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Extraordinary Fidelity

Two CIA Prisoners inU)

Nicholas Dujmovic

Shot down on their first operational mission, Downey and

Fecteau spent two decades in communist prisons.

Nicholas DujmovicIA

his tori un. (IT)

Beijing's capture, imprisonment, Olid eventual rolcrme of CIAJohn T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau in mi amazing slory that few CIA officer* know about today. Shot down overChina en their firstmissionhese young ram spent the nest two decades imprwuned. often inconfinement, while Iheir government officially denied ihey were CIA officer* Fecteaureleasedowney inhey came home to an America vastly ditTcrent from the country they had left, hut both adjusted surprisingly well and have since lived full Uvea. Ill)

Even though Downey and Feci-eau were we leu mod Imck aa heroes hy the CIA family more than :i0 years ago and their story has been covered In opennlheit in short amiflawed accounts institutional memory regarding these brave officers hasheir ordeal is not well known among today's officers, judging by the surprise and wonder CIAencounter when relating it in internal lectures and training courses The Downey-Fecteau case ha* never been treated in Sludicn in Intrtligencr and is almost wholly absent from classifiedUntil now, most members of Ihe Intelligence Community had no better information on the case than thut available to the general public (Ul

This story is importantart of US intelligence history because it demonstrates the risks of opera-dons (and the coiisequences of operational error i. the qualities of character rtecossary to endure hardship, and (he potentialto reputations through the persistence of fiilse stories about past events. Above all, the euga of John Downey nnd Richardis about remarkableshown not only by the men who were deprived of theirbut also by an Agency that never gave up hope While it was through operational misjudg-ments that these two spent much of their adulthood in Chinesethe Agency, ul least in part, redeemed itself through its later care for the men from whom years had been stolen. IU)

in inte/Agcnceo. I

^Prisoners in China

Oucrutinnnl Context

John Downey and Richard Fecl-cau were youlhful CIA paramili-iary ollicorM: Downey, born in Connecticut. had entered the CIA infter graduating from Yale; IVrt*iu, from Ms'si ehusetta, entered onew months later, having graduated from Boston University Both men had been vanity football players, and bolli wore outgoing and engaging with noted senses of humor. They were stationed at their firsthen the shoot-downUl

Byh* Korean War had been going OB fin* more than two years. Account* oftenthai wwr ns the reason fnr the operation Downey nnd Fectcau were participating in. |"

i.' . til I .A

Nnnr ofi:rt":ni> nl inceill-(Circe djiiiig Homynd Feck-

wa? lo he accom-by small teams of CIA-trained ethnic Chinese agents, generally inserted throughDrawing from tlie OSS experience in Europe during Worldhe teams were to

link up with local guerrillaintelligence andin sabotage andwarfare, and reportradio.

By the time of Downey's and Foc-tcau's involvement, the record of =Jnsertions by air

nnt be airdropped

iim want

Bid not deploy

Was short, and not good. Because of resource constraints ihe Irain-injr of Chinese agents at

Dcwmy ando fv-'w 'lii'iesiici.

Cilll pciioanttV'.

'0 Wafldiw KbIsm. 'ClA and Chi-in mi iH-'IItcSufl -liPff. Colli' im ihe. Study ol InicJlgcnes.

in IntoBigetKeNo1

the team was hurriedly trained in 'air snatch' procedures.


Secret clearances. Downey,beenahout a

yv.ii. .iri'liu. wliii arrived in the first week of November, were directed io fill


tlitxi jiwurd. :Hrywin ilrurtopcc-ii. rurftci j

cp "All AjiienciiR" ly.tiim ilui ta; Army An Fniw run mudifird during WnlU Wu IIp null ftigvj

the hreach. They were flownnd hurriedly trained in ihe procedure during ihe week ofovember. ( I

Lale onovember, Downey and Kecteau boarded Schwartz and Snoddy's olive7 and took otl'for ihe rendezvous point in Chineseiles away, lluiet, uneventful flight of less lhan throe hours. The moon was nearly full and visibility was excellent. At one point, Fecteauurvival kit and noted thataliber pistol therein had noabout that was the only conversation the men had on the

nteitigence Vol. SO, No. t


Mission Gone Awry OU)

