William Francis Buckley

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William Francis Buckley
Birth nameWilliam Francis Buckley
Born(1928-05-30)May 30, 1928
Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 3, 1985(1985-06-03) (aged 57)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Central Intelligence Agency
Years of service1947–1965 (Army)
1965–1985 (CIA)
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel (Army)
Paramilitary Operations Officer (CIA)
UnitU.S. Army

Central Intelligence Agency

Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
AwardsSilver Star
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star with Valor device
Purple Heart (2)
Meritorious Service Medal
Combat Infantry Badge
Parachutist Badge
Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Distinguished Intelligence Cross
Intelligence Star
Exceptional Service Medal

William Francis Buckley (May 30, 1928 – June 3, 1985) was a United States Army officer in the United States Army Special Forces, and a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief in Beirut from 1984[1] until 1985. His cover was as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy.[2][3] He was kidnapped by the group Hezbollah in March 1984. He was held hostage and tortured by psychiatrist Aziz al-Abub. Hezbollah later claimed they executed him in October 1985, but another American hostage disputed that, believing that he died five months prior, in June.[4][5][6] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and is commemorated with a star on the Memorial Wall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Buckley was born in Medford, Massachusetts, on May 30, 1928. He grew up on south Main Street in the neighboring town of Stoneham. He graduated from high school there in 1947,[8] and then joined the United States Army. He began as a military police officer and served in that capacity for two years, but then attended Officers Candidate School (OCS) and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Armor. He continued his military education at the Engineer Officer's Course at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the Advanced Armor Officer's Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the Intelligence School at Oberammergau, West Germany.


U.S. Army[edit]

During the Korean War, Buckley served as a company commander with the 1st Cavalry Division. Next, he returned to Boston University and completed his studies, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (Class of 1955; he was inducted into the U.S. Army ROTC Hall of Fame in April 2022).[9] It was during this time that Buckley began his first employment with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), from 1955 to 1957. He was also employed as a librarian in the Concord, Winchester and Lexington public libraries. In 1960, Buckley joined the 320th Special Forces Detachment, which became the 11th Special Forces Group, and attended both Basic Airborne and the Special Forces Officers Course. He was assigned as an A-Detachment commander and later as a B-Detachment commander. Colonel Buckley served in Vietnam with the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, or MACV, as a senior advisor to the South Vietnamese Army.[10]

Central Intelligence Agency[edit]

In 1965 (or 1963, according to one source), Buckley rejoined the CIA in what is now called the Special Activities Division.[citation needed] According to Leslie Cockburn's book, Out of Control (1987), Buckley was involved in approving CIA assassinations undertaken by the Shackley organizations. In his book, Prelude to Terror (2005) Joseph Trento claims that Buckley was "one of Shackley's oldest and dearest friends."[6]

Buckley may have been working for the CIA while in Mexico in 1963, but this is unconfirmed. His CIA employment kept him in South Vietnam from 1965 to 1970, and he was promoted in his military capacity to lieutenant colonel in May 1969. After leaving Vietnam, he served in Zaire (1970–1972), Cambodia (1972), Egypt (1972–1978), and Pakistan (1978–1979).[citation needed]

In 1983, Buckley succeeded Ken Haas as the Beirut Station Chief/Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy. Buckley was successfully rebuilding the network of agents lost in and due to the bombing of the U.S. Embassyafter the Marine Corps barracks bombing in October 1983, the Islamist group Hezbollah wrongly announced that they had also killed the CIA station chief (they did not yet know the station chief was Buckley)[1] in the blast; their announcement was the first real indication that he was on a Hezbollah "hit list."[11][12][13]

Kidnapping and death[edit]

Historically, Lebanon had always been a politically and socially unstable country but throughout 1983 this instability increased dramatically. The Shi'ite population of Lebanon became increasingly radicalized and started to target Westerners and Western-owned infrastructure such as embassies.[14][15] Within this backdrop, on March 16, 1984, Buckley was kidnapped by Hezbollah[16] from his apartment building when he was leaving for work.[5][17] It was thought that one of the reasons he was kidnapped along with two other Americans at different times in Beirut was because of the upcoming trial of 17 Iranian-backed militants that was about to begin in Kuwait. Army Major General Carl Stiner had warned Buckley that he was in danger, but Buckley told him that "I have a pretty good intelligence network. I think I'm secure." However, according to Stiner, Buckley continued to live in his apartment and travel the same route to and from work every day.[18]

