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Werner Weiss


CIA Medal of Merit

CIA Career Achievement Medal

11 September 2002

Dear Roadrunners and other readers:

My book was not published, but a limited number of copies with the cover drawing were privately printed and given to family and friends. One of those friends was Barbara Slater, wife of Slip Slater, who had been with us during the Vegas years. She showed it to Roadrunner President Roger Anderson, which led him and Webmaster T.D. Barnes to invite me to write a biography of Werner. I am delighted to write of Werner's life before, during and after the years at the Nevada Test Site, but I must admit that the best part of those years were spent more with his companions at Groom Lake than at home with me, when he was either sleeping or playing golf! I have therefore asked Colonel Hugh Slater, or Slip as we call him, to add his memories to those of mine. T.D. Barnes has been a dear friend and asset in getting the story told about the Roadrunners of Groom Lake. I have authorized him to publish my book as he sees fit.

You may have noticed that this preface is dated on a day of somber memory for Americans. This is not entirely by accident. What happened on this date would have been so traumatic for Werner that I am still unable to decide whether to be glad that he did not live to suffer such an attack on the country he had come to love so much and to which he had dedicated his lifetime of service.

Velma Weiss



aka The Desert Fox

Werner came to America when he was nine years old. He came with his parents and his two brothers, a working man's family, and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. He did not know a word of English but was enrolled in a public high school where his talent in mathematics saved him from being placed several grades lower than his age would warrant. He learned English rapidly and left home after he finished high school with the firm intention of serving his new country. He had become an American citizen via his father's naturalization. His memories of post WWI and Nazi Germany instilled in him a fervent appreciation of what it meant to live in this land of hope and freedom. This intense patriotism directed the rest of his life.

He started by going to Washington D.C. He got a government job which he always swore was ranked lower than a GS-1. He passed the Permanent Civil Service exams, worked while taking courses at the University of Maryland, got married and joined the Army when it was time to go off to war. He went to England until that war was over, and he got as far as Manila enroute to the Japanese war before it ended. He became an Army civilian and was based for a while in Utah, his wife Vivian's home state. His desire to go abroad led him to apply for and get a job with the CIA. He was sent to Frankfurt, Germany, where he would have been content except for the tragic and untimely death of Vivian during their first year overseas.

I met Werner and Vivian during our early days with the Agency in Germany, where I had gone to work for the CIA after my English divorce. He and I were not even very friendly until some time after his loss, but were thrown together and eventually became close, probably because he learned that I was taking golf lessons. We spent a year in Berlin before returning to Washington. Eventually, we both got new assignments in Germany. This was at the point where Werner was first introduced to what was to become his association with the U2 and SR71 programs.

After a few months in Wiesbaden, Werner was told that he was needed at the U2 base in Japan. We arranged to get married U-2before he left so that I could join him as soon as family quarters were available. We spent two happy years in Japan, although I missed being able to work. Wives were not permitted to work in this type of program

I was at home one day when Werner phoned to tell me where our next assignment would be. It took quite a while before I would believe it would be Las Vegas! We arrived there on the first of January 1960. Welcome to Las Vegas We did not leave until 1969. My nine years in Vegas consisted of playing golf and duplicate bridge and waiting for Werner to come home. At this point, I will hand over to Slip Slater who knows a lot more than I do about Werner during those years

* * *
Werner Weiss at Groom Lake
Col. Hugh (Slip) Slater, USAF (Ret),
former Commander of the 1129th SAS

