Tucker Gougelmann, a U.S. Marine Corps Colonel, joined the CIA after his retirement from the Corps. He served in special operations during the Korean War, inserting agents behind the lines in North Korean. He also reportedly was involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in July 1961.
In 1962 he came to Vietnam and took over the covert maritime operations effort jointly with the South Vietnamese Presidential Survey Office operating from Da Nang. Assisting him in 1963 was a young plankholder from Seal Team One, Lieutenant Phil Holts.
In April 1964, much of the covert marops function was turned over to MACSOG's covert maritime group. Even after the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officers arrived at Da Nang, Gougelmann continued to direct most covert maritime operations against North Vietnam launched from Da Nang, particularly the covert Swift boat raids using Taiwanese naval officers under cover as Chinese civilians and under contract to CIA, until Tucker and the Taiwanese departed Da Nang in the spring of 1965.
After departing the covert marops program, Tucker went on after several years to work with the CIA Station Saigon with the South Vietnamese National Police Special Branch, the domestic counterintelligence service.
Tucker left Vietnam before the final surrender and was in Bangkok, a civilian. Against the advice of others, Tucker returned to Saigon in an attempt to assist in the evacuation of a large number of Vietnamese women and children. He was stranded there. Shortly before his arrest in Saigon that summer, he met on Truong Minh Giang Street with one of the Vietnamese officers he had known during the war. His last words were, “I'm still in the battle.”
Tucker was arrested by the police and imprisoned in Wing ED of Chi Hoa Prison, the main prison in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. He was seen by many Vietnamese imprisoned in Chi Hoa. Wing ED was managed by the General Directoate of State Security of the Ministry of Interior, as it became known, formerly known as the Ministry of Public Security. Tucker was taken out for repeated interrogations and his health deteriorated. He died at Chi Hoa and was buried there after his death in the summer of 1976. His remains were repatriated in 1977.
As I note in an endnote in Secret Army, Secret War, his skeletal remains contained evidence of over 30 bone breaks. How many of those occurred after his arrest I do not know.
Tucker was buried in Arlington National Cemetary beside Francis Gary Powers. His Quaker funeral was certainly unusual to many old CIA hands who attended it.
Today, many young Americans of Vietnamese ancestry owe their lives and their education to Tucker's years of generosity during which he personally paid for them to come to the United States to have a better life and a good education. Tucker was an old warhorse in the finest tradition of the Corps. He fought the good fight to the bitter end. His sister was always bitter that CIA had not rescued her brother prior to his death.
Tucker Gougelmann, a colorful CIA paramilitary specialist who had served as a Marine in the Pacific, lost a foot in Korea, and run agency missions into Eastern Europe.
Gouglemann was retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel whom the North Vietnamese Army suspected of being CIA. He was essentially tortured to death. His remains were returned in 1984.
“During the last week in April  a retired CIA officer named Tucker Gougelmann, who had previously worked in Saigon, returned to look for Vietnamese friends, somehow missed the final helo-lift, and was later captured by the North Vietnamese. Interrogated by the Soviet KGB and other intelligence organizations, he died in captivity a year later. What he disclosed under questioning has not been determined. His knowledge of CIA operations and personnel both in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia was considerable.”
Doug Valentine quotes CIA officer John Muldoon who became chief of the Provisional Interrogation Centers (PICs) that were built in every province after 1965 (April 1965). Re:chief of Special Branch and field operations Tucker Gouglemann]: “John Muldoon spoke affectionately about Tucker Gouglemann. ‘Tucker was loud and foulmouthed, and he had a terrible temper; but it was all a
big front. He was very easy to get to know…a likable guy. Always in short-sleeved shirt and sneakers. He was married three times, divorced three times. He had adopted a girl in Korea, and in Vietnam he had what he called his family. He was back in Saigon trying to get them out when he was picked up. When the evacuation was over, he was still there, staying in the hotel. One day he came down, got off the elevator, walked into the lobby, and they were waiting for him. They took him out, threw him in a car, and took him to the National Police Interrogation Center. A French newspaper guy saw it happen. The North Vietnamese denied they had him, but they returned his body about a year later.’
‘It’s funny, but me and Tucker used to talk about the PICs. He said something like “John, if we lose this war one day, we could end up in these goddammed things if we get caught.”
‘Well,” I asked, “What would you do if you were in there?”
