" because the objective was to rescue an American POW with a broken leg. Bo's source for this information was the usual collection of scam artists and charlatans. DIA had heard for years stories of an American with a broken/amputated/deformed/burned leg/arm, take your pick. The stories were all nonsense and most of the stories were sourced to the Laotian "resistance."
Gritz claimed that he did not need to go into Laos to rescue the American because the man would be delivered to the bank of the Mekong by resistance forces operating under exiled Laotian general Kong Le. Gritz claimed that he had aided Kong Le in escaping arrest by the Communist government in Laos and, in a show of gratitude, Kong Le was going to deliver to him three US POWs. Problem with this tale is that Kong Le left Laos with little hassle from the Commies because of family connections; Gritz had nothing to do with it. Oh, well, details, details.
Bo claimed that his plan was to assemble a team on the Thai side of the Mekong and, on a signal, he would receive the POWs being brought to the river. According to Gritz, he had his team on the Thai side, as planned, when he heard the US POWs talking on the radio. (That's what he said, folks. I am not making up this stuff.) He looked through his night-vision scope and saw the men on the far side of the river, boarding into small boats to cross to freedom. Suddenly -- Bo says -- a powerboat came out of nowhere and swamped the smaller boats. The US POWs escaped and made it back to the far (Lao) side of the river. The escape was set up for the next night but, after Bo and his team got into place, they were hit by a rocket attack.
You should know that there is a different version of this story. In 1989, a couple of Laotian refugees showed up in a refugee camp in NE Thailand. They had recently been released from prison in Laos. The story they told was that, in late 1984, they had been recruited by an American, "Mr. Bogritz," for a mission into Laos. They described a comedy of "training," dodging around from "safe house" to "safe house," promises of weapons and pay, and a generally disorganized goat rope. They then described how "Bogritz" led them and a group of a dozen or so to the Thai bank of the Mekong one night and sent them across by boat; "Bogritz" told them that they would be met by contacts who would then lead them on an operation. When they reached the other side, they scrambled up the bank, only to be met by Laotian soldiers who grabbed three of the team as the others fled back to their boats. There were a few shots fired. They spent four years in prison in Laos and they never did get any pay from "Bogritz."
End of Operation Brokenwing.
Wait a minute. Is that all? What about all these clandestine operations? What about the claim by Mark Smith that he was Bo's case officer and they were locating US POWs all over SEAsia, reporting directly to super-secret offices in Washington? What about Gritz's letter from General Hal Aaron, designating him to conduct POW rescue operations? What about Bo's direct line to the National Security Council? Does the phrase "total b_ _ _ s_ _ _ " ring any bells? That, folks, is the bottom line of Bo Gritz's POW rescue operations.
Khun Sa, whose Chinese name is Chang Chi-fu, is a real piece of work. He is a notorious opium warlord who holds forth in the "Golden Triangle" -- the mountainous border region where China, Burma, Laos, and Thailand intersect. He is the leader of a well-organized, well-armed, and dangerous crowd that calls itself the "Shan United Army." By 1978-79, Khun Sa had established a major heroin complex in the Thai-Burma border area and controlled over 65% of the heroin produced in the Golden Triangle. His private army is used to facilitate traffic in opium and heroin and to keep Khun Sa in power.
Chang Chi-fu/Khun Sa is evil. In the early 1980's, he heard reports that his sister and her husband were working with Thai authorities to entrap him. Being the family man that he is, Khun Sa had a gang of his troops surround his sister's home and burn it to the ground -- with the sister, her husband, and children inside.
By the late-1980s, US DEA support to the Burmese and Thai governments was beginning to pinch Khun Sa. His heroin producing labs were under constant attack and his production was falling dramatically. As part of his attempt to put an end to the DEA pressure, he started a public relations campaign to clean up his image -- and to dirty everyone else. Khun Sa granted audiences to an odd assortment of people, including journalists. In all his statements, he made grandiose claims about how many US officials were on his payroll. To hear him tell it, every American who had ever served in the US embassies in Thailand or Burma was on the take. He made offers to sell to the US all the heroin produced in the Golden Triangle. He tried every way possible to clean up his image but none of it worked.
In mid-1986, Vice-President Bush's office received a letter from a "businessman," Mr. Arthur Suchek, about a US POW who was available for release through Khun Sa. DIA was charged with investigating the letter and it quickly became clear the Mr. Suchek was a flim-flam man. Accompanying Suchek's claim was yet another claim that a solution to the narcotics problem in Southeast Asia could be found by dealing directly with Khun Sa, rather than through the Drug Enforcement Administration and the governments of Thailand and Burma. In this report, Khun Sa was portrayed as a nationalist leader of the Shan people, representing national Shan interests and not narcotics traffickers. Right.
