Mitchell WerBell III

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Mitchell Livingston WerBell III (1918–1983) was an OSS operative, mercenary, paramilitary trainer, firearms engineer, and arms dealer.

Early life and OSS service[edit]

WerBell was born in Philadelphia, the son of a Czarist cavalry officer in the Imperial Army of Russia. In 1942 WerBell joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and served in China, Burma, and French Indochina. As a guerrilla operative during World War II, he carried out a secret mission for the OSS under the command of Paul Helliwell in China with E. Howard Hunt, Lucien Conein, John K. Singlaub and Ray Cline.[1][2][3][4] They were paid with five-pound sacks of opium.[5] Following World War II, WerBell briefly worked as the director of advertising and public relations for Rich's, a department store in Atlanta, Georgia; he left after a year to open his own PR firm.[6]


After WerBell closed his PR Firm to design suppressors (commonly known as "silencers", a term which is a misnomer[7]) for firearms, he incorporated SIONICS to design suppressors for the M16 rifle. The name was an acronym for "Studies In the Operational Negation of Insurgents and Counter-Subversion". Through SIONICS he developed a low cost, efficient suppressor for machine guns.

In 1967 he partnered with Gordon B. Ingram, inventor of the MAC-10 submachine gun. They added WerBell's suppressor to Ingram's machinegun and attempted to market it to the U.S. military as "Whispering Death" for use in the Vietnam War.[8] WerBell is credited with over 25 different suppressor designs and the "WerBell Relief Valve", a mechanism designed for machinegun suppressors.[4] WerBell's modular designs and use of exotic materials such as titanium in sound suppressors influence their design to the present day.[4]

SIONICS was absorbed by the company MAC (Military Armament Corporation) and later called Cobray where WerBell developed a training center for counterterrorism in the 1970s. The courses lasted 11 weeks and students included members of the military, high-risk executives, CIA agents, and private individuals.[6] WerBell concurrently ran Defense Systems International, an arms brokerage firm.

Mercenary activities[edit]

In the 1950s, WerBell served as a security advisor to Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and to the Batista regime in Cuba. In 1966 WerBell helped plan an invasion of Haiti by Cuban and Haitian exiles against "Papa Doc" François Duvalier called Project Nassau (but internally referred to as Operation Istanbul). The mission, which (according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Special Subcommittee on Investigations of the House Commerce Committee) was financially subsidized, and to be filmed by CBS news, was aborted when the participants were arrested by the FBI. WerBell was released without being charged.[9]

In 1972 WerBell was approached by the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) from the Abaco Islands, a region of the Bahamas, who were worried about the direction the Bahamas were taking and were considering other options, such as independence or remaining a separate Commonwealth nation under the Crown in case of the Bahamas gaining independence (which they did in 1973). AIM was funded by the Phoenix Foundation, a group which aims to help build truly free micronations. The AIM collapsed into internal bickering before a coup by Werbell could be carried out.[10]

In 1973 WerBell was asked to assist with a coup d'état against Omar Torrijos of Panama, according to CIA documents released in 1993. WerBell sought clearance from the CIA which denied getting involved in coups. The plan was not implemented, though Torrijos died in a plane crash five years later.[11]

In a 1979 20/20 interview WerBell claimed that Coca-Cola had hired him for $1 million to take care of kidnapping threats against its Argentine executives during an urban terrorist wave in 1973. Coca-Cola later denied the claim.[6][12]

Later in life WerBell claimed he was a retired Lieutenant General in the Royal Free Afghan Army or sometimes an Afghan Defense Minister after supplying Afghanistan with large weapons contracts and training.[13] WerBell claimed he was given the billet of Major General in the US Army to allow him to travel freely in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War to demonstrate and sell his silenced submachineguns and sound suppressors. This has been confirmed by Major General John Singlaub and Lt Col. William Mozey.[14]

Other exploits[edit]

Other exploits include an alleged, but unsubstantiated, presence at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; spearheading the 1965 Invasion of the Dominican Republic; being tried and acquitted on charges of conspiracy to marijuana smuggling[15] reportedly in association with Gerry Patrick Hemming and with the acquiescence of Lucien Conein; and providing physical security services and training for Lyndon LaRouche security forces.

