by Todd Beamon
Hugh Montgomery, a former United Nations deputy ambassador who was the longest serving Central Intelligence Agency official for more than six decades, died last week in McLean, Va. He was 94.
Montgomery, who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and darted across German lines with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, joined the CIA four years after its founding in September 1947. The OSS was the predecessor to the post-war CIA.
Ambassador Montgomery retired in 2014, at age 90 and after 63 years with the agency.
“He really was the last link to the OSS and the very beginning of the American intelligence capability,” former CIA director Leon Panetta said. “He was every bit a symbol of the kind of officer that we were proud to have in the CIA.”
“We lost a great friend,” Owen Smith, chairman of the Institute of World Politics in Washington, told Newsmax in an interview.
“He was probably the last of the active OSS officers,” he added. “The United States lost a great patriot and a great professional intelligence officer.”
Smith, a professor emeritus at Long Island University, is the son-in-law of the late Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey. Casey had served with Montgomery in the OSS, and later the two worked together at the agency during the Reagan years.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, called Montgomery “a hero of American intelligence.
“He was a father of an institution that kept our nation safe for the past 70 years.”
“I was honored to call this great patriot a friend,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said. “Ambassador Montgomery’s closest friend since the OSS was Vernon Walters, and the pair devoted their lives to the American people and our safety.”
Gen. Vernon Walters, who passed away in 2002, had served as deputy director of the CIA.
“Through the years they gave me an understanding and appreciation of the enormous contribution our intelligence agencies make to our country,” Ruddy said.
Fleitz said almost every CIA director in history had turned to Montgomery for institutional knowledge and his savvy understanding of agency operations. Recently, Trump transition officials had also reached out to Montgomery on ideas he had for improving the agency’s capabilities, Fleitz said.
Fleitz detailed many of Montgomery’s accomplishments in a Newsmax column in 2015.
Montgomery was among five Americans being honored by the Office of Strategic Services Society for the service to the profession. He received the William J. Donovan Award, named for the founder of the OSS, at the event.
His legacy includes the accidental discovery in April 1945 of the Buchenwald concentration camp by Montgomery’s four-man team after coming across a compound surrounded by barbed wire and emanating a “ghastly smell.”
Buchenwald had not yet been officially liberated by the Americans, but it was no longer under firm Nazi control. The team immediately radioed for urgent medical assistance.
“The surviving inmates begged us to leave the German guards to their hands, which we did,” Montgomery said at the 2015 ceremony.
He was given the black SS flag that flew over the camp by its inmates — and Montgomery pledged to donate it to the future National OSS Museum of American Intelligence and Special Operations, Fleitz said.
Born in Springfield, Mass., Montgomery’s father ran a company that manufactured wire products. His mother, a linguist, inspired her son’s interest in languages.
He brought to the CIA proficiency in eight languages and working knowledge of more.
Montgomery was studying Romance languages and literature at Harvard University when he enlisted in the Army in 1942, spurred by the attack on Pearl Harbor the year before by the Japanese.
On D-Day, he parachuted into Normandy, France, with the 82nd Airborne and was wounded in the key battle of Falaise Pocket that later brought the allied liberation of Paris. The wound left Montgomery with a lifelong limp.
Soon after he was wounded, Montgomery was ordered to report to the OSS counterintelligence operation, called X-2, although he did not know the secretive operation’s name until much later.
After the war he earned three degrees from Harvard University: a bachelor’s in 1947, a master’s in 1948 and a doctorate in 1952.
Panetta described Montgomery as having a “calmness” that served him well in the field. He repeatedly went behind enemy lines, searching for German nuclear physicists and Americans POWs — and on one occasion commandeered an enemy intelligence radio outpost.
During his CIA career, he served in Athens, Rome, Paris and Vienna.
During the Cold War, Montgomery was the primary assistant to the CIA base chief for the Berlin Tunnel operation in the 1950s that tapped underground cables being used for Soviet communications.
In Moscow, he ran one of the most famous and productive CIA assets in history, the high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer Oleg Penkovsky. He was executed by the Soviets after being convicted of treason and espionage in 1963.
Montgomery temporarily left the CIA in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan nominated him as director of intelligence and research in the State Department. He held that position until 1985, when he served as a deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
He returned to the CIA in 1989, remaining with the agency until his retirement in 2014.
Under CIA Director Robert Gates, Montgomery oversaw all foreign intelligence relationships.
His awards included the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal and — and Smith’s organization, the Institute of World Politics, presented Montgomery with an honorary doctorate in 2010.
“He was a great intelligence officer, somebody who really kept the intelligence community together,” Smith told Newsmax. “He was well-respected by everybody in the intelligence community.”
Montgomery’s wife of 66 years, the former Annemarie Janak, died in 2015. Survivors include two children, Hugh Montgomery Jr. of Batavia, Ohio, and Maria Montgomery of Columbia, Md.
In an interview, Gates described Montgomery as “a man of extraordinary integrity and character” — and also as one who would not be out of place “in any one of a number of spy novels.”
His escapade at the Soviet Embassy in 1962 ended with a surprise for the U.S. ambassador — and another timeless tale for the agency.
“At the next embassy staff meeting,” then-CIA Director John Brennan recounted at the 2015 Donovan Award ceremony, the ambassador demanded the name of the Russian “who trashed his wife’s powder room.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.