HEROIN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
HEROIN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
The place was Kunming in the South China province of Yunnan. The time was the end of World War II. Amid the chaos of war, opium and gold became the primary media of exchange [or, a specie substitute], and cult‑like bonds were forged among a small staff of Americans and high‑ranking Chinese. Yunnan was a center of Chinese opium cultivation and Kunming [see inset map] was the hotbed of military operations, among them Claire Chennault's 14th Air Force and Detachment 202 of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Among Detachment 202's notorious collection of special agents, one in particular – E. Howard Hunt – has needed no introduction since the Watergate break‑in. In Kunming, the spy novelist who later became a comrade of Cuban exiles and China Lobbyists befriended an equally intriguing character, the French Foreign Legionnaire turned OSS agent, Captain Lucien Conein. Although not part of Detachment 202 proper, Conein frequented Kunming while awaiting parachuting over Indochina.
Indochina remained Conein's base of operation after World War II, when, like Hunt, he slid over from the OSS to its successor, the CIA. He then operated throughout South and North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma, and became the top U.S. expert on the area-‑as well as on the opium‑smuggling Corsican Mafia. He was Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge's middle-man in the 1963 plot to overthrow South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem (who was assassinated along with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, the Corsicans' partner in the drug traffic).
A decade later, Conein and Hunt, working for the Nixon White House Plumbers, would attempt to make it appear that the plot had been ordered by JFK. Both Conein and William Colby, mastermind of the CIA's Phoenix assassination program, were recalled to the U.S. at the start of the seventies.
Starr's attorney was the powerful Washington‑based Tommy "The Cork" Corcoran. Corcoran's law partner [1941-49], William Youngman [Jr.], was a director of U.S. Life [Insurance]. Corcoran's other clients included
- the United Fruit Company,
- Chiang Kai‑shek's influential brother‑in‑law T.V. Soong, and
- the mysterious airline, Civil Air Transport (CAT), of which 60 percent was owned by the Taiwan regime and 40 percent by the CIA.
What Henrik Kruger did not say here, which is, in fact, crucial, is that the wife of Tommy the Cork's partner--attorney and former Republican politician in Massachusetts, William S. Youngman--was Elsie Hooper Perkins, a member of the Perkins/Forbes/Higginson opium trading network. We have traced this opium network back to the shipping firm set up by Thomas and James Handasyd Perkins (two sons of James Perkins and Elizabeth Peck). The author of Quixotic Joust has written about that network repeatedly at Where the Gold Is, each of which has taglines and a search engine to help locate additional articles.
Brief Sketch of Mrs. William Sterling (Elsie Hooper Perkins) Youngman's family:
Back to What Kruger Did Say
Elsie and her brother, Robert Jr.,were born to Robert Forbes Perkins and his second wife. Her father had married Annie Rodman Bowditch in 1891, with whom he had four children, before divorcing her in 1910. By then the children were mostly grown, but the youngest remained with their father. The following year Perkins married Elsie's mother, Evelyn Morancy Gray of Louisiana, who was 25 years his junior, and at about the same time, ex-wife Annie married Bronson Case Rumsey, heir to a leather fortune. Rumsey's granddaughter, Ruth Rumsey, married William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan around the same time as well.
Elsie Perkins (center) with mother and brother in 1923
Elsie and Robert, Jr.'s older half siblings grew up in the same historic pink mansion, Owl's Nest, in Framingham, Massachusetts, where Elsie grew up, and shared the same paternal grandparents, Charles Elliott Perkins and Edith Forbes, both of whom were descended from the family this blogger wrote about in "Following the Forbes Money Trail," a family tree incidentally shared with our current Secretary of State, John Forbes Kerry.
Tracing John Kerry's ancestry back to James and Elizabeth (Peck) Perkins has been a long process duplicated by other researchers, such as the author of smokershistory, from whose research we learn even more about this financial network. It all just goes to show how America's original drug-running families have over the last two centuries commingled profits from opium with other investments into "legitimate business," while at the same time they have been placed in charge of America's intelligence agencies.
Noted historian Eustace Mullins, in his book, The World Order, has also written that Bronson Case Rumsey, the stepfather of Elsie Youngman's older siblings, was also grandfather to Charles Cary Rumsey, who was killed in a car accident in 1922. In 1910 Charles Cary married Mary Harriman, elder sister of Averell and Bunny Harriman. All these marriages help to explain why the Harriman brothers merged their family banking enterprise with the old Brown Brothers investment bank of New York a few years later into Brown Brothers, Harriman.
