ARMONK, N.Y. – From the jungles of Vietnam to the White House and all of his secret identities in between, Armonk’s Donald Gregg tells the story of his life in the CIA and national security in a memoir to be released in June.
Gregg, who grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson in the 1930s and 1940s, spent 31 years in the CIA, a time in his life he described simply as “colorful.”
“I was running para-military operations in Vietnam,” he said, referring to the 20 months he spent there from 1970 to 1972. “I had some very interesting people working for me. Felix Rodriguez – the Cuban who helped capture Che Guevara – was working for me. It was a very intense time.”
Trained as a para-military officer at Fort Benning – which he had to do under an alias – Gregg became a CIA station chief with 10 offices all around Saigon, which was the capital of South Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.
In 1979 he was detailed to the National Security Council staff in Washington, D.C., where he stayed for a job as the national security adviser to George H. W. Bush, who was vice president at the time. When Bush became president, Gregg was named the Ambassador to Korea.
Gregg dealt with many high-level Soviets while in the CIA, one of which he said was betrayed by Aldridge Ames, another CIA spy who was later convicted by the U.S. Department of Justice of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia.
Later, as a national security adviser, he helped the Ronald Reagan administration foster a relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev.
“I was not in the meeting when Bush met Gorbochov, but I worked with him in writing what we sent back to (Ronald) Reagan, and in it we had a sentence, ‘This is a man with whom we can end the Cold War,’ ” Gregg said.
The new author calls Bush Sr. “the rudder in Reagan’s sailboat” in his memoir, “Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House and Two Koreas.” He told Daily Voice he also refers to him as the “good Bush.”
During his CIA years, which also included Japan, Burma and Korea, he had a host of “rinky dink covers,” telling people he worked at the Pentagon or, when he was overseas, as a second-or-third secretary for the U.S. Embassy in that country.
“The work I did in the agency was much less dangerous and bloody than what’s going on today,” he said.
Gregg now teaches a four-week course on the CIA at Williams College and is the chairman of the Pacific Century Institute, which tries to improve America’s relationship with countries like North Korea.