Cover image for The assassination option
The assassination option
Griffin, W. E. B.
Personal Author:
[Large print ed.]
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press Large Print, 2014.

Physical Description:
637 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
James Cronley thought he had done well -- he didn't know he'd done this well. His first successful mission for the about-to-be-official new Central Intelligence Directorate has drawn all kinds of attention, some welcome, some not. On the plus side, he's now a captain; promoted to Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top secret spy operation. On the minus side, a lot of people would like to know about that operation, including not only the Soviets, but his own Pentagon, as well as a seething J. Edgar Hoover. Cronley knows that if just one thing goes wrong, he's likely to get thrown to the wolves. As if that weren't enough pressure, complications are springing up on all sides. He's discovered a surprising alliance between the former German intelligence chief and, of all things, the Mossad. A German family that Cronley never knew he had has suddenly, and suspiciously, emerged. And he's due for a rendezvous with an undercover agent against the Soviets known only as Seven K. It's when he meets Seven K that he gets the real surprise.
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A New York Times Bestselling AuthorJames Cronley's first successful mission for the about-to-be-official new Central Intelligence Directorate has drawn all kinds of attention, some welcome, some not. On the plus side, he's now a captain; promoted to Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top secret spy operation. On the minus side, a lot of people would like to know about that operation, including not only the Soviets, but his own Pentagon, as well as a seething J. Edgar Hoover.

Author Notes

W. E. B. Griffin is one of eight pseudonyms used by William E. Butterworth III, who was born on November 10, 1929 in Newark, New Jersey.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1946 and underwent counterintelligence training at Fort Holabird. After assignment to the Army of Occupation in Germany where he served on the staff of the Commander of the U.S. Constabulary, Major General I.D. White, Butterworth left the service in 1947, but rejoined and again served with White from 1951 to 1953 in Korea. After leaving the service for the second time, Butterworth remained in Korea as a combat correspondent. He was later appointed chief of the publications division of the Signal Aviation Test and Support Activity at the Army Aviation Center in Fort Rucker, Alabama. He received the Brigadier General Robert L. Dening Memorial Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association in 1991 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award in 1999.

At first, he wrote fiction for young adults. He has written more than 125 books including the Brotherhood of War series, The Corps series, Badge of Honor series, Honor Bound series, Presidential Agent series, Men at War series, and A Clandestine Operations Novel series. He received the Alabama Author's Award in 1982 from the Alabama Library Association.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Book two of the new Clandestine Operations series (following Top Secret, 2014) is set in the mid-1940s. WWII has ended, and the U.S. government is putting together a new intelligence organization, one that will eventually be known as the Central Intelligence Agency. James D. Cronley, Jr., introduced in Top Secret as a gung-ho second lieutenant, is now a captain, a veteran of an intelligence operation that helped put the new Central Intelligence Directorate on the map. Now in charge of a major operation in Europe, Conley is rather shocked to discover that his real enemies aren't foreign countries but instead people a lot closer to home: certain U.S. government officials, for example, and the notorious director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. This has the makings of an excellent series. The period between WWII and the Cold War offers raw material for several books, and, as fans of Griffin's body of work are well aware, he (along with coauthor Butterworth) really sinks his teeth into politics and history.--Pitt, David Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 2014's Top Secret, the first in bestseller Griffin and Butterworth's Clandestine Operations series, Capt. James Cronley was given a military intelligence assignment in Germany: overseeing the relocation of German officers to Argentina after WWII. In this engaging sequel, Cronley's duties have expanded, and he's running the European division of the Directorate of Central Intelligence, now known as the CIA. As usual, a number of characters, some familiar, some new, sit around and figure out how to accomplish a mission. The fun is in watching the authors and characters meticulously plan the operation, all the while indulging in clever badinage. In Top Secret, a Russian intelligence agent, Col. Sergei Likharev of the NKGB, was turned and taken to Argentina. The mission in this book is to get his family out of Russia and reunited with Likharev. It's a testament to the authors' skill and wide experience that the pages seem to turn themselves. Agent: Robert Youdelman, Rember & Curtis. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