An intense investigative effort on the Suchek - Khun Sa POW report determined through intelligence sources and polygraph information that the report had no foundation. While this investigation was underway, Gritz somehow learned of the report, and called a former acquaintance, an Army officer who was temporarily detailed to the NSC staff and offered his (Gritz's) services to the government. Bo outlined his plan for a trip to check out the report, advised his acquaintance that he refused to deal with the Defense Intelligence Agency, and claimed that he would provide information only through this officer. After reporting this contact and receiving guidance, the officer informed Gritz that the report was being investigated, that no help was needed, and that Gritz`s involvement was not welcome.
None of this stopped Bo. He headed out for Burma and, probably using contacts in the Thai Border Police, entered Burma and met Khun Sa. Now, this is not at all strange as Khun Sa needed some publicity and he may have figured that Bo was his conduit to the White House. I would not be surprised to learn that Bo even made such representations to Khun Sa. Bo had his meeting with Khun Sa videotaped and the video pops up from time to time at Bo's various political meetings. In the video, Bo and Khun Sa talk about heroin trafficking and POWs. Khun Sa accuses every US official from George Bush down of being in cahoots with him but he had no information about US POWs, beyond vowing to tell Gritz if he finds any.
That's it for the POW side of this story.
Gritz has no credibility in the MIA issue with anyone except for a hard core of true believers. However, he has turned his persuasive talents to politics -- that is, to his brand of politics. Remember David Duke, the Ku Klux Klansman from Louisiana who ran for President? Remember who ran as his Vice-Presidential candidate ? Gritz.
Bo has aligned himself with some of the most extreme patriot, militia, white supremacist organizations. He now publishes, speaks, preaches, and teaches an odd mixture of white supremacy, "wake up America," Bible-thumping patriotism, and other wackiness. Bo has established a sanctuary in Idaho that he calls "Almost Heaven." He is closely aligned with the Christian Patriot movement, a racist, survivalist, militia organization that promotes anti-government ideas.
Recently we folks here in NE Tennessee and W North Carolina were treated to Bo's presence. Remember back in the summer of 1998 when the FBI was combing the hills of western North Carolina looking for Eric Rudolph, a suspect in the deadly bombing of two women's clinics in Atlanta? You may have missed it but Bo showed up with a team of "specially trained searchers" who were going to find Rudolph.
He did not make much of a splash on the national news but, here in the region, our local media provided daily updates of Bo's activities. It was a joke. His team the scruffiest crowd I have ever seen, including a couple of teen-aged girls. They were going to scour the mountains of western North Carolina for Rudolph. Turned out that the team was in no condition for the Nantahala Mountains, especially not Bo, who could double as the Pillsbury Doughboy. So, they spent the days beating the bush for a few hours, then returning to their motels for the evening.
One of Bo's team members claimed that he had encountered a man resembling Rudolph but that story went nowhere when another team member, who had been with the guy making the claim, would not corroborate the story. Bo and his specially trained crowd went home after about ten days.
Probably the oddest story surrounding Gritz emerged in late 1998 when he was found lying alongside a road near Orofino, Idaho, 80 miles west of Missoula, Montana, with a self-inflicted bullet wound in the shoulder. Police reports quote Bo as saying he tried to kill himself because he was despondent over the break-up of his marriage.
Paranoia as Patriotism: Far-Right Influences on the Militia Movement
Patriot Purgatory: Bo Gritz and "Almost Heaven"
Reactionary Forces Link Up In Militias (As of July 2000, this site is down.)
This link is to Bo's site where you can purchase videotapes of his "S.P.I.K.E. training." Don't miss it! (As of July 2000, this site is down.)
A view of Gritz's "Almost Heaven" development in Idaho. (As of July 2000, this site is down.)
His website, found at http://www.bogritz.com (As of July 2000, this site is down.) is a real piece of work. View it only if you have a strong stomach or want a big laugh. On the bogritz.com site you will find two photographs of Bo. Compare the photo of Bo on the front cover of the 1983 Soldier of Fortune with the two photos on his site. Does the name "Pillsbury Doughboy" come to mind? In one of his photos, Bo is wearing an Army tan (khaki) uniform -- that uniform was not authorized for wear after some time in the 1980s. In another photo Bo is wearing an Army green uniform with full-sized medals hanging on it. This is an unauthorized method of displaying medals. Full-sized medals are for award and display purposes only and only ribbons are worn on the green uniform, not medals. Oh well, don't let details stand in the way.
One of the guys who fell for Gritz's appeal in one of the first "rescue operations" wrote a book entitled The Heroes Who Fell From Grace. In the book, the author tells the sorry tale of Gritz's fantasies and the impact on men who left home and family to follow his foolishness. Is it over? Don't count on it. Lower life forms have an amazing ability to regenerate.
A couple of paragraphs earlier is a link to Bo's "Almost Heaven" site. It seems that Bo is selling parcels of land in Idaho to folks who are fearful that the Y2K bug will wipe out civilized life and they are seeking a place to hide while the world as we know it collapses around them. Bo has played on these fears by offering them a safe haven. Now (October 1999) over half the "Almost Heaven" residents are suing Bo because he has never delivered to them title for the land they thought they were purchasing and he is unable to account for monies they have given to him. He never changes.