In 1988, Sheriff Sherman Block of Los Angeles announced that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt wrote WerBell a $1 million check in 1983 to kill Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, Walter Annenberg, and Frank Sinatra.[16] Los Angeles television station KNBC displayed a photocopy of the check.[16] WerBell died in Los Angeles a month after receiving the check.[16][17]

Death and courtroom poisoning claim[edit]

In the 1989 Cotton Club murder case of Roy Radin, Arthur Michael Pascal, then owner of a Beverly Hills security firm,[18] testified that prosecution witness William Rider, Flynt's former brother-in-law and private security agent,[18] "told him of poisoning soldier of fortune Mitchell WerBell III in 1983 in order to take over WerBell's counterterrorist school based in Atlanta. Pascal said that Rider and... Flynt, poured four to six ounces of a digoxin, a powerful heart relaxant, into WerBell's drink during a cocktail party at Flynt's Los Angeles mansion. WerBell, 65, a security consultant for Flynt... died of a heart attack at UCLA Medical Center a few days later."[19] Flynt and his attorney, Alan Isaacman, were in Bangkok and "unavailable for comment, according to a Hustler magazine spokeswoman".[19] "Isaacman characterized an earlier Rider claim of a Flynt-paid murder contract as 'fantasy'."[19] Rider passed a polygraph test regarding "possible involvement in homicides," according to courtroom testimony.[19] Pascal was later arraigned on a murder charge due to tapes Rider provided investigators.[18]

See also[edit]

  • Jason Lau – Cobray International counter-terrorist training camp instructor


  1. ^ The Iran-Contra Connection Secret Teams And Covert Operations In The Reagan Era, P. 64, Peter Dale Scott, South End Pr, 1987, ISBN 0-89608-291-1
  2. ^ Undercover: Memoirs of an American Secret Agent, E. Howard Hunt, Berkley Pub. Corp, ISBN 978-0-399-11446-5
  3. ^ John Mintz, Staff Writer, Washington Post, January 14, 1985
  4. ^ a b c Truby, J. David (1972). Silencers, snipers & assassins: an overview of whispering death. Paladin Press. pp. 108–110. ISBN 978-0-87364-012-1.
  5. ^ Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1980
  6. ^ a b c Dunkin, Tom (1980-01-01). "Cobray: Turning the Tables on Terrorists". Soldier of Fortune. 5 (1): 46–50.
  7. ^ "Suppressors Aren't Silencers". Guns & Ammo.
  8. ^ Long, Duncan (1989). Terrifying Three: Uzi, Ingram And Intratec Weapons Families. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press. pp. 25–31. ISBN 978-0-87364-523-2.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Naylor, Robin T Wages of Crime:Black Markets, Illegal Finance and the Underworld Economy Cornell University Press (2002)
  11. ^ Corn, David (November 29, 1993). "Secrets from the C.I.A. Archives". The Nation. 257 (18). p. 656.
  12. ^ Louis (1973) "How Coke Runs a Foreign Empire", Business Week P.41
  13. ^ Didion, Joan (2006). We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction. Knopf. pp. 651–652. ISBN 978-0-307-26487-9.
  14. ^ Major General John Singlaub, Mitch WerBell, Lt Col. William Mozey (1984). American Mercenaries: The Story of Mitch WerBell (video). Powder Springs, Georgia: Brigade Quartermasters.
  15. ^ The Law Offices of Edwin Marger - Drug Trial
  16. ^ a b c "Alleged Flynt Plot to Have Sinatra, Others Killed Reported". Los Angeles Times. October 27, 1988. p. 3.
  17. ^ Stern, Gary (October 27, 1988). "Sheriff: Flynt offered $1M for slayings". USA TODAY. McLean, Va. p. 03.A.
  18. ^ a b c Michael Connelly (November 17, 1991). "Slaying Case Takes a New Twist With Security Firm Owner's Arrest Crime: A. Michael Pascal is charged with arranging the 1984 killing of a prostitute in Van Nuys. He'll be arraigned Monday". Los Angeles Times. p. 3.
  19. ^ a b c d Dennis McDougal (June 30, 1989). "'Cotton Club' Witness Linked to Two Murders". Los Angeles Times. p. 3.

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