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First Name: Stansfield

Last Name: Turner

Birthplace: Highland Park, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: M.

Date of Birth: 01 December 1923

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1947 - 1978
Stansfield M. Turner

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1947


Stansfield M. Turner

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Stansfield M. Turner was born on 1 December 1923 in Highland Park, IL.

Following graduation from Highland Park High School, Turner attended Amherst College in 1941. He obtained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and was scheduled to graduate with the Class of 1947. However, during World War II classes graduated after three years, so he was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy in June 1946. In 1950, while in the Navy, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and earned a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

During his naval career, he served as Commanding Officer of the Guided Missile Cruiser USS Horne (DLG-30) as well as Commander-in-Chief of NATO Southern Flank, headquartered in Naples, Italy.

He served as President of the Naval War College from 1972-74, where he successfully introduced a radical improvement of that College's curriculum, introducing educational approaches based on his experience as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. One of his principal innovations at the Naval War College was the introduction of Thucydides' Peloponnesian War as a major book of study, a reading that remains central to the Strategy and Policy curriculum today. He served as Commander U.S. Second Fleet.

On 1 September 1975, Turner was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and assigned as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH). Admiral Turner retired from the Navy in 1978, although his tenure at the CIA began in 1977.

Medals and Awards

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Legion of Merit (3 Awards)

Bronze Star Medal with "Valor" Device

Joint Service Commendation Medal

Navy Commendation Medal with "Valor" Device

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

American Campaign Medal

World War Two Victory Medal

Navy Occupation Service Medal

China Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

Korean Service Medal

Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

United Nations Service Medal

Central Intelligence Agency

On 9 March 1977, while still in the Navy, Turner was named as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in the administration of his Naval Academy classmate, President Jimmy Carter.

Under Turner's direction, the CIA emphasized Technical intelligence (TECHINT) and Signal intelligence (SIGINT) more than Human intelligence (HUMINT). In 1979, Turner eliminated over 800 operational positions in what was called the Halloween Massacre. In a biography published in 2005, Turner expressed regret for the dismissals stating, "In retrospect, I probably should not have effected the reductions of 820 positions at all, and certainly not the last 17." Turner gave notable testimony to Congress revealing much of the extent of the MK-ULTRA program, which the CIA ran from the early 1950s to late 1960s. Reform and simplification of the intelligence community's multilayered secrecy system was one of Turner's significant initiatives, but produced no results by the time he left office.

During Turner's term as head of the CIA, he became outraged when former agent Frank Snepp published a book called Decent Interval which exposed incompetence among senior U.S. government personnel during the fall of Saigon. Turner accused Snepp of breaking the secrecy agreement required of all CIA agents, and then later was forced to admit under cross-examination that he had never read the agreement signed by Snepp. Regardless, the CIA ultimately won its case against Snepp at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court forced Snepp to turn over all his profits from Decent Interval and to seek preclearance of any future writings about intelligence work for the rest of his life. The ultimate irony was that the CIA would later rely on the Snepp legal precedent in forcing Turner to seek preclearance of his own memoirs, which were highly critical of President Ronald Reagan's policies.

During his tenure as Director of Central Intelligence in the early 1980s when asked on an NPR interview program about 'domestic spying,' he said, "Americans are not a source of much intelligence."

In the documentary Secrets of the CIA Turner commented on the MK-ULTRA project: "It came to my attention early in my tenure as director, and I felt it was a warning sign that if you're not alert, things can go wrong in this organization."

On 12 March 1980, President Jimmy Carter and Turner presented Antonio J. Mendez (also known as Tony Mendez) with the CIA's Intelligence Star for his role in the exfiltration of six U.S. State Department personnel from Iran on 28 January 1980.

Turner left the CIA on 20 January 1981.

In Retirement

Upon leaving the CIA, Turner became a lecturer, writer, and TV commentator, and served on the Board of Directors of several American corporations, including the Monsanto Company. Turner has written several books, including Secrecy and Democracy - The CIA in Transition in 1985, 'Terrorism and Democracy' in 1991, Caging the Nuclear Genie - An American Challenge for Global Security in 1997 (a revised edition of which was published in 1999), and 2005's Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence, in which he advocates fragmenting the CIA.

Turner was sharply critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq invasion. In September 2003 he wrote that "most of the assumptions behind our invasion have been proven wrong: The intelligence did not support the imminence of a threat, the Iraqis have not broadly welcomed us as liberators, the idea that we could manage this action almost unilaterally is giving way to pleas for troops and money from other nations, the aversion to giving the UN a meaningful role is eroding daily, and the reluctance to get involved in nation building is being supplanted by just that."

In November 2005, after Vice President Dick Cheney had lobbied against a provision to a defense Bill that Republican Senator John McCain had passed in the senate banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of all U.S. detainees, Turner was quoted as saying "I am embarrassed that the USA has a Vice President for torture. I think it is just reprehensible. He (Mr Cheney) advocates torture, what else is it? I just don't understand how a man in that position can take such a stance." Cheney countered the bill went well beyond banning torture and could be interpreted by courts to ban most forms of interrogation.

He recently retired as senior research scholar at the University of Maryland, College Park's School of Public Policy. In 2000, Turner was named the first Raymond H. Spruance Distinguished Fellow at the Naval War College.

Turner has served on the Military Advisors Committee for the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, whose mission is to reduce the amount of the discretionary budget going to the military by 15% and reallocate that money to education, healthcare, renewable energies, job training, and humanitarian aid programs.

In Popular Culture

Turner is mentioned in the film Charlie Wilson's War by the character Gust Avrakotos as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman who received an Oscar nomination for the role. Avrakotos makes reference to the firing of 3,000 agents (Halloween Day Massacre) and how it harmed the CIA.

Admiral Stansfield M. Turner currently resides in Great Falls, VA.

Honoree ID: 667   Created by: MHOH




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