PROLOGUE Early in 1943, at a time when victory was by no means certain, Great Britain, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States of America--"the Allies"--signed what became known as "the Moscow Declaration." It stated that the leaders of Germany, Italy, and Japan--"the Axis Powers"--would be held responsible for atrocities committed during the war. In December of that year, the Allied leaders--Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England, General Secretary Joseph V. Stalin of the Soviet Union, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States--met secretly in Tehran, Iran, under the code name Project Eureka. The meeting later came to be known as the Tehran Conference. At a dinner in Tehran on December 29, 1943, while discussing the Moscow Declaration, Stalin proposed the summary execution of fifty thousand to one hundred thousand German staff officers immediately following the defeat of the Thousand-Year Reich. Roosevelt thought he was joking, and asked if he would be satisfied with "the summary execution of a lesser number, say, forty-nine thousand." Churchill took the Communist leader at his word, and angrily announced he would have nothing to do with "the cold-blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country," adding that he'd "rather be taken out in the courtyard and shot myself" than partake in any such action. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, with the unconditional surrender of Germany. In London, on August 8, 1945, the four Allied powers--France, after its liberation, had by then become sort of a junior member-- signed "the Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis Powers." "The London Agreement" proclaimed that the senior Nazi leaders would be tried on behalf of the newly formed United Nations at Nuremberg, and that lesser officials would be tried at trials to be held in each of the four zones of occupation into which Germany was to be divided. The Soviet Union wanted the trials to be held in Berlin, but the other three Allies insisted they be held in Nuremberg, in Bavaria, in the American Zone of Occupation. Their public argument was that not only was Nuremberg the ceremonial birthplace of Nazism, but also that the Palace of Justice compound, which included a large prison, had come through the war relatively untouched and was an ideal site for the trials. What the Western Allies--aware of the Soviet rape of Berlin and that to get the Russians out of the American Sector of Berlin, U.S. General I.D. White had to quite seriously threaten to shoot on sight any armed Russian soldiers he found in the American Sector--were not saying publicly was that they had no intention of letting the Soviet Union dominate the trials. They threw a face-saving bone to the Russians by agreeing that Berlin would be the "official home" of the tribunal. The London Agreement provided that the International Military Tribunal (IMT) would, on behalf of the newly formed United Nations, try the accused war criminals. It would consist of eight judges, two named by each of the four Allied powers. One judge from each country would preside at the trials. The others would sit as alternates. Interpreters would translate the proceedings into French, German, Russian, and English, and written evidence submitted by the prosecution would be translated into the native language of each defendant. The IMT would not be bound by Anglo-American rules of evidence, and it would accept hearsay and other forms of evidence normally considered unreliable in the United States and Great Britain. The IMT was given authority to hear four counts of criminal complaints: conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It has been argued that the Russians obliged the Western Allies by agreeing to hold the actual trials in Nuremberg in a spirit of cooperation. It has also been argued that there was a tit-for-tat arrangement. If the Russians agreed to Nuremberg, the Americans and the English would not bring up the Katyn Massacre. What is known--provable beyond doubt--is that in 1943 the Germans took a number of captured American officers from their POW camp to the Katyn Forest, about twelve miles west of Smolensk, Russia. The American officer prisoners were a mixed bag of Medical Corps officers, Judge Advocate General's Corps officers, and officers of the combat arms. In the latter group was Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, an Armor officer who had been captured in Tunisia. He was married to the former Beatrice Patton. His father-in-law was General George S. Patton. Waters later became a four-star general. At Katyn, there were several recently reopened mass graves. As the Americans watched, other mass graves were reopened. They contained the bodies of thousands of Polish officers who had surrendered in 1940 to the Red Army when the Russians invaded Poland from the East and Germany from the West. The Germans told the Americans that the Polish officers had been taken from the Kozelsk prisoner-of-war camp to the forest in 1940-- shortly after the surrender--by the Soviet