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Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Michael McPherson Deuel

This is part of our series about CIA employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Here we will look at the lives of the men and women who have died while serving their country.

Currently, there are 113 stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall. The wall stands as a silent, simple memorial to those employees “who gave their lives in the service of their country.” The CIA has released the names of 80 employees; the names of the remaining 33 officers must remain secret, even in death.

Michael McPherson Deuel, an Operations Officer in the Directorate of Plans (now the Directorate of Operations), was killed in a helicopter crash in the jungles of Southeast Asia while participating in covert operations in 1965. This is his story.

Early Years:

Mike attended Western High School in Washington, DC. He was president of the student council, played fullback on the football team, and was named to the DC All-Star football team. After graduating in 1955, Mike went on to Cornell University as one of his high school’s 25 National Scholars.

At Cornell, Mike played lacrosse, was active in the Sigma Phi fraternity, and served as editor of the fraternity newspaper. He graduated in 1959 with a BS in Chemistry.

Life at CIA:

In 1959, Mike joined the CIA and went through the Junior Officer Training Program as an Operations Officer, where he also completed a highly challenging paramilitary course in jungle warfare.

Mike joined the Marine Corps in September 1959 as a First Lieutenant and, by pre-arrangement, was detailed back to the CIA. After being honorably discharged from the Marines as a Captain in August 1963, he worked at CIA Headquarters, where he was assigned to the Far East Division in the Directorate of Plans. Mike spoke French, Thai, and Lao proficiently.

Mike’s main responsibilities included the preparation of studies, briefing papers, and other reports for use in evaluating CIA paramilitary programs in Southeast Asia. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to a Southeast Asian country as a paramilitary operations officer.

While visiting an Agency station in another nearby country, Mike met his future wife, a newly assigned secretary at the station. They were married in 1964 and returned to Southeast Asia where Mike spent much of his time traveling and working with indigenous tribes fighting against the Communists. He accomplished this in a variety of aircraft provided by the Agency’s proprietary air wing, Air America. Mike’s wife helped manage the Agency’s operations overseas.

His Last Mission:

By the summer of 1965, covert operations in the country Mike served were expanding rapidly. Operational help arrived in September in the person of Michael Maloney, who, like Mike Deuel, was a paramilitary officer and second-generation CIA professional. Mike Deuel was in charge of a major operational activity in a badly war-torn region.

On Sunday morning, October 12, 1965, Mike Deuel boarded a helicopter to survey the region, and make payroll stops at area villages. He also planned to introduce his new partner, Mike Maloney, to the tribal leaders with whom they would be working. By dusk, however, Mike and his team had not returned to the base. Late that afternoon villagers had reported seeing a chopper go down in the jungle.

It took Agency rescue teams, working in heavy jungle, nearly two days to find and reach the helicopter crash site. There were no survivors. Four men died - Mike Deuel and his new friend Mike Maloney, the pilot, and a crew-member. Mike Deuel was 28 years old, and two weeks short of his first wedding anniversary when he died. His wife was expecting their first child.

Michael McPherson Deuel, Captain USMCR, received a star on the CIA Memorial Wall in 1974 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Posted: Oct 15, 2015 10:31 AM
Last Updated: Aug 06, 2018 02:22 PM