7 aircraft, with il* CAT pilotsIA crew, was hcad-ingrap.^

fCTAROMA mem lie rn almost cer-lainiy had told Chineseeverything Ihey knew about the operation, in well as the CIA men and facilities associated with it. From the way the ambush was conducted, it wus clear that the Chineseknew exactly what to expect when7 arrived at the pickup point.IU ^


'VISI'in 'dlTf irlU'ftafll 'JlM

SIAROMA rtfDrtbty tiik! Iimo ciua'T aracf Jw Mnl immediately afiei illiy-1

Reaching the designated area around mulnight, the aircraft received the proper recognition signal from the ground.'1 Downey and Fecteau puohed out supplies for thefood nndneeded for the aerial pickup. Then Schwartz and Snoddy (lew the aircraft away from the area to allow the STAROMA team time to set up the poles and line for theeturning aboutinutes later andeady signal,7ry run by the pickup point, which served both to orient the pilots und to alert the man being exfil-trated that the next pass would be tor him Copilot Snoddy came hack momentarily to the rear of Ihe aircraft to makeDowney and Fecteau wore ready. Chi the moonlit landscape, four or five people could lie wen on the ground. One man was in the pickup harness, facing the path of the aircraft.


As7 came in low for tbe pickup, flying nearly at its stall speed of aroundnots, white sheets that had beentwo anti-aircraft guns on the snowy terrain flew ccT anderupted at the very moment the pickup wan to hnve been made. The guns straddled the flight path, enabling acrossfire. At thinrowd nf men emerged from thehether by reflex or purposefully, the pilot* directed the aircraft'* nose up. preventing an unmediale crash, however, the engines cut out and the aircraft glidedontrolled crash among some trees, breaking in two with the nose in the air. If)

Downey and Fecteau had been secured to the aircraft withto keep them from falling out during the winching. On impact, both slid along the floor of Ihe aircraft, cushionedby their heavy winterFecteau's harness broke, causing him to crash into the bulkhead separating tlie main body of the aircraft from the cockpit, which, he later said, gaveump on his head "you could hang your coatJ]

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Sruxbs ino 1

SEORET Prisoners in Cnfoa

Oilier than 4uttering bruises and being shaken up. Downey and Fectvau wore extremelyin being unhurt. Theapparently had targeted the cockpit, with gunfire passing through the floor in the forward part of the aircraft, but. stopping short of where Downey and Fect-eau had been stationed, although one bullet singed Downey's cheek. Meanwhile, tracer bullets had ignited the fuel. Both men tried to gei io Ihe Cockpit to check on the pilots, who were not. answering Downey's shouts, but their part of the aircraft was burning fiercely mid the two had to move away. Whether due to gunfire, the impact, or the fire, the pilots died at tlieoc-leuu later remembered standing outside the aircraft with Downey, both stunned but conscious,each other that Ihoy wereelless.'The Chinese security forces descended on the ih. "whooping andnd they gave themselves up to the inevitable!




at ions officers that two CIA employees, familiar withlocations, and personnel, would be sentission that exposed them to possible capture by the enemy. One of the mosl persistent myths was that the Iwo were joy-riding. In fact, the record shows thai they were directed to be on the flight and that there were no regulations providing guidance to manoge-ment in such matters.!

Field Rt^ponaibiUtytU)

Over the yearn, vuriou* mcplnna-tionti arose in CIA mythology lo explain DownuyVt andarticipation in the ill-fatedIt seemed incredible tn riper-

Menuture (U)

The Chinese security forces treated Downey and Fecleau roughly as they tied them up

" Qui lililiiry inuivirw

i in^iifriI nfiimcd hit aucnmnithe authorelcphiiriv cinirrHOCn inWOitihj

in InieiOgetKeo. I


in China


The prisoners were lakcnuildingearby villagea police station in Antu. which wati near the pickup point. There it became dear that the STAROMA team had talked:he room. Downey saw the courier they were tn pick upm him and nodding to asecurityan of some authority with hm leather jacket und pinlul. who pointed at Downey and said, in English, "You areecteaubeing told. "Your future is varyhe man look their names.gave hia full name. Richard (li-nrgc FecUuiu. to warn off potential rescuers if Ihe Chinese sentnlw me*-sage from him and Downey. Tbe two CIAozen armed guards, were then taken by truck and trainrison in Mukdenhe largest city in Manchuna.iles away. In Mukden, they were shackled with henvy leg irons and isolated In separate

eell- '