NKVD. There, after their hands had been wired behind them, they were executed by pistol shots into the back of their heads. The Germans permitted the American doctors to examine the corpses and to remove from their brains the bullets that had killed them. It was the opinion of the American doctors that the bodies had in fact been so murdered and had been decomposing since 1940. The Americans were then returned to their POW camp. The bullets removed from the brains of the murdered Polish officers were distributed among them. It is now known that there was some communication, in both directions, between the Allies and American prisoners of war in Germany. It is credible to assume that the prisoners who had been taken to Hammelburg managed to tell Eisenhower's headquarters in London what they had seen in the Katyn Forest, and possible, if by no means certain, that they managed to get the bullets to London, as well. Very late in the war, in March 1945, General Patton gave a very unusual assignment to one of his very best tank officers, Lieutenant Colonel Creighton W. Abrams, who then commanded Combat Command B of the 4th Armored Division. Abrams had broken through the German lines to rescue the surrounded 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, and was later to become chief of staff of the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army's main battle tank today is the Abrams. The official story was that Patton told Abrams he feared the Germans would execute the American POWs being held in Oflag XIII-B, in Hammelburg, Germany, then fifty miles behind the German lines, when it appeared they would be liberated by the Red Army. Abrams was ordered to mount an immediate mission to get to Hammelburg before the Russians did and to liberate the Americans. In the late evening of March 26, 1945, Task Force Baum--a company of medium tanks, a platoon of light tanks, and a company of armored infantry, under Captain Abraham Baum--set out to do so. The mission was not successful. It was mauled by the Germans. When word of it got out, Patton was severely criticized for staging a dangerous raid to rescue his son-in-law. He denied knowing Colonel Waters was in Oflag XIII-B. When, shortly afterward, Oflag XIII-B was liberated by the Red Army, Waters was not there. It later came out that Waters and 101st Airborne Division Second Lieutenant Lory L. McCullough (an interesting character, who learned that he had been awarded a battlefield commission only after he had been captured during Operation Marketgarden) had escaped from captivity while the Germans had been marching the prisoners on foot toward Hammelburg and had made their escape to North Africa through the Russian port of Odessa on the Black Sea. When this came out, there was some knowledgeable speculation that Patton had known Waters was in Oflag XIII-B, and had been worried, because of Waters's knowledge of the Katyn Forest massacre, that if the Red Army reached Hammelburg before the Americans, Waters would have been killed by the Red Army to keep his mouth shut. Why else, this speculation asked, would Waters have elected his incredibly dangerous escape with McCullough rather than just stay where they were and wait in safety to be liberated? The Katyn Forest Massacre was not unknown in the West. The Polish government in exile had proof of it as early as 1942. When they requested an investigation by the International Red Cross, Russia broke diplomatic relations with the Poles. Churchill had not wanted to annoy his Russian ally, and Roosevelt believed it was Nazi propaganda. The Russians wouldn't do anything like that. And then, at the very end of the war, Major General Reinhard Gehlen, who had been chief of Abwehr Ost, the German military intelligence agency dealing with the Soviet Union, added some further light on the subject. Gehlen had made a deal with Allen W. Dulles, who had been the Office of Strategic Services station chief in Berne, Switzerland, to turn over all of his assets--including agents in place in the Kremlin-- to the OSS in return for the OSS protection of his officers and men, and their families, from the Red Army. Among the documents turned over were some that Gehlen's agents had stolen from the Kremlin itself. They included photographic copies of NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria's proposal, dated March 5, 1940, to execute all captured Polish officers. Gehlen also provided photographic copies of Stalin's personal approval of the proposal, signed by him on behalf of the Soviet Politburo, and reports from functionaries of the NKVD reporting in detail their execution of their orders. At least 21,768, and as many as 22,002, Poles had been murdered. Approximately 8,000 were military officers, approximately 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were members of the intelligentsia, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests. The Americans could not raise this in the face of the Soviet Union, however, as they would have had to say where they got their information, and when the Nuremberg trials began, the Americans were denying any knowledge of the whereabouts of former Major General Reinhard Gehlen. [ ONE ] Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, D.C. 0905 22 