Frank Wisner
Frank Gardiner Wisner was head of Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 operations in southeastern Europe
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and the head of the Directorate of Plans of the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 during the 1950s.


He was educated at Woodberry Forest School
Woodberry Forest School
Woodberry Forest School is a private, all-male boarding school located in Woodberry Forest, Madison County, Virginia, in the United States. Woodberry's current enrollment is 402. Students come from 28 U.S...

 in Orange County, Virginia
Orange County, Virginia
As of the census of 2000, there were 25,881 people, 10,150 households, and 7,470 families residing in the county. The population density was 76 people per square mile . There were 11,354 housing units at an average density of 33 per square mile...

, and the University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

, where he received both B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 and LL.B.
Bachelor of Laws
The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate, or bachelor, degree in law originating in England and offered in most common law countries as the primary law degree...

 degrees. He was also tapped for the Seven Society
Seven Society
The Seven Society is the most secretive of the University of Virginia's secret societies. Members are only revealed after their death, when a wreath of black magnolias in the shape of a "7" is placed at the gravesite, the bell tower of the University Chapel chimes at seven-second intervals on the...



After graduating, Wisner worked as a Wall Street
Wall Street
Wall Street refers to the financial district of New York City, named after and centered on the eight-block-long street running from Broadway to South Street on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, or...

A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

. In 1941, six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, he enlisted in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

. He worked in the Navy's censor's office until he was able to get a transfer to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He was stationed first in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, and then in Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, where he became head of OSS operations in southeastern Europe. This happened just prior to the Romanian royal coup of August 23, 1944. At Wisner's behest, King Michael I of Romania
Michael I of Romania
Michael was the last King of Romania. He reigned from 20 July 1927 to 8 June 1930, and again from 6 September 1940 until 30 December 1947 when he was forced, by the Communist Party of Romania , to abdicate to the Soviet armies of occupation...

 permitted the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to fly out Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

  prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. On August 29, some 1,350 American airmen who had been held prisoners in Romania were rescued by an U.S. Air Crew Rescue Unit, with Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 troops only days away from entering Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

. Despite continuing fighting between Romanian and Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 forces, and the presence of the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 and Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 in the immediate Bucharest area, the rescue team used the Popeşti-Leordeni
Popeşti-Leordeni is a town in Ilfov County, Romania, 9 km south of Bucharest, although from the northern edge of the town to the southern edge of Bucharest the distance is less than 100 m. The town's population is 15,115 inhabitants...

 Airfield. Twelve B-17 Flying Fortress flew out the prisoners in hourly shifts. In all, some 1,700 American POWs were rescued with the help of the Romanians.

Later, Wisner's main task was to spy on the activities of the Soviet Union. Wisner's agents managed to penetrate the Romanian Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 and the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's headquarters in Bucharest. He learned that the Soviet Union planned to take over all of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, and was disappointed at the U.S. failure to move to prevent it. He advised the Romanian royal family to go into exile.

In March 1945, Wisner was transferred to Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden is a city in southwest Germany and the capital of the federal state of Hesse. It has about 275,400 inhabitants, plus approximately 10,000 United States citizens...

, where he served as OSS liaison to the Gehlen Organisation. In 1946, he returned to law practice, joining the New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 law firm of Carter Ledyard
Carter Ledyard & Milburn
Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP is a New York City law firm. It has more than 100 attorneys with offices in New York and Washington, D.C..The firm was founded in 1854 by Henry Scudder and James C. Carter. Those partners along with Henry’s younger brother Townsend, who subsequently joined the firm,...



Wisner was recruited in 1947 by Dean Acheson
Dean Acheson
Dean Gooderham Acheson was an American statesman and lawyer. As United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War...

 to join the State Department's Office of Occupied Territories. In 1948, the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 created a covert action division, the Office of Policy Coordination
Office of Policy Coordination
The Office of Policy Coordination was a United States covert psychological operations and paramilitary action organization. Created as an independent office in 1948, it was merged with the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951....

 (OPC). Frank Wisner was put in charge of the operation and recruited many of his old friends from Carter Ledyard. According to its secret charter, its responsibilities include "propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage, demolition and evacuation procedures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."

In 1947 Wisner established Operation Mockingbird
Operation Mockingbird
Operation Mockingbird was a secret Central Intelligence Agency campaign to influence foreign media beginning in the 1950s.The activities, extent and even the existence of the CIA project remain in dispute: the operation was first called Mockingbird in Deborah Davis' 1979 book, Katharine the Great:...

, a program to influence the domestic and foreign media
News media
The news media are those elements of the mass media that focus on delivering news to the general public or a target public.These include print media , broadcast news , and more recently the Internet .-Etymology:A medium is a carrier of something...