Reaction at Home 0U>

Several hours after thetime of

a message Irom the JMA learn, reporting lhat the snatch was successful.when7 was Overdue for its return on the morning of

The team was 'presumedhe DCI sent letters of condolence.


ied CIA headquarter

military conducted an intensive search ol accessibleand land routes, with negative results. Director of CentralC I) Walic* Bedell Smith signed letters of condoleiiie lo tbe men's families, nayingave hai (your sorvyour husband! was

plane flight between South Korea and Japan which is now overdue and that theregrave fear that he may have been lout"'* j

By mid-December, ihe CIA had made tbe official determination lhat the men were missing in action; however, within the Far East Division, the strong feeling was lhat Downey und FVclcau, as

well as the pilots, were dead al the scene of ihe intended pickup. Another agent team visited the trash siie in late2 and found unidentifiable body parts in the forward part of the aircraft. |

With nothing other lhan the con-virtion that the <'biuese Commu-msls would have made propaganda us* of the CIA men had either remained alive, the Agency declared Downey and Fecteau "presumed dead"3 Letters to that effect were sent to the families under the (timature of DCI Allen Dulles, "f

The Interrogations IL")

Meanwhile, of course, the men were very muchact known only to iheir Mukden, Downey and Fecteau would not nee each Other for two years. The interrogations began, with sessions usuallyfor four hours, but some as long asours straight. Sleep deprivation wus part of ihe game: The men were prohibited from

*vacUy Hair, the due < |

[' ' tK iX-'Or. 'Ire

iti inS> -ai riaat hy cadhx rump


xi In'Olligenceo. I


sleeping during Ihe day and the Chinese would invariably haul them off for middle-of-the-night interrogations altera half hour's sleep. An impurlant element of the Chinese technique was to tell Downey and Fecteau that no one knew Ihey were alive and that no one would ever know until the Chinese decided to announce thethey ever decided to do so. At the same time, ihe men were told that the US government was evil and did not care uboul Ihem and that Ihey should forget their fumilies. Downey later extremely. We were isolated and had no idea of what was going to happen to us and had no idea of what was going on in the world."

Isolated, in irons, andychologi cal ly, eventually both men talked.

interrogations to the point ofdown from exhaustion,alter being caught lying or bluffing. Downey remembered the leg irons and the intensepressure ofi

Eventually bothfrom each other, batteredthreatened with torture andalbeit

divulging varying degrees of

truth. I

in ImefUgenceo ;



execution, Downey

considered his life sentence 'a relief.'


After tliuir first five months in Mukden, the men were movedrison in Beijing. They were still isolated and In irons, stillinterrogations, still eachmall cell illuminated by ubulb,traw mattress. Fecteau remembers beinn (old to sit oa the floor and starelack dot on the wall and think about hi* crimes. For five months after the move to Beijing, he wo* notath. His weight dropped byounds; Downey lostU)

Back From the Dead (UJ

Two years after thoir capture, the men u* each other for Uie first time since the shootdown. They were put on trial tnget herecret military* proceeding, the autboritii'* apparently having been satisfied wilh tlie take from

the interrogations. Fecteau remembers being marched into the courtroom aod told to stand by Downey, who lookedand who was dressedew prison suit. To cheer Downey as he stood next to him, Fecteau whisiwred, "Who's yourowney smiled thinly. Such humor in the face of adversity was needed, for the militaryconvicted Downey, tho "Chiefnd Fecteau, theChieffDowney received life imprisonment; Fecteau,ears. Downey's immediate reaction was relief, as he had asuumed he would be eseciitfd. Fecleau could nol imagine evenears in prison, but he felt sorrier for Downey than for himself. When Fecteau remarked. "My wife is going tn dieowney broke into laughter, angering the guards^

