—A Job Well Done—
CIA Commendations Proposed for AJAX
Aug. 1953: Agency Pleased With “Successful Result” of Coup

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| August 21, 2014      


CIA Commendations Proposed for Operation AJAX (August 1953)

On Monday, August 17, 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was reeling over its apparent failure to overthrow Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh.

By Thursday—one day after Mossadegh was overthrown—the CIA was already eager to commend its people for a job well done.

In an August 20th “eyes only” memo, Deputy Director Frank Wisner besought CIA chief Allen Dulles to personally commend the communications department for its “energy and efficiency” in such tasks as keeping Washington abreast of the rapidly evolving developments in Tehran. Wisner suggested Dulles consult Major General Harold M. McClelland, the CIA’s Assistant Director for Communications, for support. Wisner's handwritten note at the end of the typed memo added that the CIA’s John Waller echoed the sentiment to praise its own...



SECRET
Security Information

EYES ONLY

20 August 1953


MEMORANDUM FOR: The Acting Director of Central Intelligence

SUBJECT: Proposed Commendation for Communications Personnel who have serviced the TPAJAX Operation.

1. A suggestion has been made to me which I heartily endorse and pass on to you as a recommendation for your action -- that the communications personnel who have serviced the TPAJAX operation receive a special commendation from you. If you agree that such a commendation should be given, I should appreciate it if you could associate myself and our staff personnel, who are aware of the long hours of hard work put in by the communications people, with the commendation.

2. I am sure that you are aware of the exceptionally heavy volume of traffic which this operation has necessitated. The communications personnel involved have conducted themselves with conspicuous energy and efficiency. Although I do not know all the facts, I am sure that many of them worked extra hours and throughout the nights. Just one illustration of the zeal which has marked their activities is the fact that on the first messages from Teheran yesterday the communications people beat our estimated deadline (as to the earliest time we could expect to have the messages in front of us) by nearly two hours. I was also most favorably impressed by the serious and expeditious treatment of the midnight message to the Director ████████ about which I called you.

3. My suggestion would be that you address the proposed commendation to General McClelland, to be shown by him to all hands, both here and in the field, who were involved. If you approve of this suggestion, I will be glad to draw up the commendation for your signature -- that is unless you would prefer to do so yourself.

█████████
█████████,
FRANK G. WISNER
Deputy Director (Plans)


John Waller concurs in this recommendation and has commented very favorably on the “savvy”, demonstrated by the Commu. people. FGW



On August 24th, John Waller issued his own memo regarding the commendation of CIA personnel. As that memo has yet to be released, and a response to the discussion is heavily censored, it’s impossible to know which personnel he was referencing.

John Waller By August 26th, Wisner nominated Mr. Waller, who headed the CIA’s Iran desk, for demonstrating “diligence, intelligence, and high level of judgment” in managing Operation Ajax. And here’s where it begins to get confusing—on the same day, another memo, this one so heavily excised even the author and recipient are removed, began by stating that Waller, whom Wisner had previously claimed had endorsed commendations, was “troubled about the security implications” involved. Again, there’s no way of knowing which particular commendation(s) he had in mind, and whether he was more concerned with exposure risks or the safety of their men.



SECRET
Security Information

EYES ONLY

26 August 1953


MEMORANDUM FOR: CNEA DIVISION

SUBJECT: Commendation

1. While you have expressed your appreciation of Headquarters support, and particularly that of John Waller, CNEA████ this is to notify you formally and officially, that John Waller is to be commended for his work in TPAJAX.

2. From the time the operation began to develop, up to the peak and through this follow-up phase, he has demonstrated diligence, intelligence, and high level of judgment in his support to the field action. He manifested a real appreciation of the field activities and the appropriate support that Headquarters could furnish. He further demonstrated a high level of ability to deal with and elicit guidance of senior State Department officers. Throughout, he maintained calmness and objectivity which, in no small measure, contributed to the successful result.

FRANK G. WISNER
Deputy Director (Plans)



From a historian’s perspective, it would be useful to ascertain which, if any, personnel received CIA commendations. The only one we have seen is Allen Dulles’ January 30, 1954 letter to Donald Wilber, which, remarkably, the CIA apparently wasn’t even aware of. Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. received the National Security Medal medal in a back room ceremony in September 1953, but that was from the President, not the agency.

Incomplete as they are, these documents underscore once again how impressed the CIA was with their various monkeyshines, determined internally to be of serious consequence in the now legendary 1953 coup in Iran.


SECRET
Security Information

EYES ONLY

26 August 1953


MEMORANDUM FOR: ████████

SUBJECT: Letter of Commendation █████████████████

REFERENCE: Mr. Waller’s memo of 24 Aug. to DD/P, same subject

Mr. Wisner asked me to tell you that he is troubled about the security implications of a CIA letter of commendation ███████████████████████████████████████
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Notes:

These documents, transcribed and examined here for the first time, were released by the CIA in June 2011 per a Freedom of Information Request from GWU's National Security Archive, who made them available in August 2013 — [link]





Related links:

A ‘How To’ Guide To Installing Dictatorship: Inside the Top Secret State Dept. Document

THE FOLLY OF COUP-DENIAL: Negating History For Political Expediency | Arash Norouzi

A “Major Victory” for the CIA—Allen Welsh Dulles Praises Iran Coup in Secret Letter



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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