Letter of the Month October 1996

From Burt Wilson

Hitler's SS was a self-sustaining organization, getting its funds from
running the dope cartel in Europe and also brothels, gambling, etc.
As you state in your JFK book, we collected many German agents after WWII
and took them back to become CIA operatives. Did they influence the CIA
to get into the drug business to create its own income?
I would like to hear your take on this.
Best wishes,
Burt Wilson

Reply from Col. Prouty

Putting Hitler's SS deep into the drug business - at least during the war - is not the big drug story. After all, look at the geography. Hitler did over-run a good bit of Europe; but he did not get drug producing territory. We were in Turkey more than he was.

But there is a big story about drugs and the war. When we were joined by the British and Chinese to drive against the Japanese through Burma, it was our responsibility to pay the troops. I was with the Air Transport Command in Cairo then. We sent a transport plane every month with the Finance Officers to Burma so they could physically pay the troops with cash.

These men had "foot-lockers" full of cash: American for the Americans, British for the British and foot-lockers packed with small white envelopes of heroin to pay the Chinese. That was the customary Chinese "pay".

We knew where the American and British currency came from; but we didnot know.. positively, where the heroin came from. But the Army finance men did,k and they never gave up the contacts. Since we were in Egypt we believed that it came from Turnkey where we had easy access at the time. I flew people to Turkey many times.

As the Burmese campaign progressed and drove the Japanese easterly to the Pacific, and the end of the war came along, these Army Finance officers continued paying the Chinese with heroin. But by that time Gen Li Mi of the Chinese had moved to the north and controlled northern Thailand and northern Burma and their drug supply.

As you know the war against Japan ended Sept 2, 1945 and our support of the Indochinese, Ho Chi Minh then, began on that same date. There never was a time when our troops weren't there and when the Army finance officers did not need plenty of heroin. They moved their drug contacts right into the warfare of Vietnam. did you ever hear about the Nugan-Hand Billion dollar Bank? Mike Hand was a CIA man and Frank Nugan was Australian.

As the Chinese were withdrawn from Indochina and Americans began to come in we continued to get heroin from Ben Li Mi's resources and heroin became plentiful in Vietnam. This continued to be an enormous business through to the end of the warfare in 1975.

By that time the drug trade was big business and continues to be supported by the military and the CIA with their drug importing allies.

The German story was about GOLD, not drugs. The Hitler SS troops ransacked Europe for gold and set up an ingenious smuggling line from Germany, through the Balkans, into Turkey and from there into the hands of American team-mates in Egupt and North Africa. That stolen Europena gold was shipped, as aircraft parts, etc. from Cairo to Dakar via our own Air Force, Air Transport Command, and from Dakar to Natal, Brazil. There the Germans had set up a connection to Argentina. It was an enormous gold ring.

One day while I was in Cairo, I received orders to visit our commanding general. he told me about the Gold Ring and of a chance to break it. He directed me to report to the Army Counter Intelligence folks. I had a regular passport for Turkey. They told me to fly to Adana, Turkey and visit restaurants and others gathering places there to see if by some hance I recognized some Americans.

I did that, and onenight as I was having dinner with my crewmen, we saw a man we knew well who was the ATC Operations Officer from Tunis. We slipped our quietly and flew right back to Cairo and I made my report to the General. A few days later an ATC Colonel asked me to meet him on the large street level veranda of the famous Shepherd's Hotel. When I got ther he said the place was loaded with American undercover agents. He told me to watch the taxis that unloaded to see if I recognized that Operations officer from Tunis. If I did I was to donothing more than to pick up my coffee cup and hold it higher than usual.

Shortly, a taxi stopped and I saw that same man. As I raised my cup the veranda exploded. There were at least ten agents there and they had their man right away. He was charged with the crime and convicted. Because of the war he was kept in Africa and transferred to the isolated, air base we used at Atar in the desert, just north of Dakar. He was held ther until the end of the war. Then I lost track of him as I was transferred to the Pacific.

This man who was the key cog in one of the world's greatest gold smuggling operations was none other than the Hollywood actor, Errol Flynn's best friend and an actor himself: Bruce Cabot.

The Drug flow continues and that is another story.


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