Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - Spies
Richard Welch served in the CIA as a station chief and enjoyed a long career in the organization. While he enjoyed a long career, what makes the story about Richard Welch very interesting is that he also made the biggest sacrifice and lost his life to assassination because of working for the CIA.
While many would not know of Welch for his work in his lifetime, the assassination of a CIA operative caused uproar within the higher echelons of the American intelligence and political circles. Read on to find out more about Richard Welch and the sacrifice he gave.
Early Years of Richard Welch
On the 14th December in the year 1929 Richard Welch was born into this world. Hartford, Connecticut was where he was brought up by his loving parents and when he reached university age they supported him in going to the prestigious Harvard University.
At 22 years of age in 1951 Welch graduated from University with top marks in his degree, it was here that he decided to take up the challenge of working for the CIA.
Richard Welch in the CIA
The CIA took Welch on as one of their own. The first position he held within the CIA was that of a case officer, a position where he got to travel the world to places such as Peru, Guyana, Guatemala and Cyprus which was something he truly enjoyed. Although Welch enjoyed travelling there was one country he loved more than any, this country was Greece where he spent many of his early years as a case officer.
After being in the CIA for 23 years Welch had rose to the loft rank of CIA Station Chief (COS) and in the summer months of 1974 was asked if he would like to become Station Chief in Athens Greece. Welch jumped at the opportunity of going back to Greece, a country he loved so much.
When back in Athens Welch carried on being a success for a year and six months, this was until the 23rd December 1975.
Richard Welch Assassination
On the night of the 23rd December 1975 the Welch family went out for an enjoyable evening at the American Ambassadors home where a Christmas party was being held. After the party the Welch family drove back to their residence, it was here that the family’s life would change forever.
Reports say that upon reaching the main gate to their home Richard Welch got out the car to open the gates while his family stayed in the car. When he reached the gates a man called out to him and when Welch turned he was shot and killed, his family were not injured in the assassination.
The murder was the first assassination of a CIA officer in what was deemed to be a terrorist action. The murder was also one of the first murders (out of 23) carried out by the Greek Marxist urban guerrilla organization Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) who formed in the same year Welch was murdered.
The reason 17N knew who Welch was came about as two Greek newspapers and an East German magazine gave his name, and in some circumstances his address as a CIA operative in publication.
The men who committed the murder of Welch were found in 2002 but as over 20 years had lapsed since his murder they could not be convicted. The reason for this is that a 20-year statute of limitations had been put in place so after twenty years if the perpetrators were found they could not be convicted.
The murder of Welch made the United States government create a new Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 which makes it illegal for any American Intelligence Agencies agent names to be published or revealed in any manner.
Welch was a respected and hard working CIA operative and for making the biggest sacrifice President Gerald Ford approved for Welch to be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, thus giving him a true hero’s burial.