Alfred Ulmer was born in Jacksonville, Florida on May, 1917. Ulmer graduated from Princeton University in 1939 and joined the US Navy as an intelligence officer during the Second World War. In 1945 he was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and was involved in gathering information in Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Austria.
After the war Ulmer became head of the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) in Austria. In January 1946, a new National Intelligence Authority was established along with a small Central Intelligence Group. On 2nd April the SSU was transferred to the new group as the Office of Special Operations.
In 1947 Ulmer joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He was stationed in Madrid, Athens and Paris. According to Russ Baker: "Ulmer was running things in Greece during the country's vicious civil war, the Athens CIA station was also in charge of most Middle East operations and anti-Soviet-bloc efforts in Yugoslavia."
Ulmer was then based in Washington before running the agency's Far East operations (1955-1958). Ulmer traveled to Taiwan soon after his appointment. He later recalled: "We were dropping Chinese agents into China - two a month - but we weren't getting much." Ulmer quoted Desmond FitzGerald as saying that he "had no use for the Chinese Nationalists... and wanted out."
According to Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Men (1995), Ulmer had a meeting with Frank Wisner, the head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the CIA, in 1956, to discuss what they could do if revolution broke out behind the Iron Curtain. After the meeting Wisner told Richard Bissell that they agree to send in "lots of arms" to those resisting the communists. As Ulmer later pointed out: "We went all over the world and we did what we wanted.''
Ulmer's main task was to try and overthrow President Sukarno of Indonesia.The CIA spent a million dollars to try to influence the Indonesian elections in 1955, but much of the money was wasted or stolen and Sukarno became stronger, while the Communist Party polled six million votes. Frank Wisner told Ulmer that "I think it's time we held Sukarno's feet to the fire." Allen Dulles agreed and told Ulmer he would be "given $10 million to back a revolution in the Indonesian archipelago."
In 1956 the CIA began supporting the PRRI-Permesta rebellion in Sulawesi. This ended in failure and President Sukarno became even stronger. The following year the CIA arranged for arms to be supplied to rebels on the island of Sumatra. In February 1958, the rebels felt strong enough to declare the island independent. Within days "Sukarno's navy blockaded the rebels, his air force raided them, and his army began to move on Sumatra". The CIA sent in paramilitary expert Anthony Poshepny to Sumatra.
On 18th May 1958, Allen Lawrence Pope, one of the CIA pilots, was shot down in his B-26 after accidentally bombing a church and killing most of the congregation. Allen Dulles decided to call off the operation. Thomas Powers, the author of The Man Who Kept The Secrets (1979): "The result, of course, was a humiliation for the United States, but it was a quiet humiliation. The Indonesians knew who had been behind the rebels, of course, but they elected to treat the matter calmly... and the American press somehow never got wind of the CIA's role."
Richard Helms asked Sam Halpern to investigate why the operation failed. Ulmer told Halpern that "the rebels were given plenty of rquipment, but they had little stomach for fighting." Halpern reported back to Helms that "everything that could have gone wrong with a paramilitary operation, had gone wrong with this one." The result was that Ulmer lost his job as head of the CIA's Far East operations.
Ulmer retired in in 1962 and received the agency's Intelligence Medal of Merit. Later that year President Sukarno threatened to invade Netherlands New Guinea that he felt believed belonged to Indonesia. On 15th August, 1962, he ordered full mobilisation of his army. Willem Oltmans claimed to have prevented a Dutch war against Indonesia over New Guinea by sending a memo to President John F. Kennedy. Whatever the truth of this statement, Kennedy, against CIA advice, applied pressure on the Dutch government to hand over the territory to a temporary UN administration (UNTEA). On May 1, 1963, Indonesia took control of the country.
After leaving the CIA Ulmer worked for Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. According to Peter Evans, the author of E, Niarchos london was a CIA propriety.
Alfred Ulmer died at Virginia Beach on 22nd June, 2000.
Al Ulmer is sometimes described as having filled the positions of "attache" and "first secretary" at the U.S. embassy in Athens from the late forties through the mid fifties. Yet a memorial tribute to him in the alumni publication of his alma mater, Princeton, scores higher on the candor meter, describing his life in the wartime OSS and the CIA. Ulmer was a good friend and confidant of CIA director Allen Dulles. He embodied the attitude that nobody could tell the CIA what to do - nobody: "We went all over the world and we did what we wanted," Ulmer later recalled. "God, we had fun." He also managed coups.
When JFK forced Dulles out of the CIA following the Bay of Pigs debacle, Ulmer left as well. He went to work for the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Marches. That Ulmer had not fully left the espionage racket is suggested in part by Niarchos's own long history with the CIA, which he assisted with many covert operations." In fact, the company Ulmer ran, Niarchos London, Ltd., was itself a CIA proprietary according to author Peter Evans, who knew Niarchos personally. Niarchos would in turn be introduced into Poppy Bush's immediate circle, buying Oak Tree Farm, a prime Kentucky horse-breeding property, and leasing it to the manager of Poppy Bush's financial affairs, William Stamps Farish III.