On behalf of United Fruit, Corcoran triggered a CIA plot — in which E. Howard Hunt was the agency's chief political action officer — to overthrow Guatemala's President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954.
|Bird ran Thai Commerce|
Sea Supply also provided arms and aid to Phao Sriyanonda, the head of Thailand's 45,000‑man paramilitary police force and reputedly one of the most corrupt men in the history of that corruption‑ridden nation. For years his troops protected KMT opium smugglers and directed the drug trade from Thailand.
When President John F. Kennedy in 1962 attempted a crackdown on the most hawkish CIA elements in Indochina, he sought the prosecution of Willis Bird, who had been charged with the bribery of an aid official in Vientiane. But Bird never returned to the U.S. to stand trial.
Upon returning to Miami, the OSS Chief of Special Intelligence and head of Detachment 202 in Kunming, Colonel Paul Helliwell, was a busy man. In Miami offices of the American Bankers Insurance Co. he functioned simultaneously as the Thai consul, and the counsel for Sea Supply as well as for insurance companies run by his former subordinate C.V. Starr.
American Bankers Insurance was itself a most unusual firm; one of its directors, James L. King, was also a director of the Miami National Bank through which the Lansky syndicate reportedly passed millions en route to Geneva's Swiss Exchange and Investment Bank. One of the Swiss bank's directors, Lou Poller, also sat on the board of King's Miami National Bank.
Moreover, in the fifties and sixties, Thai and Nationalist Chinese capital was invested in Florida's explosive development, much of it by way of the General Development Corporation controlled by associates of Meyer Lansky. It's important to note the dubious alliance of Southeast Asian power groups with those concerned with Florida and Cuba. This early mutuality of business interests is the key to all that follows, and Miami is the nerve center to which we will continually return.
The alliance was comprised of the China Lobby, OSS China hands, Cuban exiles, the Lansky syndicate, and CIA hawks pushing for all‑out involvement in Indochina and against Castro's Cuba. It coalesced between 1961 and 1963, and its members had three things in common:
- a right wing political outlook,
- an interest in Asian opium, and
- a thirst for political might.
|Pawley in Haiti during WWI|
Pawley's name was the password to intrigue:
- OSS China,
- Tommy Corcoran,
- CIA cover firms, and
- arms shipments to KMT Chinese on Taiwan in defiance of a State Department refusal of authorization.
The China Lobby's Southeast Asian connection naturally went via the Taiwan regime, which controlled the opium‑growing Chinese in the Golden Triangle and, with the CIA, owned the opium‑running CAT airlines. As Ross Y. Koen wrote in 1964:
"There is considerable evidence that a number of Nationalist Chinese officials are engaged in the illegal smuggling of narcotics into the United States with the full knowledge and connivance of the Nationalist Chinese government. The evidence indicates that several prominent Americans have participated in and profited from these transactions. It indicates further that the narcotics business has been an important factor in the activities and permutations of the China Lobby." 
"Taiwan is a major link in the Far East narcotics route, and a heroin producer. Much of the acetic anhydride-‑the chemical necessary for the transformation of morphine into heroin-‑smuggled into Hong Kong and Thailand, comes from this island, a dictatorship under the iron rule of the late Chiang Kai‑shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo."
Around 1950 the CIA became interested in the KMT troops. With General Douglas MacArthur pushing to arm them for an attack on Red China, the agency secretly flew them weapons in CAT airplanes. But when the KMT instead used the weapons against the Burmese army, Burma protested before the UN, where it was decided that 2000 KMT troops would be flown by CAT to Taiwan by 1954. Those who eventually made the trip, however, were only farmers and mountain people in KMT uniforms, and the weapons they took out were obsolete. Nonetheless, with help from the Red Chinese army, Burma drove most of the KMT forces into Thailand and Laos, though many later returned. The Kuomintang and their kin now number over 50,000. Though only a fraction are soldiers, the KMT still controls hundreds of thousands of Chinese occupying the region, especially in Thailand.
When the French withdrew from Indochina in 1955 after their defeat by the Vietminh, and after the CIA pushed aside the SDECE, MACG leaders communicating through CIA agent Lucien Conein offered the Americans their entire guerilla force. Against Conein's advice they refused. History would cast doubt on the wisdom of that decision.
In 1955 CIA agent General Edward Lansdale began a [fake] war to liquidate the Corsican supply network. While Lansdale was cracking down on the French infrastructure, his employer the CIA was running proprietaries, like Sea Supply and CAT, that worked hand‑in‑hand with the opium‑smuggling Nationalist Chinese of the Golden Triangle, and with the corrupt Thai border police.