That day.ear after the CIADowney and Fectvau "presumedeijing declared them alive, in custody, mid serving their sentences as convicted CIA spies. The first that the Agency learned of it was through an FBIS intercepttw China NewsAfiyncyAl the same time, theannounced Ihe sentencing, also for espionage, of ihe officers and crewS Air9 aircraft, shot down over China some weeks after Downey's and7 flight. (Ul

Studios in Intettigoncoo. j

Trying tu Secure Release <U)

DCI's proposal

to press the Chinese for release went nowhere.

vcntiny Tart awl Hvbtnhr Flii'fnj l'"ii. wJta. Fiifhii (New York'i SS. Hot bet* cirstipjuslv sulci ita

liming and imiariliurly liter theiicapi;eny.ecord.ll DCI-ecfi-i') |




For the nextould bring up the winter during talks withn Geneva and Warsaw, but US policy that there would be no bargaining, no concessions, and no recognition nf theChinese (U)

The Long Wait <U>

There may bo some among us who can imagineays in captivity; perhaps ii fraction of those canull year deprived ofand most human contact. Butears? Downey and Fecteau have consistently sought tutheir period ofand neither has done what arguably too many former CIA officers do those days with far Icsfi

Complaining was

usually counterproductive.


justification-ook. Downey has said thatook would0 blanknd Fecteau says the wholecould be summtsd up by the wordU)

No doubt boredom was amongreatest enemies, but of course the men areignificant ordeal. What we know from the debriefing* and other record- is thathe first few yearn were harsh, improving after theirto spartan Their sparselysmall cells were generally cold and drafty and allowed for little externalwere whitewashedim light bulb burnedFood was simple- almost exclusively rice, vegetables, and bread, with perhaps some meat

on holidays. Both spent stretches in solitary confinement that went on furspan was six yean While the roost intense questioning ended with their trial ami sentencing inath were subjected throughout lo verbal insults andabuse, particularlyind that Fecteau called "themprovingas better food, access to bonks,uxury such aatn take them uway. (U)

Worst of all were tlie hints at early releases.orDowney and Fecteau were placed togetherarge cell housing the Air Force officers and crew oftheor throe weeks, the group oflived togeiher, with little supervision and expandedThe Chinese allowed the CIA men to believe they would be released with the Air Force group. Then, as Downey recalls, "the axend ho andwere suddenly removed into solitary confinement. (TJ)

Both men learned thatwai usuallyOnce when Fecteau said then his food gave him indigestion, all ho saw for three weeks was tomatoes. After that, whenever asked, "How is theecteau would always respond withf he complained that there was not enough water for his weekly bath.

Fecicau roiii'iiileo "ice Iwinjc p'vnboi-lici comaiiuntjrad wane" in *mn. "it had not bar cleaned: r.trtciteil ill Or ,mt and lhal lunch "


in tTioMgenceo. I

there would be lew* water next time. Likewise, tho men learned not to request medical irculment

ondition waa nerimi*

enough in draw attention to it. I

Insights from Captivity (U)

Even if Downey and Fecteau do not consider their long captivity suitable for literary* treatment, there is great value for todays intelligence officers in how ihey pla.ved Ihe bad hand dealt lo them. Debriefing* and otheronnlaining the menobservations -most made shortly after their release whunwerea series of "lessons learned" that could be relevant toolhort Im ing long captivity, tM)

Never (lire Up Hope. Downeyaffirmed thatbelieved the CIA andgovernment werethey could andthey wouldBoth rejectedthat they hadlhat no onehappened to fact, reasoned thatnever forget he waaand an Agencycaptors threw it in hi* facethat he neverhisidentity

cide was never contemplated by either mini.

