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

Frank Gardiner Wisner (June 23, 1909 – October 29, 1965) was head of Office of Strategic Services operations in southeastern Europe in 1944-1945 at the end of World War II, and served as the second Deputy Director of Plans (DDP) in charge of the Directorate of Plans (DDP) of the Central Intelligence Agency from August 23, 1951 to September 1958.



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 (June 28, 1912–July 9, 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 Romanian 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, where he served as OSS liaison to the Gehlen Organization.[1] 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] Wisner was put in charge of the operation and recruited many of his old friends from the Carter Ledyard law firm. 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]

Wisner oversaw the creation of all the stay-behind networks in East and West Europe.[13]

The FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, described the OPC as "Wisner's gang of weirdos". The FBI carried out investigations into their past and discovered that many of them had been active in left-wing politics in the 1930s. This information was passed to Republican Party Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy who started making attacks on members of the OPC. The FBI provided details of Wisner affair with Princess Caradja in Romania during the war; the FBI counterintelligence claimed that Princess Caradja was a Soviet agent.[14]

On August 23, 1951, Wisner succeeded Allen W. Dulles and became the second Deputy Director of Plans, heading the Directorate of Plans, with Richard Helms as his chief of operations. This office had control of about 75% of the CIA budget and used about 60% of all CIA personnel. In this position, he was instrumental in supporting pro-American forces that toppled Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in 1954.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] After a lengthy recovery, Wisner became chief of the CIA's London Station.[17]

In 1961, Wisner was ordered to organize CIA activities in British Guiana.[18]

In 1962, Wisner retired from the CIA.


Wisner committed suicide on October 29, 1965.[19]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b c 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 9781615780112.
  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. ^ Ganser, Daniele: NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe (2005) p.55 ff.
  14. ^ Evan Thomas (1995). The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA. pp. 98–106.
  15. ^ Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952–1954, CIA History Staff document by Nicholas Cullather, 1994. Excerpt
  16. ^ Will Brownell and Richard N. Billings, So Close to Greatness: A Biography of William C. Bullitt (NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1987), 298
  17. ^ a b Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 180. ISBN 9781615780112.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
Government offices
Preceded by
Allen W. Dulles
Deputy Director for Plans
August 23, 1951 – January 1, 1959
Succeeded by
Richard M. Bissell, Jr.