December 1945 The MP at the gate did not attempt to stop the Packard Clipper when it approached the gate. He had seen enough cars from the White House pool to know one when he saw one, and this one was also displaying a blue plate with two silver stars, indicating that it was carrying a rear admiral (upper half ). The MP waved the car through, saluted crisply, and then went quickly into the guard shack--which was actually a neat little tile-roofed brick structure, not a shack--and got on the phone. "White House car with an admiral," he announced. This caused activity at the main entrance. A Medical Corps lieutenant colonel, who was the Medical Officer of the Day-- MOD--and a Rubenesque major of the Army Nurse Corps, who was the NOD--Nurse Officer of the Day--rushed to the lobby to greet the VIP admiral from the White House. No Packard Clipper appeared. "Where the hell did he go?" the MOD inquired finally. "If it's who I think it is," the NOD said, "he's done this before. He went in the side door to 233. The auto accident major they flew in from South America." The MOD and the NOD hurried to the stairwell and quickly climbed it in hopes of greeting the VIP admiral from the White House to offer him any assistance he might require. They succeeded in doing so. They caught up with Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant James L. Allred, USN, as the latter reached to push open the door to room 233. "Good morning, Admiral," the MOD said. "I'm Colonel Thrush, the Medical Officer of the day. May I be of service?" "Just calling on a friend, Colonel," the admiral replied. "But thank you, nonetheless." He nodded to his aide to open the door. The NOD beat him to it, and went into the room. There was no one in the hospital bed, whose back had been cranked nearly vertical. A bed tray to one side held a coffee thermos, a cup, and an ashtray, in which rested a partially smoked thick, dark brown cigar. The room was redolent of cigar smoke. "He must be in the toilet," the nurse announced, adding righteously, "He's not supposed to do that unassisted." Lieutenant Allred went to the toilet door, knocked, and asked, "You okay, Major?" "I was until you knocked at the door," a muffled voice replied. "Thank you for your interest, Colonel, Miss," Admiral Souers said. They understood they were being dismissed, said, "Yes, sir," in chorus, and left the room. "Who is he?" the MOD asked. "You mean the admiral, or the major?" "Both." "All I know about the admiral is that the word is that he's a pal of President Truman. And all I know about the major is that he was medically evac'd from someplace in South America, maybe Argentina, someplace like that, and brought here. Broken leg, broken arm, broken ribs. And no papers. No Army papers. He told one of the nurses he was in a car accident." "I wonder why here?" the MOD asked. "There are very good hospitals in the Canal Zone, and that's a lot closer to Argentina than Washington." The NOD shrugged. "And that admiral showed up an hour after he did," she said. "And shortly after that, the major's family started coming. He has a large family. I think they're Puerto Ricans. They were all speaking Spanish." "Interesting," the MOD said. Major Maxwell Ashton III, Cavalry, detail Military Intelligence, a tall, swarthy-skinned, six-foot-three twenty-six-year-old, tried to rise from the water closet in his toilet by using a chromed support mounted to the wall. The support was on the left wall. Major Ashton's left arm was in a cast and the cast was in a sling. Using his right arm, he managed to rise about eighteen inches from the toilet seat before his hand slipped and he dropped back down. He cursed. Loudly, colorfully, obscenely, and profanely, in Spanish, and for perhaps thirty seconds. He then attempted to rise using the crutch he had rested against the toilet wall. On the third try, he made it. With great difficulty, he managed to get his pajama trousers up from the floor and over his right leg, which was encased in plaster of paris, and to his waist. "Oh, you clever fucking devil, you!" he proclaimed, in English. He unlocked the door, held it open with his forehead, and then managed to get the crutch into his armpit, which permitted him to escape the small room. He was halfway to the bed when Lieutenant Allred attempted to come to his aid. Ashton impatiently waved him off, made it to the bed, and, with difficulty, got in. "You should have asked a nurse to help you," Allred said. "I'm sure it's different in the Navy, but in the Cavalry, we consider it unbecoming an officer and a gentleman to ask women with whom we are not intimately acquainted to assist us in moving our bowels," Ashton said. Admiral Souers laughed. "I'm delighted to find you in a good mood, Max," he said. "How's it going?" "Sir, do you really want to know?" "I really do." "I am torn between that proverbial rock and that hard place. On one hand, I really want to get the hell out of here. I am told that when I can successfully stagger to the end of the hall and back on my crutches, I will be considered 'ambulatory.' I can do that. But if I do it officially, that will mean I will pass into the hands of my Aunt Florence, who is camped out in the Hay-Adams extolling my many virtues to the parents of every