When Lansdale returned from Vietnam in the late fifties, the Corsicans recouped some of their losses, chartering aging aircraft to establish Air Opium, which functioned until around 1965. That year, the Corsicans' nemesis Lansdale returned to Vietnam as an advisor to Amabassador[sic] Lodge. There was also an upheaval in the narcotics traffic, and perhaps the two were connected. CIA‑backed South Vietnamese and Laotian generals began taking over the opium traffic — and as they did so, increasing amounts of morphine and low‑quality heroin began showing up on the Saigon market.
The first heroin refineries sprang up in Laos under the control of General Ouane Rattikone. President Ky in Saigon was initially in charge of smuggling from the Laotian refineries to the South Vietnamese; and Lansdale's office, it is to be remembered, was working closely with Ky. Lansdale himself was one of Ky's heartiest supporters, and Conein went along with whatever Lansdale said.
One result of the smuggling takeover by the generals was the end of the Corsicans' Air Opium. The KMT Chinese and Meo tribesmen who cultivated raw opium either transported it themselves to the refineries or had it flown there by the CIA via CAT and its successor, Air America, another agency proprietary. Though the Corsicans still sent drugs to Marseilles, the price was becoming prohibitive, since they were forced to buy opium and morphine in Saigon and Vientiane rather than pick up the opium for peanuts in the mountains.
|Air America, Inc.|
In 1967 a three‑sided opium war broke out in Laos between a Burmese Shan State warlord, KMT Chinese and General Rattikone's Laotian army. Rattikone emerged victorious, capturing the opium shipment with the help of U.S.‑supplied aircraft. The KMT, for its part, managed to reassert its dominance over the warlord. The smuggling picture was becoming simplified, with Southeast Asian opium divided among fewer hands, and most of the Corsicans out of the way.
General Lansdale returned to the U.S. in 1967, leaving Conein in Vietnam. The next year Conein greeted a new boss, William Colby. Since 1962 Colby had run the agency's special division for covert operations in Southeast Asia, where his responsibilities included the " secret" CIA war in Laos with its 30,000‑man Meo army. He shared that responsibility with the U.S. ambassador [sic] in Laos, William H. Sullivan, who would later preside over the Tehran embassy during the fall of the Shah.
Many of the agents who ran the CIA's war in Laos had earlier trained Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion, and afterward had taken part in the agency's continued secret operations against Cuba. Since exiles were furnished by the Trafficante mob, intelligence agents had intermingled with representatives of America's number one narcotics organization. The same agents would now become involved with the extensive opium smuggling from Meo tribesmen camps to Vientiane.
In 1967 Colby devised a plan of terror for the "pacification" of Vietnam. Operation Phoenix organized the torture and murder of any Vietnamese suspected of the slightest association with Vietcong. Just as Lansdale was travelling home, Colby was sent to South Vietnam to put his brainchild to work. According to Colby's own testimony before a Senate committee, 20,857 Vietcong were murdered in Phoenix's first two years. The figure of the South Vietnamese government for the same period was over 40, 000.
It was during Colby's tour in Vietnam that the heroin turned out by General Ouane Rattikone's labs appeared in quantity, and with unusually high quality. The great heroin wave brought on a GI addiction epidemic in 1970; Congressional reports indicated that some 22 percent of all U.S. soldiers sampled the drugs and 15 percent became hooked.
Former Air Marshal, then Vice President, Nguyen Cao Ky (now alive and well in the United States) and his underlings still controlled most of the traffic. President Nguyen Van Thieu and his faction, comprised mostly of army and navy officers, were also in it up to their necks. According to NBC's Saigon correspondent, Thieu's closest advisor, General Dang Van Quang, was the man most responsible for the monkey on the U.S. Army's back. But the U.S. Saigon embassy, where Colby was second in command, found no substance to the accusations, Ky's record notwithstanding: Ky had been removed from U.S. Operation Haylift, which flew commando units into Laos, for loading his aircraft with opium on the return trips.
In the face of skyrocketing GI heroin abuse, the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) looked into General Ngo Dzu's complicity in the heroin traffic and filed a lengthy report at the U.S. embassy. The embassy ignored the report and chose not to forward it to Washington. The BNDD also investigated the roots of the heroin epidemic, but was impeded in its work by the CIA and U.S. embassy. In 1971, however, a string of heroin labs were uncovered in Thailand, and a number were closed down.
