Director Leon E. Panetta Honors First Agency Officer Killed in Vietnam War
May 23, 2011
At the Central Intelligence Agency’s annual memorial ceremony today, Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War. CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins died on March 30th, 1965, in the bombing of the US Embassy in Saigon. Robbins is the youngest officer commemorated on the Agency’s Memorial Wall and the first of 10 women to fall in the line of duty since the Agency’s founding. Her name was recently added to CIA’s Book of Honor.
“A bright, energetic young woman, Barbara was eager to serve in an organization that would open doors to the world,” Director Panetta said. “Less than a year after entering on duty, she volunteered for an assignment to Saigon. It was 1964, and the war was escalating, as was our nation’s involvement in it….When Barbara’s father asked his 21-year-old daughter, ‘Why Vietnam?’ her answer was clear and simple: She wanted to make a difference.”
Robbins’ death, along with that of other Agency officers who died in the war, inspired the creation of CIA’s Memorial Wall in 1974. Today, 102 stars adorn the Wall, one for each officer lost in service.
“In all, our Agency lost 17 officers in the conflict in Southeast Asia. Most were killed on the front lines, while organizing, training, and leading irregular forces,” Director Panetta said. “Much about the world and our work has changed since then, but the CIA’s fundamental mission is constant. Our pledge to protect the United States is an enduring bond with those who served on the battlefields of Laos and Vietnam.”
Director Panetta also paid tribute to the Agency officers—more than a dozen—who have died in the fight against terrorism:
“Throughout the effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida, our fallen colleagues have been with us in memory and in spirit,” he said. “With their strength and determination as our guide, we achieved a great victory three weeks ago. In ridding the world of its most notorious terrorist, we kept a promise to CIA’s heroes and to every family scarred by al-Qa’ida’s violence. Justice was done. The fight is not over, but we have made clear that no one hurts those we love and gets away with it. We have gone back to the fight resolute and confident that, ultimately, we will prevail.”
The annual ceremony is attended by hundreds of employees, family members, and friends of the fallen officers. This year, a group of retired officers—alumni of the Agency’s Operations Class 12 in 1961—were also present. A member of their class, Michael M. Deuel, died in a helicopter crash in Laos in October, 1965.