‘He said he thought he’s kill himself rather than go through interrogation. But he didn’t. The report I heard was that when his body got to the graves registration people in Okinawa, the broken bones had yet to heal. So obviously they had tortured him right up until the time he died. And I’d be willing to bet he didn’t say a damn thing to help them. I can see him spitting in their faces.’
“Muldoon laughed. ‘Tucker wanted to turn the PICs into whorehouses. The interrogation rooms had two-way mirrors. ’”
‘Tucker was a hero in the Marine Corps in World War Two,’ Muldoon added. ‘He joined the agency right after and worked with [station chief] John Hart in Korea, running operations behind the lines. He was in Afghanistan and worked in training too. He got to Vietnam in 1962 and was base chief in Da Nang running everything that had to do with intelligence and paramilitary operations….He was no longer the Da Nang base chief when I arrived in Saigon …. He was in Saigon trying to set up the Province Intelligence Coordination Committee with Jack Barlow, a British guy from MI Six.Barlow had been in Africa and Malaya with Robert Thompson, and they were the experts.’ ”
GOUGLEMANN, TUCKER P. E.
- Name: Tucker P.E. Gougleman
- Branch/Rank: CIVILIAN
- Date of Birth:
- Home City of Record:
- Date of Loss: 29 March 1975
- Country of Loss: South Vietnam
- Loss Coordinates: 104500 North 1064000 East
- Status (in 1973):
- Category: 1
- Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: GROUND
- Other Personnel in Incident:
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Updated 2001.
REMARKS: 09/30/77 REMAINS RETURNED BY SRV
….In the case of Tucker Gouglemann a CIA operative who vanished in Saigon as Communist forces advanced on the capitol in April 1973; 18 months after he disappeared, his body was turned over to the U.S. and his captors had showed him no mercy; virtually every bone in his body had been expertly and brutally broken….
Belmont, MA 02178
…. The Missing
The Reds lie whenever it suits their purpose. For example, in 1975 when they were denying they held any Americans in captivity, retired C.I.A. officer Tucker Gouggelman was in Saigon's Chi Hoa prison. The Soviet K.G.B. was reportedly called in to help interrogate him. In any event, Mr. Gouggelman “died” in 1976 and his body – which the enemy denied having – was shipped home a year later…..
UNREPATRIATED AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR
…..Montgomery specifically asked the Vietnamese about two Americans – Arlo Gay, a civilian who was known to have been captured in the Mekong delta in early 1975, and Tucker Gouggleman, a retired CIA agent who was thought to be held in Saigon. He was told that those Americans were not held by the Vietnamese. (Arlo Gay was released in September of 1976 and said that in December 1975 he was in Son Tay prison, outside Hanoi. Gouggleman's fate would become known later.)…..
VIETNAMESE EXPOSE THEIR OWN LIE
…..The day before the delegation was scheduled to leave, the Vietnamese unexpectedly offered to hand over twelve sets of American remains. In addition, they said, they would hand over the remains of Tucker Gouggleman who had, unfortunately, died in a Saigon prison in the summer of 1976! According to Dr. Shields, Montgomery “didn't blink an eye”, and no further questions were asked. Montgomery left Hanoi convinced, once again, that there were no Americans alive in Vietnam….
….It is interesting to note that: (1) Jimmy Carter was the newly-elected president when the Vietnamese handed over the recently deceased remains of Tucker Gouggleman a year and a half after they had claimed he was not in their hands, and when the Lao made ready to hand to Leonard Woodcock a list of half the Americans in their control; (2) Ronald Reagan was the newly-elected president when the Vietnamese secretly offered to sell U.S. POWs for $4 billion; (3) George Bush's
inauguration day was selected by the Vietnamese to send Yoshida to tell the world that he was held with American POWs.
With each new U.S. Administration, the Vietnamese have made an overture,
apparently in the hope that a new course will be taken. Each time they have been disappointed, and it is continually made clear to them that the USG, under every Administration, is anxious to let the issue, like the POWs, die……………..
The Bamboo Cage, by Nigel Cawthorn
The Full Story of the American Servicemen still held hostage in South-East Asia.
…. The only American known to have been in Chi Hoa prison after April, 1975, and not repatriated was a civilian called Tucker Gougelmann. The Vietnamese say he died in June, 1976.
