Moments in Time
Leonard LeSchack - United States Navy Captain, CIA analyst, Author and Spy
Born in Freeport, New York on 6 March 1935 to Selma (Kaminsky) and David LeSchack, Len was encouraged to live a life of adventure. His father was a lawyer, and his mother a history teacher, and they read to him daily about explorers, adventurers and inventors. Even as a child Len wanted to travel to 'faraway places with strange sounding names.'
He started at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY in 1952. After finishing the first two years in electrical engineering, Len changed majors and began studying geology. He graduated as a petroleum geologist and was accepted into Shell Oil's geophysical training programme. By the end of 1957, Len was asked to join the US Antarctic Expedition as an assistant seismologist. Based on the work he did in the Antarctic, he had a mountain range there named after him: Mount LeSchack (co-ordinates |85|25|S|124|0|W|) is a distinctive flat-topped mountain, 2,265m, standing on the north side of Perkins Canyon in the Wisconsin Range, Horlick Mountains.
Early on, Len noticed a common denominator about all his favourite explorers: they were commissioned by the Government or had had military training. Since the US Navy handled most of the logistics, he got to know the naval officers and men, resulting in the Navy's senior commander in Antarctica agreeing to recommend Len for Navy Officer Candidate School after returning to the United States.
Len was the originator of the well-known mission Operation Coldfeet; his brainchild was to investigate a recently abandoned Soviet drift station to determine if they had the capability to track American submarines. The CIA provided the aircraft with a SkyhookAero (Fulton) retrieval system; the Navy and Air Force were involved in the dropping and extraction of both Len and one other participant. Len now had exactly what he wanted - adventure!
Operation Coldfeet was a definite success, and Leonard received the Legion of Merit. A painting of the mission called 'Seven Days in the Arctic' by artist Keith Woodcock proudly hangs in the CIA Museum.
His next assignments included acting as the US official representative to the Argentine Navy in the 1962-63 Antarctic Expedition, and studying in Paris at Les Expeditions Polaires Fran,aises and geophysics at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). He then travelled to Panama, Peru and Colombia to conduct environmental research under various US Government contracts.
In 1973, he visited Siberia as part of a scientific delegation to the Second International Permafrost Conference; the Soviet Academy of Sciences invited him based on a paper he wrote on permafrost in Alaska. The Navy eventually called him back to active duty to run the Cuban-Haitian Refugee Center in Puerto Rico, then assigned him to the US Naval Station at Panama Canal where he became that Command's Intelligence Officer.
After his release from active duty, he moved his private research office from Maryland to the Florida Keys and worked with his midget oceanographic research submarine, fondly calling it his 'yellow submarine'. When the Navy learned that he was still in the Reserve, they asked him to set up a Naval Reserve Intelligence Unit to support the then-recently established US Forces Caribbean Command in Key West. Len became its first commanding officer and served as Deputy Chief of Intelligence for that Command.
After leaving the Military, Len worked in oil exploration conducting research with oil companies: AMOCO, ARCO, Chevron, Dome, EXXON, Gulf (US), Gulf Canada, Marathon, Mobil, Phillips, Shell, SOHIO and Sun Oil. These contracts all involved exploration in the Canadian and US sectors of the Arctic Ocean. In Alberta, 2002 Len founded Hectori Inc., an operating company for finding and exploiting prolific Devonian reefs in Alberta.
Len was very proud of the books he wrote. He co-authored Project Coldfeet with William M. Leary and published his memoirs four years ago called He Heard a Different Drummer. He also authored geological reference papers with the US Geological Society. Len had also been the subject of many news articles and interviews. His favourites were in Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine, and an episode called 'Weapons of the Superspies' by Discovery Channel.
For many years, Len was a permanent resident and enjoyed the comradeship of the military community in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Len was an active member in the Naval Officers Association of Canada (the first US member) and RAUSI. He maintained many friendships within the naval community, especially his friend Captain Bill Wilson. He continued to be active in writing and editing with his close friend and co-author, Susan Lucas, and he presented lectures on our need for greater Arctic security to counter Russian activity in that region.
Len maintained a residence in Calgary, and Parsons BC for a number of years, eventually moving to Bonners Ferry Idaho in 2011. Here Len lived a quiet life filled with literature, science and classical music, and kept a keen interest in politics. He embedded himself in the veterans' community and maintained close friendships with many there, especially Tom Ulappa, Don Solum, and Karla Keller. We thank them for their care and support of Len during his time in Bonners Ferry.
Despite all his professional achievements, Len's proudest achievements were his children and grandchildren, and he spoke of them often and with great love and pride.
As per Len's wishes, he was buried in Arlington Military Cemetery in early 2018. It was important to him to be amongst the brotherhood of those who served their country. Often bringing a tear to his eye, he mentioned the names of many who lie there and honoured their service. He would consider it an honour and privilege to be amongst them.
Mourning Len's loss are his sons Chris (Nichola) LeSchack and Adam (Alyona) LeSchack, and granddaughters Jade and Lana LeSchack; his stepchildren Joy Elliott (Daniel Charbonneau) and Christopher Elliott (Bethanne Bell), and step-granddaughter Ivy Elliott; his brothers Peter (Arlyne) LeSchack and Mark LeSchack (Rebecca Block) and cousin Al LeSchack. He will be greatly missed by his friend, confidant, and editor Susan Lucas. As well as so many other people whose friendships he valued.
'If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or faraway'. - Henry David Thoreau
*A two-part feature by Eye Spy Associate Editor Christopher Eger titled Operation Coldfeet: The Covert Soviet Ice Station Mission, was published by Eye Spy and features in issues 80 and 81.
Previous 'Moments in Time'
Death of Diana
Resignation of George Tenet
Flight 77 The Pentagon Crash
The Assassination of CIA Man Richard Welch
The Yeti Conspiracy and the CIA
Checkpoint Charlie's Bay of Pig's
George Blake Escapes from Prison