Lucien E. Conein
Early Life and World War II
Conein was born in Paris in 1919 and was sent by his widowed mother in 1925 to live with his aunt, a French war-bride, in Kansas City. He retained his French citizenship and when World War II began in 1939, he joined the French Army. After the fall of France, Conein returned to join the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) due to his fluency in French. As a member of an Algerian-based Jedburgh team, he parachuted into Nazi-occupied France to deliver arms to French resistance forces to facilitate attacks against German targets during the Normandy landing. When the European war ended, Conein parachuted into Vietnam as part of the OSS team working with the Viet Minh against the Japanese in North Vietnam. He was awarded the Legion of Honor for his negotiations with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, which resulted in the release of several interned French residents.
After World War II, Conein returned to Europe as a member of the OSS. This included organizing the infiltration of spies and saboteurs into those countries in Eastern Europe under the control of the Soviet Union. In 1947, he was transferred to the the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) upon its formation, keeping his rank and position as cover. In 1951, Gordon Stewart, the CIA chief of espionage in West Germany, sent Conein to establish a base in Nuremberg. The main purpose of the base was to send agents into Warsaw Pact countries to gather information needed to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The venture was not a great success and the governments in both Poland and Czechoslovakia announced that they had smashed several CIA espionage rings.
VietnamSaigon Military Mission in a covert operation against the government of Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam. The plan was to mount a propaganda campaign to persuade the Vietnamese people in the south not to vote for the communists in the forthcoming elections. In the months that followed they distributed targeted documents that claimed the Vietminh had entered South Vietnam and were killing innocent civilians. The Ho Chi Minh government was also accused of slaying thousands of political opponents in North Vietnam.
In the late 1950s Conein worked closely with William E. Colby, the CIA station chief in Saigon. Conein helped to arm and train local tribesmen - mostly Montagnards - who carried out attacks on the Vietminh. These men also guided Vietnamese Special Forces units who made commando raids into Laos and North Vietnam. Conein was a key figure in the November 1963 coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, serving as U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge's liaison officer to the coup plotters. Conein kept close contact with the generals through the planning process - some of which he had known since World War II - through clandestine meetings at a dentist's office. On the morning of the coup, Conein delivered 3 million piasters (around $42,000) in support money to the plotters and had telephone contact with them while the coup was taking place.
Unhappy with the situation in Vietnam, Conein retired from the CIA in 1968 and returned to South Vietnam as a private businessman. Former CIA associate E. Howard Hunt considered hiring Conein for the team involved in the 1972 Watergate break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters. In 1973, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Conein to the Drug Enforcement Agency where he directed covert operations until 1984.
Conein died after a heart attack at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on 3 June, 1998.
Awards and Decorations
- Distinguished Service Cross
- Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Bronze Star
- CIA's Intelligence Star
- European African Middle Eastern Medal
- American Defense Service Medal
- Croix de Guerre with Palm
- Croix de Guerre with Star (x 2)
- Knight Legion of Honor Letter French War Minister
- Master Parachutist badge
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKconein.htm
- ↑ "America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975." George C. Herring. 1996. McGraw Hill. http://victoryinstitute.net/2011/11/05/americas-longest-war-the-united-states-and-vietnam-1950-1975/
- ↑ "JFK and the Diem Coup." John Prados. Nov. 5, 2003. George Washington University's National Security Archive. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/index.htm