CIA slowly opens up about botched 1952 mission in China



The CIA has produced an hour-long documentary about a failed 1952 covert mission inside China, which resulted in the death of two American pilots and the capture of two CIA paramilitary officers, who spent a total of 40 years in Chinese prisons. The documentary, which premiered last week on a restricted basis at the Agency’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters, is based on internal CIA accounts of the operation, some of which were released in 2006. The premiere was reportedly attended by John Downey and Richard Fecteau, two CIA paramilitary officers on their first mission, who were captured by Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units inside Chinese territory, after the CIA-operated C-47 Skytrain airplane that was carrying them deep inside Chinese airspace was shot down in a Chinese ambush. Two other Americans, Robert Snoddy and Norman Schwartz, both pilots in Civil Air Transport, a CIA front company, were killed when the ambushed plane crashed in the foothills of China’s Changbai mountains. The four men were participating in THIRD FORCE a covert CIA program intended to help organize and arm a Chinese anticommunist network led by PLA generals allegedly disaffected with the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. However, the co-called Chinese resistance network was penetrated by communist agents, who helped the PLA ambush the covert CIA flight. Following the ambush, Washington persistently denied Chinese accusations that Downey and Fecteau were CIA spies, claiming instead that the two men were civilian US Army contractors. But in 1973 US President Richard Nixon admitted Downey’s CIA connection, a disclosure that resulted in the captured agent’s release and return to the US (Fecteau had been released two years earlier). The CIA says it plans to use the new documentary as a “teaching tool” for future covert missions.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

2 Responses to CIA slowly opens up about botched 1952 mission in China

  1. Dr. Monkey says:

    I had never heard of this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. News to me as well but it rings true to the type of information Fletcher Prouty wrote about in “The Secret Team”.

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