Command Post, 1129th Special Activities Squadron, Groom Lake, Nevada - 1961
Col. Doug Nelson presenting T/Sgt Harnage the USAF Commendation Medal for my
reaccomplishment of the International NOTAM System (circa 1959) while I was the
NCOIC of Base Operations at Langley AFB, Va.
My age is debatable due to the Goodson family bible recording
the date of birth as 5 JUNE 1925 with birth certificate of record indicating the
date of 5 JUNE 1926. I was born in Tampa, Florida to Oren Bartholomew Harnage, a
cigar maker for Tampa Nugget and Bessie Orr Goodson, a lady from a prominent
family in Franklin, Georgia. Circa 1929 divorce split the family with the father
leaving me with his mother and grandmother. An inoperable brain tumor caused the
death of my mother in 1930 and I became the ward of my grandmother and five
uncles, assuming the name of Oren Goodson. I was raised on the banks of the
muddy Chattachoochee River in the little West Georgia town of Franklin, just
blocks away from one of the much heralded Georgia ball and chain gang prisons,
where I could hear the screams of the tortured prisoners. I lived in the
accepted Heard County environment of farmers, preachers and bootleggers all,
vying for their place in the community. I was not advised of my true birth name
and was not made aware until enlistment in The U.S. Navy in 1943. I served in the
U.S. Naval Amphibious Force in the South Pacific seeing combat action in the
Philippine Islands and Okinawa. After recovering from wounds received at Okinawa
I was honorably discharged and located the older sister in Tampa, whom I had
never seen. With her assistance I located my father, brother and two other
sisters in Greensboro, North Carolina. Having not seen my father since age
three, I was totally unaware there was a brother and sisters from two later
Civilian life is not kind and after eighteen months I enlisted
in the United States Army Air Corps, to become an Air Operations Supervisor. In
I was selected for a special assignment with the Central Intelligence Agency and
assigned to the 1129th Special Activity Squadron with duty at Area 51 in the
Nevada Test Site as Command Post Supervisor for the Lockheed Aircraft test
program of the A-12 (SR-71) Blackbird five years on this assignment brings
retirement in 1965 from the United States Air Force as
a Master Sergeant, at which time I continued employment with the CIA at
Intermountain Aviation in Tucson, continuing in air operations for the
commercial air carrier. I also flew as a qualified loadmaster and flight
attendant on DC-6B and C-46 aircraft. During this period I performed TDY
assignments as an air operation advisor in Laos and Vietnam. I returned to
Vietnam as a permanent assignment in 1967 with original assignment to Danang
MR-1, as Embassy Air Operations regional air officer. In 1971 I was transferred
to Saigon as the assistant Deputy Air Officer for the US Embassy Air Branch.
Duties were varied and were preformed in South Vietnam and Cambodia. I flew with
Air America pilots in the evacuation of Vietnamese dignitaries and others from
the roof top of the Pittman building at 22 Gia Long, departing Vietnam on the
night of 29 April 1975 as one of the last six Central Intelligence Agency
officers remaining in Vietnam. I continued my status as a civilian with the
Central Intelligence Agency with assignments as a paramilitary Air Officer, in
Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Africa.
Final retirement came from the Central Intelligence Agency on
28 February 1977 after serving a tour of duty In Africa as the supervisory air
officer in support of liberating forces for Angola, with a total of 32 years of
In addition to previous awards by the US Navy and US Air
Force, the Central Intelligence Agency bestowed the most
coveted Intelligence Star
for my heroic actions during the fall of Vietnam and the airlift of Vietnamese
from atop the roof of the Pittman Building on 29 April 1975. The last
remaining vestige of five Central Intelligence agents and I were airlifted to the USS
Denver in late evening of that fateful last day of American tenure in Vietnam.
My employment continued with the Central Intelligence Agency with my last CIA
assignment to Zaire, Africa.
With 32 years of service to my country, I elected to retire
from Federal Service in February 1977. After pursing an unsuccessful career as a
private investigator, I settled into real estate until losing my wife to cancer
in 1992, ending 44 years of
marriage and bringing on complete final retirement. A second marriage followed
and after eighteen months ended in divorce. I am now settled in Arizona and live
alone on the shores of three small lakes where I continue to pursue my hobbies
of fishing and playing golf at the nearby courses.
