The beginning: A life in five paragraphs

I decided to focus this project on the life of CIA officer Henry Hecksher after I noticed that Wikipedia only offered five paragraphs on him.

He had been the agency’s chief of station in Santiago at the time of efforts to block Socialist Salvador Allende from becoming president of Chile in 1970, an event that I intended to make into a project.

I was also aware of Hecksher’s role at Berlin Operating Base in the early days of the CIA.

How could there not be more?

Of course, the likely answer is that those working in Hecksher’s line of work can usually expect even less — even complete anonymity — no matter how consequential their actions were in world events.

Here is the entry, as of April 11, 2021:

Henry D. Hecksher (September 21, 1910 – March 28, 1990) was a career United States intelligence officer who served in both the OSS and CIA.

Hecksher was born in HamburgGermany and immigrated to the United States in 1934 or 1938. He joined the United States Army, achieving the rank of captain. Hecksher took part in the Normandy invasion, and was wounded in Antwerp.

He later became an intelligence officer with the Army and interrogated some of the top Nazi leaders, including Julius Streicher. He joined the OSS and in 1946 became head of its counterintelligence section in Berlin. Later, this section would become the CIA’s Berlin Operating Base, also known as BOB. Hecksher would eventually work under CIA station chief William Harvey at BOB.

Hecksher became heavily involved in CIA covert operations, including the Berlin Tunnel project.[citation needed] He was CIA Station Chief in Santiago, and was involved in covert actions in the period before the coup d’etat which overthrew Chilean president Salvador Allende Gossens in 1973. Accusations persist that Hecksher, the CIA and the US Government were instrumental in the coup.[citation needed]

In 1990, Hecksher died from complications of Parkinson’s disease in Princeton, New Jersey.

 Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

As a journalist, I am highly skeptical of Wikipedia as a source, but it the footnotes are a great starting point for research. Here, most of the information comes from a New York Times obituary after Hecksher died in 1990.

It’s even shorter than the Wikipedia article. The print version of the obituary summed up his life, and death, in just three paragraphs.


Sources

  • Wikipedia, s.v. “Henry Hecksher”, last modified May 25, 2020, 18:48, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Hecksher.
  • Narvaez, Alfonso A., “Henry Hecksher, 79; Served O.S.S. in War And Later the C.I.A.,” New York Times, March 29, 1990.

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