unmarried Cuban female in her child-bearing years--of the proper bloodline, of course--between New York and Miami." "That doesn't sound so awful to me," Allred said. "What you don't understand, Jim--although I've told you this before--is that unmarried Cuban females of the proper bloodline do not fool around before marriage. And I am still in my fooling- around years." "Or might be, anyway, when you get out of that cast," Admiral Souers said. "Thank you, sir, for pointing that out to me," Ashton said. Souers chuckled, and then asked, "What do you want first, the good news or the bad?" "Let's start with the bad, sir. Then I will have something to look forward to." "Okay. There's a long list of the former. Where do I start? Okay. General Patton died yesterday in Germany." "I'm sorry to hear that. He always said he wanted to go out with the last bullet fired in the last battle." "And a car wreck isn't the last battle, is it?" Souers replied. "Unless it was an opening shot in the first of a series of new battles," Ashton said. "We looked into that," Souers said. "General Greene--the European Command CIC chief? . . ." Ashton nodded his understanding. ". . . was all over the accident. And he told me that's what it was, an accident. A truck pulled in front of Patton's limousine. His driver braked hard, but ran into the truck anyway. Patton slid off the seat and it got his neck, or his spine. He was paralyzed. Greene told me when he saw Patton in the hospital, they had him stretched out with weights. Greene said it looked like something from the Spanish Inquisition." "And what does General Gehlen have to say about it?" Ashton asked. "I think if he had anything to say, Cronley would have passed it on. Why do you think it could be something other than an accident?" Before Ashton could reply, Admiral Souers added, "Dumb question. Sorry." Ashton answered it anyway. "Well, sir, there are automobile accidents and then there are automobile accidents." "Accidents happen, Max," Souers said. "Sir, what happened to me was no accident," Ashton said. "No, I don't think it was. And Frade agrees. But accidents do happen." Ashton's face showed, Souers decided, that he thought he was being patronized. "For example, sort of close to home, do you know who Lieutenant Colonel Schumann is? Or was?" Ashton shook his head. "He was Greene's inspector general. I met him when I was over there. Good man." Ashton said nothing, waiting for the admiral to continue. "More than a very good IG," Souers continued, "a good intelligence officer. He was so curious about Kloster Grünau that Cronley had to blow the engine out of his staff car with a machine gun to keep him out." "That's a story no one chose to share with me," Ashton said drily. "Well, we didn't issue a press release. The only reason I'm telling you is to make my point about accidents happening. The day Patton died, Colonel Schumann went to his quarters to lunch with his wife. There was apparently a faulty gas water heater. It apparently leaked gas. Schumann got home just in time for the gas to blow up. It demolished the building." "Jesus!" "Literally blowing both of them away, to leave their two kids, a boy and a girl, as orphans." "Jesus Christ!" Ashton said. "Quickly changing the subject to the good news," Souers said. "Let's have the box, Jim." "Yes, sir," Lieutenant Allred said, and handed the admiral a small blue box. Souers snapped it open and extended it to Ashton. "Would you like me to pin these to your jammies, Colonel, or would you rather do that yourself?" "These are for real?" Ashton asked. "Yes, Lieutenant Colonel Ashton, those are for real." "In lieu of a Purple Heart?" Ashton asked. "Prefacing this by saying I think you well deserve the promotion, the reason you have it is because I told the adjutant general I desperately needed you, and that the only way you would even consider staying in the Army would be if your services had been rewarded with a promotion." Ashton didn't reply. "Operative words, Colonel, 'would even consider staying.' " Again, Ashton didn't reply. "If nothing else, you can now, for the rest of your life, legitimately refer to yourself as 'colonel' when telling tales of your valiant service in World War Two to Cuban señoritas whom you wish to despoil before marriage." "Sometimes it was really rough," Ashton said. "Either the steak would be overcooked, or the wine improperly chilled. Once, I even fell off my polo pony." "Modesty becomes you, but we both know what you did in Argentina." "And once I was struck by a hit-and-run driver while getting out of a taxi." "That, too." "I really wish, Admiral, that you meant what you said to the adjutant general." "Excuse me?" "That you desperately need me." "They say, and I believe, that no man is indispensable. But that said, I really wish you weren't--what?