Tuesday, March 13, 2012

273 (2012 #18). Operation Broken Reed

by Lt. Col. Arthur L. Boyd (Ret)

The subtitle of this book is "Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission that Averted World War III," and that's exactly what it's about.  Back in August 1951, 22-year-old Army lieutenant Boyd, a gifted cryptographer and high-speed international Morse code specialist, was chosen to be part of a 10-person team of Army Rangers, Navy Frogmen, Air Force officers, and CIA agents who posed as prisoners from a downed bomber that were being transported across North Korea by Nationalist Chinese posing as Communists.  Along the way, they met various operatives and transmitted messages back to headquarters on Chinese and North Korean troop strength, positions, and weapons.

Boyd is apparently the only survivor of this mostly-successful "black ops" mission in January 1952, that had to remain classified for 48 years.  He and all of his teammates used aliases, so he's not sure if anyone else survived, but no one else has come forward since the mission was declassified in 1998. That was heartbreaking.

The story is compelling.  My dad (a Korean War vet) read the book and passed it on to me, and my husband has also read it.  He has some experience in these matters and feels it is true.  It certainly rang true to me.  Boyd (who was assisted by a ghostwriter) uses some devices, such as conversations during the long convoy rides across North Korea, to convey historical background.  The conversations feel artificial, but the reader understands why this device is used.  The action, though, is thrilling and suspenseful.

I am glad Lt. Col. Boyd shared his story and brought some long-overdue recognition to himself and the men he served with.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my father.]

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