David Barkay, a former officer in Israel's intelligence unit 504, asserts that a spy from Hezbollah delivered a note to his operatives (Barkay among them) six days before the kidnapping occurred.[19] The note contained a message from Imad Mughniyeh to a Hezbollah team that had been training for a kidnapping operation for months. The message instructed the team to prepare for the operation, which was set to take place in a couple of days. The note identified the target of the operation as "an American senior intelligence officer." Barkay adds that it's possible that the information about the impending kidnapping did not reach the CIA due to an "egotistical" dispute between the Mossad and Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate.

On November 22, 1985, Ted Shackley, Buckley's friend and recruiter, traveled to the Atlantic Hotel in Hamburg, where he met General Manouchehr Hashemi, the former head of SAVAK's counterintelligence division. Also at the meeting on November 22 was Manucher Ghorbanifar. According to the report of this meeting that Shackley sent to the State Department, Hashemi said Ghorbanifar had "fantastic" contacts with Iran,[20] but the CIA had designated him one year earlier as a "fabricator".[21] At the meeting, Shackley told Hashemi and Ghorbanifar that the United States was willing to discuss arms shipments in exchange for the four Americans kidnapped in Lebanon, although Buckley was already dead at this point.[22][23][4]

Major General Carl Stiner stated that "Buckley's kidnapping had become a major CIA concern. Not long after his capture, his agents either vanished or were killed. It was clear that his captors had tortured him into revealing the network of agents he had established."[24] According to the United States, Buckley had undergone 15 months of torture by Hezbollah before his death. After Buckley's kidnapping, three videos of Buckley being tortured were sent to the CIA in Athens. Interpreters noticed puncture marks indicating he was injected with narcotics. According to several sources, as a result of his torture, he signed a 400-page statement detailing his CIA activities.[5][25] In a video taken approximately seven months after the kidnapping, his appearance was described as follows:

Buckley was close to a gibbering wretch. His words were often incoherent; he slobbered and drooled and, most unnerving of all, he would suddenly scream in terror, his eyes rolling helplessly and his body shaking.[26] The CIA consensus was that he would be blindfolded and chained at the ankles and wrists and kept in a cell little bigger than a coffin.[5]

On October 4, 1985, Islamic Jihad announced that it had executed Buckley.[27] The United States National Security Council acknowledged in an unclassified note that Buckley probably died on June 3, 1985, of a heart attack.[4][5][28] Buckley's remains were recovered by Major Jens Nielsen (Royal Danish Army) attached to the United Nations Observation Group Beirut[29] on December 27, 1991, after they were dumped on a road near Beirut airport.[30] His body was returned to the United States on December 28, 1991, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia.[31][32]

After Buckley's death, Hezbollah's concern for other hostages' health increased; Hezbollah captors inquired about the hostages' health and well-being.[33]


The CIA Memorial Wall as of January 2005

An agency memorial service was held in August 1987 to commemorate his death. A public memorial service was held with full military honors at Arlington on May 13, 1988, just short of three years after his presumed death date. At the service, attended by more than 100 colleagues and friends, CIA Director William H. Webster eulogized Buckley, saying, "Bill's success in collecting information in situations of incredible danger was exceptional, even remarkable."[7][4]

There is a small park (dedicated May 30, 2010) with a memorial in his memory in the main square of his hometown of Stoneham, Massachusetts.[34][35]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Among Buckley's decorations and awards are the Silver Star, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device, two Purple Hearts, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. He also received the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with bronze star from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.[36] Among his CIA awards are the Intelligence Star, Exceptional Service Medallion and Distinguished Intelligence Cross. Among Buckley's civilian awards are the Freedom Foundation Award for Lexington Green Diorama, Collegium and Academy of Distinguished Alumni Boston University. The William F. Buckley Memorial Park in Stoneham, Massachusetts, is dedicated to his memory. The 51st star on the CIA Memorial Wall represents him, surrounded by about 132 other stars (as of January 2021) representing CIA officers killed in the line of duty. Approximately 35 of the stars are for unnamed agents whose identities have not been revealed for national security reasons. His name and year of death are recorded in the "Book of Honor" at the wall. The CIA awarded him the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, an Intelligence Star, and an Exceptional Service Medal, but has not said whether any of these were issued posthumously (although at least one award of the Exceptional Service Medal must have been made posthumously).[citation needed]

