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Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone


Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone Cover

ISBN13: 9781586485641
ISBN10: 1586485644
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Larry Devlin arrived as the new chief of station for the CIA in the Congo five days after the country had declared its independence, the army had mutinied, and governmental authority had collapsed. As he crossed the Congo River in an almost empty ferry boat, all he could see were lines of people trying to travel the other way—out of the Congo. Within his first two weeks he found himself on the wrong end of a revolver as militiamen played Russian-roulette, Congo style, with him.

During his first year, the charismatic and reckless political leader, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered and Devlin was widely thought to have been entrusted with (he was) and to have carried out (he didn't) the assassination. Then he saved the life of Joseph Desire Mobutu, who carried out the military coup that presaged his own rise to political power. Devlin found himself at the heart of Africa, fighting for the future of perhaps the most strategically influential country on the continent, its borders shared with eight other nations. He met every significant political figure, from presidents to mercenaries, as he took the Cold War to one of the world's hottest zones. This is a classic political memoir from a master spy who lived in wildly dramatic times.


A master spy's memoir of playing the game in the most strategically influential country in 1960s Africa

About the Author

Larry Devlin was raised in California, enlisted in the army reaching the grade of captain in World War II, joined the CIA in 1949 and was appointed Chief of Station Congo in 1959. He subsequently served as Chief of Station, Laos and Chief, Africa Division and retired in 1974. He resides in Virginia and Provence, France.

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Shoshana, May 2, 2010 (view all comments by Shoshana)
Devlin is no stylist, but his account of his tenure as CIA Chief of Station, Congo (Kinshasa) will still hold your attention. Devlin was transferred to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a period of great and swift turmoil. Later, his superior attests that he has a skillful, excellent operative in the post. As Devlin comments, what else could he say? That in fact, he had installed a relatively unexperienced chief at a station that was supposed to be a sleepy backwater?

Devlin's narrative style is methodical, a straightforward recounting of events with only superficial commentary or analysis. When he does comment, it is typically to add a piece of evidence to his contention that though he was ordered to assassinate Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, he did not do so. I can't evaluate the veracity of this claim, but note that whatever Devlin's protestations, he gives numerous unsurprising examples of collusion, cover-ups, and pragmatic lies on the part of all of the agencies involved. That there should therefore be a cover-up of a political assassination is not that great a stretch. However, Devlin says he finds the idea of assassination morally repugnant, and I have no reason to disbelieve him. That doesn't mean another U.S. or Belgian agent didn't do it.

I disagree with many of Devlin's political ideals, but appreciate his effort to articulate them. It says something about his ability to do so that I enjoyed reading this information-dense memoir.
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Paul Vogl, August 17, 2008 (view all comments by Paul Vogl)
There are a lot of nonfiction spy books out there, but perhaps none as action-packed as this one. That is the most attractive attribute about Larry Devlin's memoir. It is literally hard to put down because of all that is happening to Devlin and those around him.

The other factor making this book stand out from all the others is Devlin's descriptions of tradecraft--the daily work of intelligence officers and the methods they employ to accomplish their missions.

Another factor, at least for me, was recognition of people who had made names for themselves in subsequent government service during my own time there. Although I had never heard of Devlin before reading his book, I was familiar with at least one of the other Congo embassy staffers and surprised at what happened to him.

Finally, there's the issue of relevance. What with all the issues related to China, Venezuela, the war in Georgia, et cetera, who cares about Congo in the early 1960s. Well at first I thought I didn't, but Devlin has a way of explaining the issues for the United States at that time, whether we agree with them or not (and Devlin discusses times when he and the ambassador did not agree, how they responded, and what it meant for their careers).

And hell, if none of the above rattles your curiosity, there's a murder mystery that, to the best of my information, hasn't been solved in the last 47 years, though Devlin cites a 1999 Belgian book that perhaps lays that case to rest.
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Product Details

Devlin, Larry
Devlin, Lawrence
General Biography
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in 9.2 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Africa » Congo
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy
History and Social Science » World History » Africa

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A master spy's memoir of playing the game in the most strategically influential country in 1960s Africa
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