Warrior: Frank Sturgis---The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro But Was Ambushed by Watergate

Warrior: Frank Sturgis---The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro But Was Ambushed by Watergate

by Jim Hunt, Bob Risch

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The press called him a "real-life James Bond."

Fidel Castro called him "the most dangerous CIA agent."

History remembers him as a Watergate burglar, yet the Watergate break-in was his least perilous mission.

Frank Sturgis—using more than thirty aliases and code names—trained guerilla armies in twelve countries on three continents and spearheaded assassination plots to overthrow foreign governments including those of Cuba, Panama, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

follows the shocking, often unbelievable adventures of Sturgis, brought to life by his nephew, Jim Hunt, and his cowriter, Bob Risch. Also included are never-before-seen personal photos of Sturgis and his compatriots.

Frank Sturgis was well-versed in a life of shadows: familiar to world leaders and underground kingpins, to spies and couterspies...Warrior is his story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765328649
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 06/19/2012
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 792,982
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ROBERT RISCH grew up in Cincinnati and moved to Boston, where he practiced law for forty years. He and coauthor Jim Hunt have known each other since the 1960s, when they recorded songs for Columbia Records. Risch has published music, poetry, history books, and literary articles. He and his wife, Nancy, share their time between Boston and Florida's west coast. They have five grown children spread throughout New England.

JIM HUNT is a trial attorney and nephew of the late Frank Sturgis. During his thirty-five–year legal career he has handled many complex civil cases and major felonies. For the last twenty-five years he has been an Adjunct Professor, teaching Law and Psychiatry, at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

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Frank Sturgis â" The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by Watergate

By Jim Hunt, Bob Risch

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2011 Jim Hunt and Robert Risch
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2124-4


From Priest to Patriot

Before the war I had strong leanings toward becoming a Catholic priest. And, if the war hadn't come about, I would have. But then the war came, and I felt very patriotic and very strong in wanting to defend this country: patriotism became a substitute for the priesthood.

Frank Sturgis,High Times magazine, April 1977

Frank Sturgis died in Miami on December 4, 1993, five days before his sixty-ninth birthday. He had gone to the VA hospital a few days earlier with stomach and back pain. The death certificate said he died of cancer, though none had been previously diagnosed. An autopsy was never performed. Less than a month before his death, Frank spent a week at the secret headquarters of an anti-Castro group, PUND (Partido de Unidad Nacional Democrático), located in the Everglades, where he conducted guerrilla survival training exercises. Frank seemed to be in good health when he returned to Miami. His only complaint was that he had what he thought was a pretty nasty bug bite on his back. He suspected it had come from a spider or some type of mosquito out in the Everglades. At the time, he recalled that six months earlier he'd gotten a similar bite on his back while standing outside the PUND headquarters in Miami. Other than that, for a man his age, he was remarkably fit. But, rather than celebrate his birthday on December 9, 1993, Frank was laid to rest.

Frank was born to Frank Angelo and Mary Fiorini on December 9, 1924, in Norfolk, Virginia. The Fiorini family was in the produce business. Frank's mother and father were both first-generation Italian-Americans. They were divorced in 1926, shortly after Frank's older sister, Carmella, was killed in a fire. From the very beginning, Frank's life was not easy. Frank and his mother left Norfolk and moved in with his maternal grandparents, the Vonas, at their house located at 5006 Wayne Avenue in Philadelphia. Also living there were Frank's aunt Katherine and her son, Joey, who was a few years younger than Frank. He was very close to his cousin and considered him a brother. (Unfortunately, Joey was later killed during the Korean War. Frank was deeply affected by his death, which he blamed on the Communists in North Korea and their ally, Red China. This was one of the factors that led Frank to become a very vocal and ardent anticommunist throughout his life.)

Frank had good memories of his childhood and received much support and encouragement from his family. He especially admired his grandfather Vona, who was a very positive male role model. Frank loved the stories and tall tales about knights and adventures in exotic locations that Grandfather Vona would make up for him when Frank was a child. Who could have known then that Frank would go on to have his own real-life adventures in such exotic locations?