Intelligence Star of the CIA.jpg Intelligence Star
Distinguished Intelligence Cross of the CIA.jpg Distinguished Intelligence Cross
Exceptional Service Medal of the CIA.jpg Exceptional Service Medal
ArmyOSB.svg 12 Overseas Service Bars

Personal life[edit]

According to the biographical information distributed by the CIA, Buckley was "an avid reader of politics and history" and "a collector and builder of miniature soldiers." The latter hobby enabled him to become a principal artisan in the creation of a panorama at the Lexington Battlefield Tourist Center near his native Medford, Massachusetts. The press release also said he owned an antique shop and was an amateur artist and a collector of fine art. It called him "a very private and discreet individual."[7]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ a b Binder, David (June 27, 1985). "Hostages in Lebanon: Israelis are guarded; another seven Americans held hostage in Lebanon". The New York Times. Vol. CXXXIV, no. 129. p. A10. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  2. ^ Thomas 1989.
  3. ^ Kushner 2003, p. 85-86, Buckley, William Francis (Entries A-Z).
  4. ^ a b c d "Former Hostage Says Buckley Died Five Months Before Date Given by Captors". The Associated Press (AP). December 2, 1986. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Gordon (October 25, 2006). McLeod, Judi Ann T. (ed.). "William Buckley: The spy who never came in from the cold". Canada Free Press (CFP). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Trento, Joseph John; et al. (Design by Maria E. Torres) (April 29, 2005). Prelude to Terror: The rogue CIA and the legacy of America's private intelligence network (2nd ed.). New York City, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7867-1464-3. LCCN 2007278136. OCLC 237187597. Retrieved September 14, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ a b c Binder, David (December 28, 1991). "Remains of C.I.A. official are flown to U.S. for rites". The New York Times. Vol. CXL, no. 102. p. A3. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  8. ^ Stoneham, Mass Stoneham High School (1947). Stoneham High School yearbook. Stoneham Public Library. Stoneham High School.
  9. ^ "Boston University Honors CIA Officer William Buckley" (PDF). Afio.com. Boston University Army ROTC. April 29, 2022. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  10. ^ Burton, Fred; Katz, Samuel M. (October 23, 2018). "Chapter 4: The Soldier Spy". Beirut Rules: The Murder of a CIA Station Chief and Hezbollah's War Against America (1st ed.). New York City, New York: Berkley (Penguin Random House). pp. 56–78. ISBN 978-1-101-98748-3. LCCN 2018010839. OCLC 1038024600. Retrieved September 14, 2021 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Clancy, Stiner & Koltz 2002, p. 239, VIII. The Lebanon tragedy.
  12. ^ Clancy, Stiner & Koltz 2002, p. 253, VIII. The Lebanon tragedy.
  13. ^ Stephens, Bret (October 22, 2012). "Stephens: Iran's Unrequited War: The mullahs are at war with us. Maybe we should return the favor". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  14. ^ Versteegh, C.H.M.; van Dam, N.; Zürcher, E.J.; Peters, R.; Motzki, H.; Berserik, Françoise; de Jong, Teus; Beets, Nij; Pel, Henk, eds. (June 19, 2000). "Chapter Six: Escalation (May 1983-June 1984)" (PDF). The battle for South Lebanon: The radicalization of Lebanon's Shi'ites 1982–1985. Rabdoub University Faculty of Social Sciences (Doctoral thesis (PhD in letters)) (in English and Dutch). Nijmegen, Gelderland, Netherlands: Radboud University (Radboud Universiteit)/Uitgeverij Bulaaq (Bulaaq Publishers). pp. 197–246. OCLC 742181947. Retrieved September 14, 2021 – via Radboud Repository (Radboud University).
  15. ^ Salem, Elie (December 31, 1994). Violence and Diplomacy in Lebanon: The Troubled Years, 1982–1988. Bloomsbury Modern History/I.B. Tauris General Middle East History (1st ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing/I.B. Tauris. doi:10.5040/9780755612109. ISBN 978-1-85043-835-9.
