Remembering CIA's Heroes: Chiyoki Ikeda
This is a 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 89 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 54 employees; the names of the remaining 35 officers must remain secret, even in death.
During his six years working for the Central Intelligence Agency, Chiyoki “Chick” Ikeda was known for his talent with languages. He was also known as a true patriot.
On March 17, 1960, Ikeda died in a plane crash near Tell City, Indiana, while on a temporary duty assignment.
From Star Student to True Patriot
Ikeda was born in 1920 in Honolulu after his parents emigrated from Japan. At McKinley High School, Ikeda served as an active member of the student body in the National Honor Society. He graduated in 1938.
In 1941, Ikeda went to the University of Hawaii to study engineering, where he excelled in both his studies and in athletics. He played intramural football, basketball and baseball; he also enjoyed volleyball, tennis and golf, and was a two-year letterman in college track.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II, Ikeda’s world changed completely. In March 1943, he joined the U.S. Army as an officer at the rank of second lieutenant. During the next several months, Ikeda completed military training.
World War II through the Cold War
In January 1944, the Army assigned Ikeda to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of today’s CIA). In addition to his military training, Ikeda was fluent in Japanese and English, and he had a basic proficiency in French and Chinese, which made him an attractive recruit for the OSS.
He received training in radio communications, weapons use and agent handling, and took a refresher course in Japanese. After completing his training requirements, Ikeda was assigned to the OSS unit in India, and later transferred to the unit in China. In the spring of 1945, Ikeda was promoted to captain and served as chief of an OSS field unit in China. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service there.
After the war, Ikeda enrolled in an agent operations course at the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps Training School in Tokyo. During the next two years, he served as an Army intelligence officer, recruiting and handling agents.
Ikeda also helped screen returning Japanese POWs who had been held by the Soviets in Siberian camps since the end of the war. Ikeda managed the screening process that identified POWs who were trained by the Soviets to act as spies.
He trained and supervised the interrogators and organized teams to review the results of the screenings. Because of the program Ikeda managed, many Soviet agents were identified, helping thwart Moscow’s efforts to conduct espionage against U.S. interests in postwar Japan.
Joining the Agency
With the end of World War II in 1945, President Harry Truman disbanded the OSS. Two years later, President Truman signed the National Security of Act of 1947, which established the CIA. The fledgling Agency began to seek out talented individuals who were dedicated to protecting the nation.
Ikeda’s experience from the war and superb language skills made him an ideal candidate for a job with the CIA. In 1950, the CIA tried to have Ikeda released from the military or detailed to the Agency. But, the start of the Korean War further delayed Ikeda’s release.
After the end of that war, Ikeda was discharged from the Army. The Agency immediately offered him a position as an operations officer in the Directorate of Plans (now the National Clandestine Service) in the Far East Division. In October 1954, Ikeda officially joined the CIA. During the next six years, Ikeda became a key player in his division and made many contributions to important operations.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
On March 17, 1960, Ikeda was on a temporary duty assignment in the United States. That day, he was a passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 710, which was leaving Chicago. The plane, carrying 63 passengers, crashed near Tell City, Indiana. Everyone aboard the plane was killed.
Ikeda received a star on the Agency’s Memorial Wall on March 14, 1997. Then DCI George Tenet paid tribute to his accomplishments and sacrifices.
“Chick Ikeda knew the price of patriotism,” Tenet said. “He paid it willingly and dearly.”
Ikeda is survived by his wife Maggie, two sons, and two grandchildren.
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