“IN HONOR OF THOSE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY”
Memorial at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia
“James McGrath joined CIA in 1951 … He was searching for a better future and saw in the Agency a place that would both use his skills and satisfy his desire to serve. Asia was the natural choice for his first tour of duty. He had spent most of his time in the Navy there. And, in less than four years, he rose from GS-5 to GS-11—a testament to his talent, and a reflection of the high regard his colleagues had for him.”
General Mike Hayden — Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony)
July 22 2019 — Currently, there are 133 stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall: 93 are unclassified. Who are those men and women? When did they die? Why are they honored by a star? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: The CIA Book of Honor — Star 78 : Tucker Gougelmann
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In 1974, the CIA dedicated the Memorial Wall with 31 stars in 1974 to honor those who had fallen since the Agency’s founding in 1947.
Since the attacks of September 11 2001, 55 stars have been added to the Book of Honor and the Memorial Wall.
During the 2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony, four stars were added to the Wall.
Why This Series?
The book is a very good source of information. Its Amazon page reads:
A national bestseller, this extraordinary work of investigative reporting uncovers the identities, and the remarkable stories, of the CIA secret agents who died anonymously in the service of their country.
In the entrance of the CIA headquarters looms a huge marble wall into which seventy-one stars are carved-each representing an agent who has died in the line of duty. Official CIA records only name thirty-five of them, however.
Undeterred by claims that revealing the identities of these “nameless stars” might compromise national security, Ted Gup sorted through thousands of documents and interviewed over 400 CIA officers in his attempt to bring their long-hidden stories to light.
The result of this extraordinary work of investigation is a surprising glimpse at the real lives of secret agents, and an unprecedented history of the most compelling—and controversial—department of the US government.
However, the book was published in May 2001, and the number of stars on the CIA wall has almost doubled since then. Many of these additional stars are nameless. But even the named ones have not been the object of a systematic study, let alone a book.
Please, keep in mind that if the US Congress decides to pass the new version of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), Gup’s book would have been illegal.
On May 20 2019, the Washington Post revealed the name of Ranya Abdelsayed (04/28/1979) who joined the CIA in 2006. On August 28 2013, while serving in Afghanistan, she committed suicide. Again, such disclosure will no longer be possible if the expanded version of the IIPA is passed.
This being said, we now return to the subject of this post: CIA star 84.
The 2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony
These stars honor James McGrath, Stephen Kasarda, Gregory R. Wright and Rachel Dean.
Comment 1 — You will notice that no ceremonies were held in 2005 and 2006. Why? I do not know the answer, but obviously, Porter Johnston Goss was the last Director of Central Intelligence (DCI — September 24, 2004 – April 21, 2005) and the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (April 21, 2005 – May 5, 2006) following the passage of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which abolished the DCI position and replaced it with the Director of National Intelligence on April 21, 2005.
Comment 2 — Although the name of Gregory R. Wright was not made public at the time of the ceremony, it was eventually disclosed. However, the CA has posted contradictory pieces of information regarding his star. I will discuss this issue in a following post.
Comment 3 — When the CIA honor several officers with a star during the same ceremony, I have no way of knowing the star number of a given individual. However, according to the CIA, Rachel Dean is star 87. I will therefore assume that — in such case — the stars are ranked according to the year of death.
Star 84 : James McGrath (October 24, 1927 – January 1957)
James McGrath joined CIA in 1951. In January 1957, he died at age 29 while servicing a high-power transmitter in Germany.
In January 1957, the CIA lost one of its own. James McGrath was repairing a broken transmitter in Germany when he died.
James was born in Middletown, Connecticut on October 24, 1927. After graduating from high school in 1945, James enlisted in the United States Navy.
During his time with the Navy, he served as a radar and communications technician aboard US Navy ships in the Far East. He served honorably until his discharge in 1948.
After his discharge, James returned to Connecticut where he worked as an electrical repairman. He applied to the CIA and was hired in February 1951.
Life at CIA
During the 2007 dedication and memorial ceremony, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Mike Hayden said of James, “James McGrath joined CIA in 1951 … He was searching for a better future and saw in the Agency a place that would both use his skills and satisfy his desire to serve. Asia was the natural choice for his first tour of duty. He had spent most of his time in the Navy there. And, in less than four years, he rose from GS-5 to GS-11—a testament to his talent, and a reflection of the high regard his colleagues had for him.”
In his performance appraisals, McGrath’s supervisors praised his extraordinary initiative, sense of responsibility, and ability to get things done. During his successful tour with the Asia Communications Area, he was transferred from operations support to engineering.
Soon James was assigned to Germany, where the Cold War standoff between liberty and tyranny was still in its first decade. He and his team of officers were responsible for maintaining and operating a transmitter site in Germany.
“When information our country needed was in short supply, James helped pull back the Iron Curtain.” Hayden said during the ceremony.
On the day he died, James was repairing a broken transmitter—essential work—when, in a terrible accident, he was electrocuted. He was 29. He was survived by his wife, who was expecting their second child, their daughter, and his parents.
Remembering James McGrath
The CIA honored McGrath with a star on the CIA Memorial Wall in 2007. He is remembered for his bravery and dedication. His name is included in the CIA Book of Honor. [CIA Website]
PS: I was not able to find a picture of James McGrath. If you wish to send me one, it would be greatly appreciated.
July 1974 — The Memorial Wall is created; 31 stars chiseled into the marble.
1987 — First Memorial Ceremony is held with Deputy Director Robert M. Gates presiding; number of stars on the wall has grown to 50.
1997 — 70 stars, 29 of which had names
2002 — 79 stars
2004 — 83 stars
2009 — 90 stars
2013 — 107 stars
2014 — 111 stars
2016 — 117 stars
May 2017 — 8 new stars; 125 stars chiseled into the wall
May 2018 — 4 new stars; 129 stars
May 2019 — 4 new stars; 133 stars
Remembering CIA’s Heroes: James J. McGrath — CIA Website
CIA Adds Four Stars to Memorial Wall (May 21, 2007) — CIA Website
The CIA Book of Honor — Stars 84 : James McGrath (October 24, 1927 – January 1957)