Barbara Robbins: A Slain CIA Secretary’s Life and Death
The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.
The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.
During the Agency’s annual memorial ceremony on Monday, May 23, Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War. CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed on March 30, 1965, in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Her name was added to the CIA’s Book of honor, which lists Agency officers who died while serving their country.(YouTube)
The bombing and her death generated front-page headlines in U.S. newspapers. Yet Robbins remains one of the CIA’s more phantom-like figures, her mystery fueled by the agency’s decades-long refusal to publicly recognize her employment, despite her family’s pleadings and books that briefly described her CIA stint. Warren Robbins, her brother and only immediate family member still alive, was elated when the CIA finally inscribed his sister’s name in the Book of Honor.
It is Warren who inherited from his dead parents the one thing that most illuminates his sister’s time in Vietnam: a trove of 30 letters she wrote home, dating from her arrival in Saigon to the week before her death.