Frederick A. Allner Jr., 79, covert-operations specialist for the CIA

December 31, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Frederick A. Allner Jr., a retired CIA covert-operations specialist, died of pneumonia Saturday at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. The Bethesda resident was 79.

Mr. Allner, who was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park, graduated from Gilman School in 1942. His college studies at Princeton University were interrupted when he enrolled in the Navy's V-12 program at Cornell University, which provided accelerated officer training during World War II.

Commissioned an ensign, he served in China during the war with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization as an intelligence officer and liaison to the Chinese Army.

After the war, Mr. Allner returned to Princeton, where he earned a bachelor's degree in international relations in 1948. He was a four-time All-America defenseman at Princeton and Cornell and was inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983.

In 1949, Mr. Allner began his career with the CIA.

"Most of his work was of a classified nature, but it did include recruiting and intelligence-gathering," said a son, Frederick A. Allner III of Glyndon.

"I think he joined the CIA because he had a keen interest in international affairs. As a youngster, he had traveled with his parents to their native Austria before World War II. While at Princeton, he had studied Chinese," he said.

During his 32-year career, Mr. Allner was chief of station at Bern, Switzerland, for several years. He had also held posts with the agency in Germany and in Vietnam during the early 1970s. While serving in Indonesia in 1956, Mr. Allner was stricken with polio.

"My father was sent to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for treatment and later to Warm Springs, Ga., where President Franklin D. Roosevelt had recuperated from polio," the son said. "While the polio required him to permanently use crutches, this impairment did not seriously inhibit his professional or social activities."

Mr. Allner was a consummate observer and diligent diarist.

"He made notes and comments, and if he met someone on a plane, he would only record their names by their initials. He would never write their names and was always very discreet. He was very sharp and had an incredible memory for names and events," Mr. Allner's son said.

"I first meet Freddie when we were freshmen at Princeton, and then we both joined the CIA in 1949," said Richard Henry "Harry" Webster, a retired CIA operations officer and lifelong friend.

"He was both a remarkable and excellent choice for the CIA. He was a good all-around and sensible man. And those of us who knew him will always recall his doggedness and courage," Mr. Webster said.

Mr. Allner retired in 1981 but continued working as a consultant to the CIA.

"He conducted exercises in both the classroom and field across the country in covert training. ... Just a month ago, he was asked to come back and consult on Indonesia," his son said.

A lively conversationalist whose wit was honed by his sharp intellect, Mr. Allner wasn't shy when it came to expressing his opinions.

"He was always open and very direct in his comments, and if people didn't agree with him politically or philosophically, they still immensely admired him," Mr. Webster said.

Mr. Allner was an enthusiastic poker player who enjoyed the game while sipping a glass of vodka and methodically drawing on cigarettes. He was also an avid reader of history and biography.

Mr. Allner was a member of the Maryland Club, the Baltimore Country Club, the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, the Central Intelligence Retirees Association, the Safari Club of Washington and the Progress Club.

His marriage to the former Elizabeth Spotswood Patterson ended in divorce.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his son, Mr. Allner is survived by another son, Allen S. Allner of Arlington, Va.; a daughter, Page West Tyran of Napa, Calif.; and seven grandchildren. Another son, Marine Lt. Carter Burwell Allner, died in 1983.

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