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Edward Hamilton, 89; Decorated WWII Vet Became a CIA Agent

July 08, 2006|Matt Schudel | Washington Post

Edward Smith Hamilton, a highly decorated World War II veteran who later embarked on buccaneering adventures for the CIA along the coast of China during the Korean War, died of pneumonia June 30 at his home in Annandale, Va. He was 89.

Hamilton, a 1939 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was commander of an Army infantry battalion that went ashore at the Normandy beachhead on June 8, 1944, two days after D-day. His unit of the 90th Infantry Division saw considerable action throughout the summer on its march through France.

For his coordination of the defense of a key bridge in France on Aug. 5, 1944, Hamilton was awarded the Silver Star. On Sept. 8, he led a raid on German positions at Avril, France, that disabled four tanks and led to the capture of 17 enemy soldiers. For his daring assault and his heroism under fire, Hamilton received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest commendation for valor.

Two days later, he was wounded in battle and lost his left eye. He was given a battlefield promotion to lieutenant colonel and received, among other decorations, the Bronze Star and three awards of the Purple Heart.

After recuperating, Hamilton returned to his hometown of Dallas, Ore., in 1946 to open an insurance agency.

In 1950, as the Korean War was heating up, he was lured back into action as a CIA agent in Taiwan, working with the Chinese nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek. Nicknamed the "One-Eyed Dragon," Hamilton led combined U.S. and Chinese guerrilla units in clandestine attacks against Communist forces on the Chinese mainland. His role in the covert actions conducted along the southeastern coastline of China is detailed in the book "Raiders of the China Coast" by Frank Holober.

Hamilton was in Taiwan from 1950 to 1954 before he was transferred to Washington. In 1956, he was sent to Germany as an undercover counterintelligence agent working in East Germany and Turkey. He left the CIA in 1959 and took a position as operations officer with the old Civil Defense Administration. He retired in 1973.

In his later years, Hamilton made many visits to France, where he was welcomed as a returning hero of the nation's liberation from Nazi control. Last year, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government.

His wife of 63 years, Grace Cutler Hamilton, died in 2003. A son, Edward, died in 1948. A daughter, Mary Suzanne Hamilton, died in 1997.

Survivors include seven children, Diana Cowell of Huntington, W.Va.; William Hamilton of Ocean City, Md.; Elizabeth Hamilton and Marie Hamilton-Perez, both of Santa Cruz; Richard Hamilton of Clifton, Md.; Patricia Collins of Berkeley Lake, Ga.; and Frank Hamilton of Panama City, Fla.; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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