Tracy Barnes was born in 1911. He worked as a lawyer with Frank Wisner at the Carter Ledyard, law firm in New York. The day after Pearl Harbor Barnes joined the U.S. Army. He served at the air intelligence school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Later he was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Barnes was sent to London where he served under David Bruce, the head of SOS operations in England. While in London he spent time with his old friend Paul Nitze.
Barnes parachuted into France on 5th August, 1944. According to his Silver Star citation: The liquidation of a detachment of several hundred of the enemy waslargely attributable to his courage and initiative, when, after unsuccessful attempts to effect a surrender, he and a French officer, armed with only with carbines, opened fire, constantly changing firing position to convey the impression of a large force."
On 3rd December, 1944, Allen W. Dulles wrote to David Bruce: "I have met Tracy Barnes here today and am anxious to get him to Switzerland as soon as possible... We can find useful work for him." Barnes worked under Dulles until the end of the war.
Barnes returned to work for the Carter Ledyard, law firm inNew York. In June 1950, Barnes was recruited by Frank Wisner to join the Central Intelligence Agency. His first job was as deputy director of the Psychological Strategy Board. Later Barnes was involved in clandestine operations in Guatemala against President Jacobo Arbenz. The plot against Arbenz became part of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power).
Barnes was eventually placed in charge of what became known as Operation Success. David Atlee Phillips was appointed to run the propaganda campaign against Arbenz's government. According to Phillips he initially questioned the right of the CIA to interfere in Guatemala: In his autobiography Phillips claims he said to Barnes: "But Arbenz became President in a free election. What right do we have to help someone topple his government and throw him out of office?" However, Barnes convinced him that it was vital important that the Soviets did not establish a "beachhead in Central America".
The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. David Atlee Phillips, along with E.Howard Hunt, was responsible for running the CIA's Voice of Liberation radio station. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz. William (Rip) Robertson was also involved in the campaign against Arbenz.
The CIA began providing financial and logistic support for Colonel Carlos Castillo. With the help of President Anastasio Somoza, Castillo had formed a rebel army in Nicaragua. It has been estimated that between January and June, 1954, the CIA spent about $20 million on Castillo's army.
On 18th June 1954 aircraft dropped leaflets over Guatemala demanding that Arbenz resign immediately or else the county would be bombed. CIA's Voice of Liberation also put out similar radio broadcasts. This was followed by a week of bombing ports, ammunition dumps, military barracks and the international airport.
Carlos Castillo's collection of soldiers now crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border. His army was outnumbered by the Guatemalan Army. However, the CIA Voice of Liberation successfully convinced Arbenz's supporters that two large and heavily armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City.
The CIA was also busy bribing Arbenz's military commanders. It was later discovered that one commander accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. Ernesto Guevara attempted to organize some civil militias but senior army officers blocked the distribution of weapons. Jacobo Arbenz now believed he stood little chance of preventing Castillo gaining power. Accepting that further resistance would only bring more deaths he announced his resignation over the radio.
Castillo's new government was immediately recognised by President Dwight Eisenhower. Castillo now reversed the Arbenz reforms. In July 19, 1954, he created the National Committee of Defense Against Communism and decreed the Preventive Penal Law Against Communism to fight against those who supported Arbenz when he was in power. Over the next few weeks thousands were arrested on suspicion of communist activity. A large number of these prisoners were tortured or killed.
The removal of Jacobo Arbenz resulted in several decades of repression. Later, several of the people involved in Operation Success, including Barnes and Richard Bissell regretted the outcome of the Guatemala Coup.
In November, 1954, Barnes replaced General Lucian Truscott as head of CIA headquarters in Frankfurt. Several other CIA agents worked in Germany at this time including William Harvey, Ted Shackley, David Morales and Tom Parrott.
After working in Germany (1954-1956) Barnes was made CIA station chief in London (1957-1959). He returned to the United States in 1960 to serve with the Directorate for Plans (the CIA's clandestine service and covert action arm) and helped Richard Bissell organize the Bay of Pigs operation. Within seventy-two hours all the invading troops had been killed, wounded or had surrendered. Bissell had a meeting with John F. Kennedy about the operation. Kennedy admitted it was his fault that the operation had been a disaster. Kennedy added: "In a parliamentary government, I'd have to resign. But in this government I can't, so you and Allen (Dulles) have to go."
As Evan Thomas points out in The Very Best Men: "Bissell had been caught in his own web. "Plausible deniability" was intended to protect the president, but as he had used it, it was a tool to gain and maintain control over an operation... Without plausible deniability, the Cuba project would have turned over to the Pentagon, and Bissell would have have become a supporting actor."
John F. Kennedy asked Maxwell Taylor to investigate what went wrong during the Bay of Pigs operation. Taylor asked Lyman Kirkpatrick, the CIA's inspector general, to write a report on the failed project. Kirkpatrick was highly critical of both Bissell and Barnes. He claimed that they had misled the president and that "plausible deniability was a pathetic illusion".
In 1962 Barnes was placed in charge of Domestic Operations Division. Robert Morrow later claimed that Barnes recruited Richard Case Nagell and sent him to New Orleans in the summer of 1963. Barnes also asked Morrow to purchase several weapons: "I was told specially to get good ones, 7.35mm Mannlicher-Carcanos. A 6.5mm was not an accurate rifle at all, and not to be considered. I remember going to Sunny's Surplus up in Towson, Maryland. They had a whole wall of Mannlichers, Mausers, and other rifles. I picked out four, which I felt were pretty good." Morrow claimed that the rifles were picked up by David Ferrie in a private plane and taken to New Orleans.
Richard Helms became director of the Central Intelligence Agency in June, 1966. He immediately put Desmond FitzGerald under pressure to sack Barnes. The following month FitzGerald told Barnes his CIA career was over. FitzGerald told his friend, Thomas Parrott: "It was the hardest thing I ever did".
Kingman Brewster, the president of Yale University, employed Barnes as his personal assistant. His work involved trying to improve race relations at the university. He also worked behind the scenes to try and get Yale to admit women graduates.
In June, 1970, Tracy Barnes suffered a serious stroke. He made a slow recovery but on 18th February, 1972, he had a heart-attack and died at his home at Saunderstown, Rhode Island.