Italian was spoken quite a bit in the household, so Frank grew up bilingual. As might be expected for someone with Frank's all-Italian lineage, he was raised Catholic. He went to a parochial elementary school and had vivid memories of the proverbial strict nuns who used to rap his knuckles with a ruler. He served as an altar boy in his parish and participated in practical jokes like lacing the communion wine with vodka and kneeling on the robes of the other altar boys. Despite these juvenile pranks, Frank had a deep and profound belief in Catholicism. He attended mass regularly and received the sacraments. When Frank entered high school he made serious plans to become a priest. As he said in an April 1977 High Times magazine interview,

Before the war I had strong leanings toward becoming a Catholic priest. And, if the war hadn't come about, I would have. But then the war came, and I felt very patriotic and very strong in wanting to defend this country: patriotism became a substitute for the priesthood.

For most of us, the closest we have come to a Pearl Harbor is what happened on September 11, 2001. But the attack on Pearl Harbor launched a world war fought on a much larger scale than our current wars on terrorism. Many Americans living during the 1940s had a very real fear of an armed land invasion by German or Japanese soldiers. During the first year and a half of fighting, things did not go well for the United States and its allies. Strategic islands in the South Pacific were falling to the Japanese, and the Germans had succeeded in driving British forces from the European mainland.

World War II impacted Frank in two very important ways. Like many other young men of his generation, he had strong patriotic feelings. The intensity that he brought to his religion became focused on his sense of duty and obligation to defend his country. Therefore, on October 5, 1942, in his senior year of high school, Frank joined the Marines in Philadelphia. Because he was only seventeen years old, his mother had to give her written permission. His term of enlistment was for "the duration of the national emergency." Basic training would take place at Parris Island, South Carolina. Also training there with him was the movie star Tyrone Power.

The other development that greatly influenced Frank and his later life was the decision made by FDR during the war to form two Marine raider units, patterned somewhat after British commandos who specialized in reconnaissance and hit-and-run raids behind enemy lines. The successful exploits of the British commandos as reported in the newspapers of the day provided one of the few bright spots in the way the war was going for the Allies.

On December 22, 1941, Colonel William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan sent a memo to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in which he suggested that the United States form a guerrilla corps, noting that "the whole art of guerrilla warfare lies in striking the enemy where he least expects it and yet where he is most vulnerable." He offered the British commandos as a model. It should be noted that Donovan was not an ordinary colonel. He had gone to Columbia Law School with President Roosevelt and remained a close friend. At the time Donovan wrote the memo, the president had appointed him "Coordinator of Information," which was actually the Army's spy agency that preceded the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Following World War II the OSS morphed into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Roosevelt greatly valued Donovan's opinions and ideas.

At the same time, but separate from Donovan's efforts, a Marine Corps major and an Army captain were also discussing the formation of a raider, or commando, force. Like Donovan, the Army captain was not your ordinary officer. He was James Roosevelt, the president's son. As such, he had better access to the president than did most generals, or anyone else for that matter.

Major Evans F. Carlson was no ordinary soldier either. He had joined the Army in 1912. Like Frank he was under the age limit but got by the recruiter. Some say he may have been as young as fourteen when he joined. He served under General John "Black Jack" Pershing during the Mexican Campaign. During World War I he fought in France and was wounded. When he left the Army in 1919 he was a captain. Three years later he wanted to reenlist, but the Army offered a rank below captain. Carlson refused to accept this demotion and, instead, he joined the Marines in 1923 as a private.

From 1927 to 1929 Carlson was with the Fourth Marines in Shanghai. Following that he spent three years fighting and learning guerrilla tactics in the jungles and mountains of Nicaragua during the campaign to capture the revolutionary rebel Augusto Sandino. He went back to China as an "observer" and watched as the Japanese seized control of Shanghai. The Marines gave him permission to accompany the Chinese Communist Party's Eighth Route Army under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung as they fought against the Japanese. It was during this period that Carlson formulated many of his ideas about guerrilla warfare. He greatly admired the strategy and discipline of Mao's army. Carlson wrote several books praising the Red Army, Mao, and Chou En-lai. He predicted (accurately as it turns out) that the Communists would ultimately defeat the Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek. In the years before Pearl Harbor, Carlson urged the Marines and the U.S. government to provide more support to the Chinese Communists in their efforts against Japan. This advice was ignored, so Carlson resigned his Marine Corps commission in 1939.

