Former CIA director William Colby is found Dead (May 6, 1996) - History Key

Former CIA director William Colby is found Dead (May 6, 1996)

Was the former CIA director, William Colby assassinated when he was ready to reveal to the world the secrets he knew? Or he just killed himself? Nevertheless, Colby’s death disturbed many people and launched conspiracy theories about the CIA. According to his biographer Randall B. Woods, Colby died on April 27, 1996 after he went on a solo canoe trip in Rock Point, Maryland and drowned. His body was found nine days later in Wicomico River, Maryland.

Who was William Colby?
William Egan Colby
William Egan Colby © Image Source: Wikipedia

He was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1920. Twenty years later Colby graduated at University Princeton and entered Columbia Law School in 1941. Colby said that he took from his parents the desire to serve his country and the commitment to liberal politics and Catholicism. In the same year when he entered at Columbia, Colby volunteered in the US Army and served at Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as an operator (“Jedburgh”).

In WWII Colby fought in Europe. His first mission was in France as a Jedburgh in 1944. One year later he led the Norso group in Norway in order to destroy the railway lines to stop the final reinforcement of Germany. Immediately after the war, Colby graduated Columbia Law School and practiced law.

However, he was bored by his job so he moved to Washington to work of the National Labor Relations Board. A friend from OSS offered him a job at the CIA. His next years were in the field in Sweden and Rome. His main work was to set up hidden networks to make any Soviet occupation more difficult. Colby also served his country in the Vietnam War which helped him to “climb a few stairs” in his career. During the war, Colby was already involved in Washington’s policies in East Asia.

CIA director

From 1973 to 1976 Colby was the director of Central Intelligence serving under President Nixon and President Ford. He was ordered to reveal the files of illegal reports (“Family Jewels”) that took place between 1950 and 1970. One of the illegal activities was known as “Project Mockingbird” which was a propaganda that infiltrated media with false and exaggerated stories. Another important reveal was “Operation Phoenix” which was an assassination program during the Vietnam War.

Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford © Arhives AP/ Image Source:

Colby was known as a media-friendly CIA director. He believed that the purpose of the CIA wasn’t to “commit infractions” undercover, but rather to cooperate with the Congress and to be accountable to the Constitution. It is known that CIA’s reputation wasn’t seen with good eyes by the media and he tried to save the agency with more transparency. This new politics divided the agency in two major parts. On the other side, Richard Helms (old-line officer and former director) believed that CIA should have resisted congressional intrusion. Even more, Richard Nixon’s credibility towards Colby was affected because of his new level of transparency and Nixon believed that he affected the Yom Kippur War. In 1976 Colby was fired by President Ford and replaced him with George H. W. Bush.

William Egan Colby
William Egan Colby © Image Source: Alchetron/
Who murdered Colby?

William Colby also left traces of revealing the truth through his work after he left the CIA. Even more, after the Cold War he proposed that half of the Pentagon’s budget to be redirected to social and education programs, but never happened. He knew that his new enemy was the CIA, so he established a law firm: Colby, Miller & Hannes. The main activity was to protect the legislative issues for the public.

William Egan Colby
William Egan Colby © Image Source: QuotesGram/Pinterest

According to Zalin Grant, an Army Intelligence Officer in Vietnam said that Colby realized that he was in danger of being killed at any time. Coincidence or not, Colby was reported missing on April 28, 1996 after he went alone at his weekend house. On the night of his disappearance, Colby called his wife around 7:00 PM and told her that he is tired and he was going to bed. However, he was seen by two sets of witnesses at 7:15PM in his yard watering his trees.

When his body was found nine days later, it was said that he went paddling his canoe at nightfall and drowned after he suffered a stroke or a heart attack. Colby’s canoe was found by Kevin Akers, a local unemployed carpenter. At first Akers wasn’t surprised until he noticed that the canoe was filled with sand and he couldn’t find a life jacket or paddles anywhere. Akers never heard of Colby until the next day when he saw the news. He immediately felt that something is wrong and his life was in danger.

Carl Colby stands next to his father's grave at Arlington National Cemetery
Carl Colby stands next to his father’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery © Linda Davidson /Image Source: The Washington Post

His son, Carl Colby beliefs that his father committed suicide saying “he didn’t have a lot left to live for and he never wanted to grow old.” Anyway, Colby’s death raised hundreds of questions and probably the media will never know for sure what happened in that night.

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