  16. ^ Lerner, K. Lee; Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth; et al. (Design and pictures by Dean Dauphinais, Leitha Etheridge-Sims, Mary K. Grimes, Lezlie Light, Luke Rademacher, Kate Scheible; printing by Rhnonda Williams) (2003) [2004]. "Chapter 3. Chronology". In Cusack, Stephen; Scheible, Kate; Bealmar, Erin; Cerrito, Joan; Craddock, Jim; Schwartz, Carol; Tomassini, Christine; Tyrkus, Michael J.; Gareffa, Peter (eds.). 1984 (entry 7). Gale Group. Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. Gale virtual reference library. Vol. 3 (2nd ed.). Detroit, Michigan: (Thomson Corporation). p. 341. ISBN 978-0-7876-7546-2. LCCN 2003011097. Retrieved September 11, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Woodward, Bob; Babcock, Charles R. (November 25, 1986). "William Buckley Murdered: Captive CIA Agent's Death Galvanized Hostage Search". Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015 – via highbeam.com.
  18. ^ Clancy, Stiner & Koltz 2002, p. 260, VIII. The Lebanon tragedy.
  19. ^ Bergman, Ronen (2009). Alterman, Shahar (ed.). By Any Means Necessary (in Hebrew) (2011 ed.). Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-965-552-175-7.
  20. ^ President's Special Review Board (February 26, 1987). Report of the President's Special Review Board (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. B-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  21. ^ Byrne, Malcolm; Kornbluh, Peter; Blanton, Thomas (November 24, 2006). James, Edgar N.; Soderberg, Nancy E.; Sloan, Cliff; Kranich, Nancy (eds.). "The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On: Documents Spotlight Role of Reagan, Top Aides". National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book (Mailing list). Washington, D.C.: The National Security Archive (George Washington University). Archived from the original on August 24, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  22. ^ Seliktar, Ofira (2012). "Chapter 3 – The Reagan Administration's Balancing Act: Confusion in Washington and Tehran". Navigating Iran: From Carter to Obama (1st ed.). London, England: Palgrave Macmillan (Springer Nature). pp. 47–68. doi:10.1057/9781137010889_4. ISBN 978-0-230-33729-9. OCLC 964883038. Retrieved September 11, 2021 – via Google Books.
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  25. ^ Anderson, Jack; Van Atta, Dale (September 28, 1988). "CIA Official Tortured to Death, Gave Secrets". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Archived from the original on August 29, 2019. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  26. ^ Hand IV, George E. (January 4, 2020). "A Delta Force encounter with a Hezbollah operative". SOFREP. SOFREP Media Group. Archived from the original on January 5, 2020. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  27. ^ Kross, Peter (April 15, 2014). "Chapter 39) The Murder of William Buckley". Tales From Langley: The CIA From Truman to Obama. Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press. pp. 255–259. ISBN 978-1-939149-34-3. Retrieved September 14, 2021 – via Google Books.
  28. ^ United States National Security Council, "U.S./Iranian Contacts and the American Hostages"-"Maximum Version" of NSC Chronology of Events, dated November 17, 1986, 2000 Hours – Top Secret, Chronology, November 17, 1986, 12 pp. (UNCLASSIFIED)
  29. ^ "Lebanon—UNOGIL". United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. United Nations. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  30. ^ Picco 1999, pp. 334.
  31. ^ "Burial Detail: Buckley, William F. (Section 59, Grave 346)". ANC Explorer. Arlington National Cemetery. (Official website).
  32. ^ Wade, Kevin (January 26, 2017). "Memory of Buckley deserves better". Columns and Op-Eds. The Daily Republic. Kevin Wade: The Other Side. Fairfield, California: McNaughton Newspapers, Inc. p. A7. ISSN 0746-5858. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  33. ^ Peraino, Kevin (January 16, 2008). "The Death of Terror's Pioneer". Newsweek. New York City, New Work. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  34. ^ Daderot (February 19, 2012), Memorial in Stoneham, Massachusetts, USA., retrieved October 18, 2021
  35. ^ Aliberti, Joe (June 1, 2010). "Honoring the late William Buckley". Wicked Local / Stoneham Sun. Retrieved October 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. ^ "Buckley, William Francis, LTC". army.togetherweserved.com. Retrieved December 18, 2020.


Further reading[edit]