Desmond Fitzgerald (CIA officer)
Desmond FitzGerald (June 16, 1910 – July 23, 1967) was an American intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where he rose to the position of Deputy Director for Plans. He served in the CIA from 1950 until his death. Posthumously he was awarded the National Security Medal. An attorney, he had worked in New York City both before and after World War II. During the war, he was an Army officer, serving as liaison and adviser to the Chinese Army.
Desmond Fitzgerald was born in New York City in 1910, to a family in the upper class. He was educated at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He completed both his undergraduate and law degrees at Harvard University, gaining the latter in 1935. He worked for six years at a New York law firm.
Lawyer, Army Officer
At the outbreak of World War II Fitzgerald was "a 31-year-old attorney with a wife and a child" yet he enlisted as a private in the Army. He soon transferred to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as an officer. His assignment was as liaison to the Chinese army operating in the China-Burma-India theater, where he was promoted to the rank of major and awarded the Bronze Star. He was linked with the Chinese 6th army which operated in Burma.
After the war, Fitzgerald returned to New York City, where he worked at a Wall Street law firm. He enjoyed connections with the city's elite social circles.
Career in intelligence
Fitzgerald was recruited for the CIA by Frank Wisner in 1950. According to Prados, Fitzgerald worked in the CIA's Far East Division on a diverse array of projects, dealing with Tibet, China, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. He became friends with William Colby, also in the Far East Division (Colby became DCI in 1973). Fitzgerald was especially interested in the Tibetan Task Force, which supported the continuing Tibetan resistance against the Maoist Chinese takeover and, particularly, the 1959 Tibetan uprising. He told officers to work with Tibetan leader Gyalo Dhondup.
Smith writes that in 1951, Fitzgerald was working in the CIA's Office of Policy Coordination. He rose to work in the Directorate of Plans. He warned other officials against the agency becoming involved in a failed 1958 rebellion in Indonesia.
In 1966 Fitzgerald became Deputy Director for Plans. As such, he asked Edgar Applewhite to attack Ramparts magazine as part of the CIA's cold war strategy. Applewhite claimed he used "dirty tricks" and blackmail to harm the magazine's business
He was regarded highly by many, including Allen Dulles, who became director of the agency. Dulles describe Fitzgerald as "an officer of imagination and sense of daring, backed by his credentials as a fellow Wall Street lawyer and his impeccable social connections, coupled with his ability to get things done." John Kenneth Galbraith, a historian who was influential in the Kennedy administration, also admired him, although also describing Fitzgerald as reckless.
Fitzgerald was the first husband of Marietta Peabody; they were married September 2, 1939. Following World War II, Desmond and Marietta divorced. Their daughter Frances FitzGerald later became a journalist. She is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Vietnam War, which was critical of US involvement. Her Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam was published by Atlantic-Little, Brown in 1972.
Legacy and honors
- Conboy, Kenneth and James Morrison (1995). Shadow War: The CIA's Secret War in Laos. Paladin Press. ISBN 0-87364-825-0.
- McGehee, Ralph (2002).Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. Ocean Press. ISBN 978-1876175191.
- Smith, W. Thomas Jr. Encyclopedia of the Central Intelligence Agency (2003). Facts on File, Inc. ISBN 978-1438130187.