--'champing at the bit' to hang up your uniform. With you and Frade both getting out-- and Cletus wouldn't stay on active duty if they made him a major general--finding someone to run Operation Ost down there is going to be one hell of a problem." Ashton raised his hand over his head. When Souers looked at him in curiosity, he said, nodding toward the toilet, "No, sir. I am not asking permission to go back in there." "This is what they call an 'unforeseen happenstance,'" Admiral Souers said after a moment. "You're really willing to stay on active duty?" Ashton nodded. "Yes, sir." "I have to ask why, Max." "When I thought about it, I realized I really don't want to spend the rest of my life making rum, or growing sugarcane," Ashton said. "And I really would like to get the bastards who did this to me." He raised both the en-casted arm resting on his chest and his en-casted broken leg. "I was hoping you would say because you see it as your duty, or that you realize how important Operation Ost is, something along those lines." "Who was it who said 'patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel'?" "Samuel Johnson said it. I'm not sure I agree with it. And I won't insult you, Max, by suggesting you are unaware of the importance of Operation Ost. But I have to point out Romans 12:19." When he saw the confusion on Ashton's face, the admiral went on: " 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.' Or words to that effect." "The Lord can have his after I have mine," Ashton said. "When do you become our nation's spymaster?" "That title belongs to General Donovan, and always will," Souers said. "If you're asking when the President will issue his Executive Order establishing the United States Directorate of Central Intelligence, January first." "Let me ask the rude question, sir," Ashton said. "And how does General Donovan feel about that?" "Well, the Directorate will be pretty much what he recommended. Starting, of course, with that it will be a separate intelligence agency answering only to the President." "I meant to ask, sir, how he feels about not being named director?" Souers considered his reply before giving it. "Not to go outside this room, I suspect he's deeply disappointed and probably regrets taking on J. Edgar Hoover. My personal feeling is that the President would have given General Donovan the Directorate if it wasn't for Hoover." "The President is afraid of Hoover?" "The President is a very smart, arguably brilliant, politician who has learned that it's almost always better to avoid a bitter confrontation. I think he may have decided that his establishing the Directorate of Central Intelligence over Hoover's objections was all the bitter confrontation he could handle." "How does Hoover feel about you?" "He would have preferred--would really have preferred--to have one of his own appointed director. Once the President told him that there would be a Directorate of Central Intelligence despite his objections to it, Hoover seriously proposed Clyde Tolson, his deputy, for the job. But even J. Edgar doesn't get everything he wants." "That wasn't my question, sir." "He's hoping he will be able to control me." "What's General Donovan going to do now?" "You know he's a lawyer? A very good one?" "Yes, sir." "Well, the President, citing that, asked him to go to Nuremberg as Number Two to Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who's going to be the chief American prosecutor." "He threw him a bone, in other words?" "Now that you're a lieutenant colonel, Colonel, you're going to have to learn to control your tendency to ask out loud questions that should not be asked out loud." "Admiral, you have a meeting with the President at ten forty- five," Allred said. Souers walked to the bed, extending his hand. "I'll be in touch, Max," he said. "Get yourself declared ambulatory. The sooner I can get you back to Argentina, the better." "I was thinking, sir, that I would go to Germany first, to have a look at the Pullach compound, and get with Colonel Mattingly and Lieutenant Cronley, before I go back to Buenos Aires." "I think that's a very good idea, if you think you're up to all that travel," he said. "I'm up to it, sir." "I hadn't planned to get into this with you. That was before you agreed to stay on. But now . . ." "Yes, sir?" "Now that you're going to have to have a commander-subordinate relationship with Captain . . . Captain . . . Cronley . . ." "Sorry, sir. I knew that the President had promoted Cronley for grabbing the uranium oxide in Argentina." "And for his behavior--all right, his 'valor above and beyond the call of duty.'" "Yes, sir." "Prefacing this by saying I think he fully deserved the promotion, and the Distinguished Service Medal that went with it, and that I personally happen to like him very much, I have to tell you what happened after he returned to Germany." "Yes, sir?" "Admiral," Lieutenant Allred said, as he tapped his wristwatch, "the President . . ." "The world won't end if I'm ten minutes late," Admiral Souers said. "And if it looks as if we'll be late, get on the radio to the White House and tell them we're stuck in traffic." "Yes, sir." "You know about those Negro troops who have been guarding Kloster Grünau? Under that enormous first sergeant they call 'Tiny'? First Sergeant Dunwiddie?" "Cronley talked about him. He said he comes from an Army family that goes way back. That they were Indian fighters, that two of his grandfathers beat Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War." "Did he mention that he almost graduated from Norwich? That his father was a Norwich classmate of Major General I.D. White, who commanded the Second Armored Division?" "No, sir." "Well, when