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Subject: Harry Rositzke, Linguist and American Spymaster

Dies at 91
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Date Posted: November 08, 2002 5:29:05 EDT

Harry Rositzke, an American spymaster whose career veered from researching the origins of the English language to probing the inner workings of Nazi Germany and, later, the Soviet Union, died on Monday at a hospital in Warrenton, Va. He was 91 and lived in Middleburg, Va.

An intelligence officer for nearly 30 years, first with the Office of Strategic Services and with its successor, the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Rositzke found himself at the center of wartime and then cold war covert activity.

Occasionally, however, he also found himself in an unwanted limelight. Once, an office he led was accused of involvement in a failed attempt on the life of the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai. On another occasion there were suspicions, never substantiated, that he had been picked to lead an illegal C.I.A. domestic spying operation.

By the time America entered World War II, Mr. Rositzke had established himself as a promising scholar of linguistics, specializing in Anglo-Saxon.

Harvard had sent him to Hamburg University as a Sheldon Fellow and awarded him a doctorate for a dissertation on "The Speech of Kent Before the Norman Conquest." He had also taught Anglo-Saxon at Harvard as well as at the universities of Omaha and Rochester.

But the war carried him into strategic services, for which he was chief of military intelligence in London, Paris and Germany. After the war, Mr. Rositzke moved to the C.I.A.

The historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., wrote in his preface to Mr. Rositzke's book "The C.I.A.'s Secret Operations" (Readers Digest Press, 1977), "War had made him a professional," adding, "Peace evidently offered him scope for analysis and action on questions more urgent than Anglo-Saxon grammar."

Mr. Rositzke was the first chief of the C.I.A.'s Soviet division. From 1952-54, he ran agents against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe out of Munich. From 1954-56, he was in charge of the operations schools in the agency's training division.

In 1957, he moved to New Delhi as station chief, operating against Soviet, Chinese and Tibetan targets.

In 1962, Mr. Rositzke returned to Washington where he recruited Soviet and Eastern European diplomats as informers there and in New York. But in 1967 a former State Department code clerk, John Discoe Smith, who served in India from 1954 to 1959 and later defected to the Soviet Union, published a pamphlet in which he asserted that Mr. Rositzke had been expelled from India at his instigation.

Mr. Smith said he had written to Indian officials telling them that the C.I.A.'s New Delhi station had been involved in the 1955 bombing of a plane carrying the Chinese delegation to the Bandung Nonaligned Conference in the mistaken belief that Zhou Enlai was on board. India then expelled Mr. Rositzke in belated retaliation, Mr. Smith said.

After a period at George Washington's Sino-Soviet Institute, Mr. Rositzke was coordinator of operations against Communist parties abroad until his retirement in 1970.

Five years later, however, he found himself back in the news when the director of central intelligence, William E. Colby, published a report on the agency's illegal domestic spying operations, known as Chaos. The operations had begun under President Lyndon B. Johnson but were greatly expanded by President Richard M. Nixon. The Colby report included a memorandum dated Aug. 15, 1967, by the leader of covert operations, Thomas H. Karamessines, suggesting that Mr. Rositzke and another official, Richard Ober, be put in charge of Chaos. Whether this happened remains unclear.

Heinrich August Rositzke was born on Feb. 25, 1911, in Brooklyn, the son of German immigrants. He earned his undergraduate degree at Union College in 1931.

In retirement he turned to writing about intelligence matters and the cold war.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Helen Bourgeoise Rositzke; a son, John Brockman Rositzke of Jackson, Mich.; and a daughter, Anne Elizabeth Hunt Rositzke of New York.

Harry Rositzke in 1975

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