Scale. Downhile never losing the strategicthat they would return home, the men learned to be wary,actical level, ofthai were "loo good io he

To Facteau, the weeks

seemed long, but the months went fast.'


etween periods ofconfinement, for example. Ihey often had one or twocellmaies. If either Downey or Fecteau appeared to be get-ling on wellhinesethe American might find liimself suddenly in solitaryear. After one suchecteau was askeduard: "Are you lonelyo the men disciplined themselves lo lower expectations, to the point that when Fecteau was taken to Ihe Hong Kong border ine made himself assume that the release he had been promised was anotherntil he actually crossed Ihe bridge. Likewise, when Downey was told3 lhai ho was being released, he responded with indifference, saying he wanted to finish the televised ping-pong match he wasHe recalls.ight rein on my expectations."!

outine. Roth men said lhat it was essential to busy themselvesailyno matter how mundane en It ln.-ik nih.MTin- prixi'i environment, ofertain routine, but within that general outline, as Downey put il, oneery full program every day.r

/ luul my day veryissed, some of my oivn self-appointedI'd feel uneasy.esult, the days really nioved along. Whereas if you just nit there and think about home, feeling sorry for yourself, then time can really

Downey would leap out ol" herl at the prisons morning whuUlo toay thnt involvedcloaning his call, meals, reuding andlistening to the radio, and "free time" with books and magazines fromecteau developed aroutine but varied it by the day of the week, later saying, the weeks seemed long but the mouths wenthe Chinese allowed ihem variou* periodicals like the New I'ortcr and Sparta Illustrated In addition, prayer and Bible ytudy. its well asChinese andig purl af Downey's day.

Get Physical. Both men creditstt-ups,ogging, and otherfor as long as two or three hours everyvital towith the inactivity ofFecteau commented:

/ found that, although tome times it mas very difficult to make mynelfdo it, itreat help tv my morale, especially if I

in InteOigetKOo. t

was depressed.otmyself to <fc>remendousin my spirit ll also

ler, but itot more tlian just physicalhe effect on my mental outlook,hought of at Ihe time ofmy mind, was just treniendoux. Q

ecret Space for Yourself.xplicitly stated in the dubriefings and interviews, il is Clear that an important coping mechanism was each man's ability to fenceari of his mind. They seemed to derivebenefit from keeping its very existence secret from their cap-tors.l

/he also kept in his mind the thought that, as an AmericanIA officer, he was in competition with tho guard, the prison, and the Chinese regime. That helped his self-discipline tu nol shouting or complaining but enduring in hilence. Both men reported lhat they enjoyed tolling their caplors the opposite of what thoy were thinking!

Both men used their imagina-


enjoyed thinking, especially in the presence of an inlerrOgalor, guard, or prison official, about how his salary ivasknow thaia-year salary was something none of his captors would ever sec. Fecteau said he taught himself to become "an expert daydreamer":

They discovered *You cannot really be brainwashed.'

/ remembered every kid in my sixth-grade class and where each oneictured myself leaving my house in Lynn and driving to Gloucester and every night I'd see on theould lose four hours jus' like that.

Fecteau also developed complex stories involvingaseballootball player, an uctor,ongwriter--that became for him almost likeovie. As his skill increased, he could even mentally changeU*

Rememberrain Cannot be Washed.inors of"brainwashing" werebecause of Iho behavior of returned US prisoners fromcustody during the Korean War" It is not surprising, then, that both Downey and Fecteau were fearful, particularly in the early years. Hint- they would be turned into ideological zombies or traitors to the United Slates. Their coucerns wore heightened by Chinese rhetoric lhallhcy must show true repentance and remold their thinking. While they were allowed non-communist reading materials, from9hey were recjiiired to participate in daily study and discussions of the works ofin, and Mao; tlie Communist

Party platforms; and the like. Downey, at first, was agitated by thia, but he did not resist,that he could fake enough ideological reform to heardon whenhof their capture came alongain hope. In any case, he found that he had worried too much:

One of the things tlmt relaxed me was the eventual discovery that you cannot reallyhere are some things they can't change landjame out about tlie

could scare you into saying just about anytidng, maybe scarehould say, butif ficult proposition.

