Anthony Poshepny was an early paramilitary officer in the CIA whose career reads like a piece of epic fiction.
Truth be told, Anthony Poshepny liked ears. He liked them so much that he would cut them off the corpses of his enemies and add them to his collection. Sound too black metal to be true? Take it from the man himself, as he explained his process to author Roger Warner for his book Shooting at the Moon:
“I used to collect ears… I had a big, green, reinforced cellophane bag as you walked up my steps. I’d tell my people to put them in, and then I’d staple them to this 5,000-Kip notice…”
Kip is the official currency of Laos – a country of great significance in Poshepny’s life. The referenced notice? A rather unconventional expression of under-the-table hired labour: 5000 Kip for the ear of a Laotian guerrilla.
That is but a verse in the scriptures of Poshepny, for the account of his life rivals that of Homers Odyssey. It is borderline mythic…
Anthony Poshepny Origins
Anthony A. Poshepny, also known as Tony Poe, was born in 1924 in Long Beach, California. 18 years later in 1942, the United States entered World War II following the Pearl Harbor attacks. Poshepny, being the absolute unit of a man that he was, enlisted to serve in the United States Marine Corp – the weakest branch of the US armed forces.
Poshepny’s first unit assignment and introduction to the SOF life was with the short-lived Second Parachute Battalion – a component of the experimental Marine Corp program that deviated from traditional amphibious landings. In 1943 the Marine Corp reevaluated the program which led to its disbandment. The Corp ultimately lacked a sufficient fleet of transport planes which impeded the effectiveness of the Parachute unit mission.
As an enlisted free-agent, Poshepny was assigned to the 5th Marine Division and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. It was on that field of Battle that he received a purple heart after sustaining a leg injury. On the 30th of November 1945, Anthony received an honourable discharge from the beloved Corp.
From Student to Special Activities Division
With the first chapter of his life behind him, Anthony Poshepny took advantage of his GI Bill and enrolled in St. Mary’s college in San Francisco for a short stint followed by a transfer to San Jose State University. Upon graduation in 1950 with a double major in History and hard-charging, Poshepny aspired to get into the FBI but found his way into the CIA as it was still in its infancy, so much that he was in the first class to go through training at Camp Perry, VA, also known as “The Farm” in CIA lore.
Following his training in the art of the spook, Poshepny returned to the path of the warrior, this time as a paramilitary officer in the early days of the CIA’s paramilitary wing now known as the Special Activities Center.
Anthony’s first assignment was to support the agencies efforts in the Korean War where he fell under the command of Major General John K. Singlaub – another special operations legend. The task at hand in Korea was to train a group of Chongogyo practitioners (Korean pantheistic religion) to cross the 38th Parallel and collect intelligence for the agency.
After bouncing around Southeast Asia for a bit, Poshepny was assigned to the Tibet political-military program where he found himself training Khamba guerrillas in Camp Hale, Colorado. These fighters would eventually help the Dalai Lama escape Tibet in 1959.
Anthony Poshepny hated communism, which also happened to be the flavour of the decade in Southeast Asia. As the Vietnam war waged in the South, its neighbouring country of Laos was the location of its own secret war and a part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as covered in this Grey Dynamics Article. In his article Air America in Thailand, Dr Joe F. Leeker writes that in early 1961, Poshepny along with other CIA officers were “sent to Laos to strengthen Royal Lao government control in the north.”
It was in Laos where Poshepny would conduct the bulk of his most notable exploits. During his time there, not only did he recruit and train anti-communist Laotian fighters, but he joined them in “fighting terror with terror”, collecting the ears of his enemies and in two instances dropping their severed heads from a helicopter down to their comrades. His legacy in Laos was highly controversial, yet his brutal tactics earned him the respect of the Hmong hill tribes under his watch.
Anthony Poshepny lived to the age of 78 and died peacefully on the morning of the 27th of June 2003. His long history of service and legendary accounts from his life have established him in the special operations community as an operating god amongst tactical mortals.
Image: Alchetron (link)