Matlack played significant role in military intelligence field
Dorothe Kerans Matlack (1906 – 1991) started her government career at 42 as a GS-2 data entry clerk. As a military widow, she was only receiving a small stipend of $48 per month, so she entered government service at the bottom of the ladder. She eventually retired after a distinguished 27-year career in military intelligence which culminated in her assignment as special assistant to the assistant chief of staff for Intelligence, or ACSI, Department of the Army.
Dorothe Kerans came from rugged stock. Her father, Jack, was raised on a dairy farm in Missouri, granted to his father for service in the Civil War. He ran away to the circus, was a boxer and later a successful businessman in Lawton, Okla.
The Kerans fought for their beliefs, refusing to sit by and watch injustice. When they stood up for the rights of Native Americans in Oklahoma, they were targeted for harassment by the Ku Klux Klan. But Jack and his wife taught their children, two girls and three boys, to be independent and resilient, to work hard, to stand up for what was right, and to never allow adversity or obstacles to interfere with achieving their dreams.
Dorothe met and married Jesse “Mat” Matlack at Fort Sill in 1925. He had graduated from West Point in 1917 and been wounded in World War I. He later served again in World War II.
Patriotic and proud, Dorothe accompanied Mat to assignments in the Philippines, China and Hawaii. Their last assignment in the military was in Virginia, where Col. Matlack was commanding the 3rd Army’s Old Guard. After her husband’s untimely death, Dorothe was forced to go back to work in 1948.
Three years after starting in civil service, Matlack became an intelligence analyst. She served the ACSI as a section, branch and division chief before eventually becoming the deputy director of operations for Collections.
In 1956, she organized and directed the debriefing of 37,000 Hungarian refugees entering the United States. Subsequently, she played an instrumental role in establishing Department of Defense procedures for debriefing defectors, escapees and refugees of intelligence interest.
In 1962, Matlack initiated joint agency efforts which resulted in the refugee debriefings that first located Soviet missiles in Cuba. The Army recognized her for her contributions to establishing significant overt and sensitive human intelligence, or HUMINT, programs in the Republic of Vietnam. She retired from federal service in 1975, with the title of special assistant to the ACSI.
Following her retirement, Matlack was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1987 and was selected as one of the first 10 Distinguished Members of the Military Intelligence Corps. She served as an MI Corps ambassador until her death in 1991.
The headquarters for the Human Intelligence Training-Joint Center of Excellence was opened and dedicated in Matlack’s honor in 2010. Her legacy as a pioneer and champion of the Army’s human intelligence efforts will be remembered by every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and civilian who passes through its doors to learn their trade.