Cronley returned to Germany, to Kloster Grünau, he learned that those black soldiers--the ones he calls 'Tiny's Troopers'--had grabbed a man as he attempted to pass through-- going outward--the barbed wire around Kloster Grünau. He had documents on him identifying him as Major Konstantin Orlovsky of the Soviet Liaison Mission. They have authority to be in the American Zone. "On his person were three rosters. One of them was a complete roster of all of General Gehlen's men then inside Kloster Grünau. The second was a complete roster of all of Gehlen's men whom we have transported to Argentina, and the third was a listing of where in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, et cetera, that Gehlen believed his men who had not managed to get out were. "It was clear that Orlovsky was an NKGB agent. It was equally clear there was at least one of Gehlen's men--and very likely more than one--whom the NKGB had turned and who had provided Orlovsky with the rosters. "When he was told of this man, Colonel Mattingly did what I would have done. He ordered Dunwiddie to turn the man over to Gehlen. Gehlen--or one or more of his officers--would interrogate Orlovsky to see if he'd give them the names of Gehlen's traitors. "Do I have to tell you what would happen to them if the interrogation was successful?" "They would 'go missing.' " "As would Major Orlovsky. As cold-blooded as that sounds, it was the only solution that Mattingly could see, and he ordered it carried out. And, to repeat, I would have given the same order had I been in his shoes. "Enter James D. Cronley Junior, who had by then been a captain for seventy-two hours. When Dunwiddie told him what had happened, he went to see the Russian. He disapproved of the psychological techniques Gehlen's interrogator was using. Admittedly, they were nasty. They had confined him naked in a windowless cell under the Kloster Grünau chapel, no lights, suffering time disorientation and forced to smell the contents of a never-emptied canvas bucket which he was forced to use as a toilet. "Cronley announced he was taking over the interrogation, and ordered Tiny's Troopers to clean the cell, empty the canvas bucket, and to keep any of Gehlen's men from having any contact whatsoever with Orlovsky." "What did Gehlen do about that? Mattingly?" Souers did not answer the question. "Cronley and Dunwiddie then began their own interrogation of Major Orlovsky. As Colonel Mattingly pointed out to me later, Orlovsky was the first Russian that either Dunwiddie or Cronley had ever seen." "Sir, when did Colonel Mattingly learn about this? Did General Gehlen go to him?" After a just perceptible hesitation, Souers answered the question. "Colonel Mattingly didn't learn what Captain Cronley was up to until after Orlovsky was in Argentina." "What?" Ashton asked, shocked. "Cronley got on the SIGABA and convinced Colonel Frade that if he got Orlovsky to Argentina, he was convinced he would be a very valuable intelligence asset in the future." "And Cletus agreed with this wild hair?" "Colonel Frade sent Father Welner, at Cronley's request, to Germany to try to convince Orlovsky that Cronley was telling the truth when he said they would not only set him up in a new life in Argentina, but that General Gehlen would make every effort to get Orlovsky's family out of the Soviet Union and to Argentina." "Gehlen went along with this?" "The officer whom many of his peers believe is a better intelligence officer than his former boss, Admiral Canaris, ever was, was in agreement with our Captain Cronley from the moment Cronley told him what he was thinking." "So this Russian is now in Argentina?" "Where he will become your responsibility once you get there. At the moment, he's in the Argerich military hospital in Buenos Aires, under the protection of the Argentine Bureau of Internal Security, recovering from injuries he received shortly after he arrived in Argentina." "Injuries?" "The car in which he was riding was attacked shortly after it left the airport by parties unknown. They used machine guns and Panzerfausts--" "What?" "German rocket-propelled grenades." "Then they were Germans?" "The BIS--and Cletus Frade--believes they were Paraguayan criminals hired by the Russians. So does Colonel Sergei Likharev of the NKGB." "Who?" "When Major Orlovsky realized that the NKGB was trying to kill him, and probably would do something very unpleasant to his wife and kids if General Gehlen could not get them out of the Soviet Union, he fessed up that his name is really Likharev and that he is--or was--an NKGB colonel. And gave up the names of Gehlen's traitors." "What happened to them?" "You don't want to know, Colonel Ashton." "So Cronley did the right thing." "I don't think that Colonel Mattingly would agree that the ends justify the means." "But you do?" "On one hand, it is inexcusable that Cronley went around Mattingly. On the other hand, we now have Colonel Likharev singing like that proverbial canary. And on the same side of that scale, General Gehlen has gone out of his way to let me know in what high regard he holds Cronley and Dunwiddie. But let me finish this." "Yes, sir." "After Frade informed me that he believed Likharev had truly seen the benefits of turning, and that he believed