But, in keeping with his sense of patriotism, Carlson rejoined the Marines in April 1941 and eventually achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. He developed a friendship with Captain James Roosevelt, who firmly believed that guerrilla warfare tactics could be crucial to winning the war, especially in the Pacific Islands. They met and discussed the value of forming raider units as a part of the Marine Corps. As a result of their efforts, on January 13, 1942, Captain Roosevelt sent a letter to Marine Commandant General Thomas Holcomb recommending the creation of "a unit for purposes similar to [those of] the British Commandos and the Chinese Guerillas."

The letter was only two pages long, but it contained two detailed appendices prepared by Carlson setting out the organization and training of these fighting units. In contrast to the usual Marine chain of command protocol, Carlson did away with traditional ranks, dividing the unit into "leaders" and "fighters." Whenever possible, decisions in the battlefield would be based on input from all involved. Carlson believed that a "closer relationship" between leaders and fighters was essential to waging a successful guerrilla war. The training would include survival tactics and amphibious assaults. Since the 1930s, the Marines had been conducting exercises on Caribbean islands using rubber boats holding up to ten men; this became the basic structure for deployment of the raider brigades.

Frank talked about the special raider training in the 1977 High Times interview.

Not ever having killed a person in my life, then being trained and brainwashed to kill people in all different aspects of warfare and in hand-to-hand combat. Killing people in so many different manners. Going behind lines. Killing people with stilettos. With a knife. Silent killing. I was trained at this and I was very good at it.

In addition to these killing skills, the raiders were trained to be highly mobile and to strike quickly. They were generally the first to land during the island-hopping campaign that eventually succeeded in removing the Japanese from the Pacific Theater. They often worked behind enemy lines conducting surveillance and disrupting enemy communications. To be a raider meant that you were in top physical shape and possessed the intelligence, bravery, and cunning to carry out these dangerous missions.

Interestingly, the letter that President Roosevelt's son sent to Marine Commandant Holcomb was not well received by much of the Marine brass. They believed that any Marine should be able to fulfill the role of raider and that the creation of special brigades was just another layer of bureaucracy that would siphon qualified men from the limited pool the Marines had.

The other thing that caused controversy was the rumor (and belief by some) that Carlson was a communist. He certainly was a Sinophile, at least when it came to Mao and the Red Army, but Carlson was too much of a patriot to be labeled a communist. And it should be remembered that his admiration for the Red Chinese predated the Cold War, at a time when the communist Soviet Union was our ally in the fight against Germany and Japan.

Despite the resistance, the Marine Raiders officially came into existence in February 1942. Carlson was put in charge of the Second Battalion, which was stationed in San Diego. For leadership of the First Battalion, Holcomb selected Merritt "Red Mike" Edson. Like Carlson, Edson was a veteran of the Mexican Campaign and World War I, and he also fought in the "Banana Wars" in Central America. During the 1920s Edson commanded a 160-man unit in the jungles of Nicaragua in an effort to rid that country of the so-called bandito Augusto Sandino, for which he received his first Navy Cross for valor. Edson's experiences in Central America gave him a great deal of expertise in guerrilla war tactics.

The other common thread between Carlson and Edson was that the latter had also spent time in China shortly before Pearl Harbor and saw with his own eyes Japanese combat techniques as the Japanese took over the city of Shanghai in 1937. He would later use this knowledge to America's advantage against the Japanese during the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

Edson organized the First Battalion into eight-man squads. They initially trained at Quantico, Virginia, using the Potomac River for rubber boat exercises. Training emphasized weapons, marksmanship, demolitions, hand-to-hand fighting, and rigorous physical training. Edson expected his Raiders to average a pace of seven miles per hour on hikes, which is two times faster than ordinary infantry. His chain of command was more traditional than that used by Carlson in the Second Battalion, but he still allowed subordinates to speak their mind. Both battalions used the battle cry "Gung ho!" — Chinese for "work together."

