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John W. Waltz

a star from the cia memorial wall

John Waltz was a lifelong intelligence officer – first in the US Military and then with the CIA. A dedicated patriot, John quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a Station Chief and the head of operations for the Agency’s Near East (NE) division.

On June 6, 1965, John became ill and died from medical complications following emergency surgery while serving in the Middle East.

Early Years:

John Waltz was born in Philadelphia in 1918. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree in 1941, and a law degree in 1947. He was a member of the debate team and a participant in national leadership and legal fraternities.

John served in the US Army from 1943-1946. He was an intelligence officer and an expert on Japan’s military forces—particularly their order of battle. He served in military campaigns with the 12th Infantry Division in the Solomons, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan. John received the Bronze Star for his service in the Philippines. After leaving the military, he worked for about two years as an attorney in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Life at CIA:

John joined the CIA in August 1948 as a reports officer and analyst for Middle East-Africa affairs in the Office of Special Operations, a predecessor of today’s National Clandestine Service (also known as the Directorate of Operations.) He was an expert in Egyptian political and economic matters and was soon promoted to the position of Deputy Branch Chief. In April 1952, he traveled to North Africa for five years where he served as Station Chief and was an active participant in the full range of operational activities.

During the 1950s, John received two commendations from the State Department for his outstanding performance. One was from Secretary of State John Foster Dulles himself for John’s support for the 1956 London Conference on the Suez Canal.

John returned to Headquarters in 1957 and became a branch chief in the Near East (NE) Division. His managerial skills and sound operational judgments were major factors in his appointment as Chief of Operations for NE in 1961. Two years later he became the Chief of Station of a Middle Eastern country, where he served until 1965.

His Final Mission:

John’s service in the Middle East was filled with major political developments and operational challenges. John witnessed a regime collapse, two coups, and intermittent hostilities between warring factions vying for power.

While serving in the Middle East, John became ill and was hospitalized. Medical conditions in the area John was stationed were often substandard, so he was supposed to be evacuated to another city with more modern medical facilities. However, his station at the time was engaged in an operation to acquire significant intelligence of great value to the military effort in Vietnam. John elected to take the risk of seeking medical treatment where he was rather than leaving his people during this critical period. He suffered a coronary blockage following surgery in the local hospital, resulting in his death on June 6, 1965. He was 47 years old.

John received one of the original 31 stars inscribed on the Agency’s Memorial Wall in 1974, and his name is included in the CIA Book of Honor.

More CIA Heroes

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Eugene “Buster” Edens
James J. McGrath