Barbara Robbins Memorialized in AFSA’s Plaque, Now Officially Claimed by the CIA

WaPo has an interesting piece on Barbara Robbins, a slain CIA secretary’s life and death.  She is listed in AFSA’s Memorial Plaque as a State Department employee killed in the line of duty.  Her name was apparently added in 1965.

Screen capture from AFSA’s Memorial Plaque

Last year, during the CIA’s annual memorial ceremony, then Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to Ms. Robbins, the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War, and the first Agency officer killed in Vietnam. Via YouTube/CIA: “CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed on March 30, 1965, in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Her name was added to the CIA’s Book of honor, which lists Agency officers who died while serving their country.”

After 46 years, the CIA has now publicly acknowledged her as one of their own.

Excerpt below from the WaPo article:

The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.
In 1961, Robbins headed off to a secretary’s school at Colorado State University and, after two years, somehow got recruited by the CIA. She wanted to combat the rise of communism. When she went to Washington in 1963, Warren said the family knew she was working for the agency. But they thought her Vietnam posting was with the State Department.
The car bomb killed Robbins, another American and several Vietnamese, and injured at least 100 more. The secretary’s name and photo were splashed across the country’s newspapers: the Washington Daily News, Stars and Stripes, the New York Daily News — all describing her as a State Department employee.

Her body was flown back to Denver, and a funeral was held April 3, 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk each sent sympathy telegrams to the Robbins family.

That year, the State Department held a ceremony honoring Robbins, placing her name on a plaque in its main lobby.

Continue reading, Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death.

Click here to view some 20 photos related to Barbara Robbins, including old State Department, US Army and family photographs.

There is another interesting item in the WaPo article.  In the late morning on March 30, 1965, the CIA secretaries inside the U.S. embassy heard loud pop-pop sounds outside. Four of them ran to the deputy chief of station’s office to peer out the windows. “The enormous thud propelled everyone backward. The iron grates and windows shot out into the office like knives. The boxy air-conditioning units blew into the offices like little bombs.”

Thirty-three years later, on August 7, 1998, in the aftermath of a truck bomb at US Embassy Nairobi, the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report cited a similar window scene: “In the several seconds time lapse* between the gunshots/grenade explosion and the detonation of the truck bomb, many embassy employees went to the windows to observe what was happening. Those who did were either killed or seriously injured.”

Domani Spero

2 responses

  1. Please let me have your good email address.. the story re the Promotion List is being overtaken .. the list with diversity numbers is coming out in State Mag.. soon..

    Not sure why they gave you the run arouind. but thanks for raising it..

    cheers Tex Harris

    • Thanks for the note, Tex.I’m sending you an email. That’s just it — if the promotion stats is coming out in State Mag as it has done in the last many years, why is the cable announcing the promotion stats protected by these various “authorities?” And they say the government has a problem with over-classification?