At one time Frank possessed a fairly detailed file of his entire military record. Unfortunately it was literally blown away by Hurricane Andrew. Most of the government file is also not available. This may be due to a fire in the 1970s at the VA records facility located in St. Louis; or, as has been the case in other instances, much of his record may still be classified. A VA records request did generate five pages of Frank's Marine Corps record. He enlisted as "Frank Angelo Fiorini" in Philadelphia on October 5, 1942. His rank is listed as "private." He was immediately sent to Parris Island for basic training. On November 2, 1942, Frank was qualified in bayonet fighting and use of automatic weapons. By the twenty-seventh of that month he was certified as a "sharpshooter" on the rifle range.

Following basic training Frank was selected for Edson's Raiders and joined the unit in Samoa. This is where he first learned and utilized guerrilla war tactics. He was wounded two times, and in each instance he "jumped the hospital ship" before he was supposed to be released so he could rejoin his unit. He downplayed the severity of his wounds because he was afraid he might be shipped home. As he said, "I guess I was a little crazy."

According to author A. J. Weberman, Frank's unit received a special commendation from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal for valor during fighting on New Georgia Island during July, August, and September 1943. Frank received a second commendation for combat during the invasion of Guam in July and August 1944. At that time he was also awarded a Purple Heart for his battle wounds, a bullet to his right wrist and a bayonet through his left foot. Frank also fought the Japanese on Guadalcanal, Emirau Island, and Okinawa.

Frank's "U.S. Marine Corps Report of Separation" lists his "military specialties" as "machine gun crewman, message center man, rifleman (F.T. leader) and Photostat operator." The "F.T." stands for "Fire Team," a Marine combat configuration consisting of four enlisted men usually operating Browning automatic rifles. Frank was farsighted, which gave him a big advantage in qualifying as a sharpshooter and a sniper. In his testimony before the Rockefeller Commission in 1975 Frank said, "So I was considered, with my Marine training for those years, to be an expert in all types of weapons."

In addition to his battle scars, Frank suffered from malaria during the war. Throughout his life, this disease would occasionally flare up and he would have to take large amounts of quinine and aspirin. At the end of the war Frank received an honorable discharge. He sailed home from Guam on May 30, 1945, and arrived in Seattle on June 17. His initial discharge from the Marines was at the ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, which was being used by the Navy as a processing center. Because he was suffering from battle fatigue, or what was then called "war neurosis," he spent thirty days in treatment at a psychiatric facility in Klamath Falls, Oregon, prior to discharge.

During the 1977 interview Frank talked about what caused this condition:

I didn't realize that volunteering to join the service would radically change my whole concept of life. I was wounded twice. I received several medals and commendations. My last major operation was in Okinawa. I was sent back from a hospital ship with shell shock. They called it "psychoneurosis hysteria." I jumped ship many times to get back to my unit.

According to military psychiatrist Dr. Roy Grinker, the incidence of war neurosis increased 300 percent during World War II when compared to World War I. However, he divided this number into four groups, ranging from those who had just been inducted and might be looking for a way out of the military and the true sufferers like Frank whose condition arose from actual extended combat experiences. Symptoms included insomnia, weight loss, nightmares, indecision, fatigue, anxiety, and an inability to stop thinking about the horrors of combat.


Excerpted from Warrior by Jim Hunt, Bob Risch. Copyright © 2011 Jim Hunt and Robert Risch. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Preface 11

Prologue 15

1 From Priest To Patriot 19

2 A Spy Is Born 30

3 The Cuban Revolution 35

4 Anti-Communist 46

5 Anti-Castro 64

6 The Bay of Pigs 82

7 Missiles, Missions, and the Sword 94

8 Watergate-The Burglary 111

9 Watergate-Law and Disorder 150

10 The Assassination of a President 210

11 Angola 247

12 It Was Always About Cuba 264

13 Uncle Frank 278

Cast of Characters 301

Frank Sturgis Time Line 311

Notes 315

Index 325

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