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Operation Valuable
Part of Cold War

Border changes in central and eastern Europe, 1938–48. Operation Valuable aimed to move Albania from the communist bloc to the Western side
Date1947
Location
Result

Communist Albanian victory

Belligerents
 Communist Albania  United States
 United Kingdom
 Yugoslavia
Northern Epirus KEVA (Northern Epirus Organization)[1]
Commanders and leaders
People's Socialist Republic of Albania Enver Hoxha
People's Socialist Republic of Albania Mehmet Shehu
People's Socialist Republic of Albania Kadri Hazbiu
United States Harry S Truman[2]
United States Dean Acheson
United States Frank Wisner
United States Franklin Lindsay
United States James McCargar
United Kingdom Clement Attlee[3]
United Kingdom Julian Amery
United Kingdom Peter Kemp
United Kingdom David Smiley
Units involved
Sigurimi CIA
United States O.P.C
United Kingdom MI6
Italian Navy
Casualties and losses
United States/United Kingdom 300 CIA And MI6 Agents[4]


Operation Valuable was one of the earliest covert paramilitary operations in the Eastern Bloc. Beginning in 1947, the main goal of the operation was to overthrow the government of Communist Albania.[5][6] It was the only direct paramilitary intervention aimed at overthrowing a Soviet satellite.[7]

MI6 and the CIA launched a joint subversive operation, using Albanian expatriates as agents. Other anti-communist Albanians and many nationalists worked as agents for Greek and Italian intelligence services, some supported by the Anglo-American secret services. Many of the agents were caught, put on trial, and either shot or condemned to long prison terms at penal labour.[citation needed]

Background

Albania was in an unenviable position after World War II.[8] Greece claimed Albanian lands.[8] The Western Allies recognized neither King Zog nor a republican government-in-exile, nor did they ever raise the question of Albania or its borders at major wartime conferences.[8] No reliable statistics on Albania's wartime losses exist, but the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration reported about 30,000 Albanian dead from the war, 200 destroyed villages, 18,000 destroyed houses, and about 100,000 people made homeless.[8] Albanian official statistics claim higher losses.[8]

British plans for the destabilization and overthrow of Hoxha and the Communist regime in Albania had existed since 1946.[9][10] The Russia Committee, established in 1946 by the British Foreign Office, was created to oppose the extension of Soviet control by promoting civil strife in Russia's Western border nations.[11] Albania was first mentioned at a meeting of the Russia Committee on 25 November 1948. On 16 December the Committee decided that the could be "no question of taking action without co-ordination with the United States government"[12]

Operational plans

The operation began October 1949.[13] The plan called for parachute drops of royalists into the Mati region in Central Albania. The region was known as a bastion of Albanian traditionalism and moreover praised for their loyalty to King Zog, himself an offspring of one of the regional clans.[14] The original plan was to parachute in agents, in order to organize a massive popular revolt, which the allies would supply by air drops. In time, this revolt would spill out a civil war. The trouble that this would cause Soviet politics was considered by the British to be worth the risk, and if it did succeed, then it could be the starting point of a chain reaction of counter-revolutions throughout the Eastern Bloc.[citation needed] The chief of SIS, Stewart Menzies, was not enthusiastic about the paramilitary operation but saw it as a way to appease the former SOE “stinks and bangs people.” [15][16]

The British wanted the United States to finance the operation and to provide bases. Senior British intelligence officer William Hayter, who chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), came to Washington, D.C. in March with a group of Secret Intelligence Service members and Foreign Office staff that included Gladwyn Jebb, Earl Jellicoe, and Peter Dwyer of SIS and a Balkans specialist.[17] Joined by SIS Washington liaison Kim Philby, they met with Robert Joyce of the US State Department’s Policy and Planning Staff (PPS) and Frank Wisner, who was the head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), and other U.S. intelligence officials such as James McCargar and Franklin Lindsay. McCargar was assigned to liaise with Philby on joint operational matters. Unbeknownst to the SIS and CIA, Philby was a communist, and spy for Soviet foreign intelligence, and has subsequently been blamed for the failure of the operation.[18]