Likewise, Fecteau observed that "they couldn't wash my brains or change my thinkinghanged.'j"

Both men recognized at least three benefits from the study sessions: They helped structure the days and pass the time; they provided human interaction, however stilted and contrived; and ihey gave insights into communist thinking and Chinese culture. As Fecteau put it:began tohow Ihey thought and what they meant when they said this or that to me. Soegan to look at theit differently |asl an opportunity to study them and lo understand j

Care for Each Other. Although Downey und Fecteau saw each Other infrequently during the two decades, they developed a


la Intetkgenceo. '

com muni rations system. In the first years, they used distinctive coughs ui track each other's whereabouts, or wrote wards or sports scores in the dust under the toilet seat. Later, they found ways U> deliver notes and also usedvoce comments whenhey were always in tlie same prison, and not far from each other, which kept their spirits up more than if they had been imnrisoned incities. i

Even through the years ofconfinement, each man drew comfort from the thought of his nearby comrade. When Fecteau was told of his impending release, his first question wns whether Downey would beout, too. After release.spurned lucrative offers to tell his .story publicly hecause of the impact it might have on Downey's fate. To this day, the men remain close friends. Q

Find Humor Where You Can. In recruiting Downey and Fecteau, the CIA had noted that each manell-developed sense of humor. This quality, far more than any particular training, helped sustain them. There was little in their situation chat made for flippancy, but they were able to see the humor in tlie incongru-


Humor, more than any training, helped to sustain them.

ous and (he absurd. Downey, the


amused at the about-face required in his study sessions, when he was expounding the Soviet line about Albania before he became aware that the new Chinese line was anti-Soviet! Fecteau reflected for longon humorous stories he would hear from cellmates: about the man jailed for fortune telling whoack of cards in his cell, or the man ridiculed by his cellmates lor believing that the world rested ou the back of huge turtle. He was amusedook he wus given, written by an Australian communist, which glowingly described Cliinese

prison conditions quite at varU

ance with his own experience|

Be Patient. Because oftraining, both menit took several years to develop effective copingAt the beginning, each thought he was going crazy.says he started toThe walls started moving in onould put my foot out in front of me and measure the distance to be sure ihe wall wasn't reallyDowney, besides being "extremelyasto the point of despair,every day in prisonay robbed from him. As the men learned how to deal wilh their fate, it became easier. Fecteau did nutjvid imagination ul first, hut he developed one as a

On (he Home Front (U)

Il was the exemplary manner in which CIA headquartersDowney's and Pecteau's affairs that partially redeems the disaster that led to theirOnce the Chinese hadihe news thut the two were alive, the Agency quickly restored them to the activeDCI Dulles had them moved administratively from the Far Kast Divisionpecial list maintained by the OfficeP officCrF

{handled their affairshereafter, il was Ben


jlxi hen DelclKC nuor> in-

Although nn precedent existed for administering the affairs of Civilian federal employeesto lengthy foreignOP creatively applied existing law in managing the three primary areas: pay and allotments, prot not ions, and maintenance of accrued funds. In addition. OP representatives took on the delicate matter of dealing wilh the men's families. Indecisions on behalf of Downey and Pecleau. OP drew guidance from the Missing Persons Act of

StuOer,mietigencvo. t




Prtsofhirs in China

lor militarysubsequent Agency regulations. IU'

was the easiest area to address. Keeping the mens pay accountsurrent status would allow both the accrual of pay and (lie immediate payment of funds upon their release. OP aiso ensured that the men received separation allowances and porthich were applied retroactively nnd earned for the entire period of their imprisonment, in recognition of the "excessively adverse"of the two men's foreign assignment" Deductions were made for federal income unm and held in escrow until such time as the men could Tile, (Ul

hen it looked as though the men would not bo releasedong time. DCI Dulles approved an OF plan to promote them from.chedule of interim promotions and step increases appliedraduated,manner over the previous five years. Once their ranks were in hoc with tlieirAgency officials ensuredpromotion" and step increase* as if they hadunimpeded in their careers. Eventually the Director ofdetermined that Downey and Fecteau should by promoted to the journeyman level during their imprisonment, which win. set athen one grade was added lo help compensate for the deprivations of captivity Sonuiial rank for the twoalo which

The Agency creatively applied existing law to manage pay and promotions.


both were promoiedusl before Fecteau's release. Both men, after theirere startled to learn of the promo tions and thnt they were earningerwere still thiiikiiig in terms of2alaries of justU)

