For his son, the diplomat, see Frank G. Wisner.

Frank Gardiner Wisner (June 23, 1909 – October 29, 1965) served in the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, and headed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), a clandestine intelligence unit, from 1948 to 1950. In 1950, the OPC was placed under the Central Intelligence Agency and renamed the Directorate of Plans. The Directorate was first headed by Allen Dulles; Wisner became Deputy Director of Plans (DDP) in 1951 when Dulles was named Director of Central Intelligence. Wisner remained as DDP until September 1958, playing an important role in the early history of the CIA. In 1958 he suffered a breakdown, and retired from the Agency in 1962. He committed suicide in 1965.


Wisner was educated at the University of Virginia, where he received both a B.A. and a LL.B. degree.[1] He was also tapped for the Seven Society.[2]


Wisner married Florida's Mary Ellis 'Polly' Knowles (1912–2002) and they had four children: Elizabeth Wisner, Graham Wisner, Ellis Wisner, and Frank G. Wisner who entered into diplomatic service.[3]


After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1934,[4] Wisner began working as a Wall Street lawyer for Carter, Ledyard & Milburn.[5] In 1941, six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He worked in the Navy's censor's office until he was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He was stationed first in Turkey, and then in Romania, where he became head of OSS operations in southeastern Europe. This happened just prior to the Romania leaving the Axis and joining the Allies in August 1944. On August 29, some 1,350 American airmen who were prisoners of the Kingdom of Romania were returned by a U.S. Air Crew Rescue Unit via the Popeşti-Leordeni Airfield.[6] Twelve B-17 Flying Fortress flew out the prisoners in hourly shifts. In all, some 1,700 American POWs were transported.[7]

In March 1945, Wisner was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany. In 1945–1946, he returned to law practice at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn.


Wisner was recruited in 1947 by Dean Acheson to join the State Department to become the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas. On June 18, 1948, the United States National Security Council approved NSC 10/2 which created the Office of Special Projects.[8] On September 1, 1948, the office was formally established, although it was renamed to the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) for obfuscation purposes.[9] Wisner was chosen to lead the OPC in the capacity of Assistant Director for Policy Coordination (ADPC).[10] The OPC initially received services from the CIA but was accountable to the State Department.[11]

According to its secret charter, the OPC's responsibilities include "propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage, demolition and evacuation procedures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."[12]

During the early 1950s, Wisner was the subject of FBI inquiries in connection with his wartime work in Romania, including the claim that he had an affair with Tanda Caradja, daughter of Romanian princess Catherine Caradja during the war; Caradja was alleged in FBI reports to be a Soviet agent. However, Wisner was cleared of all suspicions by the CIA Office of Security.[13]

On August 23, 1951, Wisner succeeded Allen W. Dulles and became the second Deputy Director of Plans, with Richard Helms as his chief of operations. In this position, he was instrumental in supporting pro-American forces that toppled Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953[citation needed] and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in 1954.[14]

J. Edgar Hoover and U.S. Senator McCarthy succeeded in forcing CIA director Allen W. Dulles to dismiss one of his key staff members, Carmel Offie, in 1953 over Wisner's objections.[15]

Wisner worked closely with Kim Philby, the British agent who was also Soviet spy.

Wisner was also deeply involved in establishing the Lockheed U-2 spy plane program run by Richard M. Bissell Jr.[1]

Wisner was diagnosed as a manic depressive and received electroshock therapy.[citation needed] Wisner suffered a serious breakdown in September 1958, and was replaced by Bissell as Deputy Director of Plans.[16] After a lengthy recovery, Wisner became chief of the CIA's London Station.[16]

In 1961, Wisner was ordered to organize CIA activities in British Guiana.[17]

In 1962, Wisner retired from the CIA.


Wisner committed suicide on October 29, 1965.[18]


  1. ^ a b Athan Theoharis, Richard Immerman, Loch Johnson, Kathryn Olmsted, and John Prados, "The Central Intelligence Agency: Security Under Scrutiny", Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006. ISBN 0-313-33282-7 doi:10.1336/0313332827
  2. ^ Thomas, Evan (1996). The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-82538-4.
  3. ^ Levy, Claudia (July 11, 2002). "Polly Fritchey Dies". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ "Our History: Featured Alumni: Wisner, Frank G., 1934". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  5. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 43. ISBN 978-1615780112.
  6. ^ William R. Cubbins, "Letters from Georgescu", January 4, 1990
  7. ^ Patricia Louise Wadley, "Even One Is Too Many" Archived 2007-04-05 at the Wayback Machine, Ph.D. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1993
  8. ^
  9. ^ Mitrovich, Gregory (2000). Undermining the Kremlin: America's Strategy to Subvert the Soviet Bloc, 1947–1956. Cornell University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0801437113.
  10. ^ Karalekas, Anne (23 April 1976). History of the Central Intelligence Agency. Church Committee. p. 34.
  11. ^ Foreign Relations 1964–1968, Volume XXVI, Indonesia; Malaysia-Singapore; Philippines: Note on U.S. Covert Action Programs. United States Department of State.
  12. ^ Thorne, C. Thomas, Jr.; Patterson, David S. (1995). "National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects". Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment. GPO. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  13. ^ Evan Thomas (1995). The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA. pp. 138-139.
  14. ^ Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952–1954, CIA History Staff document by Nicholas Cullather, 1994. Excerpt
  15. ^ Will Brownell and Richard N. Billings, So Close to Greatness: A Biography of William C. Bullitt (NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1987), 298
  16. ^ a b Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 180. ISBN 978-1615780112.
  17. ^ Rabe, Stephen G. (2005). U.S. intervention in British Guiana : a Cold War story ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-8078-5639-8.
  18. ^ Evan Thomas (1995). The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA. p. 320.


  • Wilford, Hugh. The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-674-02681-0.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by
Allen W. Dulles
Deputy Director for Plans
August 23, 1951 – January 1, 1959
Succeeded by
Richard M. Bissell, Jr.