Before the Woodcock Commission moved on to Laos, the Vietnamese handed
over the remains of twelve more US pilots, plus the remains of another American who had died in jail in Saigon in 1976. His name was Tucker Gougelmann. A former employee of the CIA, Gougelrnann was captured after he returned to Vietnam in April, 1975, in order to bring out his adopted children. He was one of the missing men that the Montgomery Commission had asked about, but, like Rhee, Gay, Weatherman and Garwood, the Vietnamese claimed that they knew nothing about him………….
CIA honors ex-agent slain in Vietnam
June 8, 2001
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Central Intelligence Agency carved a new black
star into its white marble memorial wall to mark the death of a former officer killed after 11 months of torture in Vietnam in 1976, the CIA said on Friday.
The 78th star on the wall of the lobby at CIA headquarters commemorated Tucker Gougelmann, who died in the summer of 1976 in Vietnam after being captured by the North Vietnamese.
At that time he was retired from the CIA following a 23-year career that included postings in Europe, Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam.
Gougelmann was a private businessman living in Thailand who returned to Saigon in the spring of 1975, after North Vietnam launched a major offensive, to try to secure departure for a group of orphans he had sponsored over the years, the CIA said.
“After missing the final flight out of Saigon, he was captured and disappeared into a dank prison cell, where he was tortured because of his past affiliation with CIA,” the agency said.
Gougelmann had not been added to the wall of stars earlier because of a previous policy that only CIA employees who died in the line of duty could be honored there.
Recently the criteria were broadened, and it was determined that although Gougelmann had retired in 1972 from the CIA, his death resulted from his past affiliation with the U.S. spy agency, the CIA said.
His name was also entered into the “Book of Honor” that sits below the etched stars on the wall. The book identifies 43 of the 78 stars, while the rest are blank spaces representing CIA employees who to this day cannot be identified for security reasons.
“Through multiple tours of risk and fire, Tucker was everything his country, his agency, and his colleagues could ever ask of a senior officer,” Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin said on Friday at an annual memorial ceremony.
“Time and again, he and those he led acquired the battlefield intelligence that saved American and South Vietnamese lives,” he said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8 June 2001
CIA COMMEMORATES 78TH STAR AT MEMORIAL CEREMONY
McLean, Virginia – At its annual Memorial Ceremony this morning, the CIA formally commemorated the 78th star on its Memorial Wall, honoring former Agency officer Tucker Gougelmann, who died in Vietnam in the summer of 1976 after 11 months of torture.
Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) John E. McLaughlin, who presided at the ceremony because Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet is currently in the Mideast, said the 78 stars on the Memorial Wall “are to us more than symbols, more than history. They are a priceless part of who we are. They are the colleagues and leaders who define us — in dedication and in sacrifice. It is in this new century their mission we seek to accomplish. And it is their commitment of which we seek to be worthy.”
Speaking to the families of CIA officers who have died in the line of duty, as well as the several hundred employees who also attended the ceremony, McLaughlin said, “Those who seek the essence of our Agency — its ethic, its spirit, its drive — need only come to this wall. For each day, in this building and throughout the world, the men and women of the CIA strive to keep faith with those whose extraordinary commitment we honor here.”
McLaughlin lauded Gougelmann, a paramilitary officer who retired from the Agency in 1972 after a 23-year career that included service in Europe, Afghanistan, Korea, and Vietnam. Gougelmann had returned to Saigon in the spring of 1975 — right after North Vietnam launched a major offensive — to try to secure exit visas for loved ones. After missing the final flight out of Saigon, he was captured and disappeared into a dank prison cell, where he was tortured because of his past affiliation with CIA.
Noting that Gougelmann joined CIA in 1949, McLaughlin said he was “part of the remarkable generation that first set the tone of daring and determination that — more than a half century later — still moves and motivates the men and women of the CIA.”
“Through multiple tours of risk and fire, Tucker was everything his country, his Agency, and his colleagues could ever ask of a senior officer,” McLaughlin said.
Describing Gougelmann as “a formidable foe of the communist guerrillas in the South and of their masters in the North,” the DDCI added: “Time and again, he and those he led acquired the battlefield intelligence that saved American and South Vietnamese lives.
The decision to honor Gougelmann with a Memorial Star and place his name in the CIA's Book of Honor was made after Agency officials recently broadened the criteria for inclusion on the Memorial Wall. It was determined that although Gougelmann did not die in the line of duty while employed by CIA, his past affiliation with the Agency led to his death.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard