William M. Leary


Leary, William M. "Aircraft and Anti-Communists: CAT in Action, 1949-52." China Quarterly 52 (Oct.-Dec. 1972): 654-669.

[CA/Asia; CIA/50s/Gen]

Leary, William M. "CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974." Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000): 71-86. Excerpted and abridged in CIRA Newsletter, 25, no. 3 (Fall 2000), 39-46.

Clark comment: Although the emphasis is on air operations, from Civil Air Transport (CAT) to Air America, this is an excellent overview of CIA operations in Laos generally. Leary concludes that "[t]he exploits of CAT/Air America form a unique chapter in the history of air transport, one that deserves better than a misleading, mediocre movie" (the reference is to 1990s Air America).


Leary, William M. Fueling the Fires of Resistance: Army Air Forces Special Operations in the Balkans during World War II. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1995. [http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA433268]

"In this study, Professor William Leary examines what might fairly be considered one of the most important early experiences in the history of Air Force special operations."

[WWII/OSS/Alb&Yugo; WWII/Services/AF]

Leary, William M. Perilous Missions: Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1984. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 2003.

According to Motley, IJI&C 1.1, Perilous Missions is an "important and penetrating account that unites CAT's airline history, intelligence activities, and the Cold War." CAT operated 1946-1959 when it became Air America. Tovar, IJI&C 8.3, calls it "a serious study of the operations of CIA proprietary airlines" (fn. 5).

For Goulden, Washington Times, 8 Jun. 2003, Leary's is a "sound work, based on CAT's corporate archives." It serves as "a palliative for the wild yarns circulated about CAT and its successor organization, Air America, over the years." Bath, NIPQ 20.2, gives this work a "highly recommended" rating. The new edition has "a helpful new preface that summarizes CIA's proprietary air operations subsequent to the transformation of CAT into Air America.... Perilous Missions remains the best study of CAT and CIA's early involvement in the air over Asia."

[CA/Asia; CIA/Laos; CIA/50s/Gen; Vietnam/Gen]

Leary, William M.

1. "Robert Fulton's Skyhook and Operation Coldfeet." Studies in Intelligence 38, no. 5 (1995): 99-109.

Fulton's invention was a step beyond the modified mail-pickup system used for agent and other air-extraction operations. The system was developed under the auspices of Office of Naval Research (ONR). The operational target became an abandoned Soviet drift station, but a lack of funding led ONR to turn to the CIA for support. The drop of two men onto the drift was made on 26 May 1962, and extraction came on 2 June.

See also, John Cadwalader, "Operation Coldfeet: An Investigation of the Abandoned Soviet Arctic Drift Station NP 8," ONI Review 17 (Aug. 1962): 344-355.

2. And Leonard A. LeSchack. Project Coldfeet: Secret Mission to a Soviet Ice Station. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.

According to Cutler, Proceedings 122.12 (Dec. 1996), two U.S. intelligence officers were parachuted onto an abandoned Soviet ice station in 1962 to gather information on what the Soviets were up to and what they were capable of. This book is a "well-researched addition to the Naval Institute's Special Warfare series."

Bates, NIPQ, Spring 1997, finds the book to be more about U.S. and Soviet Arctic research than about intelligence. Nonetheless, the involvement of Intermountain Aviation, a CIA proprietary, in Project Coldfeet allows the author to introduce the story of two key Intermountain players and their involvement in a plan to rescue an imprisoned comrade in Indonesia.

To Van Nederveen, Aerospace Power Journal (Spring  2001), this work, "[w]ritten by a CIA historian and one of the mission’s participants,... mixes polar exploration, intelligence gathering, and exciting technological solutions to make a very readable account." The "entire development process and various tests carried out [of the Fulton Skyhook] are detailed in the book. This part alone makes for interesting and exciting reading."


Leary, William M., and William Stueck. "The Chennault Plan to Save China: U.S. Containment in Asia and the Origins of the CIA's Aerial Empire, 1949-1950." Diplomatic History 8 (Fall 1984): 349-364.


Leary, William M., ed. The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents. University, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1984.

This is a reprint of the Karalekas study with the addition of a documentary appendix.


Return to Lb-Led