Anti-communist Albanians were recruited in the Displaced Persons camps in Greece, Italy, and Turkey. The manpower for what the British codenamed VALUABLE Project and the Americans FIEND, consisted of 40% from the Balli Kombëtar (BK) National Front, a fascist collaborationist organization formed during World War II, 40% from the monarchist movement, known as Legaliteti and the rest from other Albanian factions.[19]

Valuable Project/Fiend

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Beginning in 1947 Albanian emigres were trained in Libya and Malta to infiltrate Albania. They were recruited with through the National Independent Bloc (BKI) and the National Committee for Free Albania (NCFA).[20]

A dozen Albanian émigrés were recruited and taken to Libya to train for a pilot project that would become known as Operation Valuable.[21] The SIS, with U.S. Army Col. 'Ace' Miller as a liaison, trained these men in the use of weapons, codes and radio, the techniques of subversion and sabotage. They were dropped into the mountains of Mati throughout 1947, but failed to inspire the inhabitants of the region into a larger revolt. The operation continued into 1949. There were sabotage attempts on the Kuçova oilfields and the copper mines in Rubik but no real success in raising a revolt.[22] Then, the US government weighing up the political situation, decided to lend a hand. In September 1949, British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin went to Washington, D.C. to discuss Operation Valuable with US government officials.[23] The CIA released a report that concluded that “a purely internal Albanian uprising at this time is not indicated, and, if undertaken, would have little chance of success.”[24] The CIA asserted that the Enver Hoxha regime had a 65,000 man regular army and a security force of 15,000. There were intelligence reports that there were 1,500 Soviet “advisers” and 4,000 “technicians” in Albania helping to train the Albanian Army.[citation needed]

On 6 September 1949, when NATO met for the first time in Washington, Bevin proposed that “a counter-revolution” be launched in Albania. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson was in agreement. NATO, established as a defensive military alliance for Western Europe and North America, was now committed to launching offensive covert operations against a sovereign nation in the Balkans. The US and UK, joining with their allies, Italy and Greece, agreed to support the overthrow of the Hoxha regime in Albania and to eliminate Soviet influence in the Mediterranean region. Bevin wanted to place King Zog on the throne as the leader of Albania once Hoxha was overthrown.

This time a better quality of commandos were sought and an approach was made to King Zog in exile in Cairo to recommend men for the job. However, British negotiator Neil 'Billy' McLean and American representatives Robert Miner and Robert Low were unable to bring Zog in because no one would name him head of a provisional government in exile. In August 1949, an announcement was made in Paris that Albanian political exiles had formed a multiparty committee to foment anti-communist rebellion in the homeland; actually the "Free Albania" National Committee was created by American diplomatic and intelligence officials for political cover to a covert paramilitary project, with British concurrence. The British made the first organizational move, hiring on as chief trainer Major [[David [25]Smiley]], deputy commander of a cavalry (tank) regiment stationed in Germany. The leaders of the Balli Kombetar, an exile political group whose key policy was to replace the Albanian Communist regime with a non-royalist government, had already agreed with McLean and his cohort, Julian Amery, to supply 30 Albanian émigrés, some veterans of World War II guerrilla and civil wars, as recruits for the operation to penetrate Albania

Fort Binġemma, where Albanian recruits were trained.

In July 1949, the first group of recruits, were transported by British special operations personnel to Fort Binġemma, on the British crown colony of Malta with a forward operating and radio base on Corfu. Labeled as "The Pixies" by the SIS, they spent two months training as radio operators, intelligence gatherers, and more sophisticated guerrillas than they had been as members of cetas (guerrilla bands) during World War II.[26] On 26 September 1949, nine Pixies boarded a Royal Navy trawler which sailed north; three days later, a Greek style fishing boat, known as a caïque and named "Stormie Seas', sailed from Malta.

