For the first time, a Navy SEAL tells the story of the US’s clandestine operations in North Vietnam and the Congo during the Cold War.
Sometime in 1965, James Hawes landed in the Congo with cash stuffed in his socks, morphine in his bag, and a basic understanding of his mission: recruit a mercenary navy and suppress the Soviet- and Chinese-backed rebels engaged in guerilla movements against a pro-Western government. He knew the United States must preserve deniability, so he would be abandoned in any life-threatening situation; he did not know that Che Guevara was attempting to export his revolution a few miles away.
Cold War Navy SEAL gives unprecedented insight into a clandestine chapter in US history through the experiences of Hawes, a distinguished Navy frogman and later a CIA contractor. His journey began as an officer in the newly formed SEAL Team 2, where Hawes commanded boats in the CIA’s series of covert, hit-and-run raids into North Vietnam. Those raids directly instigated the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The CIA tapped Hawes to deploy to the Congo, where he would be tasked with creating and leading a paramilitary navy on Lake Tanganyika to disrupt guerilla action in the country.
According to the US government, he did not, and could not, exist; he was on his own, 1400 miles from his closest allies, with only periodic letters via airdrop as communication. Hawes recalls recruiting and managing some of the most dangerous mercenaries in Africa, battling rebels with a crew of anti-Castro Cuban exiles, and learning what the rest of the intelligence world was dying to know: the location of Che Guevara. In vivid detail that rivals any action movie, Hawes describes how he forced Guevara from the country, accomplished a seemingly impossible mission, and returned to a successful civilian life. Complete with never-before-seen photographs and interviews with fellow operatives in the Congo, Cold War Navy SEAL is an unblinking look at a portion of Cold War history never been told.
James M. Hawes became one of the first SEAL officers permanently assigned to Vietnam as part of the CIA’s covert operations into North Vietnam. That led to his clandestine CIA mission to build and command a mercenary navy in the Congo in 1965–66. After several years working for the Agency, he attended Harvard, receiving his MBA in 1971. He finally settled in Asia, living there for thirty-four years and pioneering a variety of business enterprise. Hawes currently lives near San Antonio, Texas, and is a consultant for a variety of new venture companies.
Mary Ann Koenig is a writer and filmmaker with experience across a variety of media platforms. She’s directed, written, and produced the documentary, A Bond Unbroken, The “Why” of Minh, the story of Vietnam War–era Navy SEALs and a reunion with their combat interpreter forty-five years later. She has written for the Los Angeles Times and KOST Radio in Los Angeles, and currently works as a journalist and correspondent for TC Palm Newsweekly (a regional USA Today publication) covering veterans’ stories, from Iwo Jima Marines and USS Intrepid sailors in the Pacific during WWII, to Iraq and Afghanistan ground troops. She has done numerous oral histories with veterans at the VA hospital in Bronx, New York, where she has served as a volunteer for more than eight years, and has written for VAnguard Magazine, the VA’s national publication.
Join us at the International Spy Museum for an in-store book signing of The Craft We Chose by Richard L Holm. Holm is a former paramilitary adviser, operations officer, senior manager and chief of station for the Central Intelligence Agency. He is the recipient of a special achievement award for his service in Southeast Asia; the Donovan Award for his work at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest award the agency can bestow; and the Hugh Montgomery Award for career service, bestowed in 2012 for only the second time by the O.S.S. Society. He lives in Northern Virginia.
For more than three decades, Dick Holm worked in the agency's Directorate of Operations—now the National Clandestine Service—the component directly responsible for collecting human intelligence. His assignments took him to seven countries on three continents, and his travels added many more destinations. At almost every turn Holm encountered his share of dangerous characters and situations, including one that nearly ended his life before he turned 30.
His newest book, The Craft We Chose is more than a chronicle of those episodes. It also reveals Holm's private life, his roots and family, his courtship and marriage, and his four daughters, whom he affectionately calls his "platoon." Webster's Dictionary defines the word "holm" as an island in a stream. That is an appropriate analogy. The Craft We Chose reveals Richard Holm as an island of steadfastness in a stream of chaos. He served his country with distinction, in good times and bad, displaying extreme courage under the direst of circumstances and a sense of honor that can only be considered unshakeable. And he describes it all with a keen eye and a distinctive wit. His is a classic American story that conveys, vividly and unforgettably, a life in the CIA.