Of bigger concern lo OP wa*the accrued funds rnponsi My. DcFcltce later outlined his philosophy: "Wc couldn't give them [back] their years of irapris oninent, but we could at least assure financial security for theiroing so requiredingenuity. The accrued fund* were initially invested inavings bands, but the sums aoon passednnual ceiling.0he funds were invested in savings certificated underbut this had to bewhen Ihc Internal Revenue Service startedbanks to report interest income to depositors. Then, forear, the Agency simply credited the accounts withpayments at the prevailing bank rale. Finally, inP got DCI John McCono lo approve the release of the fapda


ment and interest. When Fecteau was releasedisaccount came loowney,3 came

to moreach fig-lireest egg of about seven times each man's annuHLiularyt ihc


Fnmily Issues

Taking care of the families also required imaginativeDnwney and Fecteau were allowed monthly packagi* from family, which they relied on for morale and physicalfood and vitamin supplementsheiriet.

Agency could not simplythethe

packages,oFelices creative solution was io have the Agency apply anallowance" to the men's pay typically used to offset the excess cort of livinguty post; iltretch to apply this lo lifehinese cell Thighundred dollars perpassed along lo the families by allotment. It was madehe date of their capture. T

Allotments for ihe familiesbaaed on Iheof the men's wishes.expense* for FecWau'sfrom his firstfor exnmplo, wereallotments from his


in infgHigence Vol. SO. No I

SECRET Prisoners in Chn*a

The Agency also helped family members wiih the several trips they made to visit the prisoners, starting8 when bothand Downey's brother went. Tlie CIA could do nothingto facilitate the trips because diplomatic relations did

Republic of China and US policy required the prisoners' CIAto be concealed. The Agency gave the travelers briefings on wluit toregard to the communist authorities and the prisoners' likelyand what topics and behavior to avoid. Because such trips were beyond the means of theto keep the prisoners' accounts from beingDulles aulhorized the dis-bu rsement of Agency funds to the


to (he last visit in UJ7T, the .Agency spent moren travel expenses for the

As the Agency's point of contact for the families, Ben DeFelicc held thousands of phoneover the years, especially with Downey's mother. Mary

CIA covertly paid for travel once family visits were allowed.


Downey was strong willed and capable of lecturing Ihe most senior government officials in every administration fromto Nixon on the need for Ihe United Slates to do more lo free her son. DeFelice says lie talked lo Mary Downey at least weekly, for up to several hoursime. Costs of the culls were always borne by the Agency DeFcIice and other OP officials also wrote hundreds of letters and made dozens of visits loinemhers over the years. PC")

Release and Readjustment


In the end, of course, this tragic taleappy one. wiih the men restored to freedom and the Agency continuing ils extraordinary efforts lo see these extraordinary men into ordinary retirement. Fecteau's release innd Downey'sonths later, came about in the context of Ihe warming ofbetween the United Stales and China. In1 wus the year of "ping pongihe bTling of US trade

restrictions, National Securily Adviser Henry Kissinger's secret mission to Beijing, and theof the Peoples Republic of China at the UN. That fall, Ihe two captives were takeneijing department store, for the first time, for new clothing and overcoats. Fecteau remarked in Downey that "either we arc on our way out or we are going lo stay in for anotherUi

ecteau was summonedribunal, which informed him of his impending release. Asking about Downey Fecleau was told that Downey's case was mure serious and that he would not be going. Fecleau was allowed to leave some of his belongings for Downey, butuard stood all the while in front of Downey's cell, Fecleau could not communicate wiih him.rain trip to Canton, Fecteau found himself walking across the Lo-Wu bridge lo Hong Kong. He had servedears4 days ofyear sentence. At the US consulate, lieigaretteeer, which he described as -incredible."

ter 1


he was hack al workeries of interviews on hisWorried about Downey,was careful to say in public

toward the Chinese people or their government.

At the time of Fecteau* release. Beijing announced thai Downey's sentence had been reduced from life imprisonment to five yean from thatbitterboth to the Agency and u> the Downey family, particularly hin mot her, by Ihem in her tu<ven-tics and in failing health Despite the high-lpvd talks and inlervrn-uons. it was her severe stroke in early3 that arrom-ptttbad herelease.