The Hungarian Revolution, which would cost 30,000 lives including, some would say, Frank Wisner's, began with rioting on October 23, 1956. A mass demonstration of 300,000 people marched on the parliament building in Budapest, demanding open elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. A pair of workers with acetylene torches stoked the mob by cutting off a giant bronze statue of Stalin at the knees, leaving a pair of empty boots. The Hungarian secret police opened up with machine guns, but the army sided with the people, handing out arms to students.
On its powerful transmitters in Munich, Radio Free Europe began re broadcasting calls to arms picked up from a dozen low-power radio stations scattered throughout Hungary. RFE had been cautious during the Polish riots, warning the workers against suicidal action. But in Hungary, the people heard the broadcasts on the CIA's secretly funded radio station and believed that the hour had arrived, that the West would intervene to save them.'
In mid-October, shortly before the Hungarian uprising, Wisner and Al Ulmer, another senior official in the clandestine service, had walked about Wisner's farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, debating what, if anything, the agency could do if revolution broke out behind the Iron Curtain. Wisner was wrought up, but not overwrought, according to Ulmer. Both men knew that direct intervention by the United States was unlikely and that the emigre battalions supported by the CIA were probably not up to facing Soviet tanks.
The rebels sent Sukarno an ultimatum in February 1958, and when he failed to respond declared the island of Sumatra independent. Within days Sukarno's navy blockaded the rebels, his air force raided them, and his army began to move on Sumatra. The State Department reluctantly overcame its hostility to "white faces" and allowed the CIA to send two more paramilitary experts with their radiomen to join the rebels. One of them was Anthony Poshepny, called Tony Po, who had trained CIA client armies all over the Far East. Tony Po was a hard, meticulous man, a veteran of many battles who habitually carried a boxer's mouthguard in his pocket because you never know what's going to happen when you walk into a bar - better safe than sorry. But no amount of paramilitary expertise could have saved the Sumatran rebels at that point. Even a rebel air force flown by CIA pilots and paid for with CIA funds - although the funds for security reasons were passed through a rebel bank account - failed to slow the rebels' defeat on Sumatra and retreat to the Celebes. At that point the CIA was reduced to the hope that its clients might hold on to an island or two for use as a "pressure point" in future dealings with Sukarno.
But on Sunday, May 18, Allen Lawrence Pope, one of the CIA pilots, was shot down in his B-26 after accidentally bombing a church and killing most of the congregation. When word of Pope's loss reached Washington the same day, Allen Dulles decided to call off the operation and sent an emotional cable - this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, brave men, etc. - to the senior paramilitary officer with the rebels in Menado, telling him to inform the rebels the United States must disengage. After telling the rebel leaders about the decision, the CIA officers simply abandoned whatever they could not destroy or carry, and left. One group of officers still in the heart of Sumatra, accompanied by a handful of Indonesians facing death if they remained, had to walk out to the coast through several hundred mils of jungle, and then put out to sea in rubber boats from which they were later picked up by the U.S. Navy.
The result, of course, was a humiliation for the United States, but it was a quiet humiliation. The Indonesians knew who had been behind the rebels, of course, but they elected to treat the matter calmly, knowing Foster Dulles would have to come around, as he did; and the American press somehow never got wind of the CIA's role. But within the CIA the covert operators were sobered by their failure. Al Ulmer was shortly thereafter replaced as chief of the Far East Division by Desmond FitzGerald, and that summer Frank Wisner left the DDP for good.
Alfred C. Ulmer Jr., a former official of the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency, died on June 22 in Virginia Beach. He was 83.
Mr. Ulmer did intelligence work in the Navy in World War II and then joined the O.S.S. He served in Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Austria, overseeing intelligence operatives gathering information about the German military in North Africa and the Balkans, his family said.
The service was disbanded by President Truman late in 1945, and Mr. Ulmer joined the C.I.A. not long after it was founded in 1947. He retired in 1962 and received the agency's Intelligence Medal of Merit.
In his C.I.A. years, he was stationed in Madrid, Athens, Paris and Washington. He ran the agency's Far East operations from 1955 to 1958.
''God, we had fun,'' he said in a 1994 interview. ''We went all over the world and we did what we wanted.''
Thomas Powers wrote in his book ''The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the C.I.A.'' (1979) that in 1956 Frank Wisner, a senior C.I.A. executive, told Mr. Ulmer, ''It's time we held Sukarno's feet to the fire.''
At the time, Sukarno was Indonesia's leader. Mr. Powers wrote that the director of central intelligence, Allen Dulles, and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, ''did not want to overthrow Sukarno exactly, just force him to suppress the P.K.I.'' - Indonesia's large Communist Party - ''send the Russians packing and get on the American team.'' So the agency aided anti-Sukarno rebels, but they were confronted successfully by Sukarno's forces and, Mr. Powers wrote, Allen Dulles decided that the rebels must be told that the United States had to disengage. ''The result,'' Mr. Powers said, ''was a humiliation for the United States.''
In a major covert operation in Japan, the agency spent millions of dollars in the 1950's and 60's to support the conservative party that dominated the country's politics for a generation, the Liberal Democratic Party.
Mr. Ulmer was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and graduated from Princeton in 1939. After the C.I.A., he worked in the financial world.
His marriage to Doris Gibson Bridges ended in divorce. He is survived by a son, Nicholas, of Geneva; a daughter, Marguerite Ulmer Power, of Virginia Beach; five grandchildren; a brother; and two sisters.