As of the year 2000, 69 CIA agents had died in the line of duty. Of these, the identities of 40
remain classified. Former Washington Post and Time reporter Ted Gup spent three years hacking
down information about these mysterious spooks who gave their lives for the Agency. (Mm
resulting publication, The Book of Honor, names almost all of them.)
The first to die was Douglas Mackiernan. Undercover as a State Department diplomat, the US
Army Air Corps Major worked in the capital of China's Xinjiang (Sinkiang) province, which
Gup says "was widely regarded as the most remote and desolate consulate on earth." He went
there m May 1947 to keep an eye on China's border with the Soviet Union and to monitor the
Husskies' atomic tests.
In late September 1949, during the Communist takeover of China, Mackiernan left, but it was too
late to use normal routes. Incredibly, he decided to go by foot during winter all the way to India,
which would take him across a desert and the Himalayas. He, three White Russians, and a
Fulbright scholar slogged the 1,000-mile trek in eight months. On April 29, 1950, they managed
lo reach the border of Tibet, but guards there thought the men were commies or bandits, and
opened fire on them.
Hitting the ground, the bedraggled travelers waved a white flag, which stopped the gunfire. They
slowly walked toward the border guards with their hands over their heads, but the Tibetans shot
them, killing Mackiernan and two of the Russians. To add insult to injury, the guards cut the
heads off the corpses. Their remains are buried at that spot.
With documents from the National Archives, Mackiernan's widow, and other sources, Gup
pulled the CIA's first casualty out of the classified shadows. To this day, the Agency refuses to
acknow-ledge Mackiernan's existence.