I recently published a book titled "A Thousand Faces" A book about the
varied definition and duties of a paramilitary agent working under concepts that
cannot be described in a manual or a directive. My book describes the duties and
dangers necessary to perform normal daily functions of meeting and accepting
unknown contingencies that must be surmounted to keep the ultimate purpose of
and utilization the prime objective. A Thousand Faces depicts how the success of
an assignment hinges on past experience, personal knowledge and individual
endeavor, with successful evaluation to mission application and their
utilization. Operatives have lateral military experience and are brought onboard
for their specific expertise, thus wording paramilitary. It is a dangerous and
necessary function utilized only in conjunction with an overall operation when
contributive result will enhance or assure a successful operation. Such is
depicted herein of a paramilitary agent operating within the air operations
field. All instances depicted in my book are factual in nature and occurred
during military conflict within a foreign country
As a contract agent my tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency was
contingent upon need for my skill and mastery of my profession. Too say the
least, my contractual employment was temporary and could be terminated at any
time. I was lucky and managed to retire from the agency. My story is portrayed
in two parts: SOUTH VIETNAM - BOOK ONE, depicting operations in up country
Military Region I, and SOUTH VIETNAM - BOOK TWO, depicting operations from
Saigon and extending into Cambodia.
Actions portrayed in my book A Thousand Faces are based upon
fact and actual occurrences about me, a Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary
agent during the Vietnam conflict, and depicts the environmental conditions
encountered. In my book I depict how my seven years of gathering field
intelligence and performance of daily duties put me in harms way with a constant
threat to my life. Application of my efforts and daily performance greatly
enhanced the success of the Central Intelligence community projects and saving
of countless lives. So that you may understand importance of the impact of an
ongoing daily operation the book depicts typical daily encounters, not
necessarily in concurrent order but sequential over a period of a seven- year
assignment to Vietnam. However, the possibility of death and encounter with
danger is constant and accepted as a necessary part of daily life. During my
seventeen-year tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency other hazardous
paramilitary assignments were performed in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Africa,
all the part of a special life of an ordinary man with special responsibilities.
Among my many certificates of outstanding performances, I was awarded the
coveted Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Star for valor, for
participation in the roof top evacuations of Saigon on 29 April 1975.
The evacuation scene atop the Pittman Hotel depicts me
offering a helping hand to persons being evacuated, and has been eulogized in
People Magazine, New York Times and various
other publications including headline stories in the Tucson and Phoenix
newspapers. The photo has also appeared on the front of Time magazine and I have
appeared on Life Magazines 50th anniversary aired by 20/20, and continues to be
shown on epic programs by Discovery, History and major television networks.
During my thirty-two years of service to my country, I served with the U.S. Navy
Amphibious Forces 1943-1946 in the South Pacific, seeing combat action in the
Philippine Islands and Okinawa. After being wounded at Okinawa, I was discharged
in 1946, returning to a difficult adjustment period as a civilian. In 1947, I
returned to military service with the U.S. Air Force, having assignments in
Korea as a member of the elite 4th Fighter Interceptor Group and later to the
1129th Special Activities Squadron in Area 51 of the Nevada Test Site.
Retirement came in 1965 after 20 years of military service. Seven days after
military retirement service continued with the Central Intelligence Agency as a
paramilitary contract agent with future assignments in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia,
Vietnam and Africa, until final retirement in 1977.
More about this book is available at
13 November 2003:
After struggling with a full edit my latest book "A
Predator on Our Streets" is available by contacting www.trafford.com.
To purchase go on line and contact Tafford
Publishing. You may order by title or ISBN 1-55369-745-9.
In about two weeks the book will be available from Barnes
& Noble, Amazon, Baker & Taylor and all major distributors and may be
purchased on line.
To preview the book and contents go to www.trafford.com
and click on Bookstore and then on Search desk.
I think you will enjoy reading the 235 pages of intrigue
and dangers of the narcotic undercover agent. I can supply signed copies at
the purchase price of $19.95 US. I will defray S&H. Sorry, no credit
Thanks for reading this.
Oren (O.B.) Harnage
WEB MASTER NOTE: O.B. Harnage died in
2008. He was a great friend.
More about O.B.'s book is available at