Note above that several of the sites listed above that pertain to Bo are down, including his "bogritz.com," "Almost Heaven," and "SPIKE training." One can always hope that his scams have caught up with him and that he will go away -- but bullshit artists like Bo have a life of their own. No doubt, he will show up somewhere. Watch for him on the militia-partiot-gunshow circuit.
The Bo Gritz website has been up for a few months now and is it ever a piece of work! Check it out: www.bogritz.com . Bo is preaching the gospel -- exactly what gospel I cannot figure out -- and, of course, he's still running his scams -- "SPIKE" training and the like. And, he still has the huge photo of himself in his green uniform with the full-sized medals displayed.
On his website at www.bogritz.com, Gritz has an extensive biography. I suspect much of it is a bit exaggerated and I know that one item in his bio is not true. It's a lie. In Gritz's bio is the following statement (as of 22 April 2002): "The military further groomed him to be the first military attaché in China (1969-70) and he remains fluent in Chinese Mandarin. "
This statement is not true. Here are the facts.
The Army has a program known as the Foreign Area Officer program. Individuals selected for this program are educated and trained in an area of the world and their subsequent assignments will be in and around that area. I am (was, while on active duty) a China area specialist. I was selected for the program in 1972. The Army sent me to graduate school at the University of Arizona where I earned a Masters in Asian Studies. I then went to the Foreign Area Officer's Staff Course at Fort Bragg (Jan - May 1974); Defense Language Institue, Monterey, CA for Basic Chinese Mandarin (Jun 74 - Jun 75): then to Taiwan where I studied Advanced Chinese Mandarin at the American Embassy School of Chinese Language and Area Studies (Jun 75 - Jun 76) and worked as a trainee in the Defense Attache Office, US Embassy, Taipei, Taiwan (Jun 76 - Jun 77).
Henry Kissinger made his secret visit to China in 1972 and a US Liaison Office was opened in China soon thereafter. By the time I was in language school, everyone involved knew it was only a matter of time before the US established diplomatic relations with China; we also knew that, when this happened, the embassy in Taipei would close and move to Beijing. There was quite a bit of work going on at the executive levels of State and Defense to determine just who would be the first people into the embassy in Beijing, whenever it opened.
Two of my classmates in language school on Taiwan, 75-76, were:
|Army Colonel Bill Gilliland. A long-time China specialist, now the senior China specialist in the Army. He was assigned to the language school for refresher training; he had just completed a tour as Army Attache in Pakistan.|
|Air Force Colonel Bill Webb. He was on track for promotion to general officer -- command pilot, had commanded at every level in the Air Force, excellent record|
There were four other military officers in the language school: an Army LTC, two of us Army majors, and a USMC major. As we approached the end of our language study year (spring, 1976), Webb and Gilliland laid out to the four us the decision that had been made by the Secretaries of State and Defense.
|The US would establish diplomatic relations with China "soon."|
|Webb and Gilliland would be assigned to Hong Kong as the Air and Army attaches, respectively where they would be in position to move to Beijing when the embassy moved from Taipei.|
|Upon opening the embassy in Beijing, Webb would be promoted to brigadier general and would move to Beijing as the Defense Attache. Gilliland would go as the Army Attache, a colonel.|
|The Defense Attache position would be a one-star slot and would rotate: two years USAF, two years Navy, two years Army. The Defense Attache was a one-star who would be concurrently his service attache and the Defense Attache, the service attaches would remain colonels. That is, General Webb was the Defense Attache and the Air Attache, Colonel Gilliland and a Navy Captain were the Army and Naval Attaches, respectively. When Webb departed, an admiral became the Defense Attache and the Naval Attache, O-6 grade officers served as Army and Air Attaches.|
The Attache Office was opened in Beijing in early 1979. In September 1979, while I was assigned as a China ground forces analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, I was sent as one of three DIA personnel (along with an Army colonel and a senior DIA civilian) to assist in opening the office. I know what I'm talking about.
After Bill Webb's tenure as Defense Attache, a Navy admiral served for two years then an Army brigadier -- Bernard Loeffke. Loeffke's tour was a disaster -- he was selected because of his record as an infantry officer and because of his support within the Army's senior leadership - as an Attache he just did not cut it. Meanwhile, the individual who was being groomed as the next Army Defense Attache was Jack Leide. I meet Jack when he was a promotable major serving in Hong Kong. He was promoted to LTC, went on to command the 519th MI Battalion at Fort Bragg, was promoted to colonel, then to brigadier general and sent to Beijing as the Defense and Army Attache.
James "Bo" Gritz did not figure in the China attache equation at any time, anywhere. He was not a China Foreign Area Officer and did not have the background for the job. His claim in this regard is a lie. Makes one wonder about his other claims.
This page last updated on 04 August 2009.