Groom Lake in the 1960's

Werner Weiss, a GS-15, was singularly the most important individual concerning the mission of the 1129th Special Activities Squadron at Area 51. Fondly referred to as the "Desert Fox" by his contemporaries, he was with the unit from the beginning and served as the senior Central Intelligence Agency's officer. During this period Werner continually demonstrated outstanding professional skill and initiative in managing the insurmountable tasks of maintaining base and project security, staffing, logistics, labor union relations, transportation, housing, and liaison with officials at local, state and national levels. His attention to detail in support of the aircraft operational and maintenance requirements contributed materially to the success of our mission. He oversaw all support activities for the A-12 first flight - Groom Lake, Nevadaentire unit. While labor union strikes were an annual event at the neighboring Nevada Test Site, there were no labor strikes at Area 51 under Werner's watch. The dining facilities at the Area were the best I had ever witnessed in more that 30 years of service. Wives were complaining because spouses cited how great the food was at the Area, when they got home on the weekends. Slip Slater and Werner Weiss on Slip's boat One must remember that the operation at the Area was around the clock and that support facilities operated during the entire period with minor exceptions. This included hobby shops and many different support activities. The theater, rod and gun club, swimming pool, bowling alley and many more all provided the necessary environment for this remote location. All were under Weiss' control. And Weiss likewise did the same for the Blackshield deployment at Kadena AFB, Okinawa.

Weiss loved a challenge. As an example, prior to the A-12s deployment to the Far East the agency had constructed housing meant for the unit's personnel. However, when the deployment actually was ordered the USAF was using these billets in support of Vietnam operations and at rate four times greater than had been planned for the 1129th. It was decided that every attempt to find Operation Blackshield - Kadena, Okinawaanother billeting area was paramount to a successful deployment. An abandoned and scheduled for destruction Quonset hut area was found a short distance from Kadena AFB and Werner decided it could be rehabilitated. I was doubtful but after listening to his plans and concurring that the Air Force needed our billets we moved ahead. In a matter of a few months all Quonsets were restored to better than new condition. A complete mobile messing facility was added. A-12 hangers lacked certain features that had to be added just days before the arrival of the first aircraft. Within a couple of days Weiss had the necessary work underway and completed on time. It was indeed a pleasure to have worked with Werner Weiss during my four years at Area 51.

* * *

Post Groom Lake
Velma Weiss

Thank you, Slip: I have learned more than I ever knew before about what Werner did up there all week.

After the Groom Lake years ended, Werner and I spent two years in Washington, yearning to go abroad again. Werner and Vivian had had no children, so that I was delighted that he and my son Tom became friends. Tom and his wife lived in England and were about to give Werner his first step grandchild. We were hoping for Rome but got Paris. I was delighted because I speak French but Werner was not. Which, as they say, just goes to show. The Paris transfer led to one of the most exciting assignments we could have possibly imagined. There is not room for me to describe the Paris operation here, but it is described in my aforementioned book, Chapter 48 for those not wishing to read the whole book. I will say, however, that Mr. William Buckley, the well-known columnist, wrote years later, in a discussion on covert operations, that ours was an example of how successful such an operation could be even though the logistics were infinitely complicated.

Werner retired following Paris and I think I can say, sadly but truthfully, that he never drew another happy breath. He returned to Las Vegas and tried to sell real estate, but hated it. He lived another 24 years but missed being in service to his country. He was a simple but complicated man, who would take a centipede outside and release it, but whose co-workers gave him a bull-whip for his office wall.

Werner did not have a funeral or memorial service. His brothers were gone and their children and his friends were so scattered that we decided to have our ashes scattered over the Atlantic. This website seems to me to take the place of the memorial he never had. I would like to thank Roger Anderson, Slip Slater and Webmaster T.D. Barnes for allowing me to participate in this wonderful work of remembrance. I feel that it has added years to his life and life to my years.
Click on photos to enlarge
Werner at Tom's wedding in London - 1968 Werner and Velma at Tom's wedding in London - 1968 Velma and grandchild in Paris Velma in Las Vegas while Werner was at Groom Lake Werner playing with his dogs
Werner at Tom's wedding in London - 1968 Werner and Velma at Tom's wedding Velma w/grand child in Paris Velma in Las Vegas
Werner and dogs
Werner after a successful fishing trip Werner playing with one of the grandkids Werner taking a nap with the grandkids Werner, grandkids and dog Werner and Shirley Kemp
Fishing success Werner and grandchild Sleeping beauties Buddies Werner & Shirley Kemp
Werner in Holland eating herring, his favorite food Werner looking good in his Scottish attire
Werner in Holland Werner - Scottish

* * *

Werner's fellow Roadrunners join with the Weiss family in remembrance of a fine gentleman. May he rest in peace.

President, RRI
In Behalf of All Roadrunners


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