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In Memory of Thomas Francis Troy, CIA Teacher, Historian, 1919–2008

By Hayden Peake and Nicholas Dujmovic

Thomas F. Troy, a career CIA officer, teacher and lecturer, and pioneering historian of the CIA’s origins, died on 30 July in Bethesda, Maryland.

Tom grew up and was educated in Massachusetts, graduating from Holy Cross College in Worcester (class of 1941). He joined the Army and was sent to Princeton University to study Arabic. During the war he served in the Middle East monitoring communications. He returned to college after the war, taking advantage of the GI Bill to earn a masters degree in political philosophy at Fordham University. After trying his luck as a newscaster, freelance writer, and college teacher, he joined CIA in1951 as an analyst in the Near East section of the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) in the Directorate of Intelligence. He soon married Elizabeth Cashman; eventually they had a family of eight children, six daughters and two sons.

Tom’s expertise was widely acknowledged, but he was famous for resenting the editing that analysts suffer, and he grew increasingly unhappy with OCI management. The feeling was mutual—Tom wasn’t quite fired, but he was encouraged to seek a job elsewhere in the Agency. He found his niche in the Office of Training (later the Office of Training and Education), where from the outset he was recognized as an outstanding, even visionary, teacher. Tom helped create the area training program, including the courses on the Middle East and North Africa regions. During the mid-1960s, he developed the Vietnam Orientation Course, an effort the chief of the Far East Division of the Directorate of Plans, William Colby, particularly praised.

In 1969, while still teaching, he became interested in the Agency’s history. The director of training, a former OSS officer, approved an unofficial project for Tom and worked out an arrangement that gave him time to conduct research—including money to travel—and write a history of the origins of OSS under William Donovan and its transformation into CIA. On this, Tom labored for five and a half years. His work came to the attention of senior Agency leaders, who supported and praised it, even though some in his office disapproved of it as a diversion from its training mission. The result, Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency, was initially published internally in two spiral-bound volumes classified SECRET. Most of the classified material dealt with references to third-party material and personnel, which, once deleted, made possible an unclassified paperback edition in 1979.

After Tom retired in January 1982, he joined University Publications of America as editor of an intelligence book series. One of the first volumes he published was a hardbound edition of Donovan and the CIA. For cost reasons, the first printing did not have a dust jacket. But the demand was so great that one was subsequently printed and furnished on request and with new copies. The work remains the best source on the topic, a benchmark for scholarship and documentation. It was given an award by the National Intelligence Study Center in 1981 as the best non-fiction book of the year.

Tom later completed another historical study of the CIA’s creation, Wild Bill and Intrepid: Donovan, Stephenson and the Origins of the CIA, which drew heavily on Tom’s interviews with Sir William Stephenson. This volume was published by Yale University Press in 1996.

In his retirement, Tom started a bimonthly newsletter—the Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene. He originally thought to call the newsletter the Foreign Intelligence Bulletin (FIB), but he had trouble attracting authors to a journal with such an acronym and changed it before the first issue appeared. It dealt with books, personalities and events in the Intelligence Community. There was no competition and it proved a success for the next 10 years. In the early 1990s, it was published by Ray Cline’s National Intelligence Study Center until the Internet made it obsolete.

Tom continued to write articles and book reviews for Studies. His work has also appeared in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and in the journal Intelligence and National Security.

In 2000, a former Agency officer published a book suggesting that William Donovan’s role in the creation of the CIA was significantly less important than Tom’s work suggested. Tom attended a talk the author gave at the National Archives and raised questions that clearly annoyed the author because he couldn’t answer them. Tom’s approach in questioning the author was perfectly in character: he was smiling and friendly, yet persistent. He could make his point without giving permanent offense.

In the hours before his death, Tom told his family that he couldn’t wait to resume work on his next book, a biography of Sir William Wiseman, the MI-6 head of station in America during World War I. Tom had finished 15 chapters.


All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.

Historical Document
Posted: Sep 16, 2008 07:26 AM
Last Updated: Sep 16, 2008 09:07 AM