Justin F. Gleichauf, a former CIA agent who helped monitor Cuba in the years before the Cuban missile crisis, died Monday at his home in Columbia after a series of falls. He was 91.
"He was a waterboy for the Notre Dame football team because he was so skinny," said a daughter, Patricia Davis-Bradford, also of Columbia. "But, oh, what an exciting life he led."
In addition to his role monitoring Cuba, Mr. Gleichauf helped gather information on the Hungarian revolution, according to his written accounts in a journal on the CIA Web site and his daughter.
He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated from Miami of Ohio in 1934 with a degree in business administration.
He worked in an Ohio tire factory as a trainee and held other jobs until the outbreak of World War II.
Not eligible for military service because he was underweight, he was a technical adviser in the Office of Price Administration and on the Board of Economic Warfare.
After traveling extensively after the war, Mr. Gleichauf returned home and signed up in 1950 with a new agency born of the war's Office of Strategic Services, the Central Intelligence Agency.
As the Cold War was growing in intensity, Mr. Gleichauf debriefed American professors and business leaders who returned from Europe and gleaned intelligence from them.
During the Hungarian revolution in 1956, Mr. Gleichauf opened an out-of-the-way facility in New Jersey's Camp Kilmer. There, he directed the interrogations of Hungarian freedom fighters who came to the United States after battling Soviet troops.
Two years later, trouble was brewing on the island of Cuba, and Mr. Gleichauf soon found himself with another important assignment.
In January 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista, and within two weeks, Mr. Gleichauf was dispatched to Miami, where he headed the Domestic Contacts Division of the agency's Directorate of Intelligence.
His assignment was to monitor the fast-moving developments in Cuba as Castro's newly installed government quickly became affiliated with the former Soviet Union and other Communist nations.
In September 1962, Mr. Gleichauf's office struck intelligence gold. A Cuban farmer who fled his native land told Gleichauf that just before he left, he had witnessed large tractor-trailers moving through the countryside. The trailers, which moved only at night without headlights, were carrying long tubular objects.
That piece of information was among the intelligence that led President John F. Kennedy to order a U-2 flight over Cuba. That flight verified the presence of Soviet ICBM missiles on Cuba and led to a tense standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.
A year later, Mr. Gleichauf retired from the CIA and became a corporate travel agent.
"He traveled all around the world on free trips and he loved it, writing articles for travel magazines along the way," said Mrs. Davis-Bradford.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Gleichauf was tapped once again by the CIA during the Mariel boatlift, which brought more than 120,000 Cuban refugees into the U.S.
As a "contract" employee, he directed the flow of Cubans into the U.S. while gleaning intelligence information from the new immigrants.
After performing that mission, Mr. Gleichauf wrote a book, Unsung Sailors: The U.S. Naval Armed Guard in World War II, that was published by the Naval Institute Press. .
He often moved with his wife of 54 years, Josephine Madrid, and family according to his CIA assignments. He and his wife settled in Columbia in 1995; she died in 1997.
A memorial service will be held at 9 a.m. today at the St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville.
In addition to Mrs. Davis-Bradford, survivors include another daughter, Teresa Gleichauf of Columbia; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.