he would be of enormous value to us in the future, I was willing to overlook Cronley's unorthodoxy. Then Cronley got on the SIGABA and sent me a long message stating that he considered it absolutely essential that when he is transferred to the DCI that he have another commissioned officer to back him up, and that he wanted First Sergeant Dunwiddie commissioned as a captain--he said no one pays any attention to lieutenants--to fill that role. "My first reaction to the message, frankly, was 'Just who the hell does he think he is?' I decided that it probably would be unwise to leave him in command of the Pullach compound. I then telephoned General Gehlen, to ask how he would feel about Major Harold Wallace--do you know who I mean?" Shaking his head, Ashton said, "No, sir." "He was Mattingly's deputy in OSS Forward . . ." "Now I do, sir." "And is now commanding the Twenty-seventh CIC, which is the cover for the Twenty-third CIC, to which Cronley and Dun widdie are assigned. You are familiar with all this?" "Yes, sir." "I asked General Gehlen how he would feel if I arranged for Major Wallace to take over command of the Pullach compound. He replied by asking if he could speak freely. I told him he could. He said that in the best of all possible worlds, he would prefer that Colonel Mattingly and Major Wallace have as little to do with Pullach as possible. When I asked why, he said that he regarded the greatest threat to the Pullach compound operation, in other words, to Operation Ost, was not the Russians but the U.S. Army bureaucracy. "In case you don't know, the Pentagon--the deputy chief of staff for intelligence--has assigned two officers, a lieutenant colonel named Parsons and a major named Ashley--to liaise with Operation Ost at Pullach." "Frade told me that, but not the names." "DCS-G2 thinks they should be running Operation Ost. Both Parsons and Ashley outrank Captain Cronley. See the problem?" "Yes, sir." "I thought it could be dealt with, since Mattingly, in the Farben Building, is a full colonel and could handle Parsons, and further that Wallace could better stand up to Parsons and Ashley than Cronley could." Ashton nodded his understanding. "General Gehlen disagreed. He told me something I didn't know, that First Sergeant Dunwiddie's godfather is General White, and that in private Dunwiddie refers to General White as 'Uncle Isaac.' And he reminded me of something I already knew: The President of the United States looks fondly upon Captain Cronley." "How did Gehlen know that?" "I don't know, but I have already learned not to underestimate General Reinhard Gehlen. Gehlen put it to me that he felt Parsons was under orders to somehow take control of Pullach, that Mat- tingly, who is interested in being taken into the Regular Army, is not going to defy the general staff of the U.S. Army. "Gehlen put it to me that DCS-G2 taking over Operation Ost would be a disaster--reaching as far up as the President--inevitably about to happen. And I knew he was right." "Jesus!" "And he said he felt that because both Dunwiddie and Cronley had friends in high places, they would be the best people to defend Operation Ost from being swallowed by DCS-G2. And I realized Gehlen was right about that, too. "General White is about to return to Germany from Fort Riley to assume command of the Army of Occupation police force, the U.S. Constabulary. I flew out to Fort Riley on Tuesday and talked this situation over with him. He's on board. "On January second, the day after the Directorate of Central Intelligence is activated, certain military officers--you, for example, and Captains Cronley and Dunwiddie--" "Captain Dunwiddie, sir?" Ashton interrupted. "Sometime this week, First Sergeant Dunwiddie will be discharged for the convenience of the government for the purpose of accepting a commission as Captain, Cavalry, detail to Military Intelligence. "As I was saying, Cronley and Dunwiddie--and now you-- will be transferred to the Directorate. Colonel Mattingly and Major Wallace will remain assigned to Counterintelligence Corps duties. I told General Greene that Colonel Frade suggested that for the time being they would be of greater use in the CIC and that I agreed with him." When it looked as if Ashton was going to reply, Admiral Souers said, "Were you listening, Colonel, when I told you you're going to have to learn to control your tendency to ask questions out loud that should not be asked out loud?" "Yes, sir. But may I ask a question?" Souers nodded. "It looks to me as if the effect of all this is that in addition to all the problems Cronley's going to have with Operation Ost, he's going to have to deal with Colonel Parsons--the Pentagon G2-- and Colonel Mattingly, and maybe this CIC general, Greene, all of whom are going to try to cut him off at the knees." Souers did not reply either directly or immediately, but finally he said, "I hope what you have learned in our conversation will be useful both when you go to Germany and later in Buenos Aires." "Yes, sir. It will be." Souers met Ashton's eye for a long moment, then smiled and turned and started to walk out of the room. Excerpted from The Assassination Option by W. E. B. Griffin, William E. Butterworth All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.