With a stop at an Italian port, the two vessels sailed 3 October, rendezvoused at a point in the Adriatic Sea, and transferred the Albanians to the caïque. Hours later that same night, the Pixies landed on the Albanian coast, some distance south of Vlora, which was the former territory of the Balli Kombetar, others further north. Albanian government security forces soon interdicted one of the two groups on commandos. The Communists killed three members of the first group, and a fourth man with the second group. The first three deaths and disappearance of a fourth man to join his family wiped out one group, while the surviving four from the covert landing exfiltrated south to Greece.

For two years after this landing, small groups of British-trained Albanians left every so often from training camps in Malta, Britain and West Germany. Most of the operations failed, with Albanian security forces interdicting many of the insurgents. Occasionally, the Albanian authorities would report on “large but unsuccessful infiltrations of enemies of the people” in several regions of the country. Some American agents, originally trained by Italian or Greek officials, also infiltrated by air, sea, or on foot to gather intelligence rather than take part in political or paramilitary operations. The most successful of these operatives was Hamit Marjani, code name Tiger, who participated in 15 land incursions.[19]

The first unilateral action of the U.S. took place on 11 September 1950 with an airdrop from Company 4000, from C-54 cargo aircraft.[27]

The last infiltration took place a few weeks before Easter 1952. In an effort to discover what was going on Captain Shehu himself, with Captain Branica and radio operator Tahir Prenci, were guided by veteran gendarme and guerrilla fighter Matjani and three armed guards to the Mati region northeast of Tirana. Albanian security forces militia were waiting for them at their rendezvous point, a house owned by Shehu's cousin, a known supporter of Zog. The militia forced Shehu's operator to transmit an all clear signal to his base in Cyprus. The operator had been schooled to deal with such situations, using a fail-safe drill which involved broadcasting in a way that warned it was being sent under duress and therefore should be disregarded. But the militia seemed to know the drill. The all clear signal went out and, nearly a year later, four more top agents, including Matjani himself, parachuted into an ambush at Shen Gjergj (Saint George), near the town of Elbasan. Those not killed were tried in April 1954.

1950 Albanian coastline ambushes

The 1950 Albanian coastline ambushes or Raids on the Albanian coastline in 1950 involved a conflict between Albanian Hoxhaist secret forces (Sigurimi), and multiple British teams supported by MI6.[28][19]

In preparation for the landing of British SIS troops, several C-47 aircraft and boats were used, the planes were piloted by CIA and ex-Polish Air Force colonels. The British Chief Peter Dwyer was in charge of the British SIS during the raids.[29][30]

It was one of the most disastrous parts of the covert operation as all of the British agents were killed or captured.[28]

Aftermath

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Operation Valuable was a failure, with 300 MI6 and CIA agents killed during its duration.[31]