. In 1952, he became head of the Directorate of Plans, with Richard Helms
Richard Helms
Richard McGarrah Helms was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973. He was the only director to have been convicted of lying to the United States Congress over Central Intelligence Agency undercover activities. In 1977, he was sentenced to the maximum fine and received a suspended...

 as his chief of operations. This office had control of 75% of the CIA budget. In this position, he was instrumental in supporting pro-American forces that toppled Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as Defense Minister of Guatemala from 1944–1951, and as President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954....

 in Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

  following the Alfhem affair.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 Director, J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

, became jealous of the CIA's growing power. He described the OPC as "Wisner's gang of weirdos" and began carrying out investigations into their past. It did not take him long to discover that some of them had been active in left-wing politics in the 1930s. This information was passed to Senator Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957...

 who started making attacks on members of the OPC. Hoover also gave McCarthy details of an affair that Wisner had with Princess Caradja
Catherine Caradja
Princess Catherine Olympia Caradja was a celebrated Romanian aristocrat and philanthropist. Born in Bucharest, she grew up in England and France, and lived in Romania from 1908 to 1952, when she escaped from the communist regime on a Danube boat...

 in Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 during the war; Hoover claimed that Caradja was a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


Hoover and Senator McCarthy succeeded in forcing CIA director Allen W. Dulles to dismiss one of his key staff members, Carmel Offie
Carmel Offie
Carmel Offie worked for the U.S. State Department from the mid 1930s until he joined the Central Intelligence Agency CIA in 1947...

 in 1953 over Wisner's objections.

Wisner worked closely with Kim Philby
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

, the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 agent who was eventually unmasked as a Soviet spy.

He was also deeply involved in establishing the Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 spy plane
Surveillance aircraft
A surveillance aircraft is an aircraft used for surveillance — collecting information over time. They are operated by military forces and other government agencies in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, observation , border patrol and fishery...

 program run by Richard M. Bissell, Jr.
Richard M. Bissell, Jr.
Richard Mervin Bissell, Jr. was an American Central Intelligence Agency officer responsible for major projects such as the U-2 spy plane and the Bay of Pigs Invasion.-Early years:...

Wisner was devastated when the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. As OPC director, he believed that an important opportunity for "rollback" was forfeited in October–November 1956, when Hungarian reformist leader Imre Nagy announced Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, and when he and Hungarian insurgents called on the West for help against invading Soviet troops. President Eisenhower, however, deemed it too risky to intervene militarily in a landlocked country such as Hungary, and he feared it might trigger a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Moreover, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles mistakenly believed that Nagy sided with the Soviet Union. On October 25, 1956, Dulles sent a telegram to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade expressing his fears that the Imre Nagy–János Kádár government might take "reprisals" against the Hungarian "freedom fighters". By the next day, October 26, State Department officials in Washington assumed the worse about Nagy, asserting in a top secret memorandum: "Nagy's appeal for Soviet troops indicates, at least superficially, that there are not any open differences between the Soviet and Hungarian governments." While some inflammatory broadcasts by the CIA-financed Radio Free Europe by themselves certainly neither caused the Hungarian Revolution nor the subsequent Soviet crackdown, the Kremlin leaders exploited the foreign radio broadcasts as an ex post facto excuse. But Wisner took this in stride. "[T]hey do this because... they can’t stand the truth; they can’t stand the thing being understood throughout the world or within the Soviet Union as a genuine revolt."

Soon after the Soviet crackdown on the Hungarian revolution, Wisner suffered a breakdown, and was diagnosed as a manic depressive. He underwent psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 and was subjected to electroshock therapy. After spending 6 months at The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital
The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital
The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, known to many simply as Sheppard Pratt, is a psychiatric hospital located in Towson, a northern suburb of Baltimore, Maryland...

, he was released in 1958.
CIA Director
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency serves as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, which is part of the United States Intelligence Community. The Director reports to the Director of National Intelligence . The Director is assisted by the Deputy Director of the Central...

 Allen Dulles named Wisner Chief of the CIA's London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 Station, but he was still suffering from mental illness. In 1962, he was recalled to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, and agreed to retire from the CIA.

Personal life

Wisner was born in Laurel, Mississippi
Laurel, Mississippi
Laurel is a city located in Jones County in Mississippi, a state of the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 18,393 although a significant population increase has been reported following Hurricane Katrina. Located in southeast Mississippi, southeast of...

 to parents Frank George Wisner, a lumberman (March 5, 1873 in Clinton, Iowa
Clinton, Iowa
Clinton is a city in and the county seat of Clinton County, Iowa, United States. The population was 26231as of 2010. Clinton, along with DeWitt, Iowa , was named in honor of the seventh governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton. Clinton is the principal city of the Clinton Micropolitan Statistical...

 – ?), and Mary Jeanette Gardiner (August 21, 1875 in Clinton, Iowa – ?). They were married on October 28, 1897 in Lyons, Iowa. He married Mary Knowles Fritchey (June 28, 1912 in Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2009, the estimated population was 53,752...

 – July 9, 2002). They had four children: Frank G. Wisner
Frank G. Wisner
Frank George Wisner II is an American businessman and former diplomat. He is the son of Frank Wisner . On 31 January 2011, he was sent to Egypt by President Barack Obama to negotiate a resolution to the popular protests against the regime that have swept the country...

, Ellis Wisner, Graham Wisner, and Elizabeth "Wendy" Hazard.

Frank Wisner committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 using one of his son's shotguns. His funeral service was held at the Bethlehem Chapel in the Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. Of neogothic design, it is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world, the second-largest in...

. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

as a naval commander, his wartime rank.
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