In 1971, furthermore, Colby and Conein were recalled to the United States. Colby became the Deputy Director of Operations, the man in charge of the CIA's covert operations. More remarkable, though, was Conein's homecoming after twenty‑four years of periodic service to the CIA in Indochina, raising the question of why the U.S.'s foremost expert on Indochina had been brought back to Washington just as the crucial phase of Vietnamization was about to begin. Ironically, Corsican friends still around for Conein's departure presented him with a farewell gold medallion bearing the seal of the Corsican Union.
At the war's cataclysmic end, the CIA admitted that "certain elements in the organization" had been involved in opium smuggling and that the illegal activities of U.S. allies had been overlooked to retain their loyalties. In reality, the agency had been forced to confess because of its inability to refute the tales of returning GIs, among them that of Green Beret Paul Withers, a recipient of nine Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver and Bronze Stars:
"After completing basic training at Fort Dix in the fall of 1965 [Withers] was sent to Nha Trang, South Vietnam. Although he was ostensibly stationed there, he was placed on 'loan' to the CIA in January 1966 and sent to Pak Seng, Laos. Before going there he and his companions were stripped of their uniforms and all American credentials. They were issued Czechoslovakian guns and Korean uniforms. Paul even signed blank sheets of paper at the bottom and the CIA later typed out letters and sent them to his parents and wife. All this was done to hide the fact that there were American troops operating in Laos.
"The mission in Laos was to make friends with the Meo people and organize and train them to fight the Pathet Lao. One of the main tasks was to buy up the entire local crop of opium. About twice a week an Air America plane would arrive with supplies and kilo bags of opium which were loaded on the plane. Each bag was marked with the symbol of the tribe."
"In 1971 I was an operations assistant for Continental Air Service, which flew for the CIA in Laos. The company's transport planes shipped large quantities of rice. However, when the freight invoice was marked 'Diverse,' I knew it was opium. As a rule an office telephone with a special number would ring and a voice would say 'The customer here'‑-that was the code designation for the CIA agents who had hired us. 'Keep an eye on the planes from Ban Houai Sai. We're sending some goods and someone's going to take care of it. Nobody's allowed to touch anything, and nothing can be unloaded,' was a typical message. These shipments were always top priority. Sometimes the opium was unloaded in Vientiane and stored in Air America depots. At other times it went on to Bangkok or Saigon.
1. E.H. Hunt: Undercover (Berkeley‑Putnam, 1974).
2. Another of Conein's OSS sidekicks, Mitchell WerBell III, was years later indicted in a major drug conspiracy case (T. Dunkin: "The Great Pot Plot," Soldier of Fortune, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1977), and now runs an antiterrorist training school in Georgia (T. Dunkin: "WerBell's Cobray School," Soldier of Fortune, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1980).
3. D. Moldea: The Hoffa Wars (Charter Books, 1978).
4. U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Hearings, 85th Cong., 2nd Sess. (cited in P.D. Scott: The War Conspiracy, Bobbs‑Merrill, 1972).
5. CAT, which became Air America, was also identical with the "CATCL" that emerged from Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers.
6. D. Wise and T.B. Ross: The Invisible Government (Random House, 1964); Hunt, op. cit.
7. Scott, op. cit.
8. F. Robertson: Triangle of Death (Routledge and Keagen Paul, 1977); A. McCoy: The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (Harper & Row, 1972).
9. Scott, op. cit.
10. New York Times, 1 December 1969; H. Messick: Lansky (Berkeley, 1971). 11. Carl 0. Hoffmann, the former OSS agent and general counsel of the Thai king in New York in 1945‑50, later became the chairman of Lansky associates' First Florida Resource Corp.
12. L. Gonzalez‑Mata: Cygne (Grasset, 1976).
13. R.Y.Koen: The China Lobby in American Politics (Harper& Row, 1974). 14. Pawley, the ultraconservative former Pan Am executive and Assistant Secretary of both State and Defense, set up the Flying Tigers under a secret order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt exempting him from U.S. neutrality provisions; see A. Chan Chennault: Chennault's Flying Tigers (Eriksson, 1963).
15. Corcoran assisted in the establishment of the Flying Tigers and later Civil Air Transport; see Scott, op. cit.
16. Lindsey Hopkins, Jr., whose sizable investments included Miami Beach hotels, was an officer of the CIA proprietary, Zenith Technical Enterprises of Bay of Pigs note. He was also an officer of the Sperry Corp., through whose subsidiary, the Intercontinental Corp., Pawley helped found the Flying Tigers in 1941. Pawley was Intercontinental's president. See Scott, op. cit.
17. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Judiciary, Communist Threat to the United States through the Caribbean, Hearings, 86th Cong., 2nd Sess. (cited in Scott, op. cit.).
18. See chapter fifteen; it has also been revealed that a prominent Chinese American, Dr. Margaret Chung of San Francisco, who was a major supporter of the Flying Tigers, trafficked in narcotics together with the Syndicate; see P.D. Scott: "Opium and Empire," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, September 1973.
19. Koen, op. cit. 20. Robertson, op. cit.. After a one‑year suspension, the U.S. State Department recently approved the sale of $280 million in military weaponry to the repressive Taiwan regime (New York Times, 20 January 1980), the same regime whose disdain for human rights was most recently expressed by the preparation of cases of sedition against sixty‑five opposition demonstrators (New York Times, 24 January 1980). The CIA's Taiwan station chief in the late fifties and early sixties, when the unholy alliances were forged, was Ray S. Cline. Closely associated with the China Lobby, Cline became famous for his drunken binges with Chiang Ching‑kuo, currently the president of Taiwan (see V. Marchetti and J.D. Marks: CIA and Cult of Intelligence, Jonathan Cape, 1974). A CIA hawk, Cline also helped a gigantic Bay of Pigs‑style invasion of the Chinese mainland which was rejected by President Kennedy. Cline is currently the "director of world power studies" at Georgetown's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which, according to writer Fred Landis ("Georgetown's Ivory Tower for Spooks," Inquiry, 30 September 1979), "is rapidly becoming the New Right's most sophisticated propaganda mill." In testimony before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Cline defended CIA manipulation of the press, saying "You know that first amendment is only an amendment."
20. [William] Pawley eventually built five large airplane factories around the world. It is also likely that he was involved in the CIA's Double Chek Corp. in Miami, as he had similarly been in the Flying Tigers. The CIA's air proprietaries are said to stick together. When in 1958, CIA pilot Allen Pope was shot down and taken prisoner in Indonesia, he was flying for CAT. When he was released in 1962 he began flying for Southern Air Transport, another agency proprietary, which operated as late as 1973 out of offices in Miami and Taiwan. Southern's attorney in 1962 was Alex E. Carlson, who a year before had represented Double Chek when it furnished pilots for the Bay of Pigs invasion; see V. Marchetti and J.D. Marks: CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (Jonathan Cape, 1974). On 23 March 1980, just as Iran's revolutionary government was about to request that Panama extradite Shah Reza Palevi, the ex‑dictator who had been installed on his throne in 1953 by a CIA coup, he was flown off to Cairo on an Evergreen International Airlines charter. As reported by Ben Bradlee of the Boston Globe, (20 April 1980), in 1975 Evergreen had assumed control over Intermountain Aviation, Inc., a CIA proprietary. George Deele, Jr., [sic; Doole] a paid consultant for Evergreen, controlled the CIA's worldwide network of secret airlines for nearly two decades.
21. McCoy, op. cit.
22. D. Warner: The Last Confucian (Angus & Robertson, 1964). 23. McCoy, op. cit.
24. Conein told writer McCoy: "The Corsicans are smarter, tougher and better organized than the Sicilians. They are absolutely ruthless and are the equal of anything we know about the Sicilians, but they hide their internal fighting better." (McCoy, op. cit.).
25. McCoy, op. cit.
26. T. Branch and G. Crile III: "The Kennedy Vendetta," Harper's, August 1975.
27. U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, Interim Report, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. Senate Report No. 94‑463, 1975.
28. C. Lamour and M.R. Lamberti: Les Grandes Maneuvres de l'0pium (Editions du Seuil, 1972); McCoy, op. cit.; Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars: The Opium Rail (New England Free Press, 1971).
29. Marchetti and Marks, op. cit.
30. Congressman M.F. Murphy and R.H. Steele: The World Heroin Problem (U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1971).
31. Like Nguyen Cao Ky, Ngo Dzu came to the U.S. as a refugee after the final debacle in South Vietnam. Though accused by Rep. Steele of responsibility for the addiction of thousands of GIs to heroin, Dzu went about as a free man until his 13 February 1977 death in Sacramento of apparent heart failure.
32. McCoy, op. cit.
33. Conein's summons home coincided with Howard Hunt's recruitment by the White House and the creation of the special narcotics and Plumbers groups. 34. Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, op. cit. 35. Lamour and Lamberti, op. cit. (quote retranslated from the French).