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ "Shqipëri 1949: Plani i CIA për operacionet nga Italia dhe Greqia" (in Albanian). Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  2. ^ Peters, Stephen (13 October 1985). "KIM PHILBY AND THE ALBANIAN MISSION". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  3. ^ "Attlee's secret war with Stalin". HistoryExtra. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  4. ^ "BBC World Service - World Update, The CIA's Secret Failure in Albania". BBC. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2023.
  5. ^ Gloyer, Gillian (2008). Albania: The Bradt Travel Guide. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-84162-246-0.
  6. ^ West, Nigel (15 April 2021). Historical Dictionary of Cold War Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-5381-2032-3.
  7. ^ Dravis, Michael W. (October 1992). "Storming fortress Albania: American covert operations in microcosm, 1949–54". Intelligence and National Security. 7 (4): 425–442. doi:10.1080/02684529208432178. ISSN 0268-4527. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  8. ^ a b c d e Sudetic, Charles (1994). "World War II and the Rise of Communism, 1941-44". In Raymond E. Zickel; Walter R. Iwaskiw (eds.). Albania: A Country Study (2nd ed.). Federal Research Division. ISBN 0-8444-0792-5. LCCN 93042885. OCLC 165149425. OL 1431418M. Wikidata Q100997825. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ "Οι προσπάθειες ανατροπής του Ενβέρ Χότζα από Βρετανούς και Αμερικανούς και ο ρόλος της Ελλάδας". www.himara.gr. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  10. ^ Mitrovich, Gregory (2000). Undermining the Kremlin: America's Strategy to Subvert the Soviet Bloc, 1947-1956. Cornell University Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-8014-3711-3.
  11. ^ Lulushi, Albert (3 June 2014). Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781628723946. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  12. ^ Dorril, Stephen (2002). MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service. Simon and Schuster. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-7432-1778-1. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  13. ^ Lulushi, Albert (3 June 2014). Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781628723946. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  14. ^ Bailey, Roderick (31 October 2011). The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4464-9954-2. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  15. ^ Dorril, Stephen (2002). MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service. Simon and Schuster. p. 363. ISBN 978-0-7432-1778-1. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  16. ^ Thomas, Evan (10 December 1996). The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA. Simon and Schuster. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-684-82538-0. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  17. ^ Gwinnett, Giselle (27 May 2017). "Attlee, Bevin, and Political Warfare: Labour's Secret Anti-Communist Campaign in Europe, 1948–51". The International History Review. 39 (3): 426–449. doi:10.1080/07075332.2016.1199442. ISSN 0707-5332.
  18. ^ Trahair, R. C. S. (2004). Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313319556. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  19. ^ a b c Prados 2006, p. 63.
  20. ^ West, Nigel (15 April 2021). Historical Dictionary of Cold War Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-5381-2032-3. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  21. ^ Şener, Halil (17 July 2022). "Covert Action: Perils and Advantages". International Journal of Politics and Security. 4 (2): 1–12. doi:10.53451/ijps.1056972. ISSN 2667-8268. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  22. ^ Dravis, Michael W. (October 1992). "Storming fortress Albania: American covert operations in microcosm, 1949–54". Intelligence and National Security. 7 (4): 425–442. doi:10.1080/02684529208432178. ISSN 0268-4527. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  23. ^ Gwinnett, Giselle (27 May 2017). "Attlee, Bevin, and Political Warfare: Labour's Secret Anti-Communist Campaign in Europe, 1948–51". The International History Review. 39 (3): 426–449. doi:10.1080/07075332.2016.1199442. ISSN 0707-5332. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  24. ^ Kross, Peter (15 April 2014). Tales From Langley: The CIA From Truman to Obama. SCB Distributors. ISBN 978-1-939149-34-3. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  25. ^ Bethell, Nicholas (8 March 2016). The Albanian Operation of the CIA and MI6, 1949-1953: Conversations with Participants in a Venture Betrayed. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-6379-1. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  26. ^ Lulushi, Albert (3 June 2014). Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-1-62872-394-6. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  27. ^ O'Rourke, Lindsey A. (15 December 2018). Covert Regime Change: America's Secret Cold War. Cornell University Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-5017-3068-9. Retrieved 1 February 2024.
  28. ^ a b The Journal of Intelligence History. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 978-3-8258-0650-7. Despite the above development, in September and November 1950 three more British teams landed on the Albanian beach. The results were disastrous. The Albanian Security Service, Sigurimi, ambushed the SIS agents and almost all of them were killed or captured.
  29. ^ Trahair, Richard C. S.; Trahair, R. C. S. (2004). Encyclopedia of Cold War espionage, spies, and secret operations (1. publ ed.). Westport, CT London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-31955-6.
  30. ^ Trahair, R. C. S. (2004). Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313319556. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  31. ^ "BBC World Service - World Update, The CIA's Secret Failure in Albania". BBC. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2023.

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