Warming bilateral relations finally led to their release.


1 Nixon's appeal to Beijing on humanitariantogether with his admission the previou* monthre**thai DowneyIA employee- led uihis lYii'dom aftereurs,months, andays in prison. He crossed the harder into Hong Kong onarch, noting that the solute he receivedritish soldier at his craixing was tho first net of dignity shown him inears. He arrived ul hisd*idc the next day. Bamnd enough to recognize her sun. Mary* Downey adinonithed him.elebrity now. don't kit it go to yourIT)

Getting on with Life ll')

Both men came borne in good physical and mental shape, free ofurprised at theirank nnd accumulated pay, stunned hy changes in thelandscape and culture, and grateful for what tbe Agency had done with theiroth were restored to East Ariaas operations officer* anderies ofch received iheIntelligence Medal for "courageous performance* in enduring "lufferinge andmeasured in decades, wilh fortitude [and ao|will to survive andreserving faith in hisecteauwas awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit for his conduct following hi* release.

when he refused lucrative oilers from the media and publisher- I"

tell hi* story, in order to prolec!

Downey's chance* for release, j

Downey and Fecteau werein qualifying forbut even with all their year* in prison, they were *hort ofthe necessaryears. To make up the deficit, DeFehce made sure that both received all the annual leave they badover twopercent of which had technically been forfeited but was now restored. OP also helped Ihe men gain ull the creditable*ervice duehnd worked temporary job* with the post office in, nnd Fact-ami had served in the Merchant Marineear. The final trick up DeFolicos sleeve was hisfollowing the Pentagon's example with its returningPOWs, to add one yonr's "convalescent leave" to eachaccumulated sick leave. This allowed Downey andlo attend to their own affairs while drawing full CIA milaries for some time after coming home.d n In Harvard Law School, andworked nn homeook can of his parents, and sought workrobation officer. Fecteau qualified for



Downey'DitMi peiw^titewwi's Merchuni Mmriicthim toDiwney even Ib.nuh liKie* ijkiC


to intelligenceo I


SECRET Prisoners in Cbina

Richard Fecteau and John Downey have lived up to their desire to focus on the future and not dwell on the past. They have refused U> moke careers out of their experience and instead have lived full lives sinceto America:

Downeyospected judge in Connecticut,in juvenile mailers. Now retired, he continues to take on cases as needed, Tho Judge John T. Downey Courthouse in New Haven is named for him. He married; hishinese-American, wus born in Manchuria not far from where Iho plane was shot down. They have an adult son.

Fecleau relumed to his alma maler, Boston University, as assistant athletice reconnected with his adull daughters, who

The most enduring lesson is to make every day lived in freedom count.


were three years old when he was shot down, and hehis first wife, who had kept him in her prayers while he was in prison.

* Both have maintainedwiih former colleagues and retain their sense of Agency affiliation. IU)

DCl Ceorge Tenet brought Downey and Fecteau back lo the CIA5 years after Downey's release, lo present them with the Director's Medal. Their story, Tenet declared, "is one of the most remarkable in the history of then the occasion. Fecleau affirmed "This is still my outfit and always willnd Downey declaredm proud tn be one ofenet spake of their "extraordinaryords also inscrilwd on theirtold them: "Like it or not, you are our heroes' Downey, speaking for himself and for Fecleau, replied-"We're al. the age where, if you want to call us heroes, we're not going lo argue anymore, Ibutl we knowll)

John Downey,hen he began his captivity and almosthen released, is nowFecleau,hen shot down andn his return, will beext year. Their story, and the lessons we derive from it. will long outlive them.y things: the importance of good decisions in the Held and the costs of bad ones; the ability of men lo say "it's not over" when life seems to bo ol an end; the resilience to getadtimesow; and the strength gained from faith thai one is still cared about. But their experience back home is also inspirational, for it teaches us that perhaps the mostlesson of all is the absolute necessity of making every day lived in freedomi


Kitctoju ileft, and Downey (right! wit) DCI George Tenet after receiving the Diiecluis modalV]

ft Inlo^goncoo I


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