Woman of character, courage and commitment celebrated
1905 – 1976
The theme for the 2014 National Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment” which recognizes and honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women. In recognition of that, therefore, the Military Intelligence History Office week pays tribute to Ann Bray, a “Very Special Agent.”
Ann Bray had already achieved success as a newspaper journalist and teacher when she enlisted in the Army in 1943. She became a private at 38 years old, full of adventure and ready to do her part.
After basic training, Ann’s assignments concentrated on journalism, public relations and writing. Her work ethic and zeal for learning got her into Officer’s Candidate School and earned her a commission. What intrigued her most, however, was the Counter Intelligence Corps, or CIC.
Never having been shy, Ann submitted her request to attend CIC training as soon as the field was opened to women. She made it into the second basic course that included women and became one of the very first women in the counterintelligence field. The former high school teacher/reporter became a special agent, countering the efforts of spies and anyone attempting espionage, sabotage or subversion against the United States.
Special Agent Bray spent five years in Japan before, during and after the Korean War. While serving in the 441st CIC Headquarters in Tokyo, she and other CIC agents monitored Korean nationals living in Japan prior to the Inchon landings in September 1950.
The investigation was incredibly complex and difficult, made more so by the fact that Koreans living in Japan spoke both languages and had no particular loyalty to either nation. Plus, there were no laws in Japan against espionage, so arrest was impossible. Spies were well funded, supplied and recruited, owing to the high value the Communists placed on intelligence and espionage in general.
However, CIC agents from the 441st found a way to identify suspected enemy agents and were able to arrest 200 individuals from several interconnected spy rings, protecting the surprise of the United Nations troop landings at Inchon. Special Agent Bray, who was an investigative agent on the case, wrote most of the intelligence summaries that were sent to Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the investigation of the spy ring.
Upon returning to the States, Bray worked at Fort Holabird, Md., to direct the collection, research and writing of the history of the American CIC in its combat phases for the archives. This was a monumental work, as she described in the prologue of her summary, “The Spy Catchers,” years later:
“The original compilation of more than one million words resulted from research of the records of approximately 300 CIC Detachments operating in a total of more than 60 countries … during a period of 33 years. An estimated 25,000 CIC Agents were involved in activities which were recorded in some way or other … It was necessary to comb the files of every Army Records Depository, study the pages of every Army Group, Army, Corps and Division to find references to activities of CIC, quite often at times amounting to one brief sentence in several pages of hastily typewritten notes of the activity of that one day for that unit. Volume after volume of correspondence files kept by the G-2 and by various CIC units also were studied page by page as were many volumes of Monthly and Periodic Intelligence Summaries. In addition to the study of all these documents, many persons were interviewed and nearly 100 collateral reference books read or screened.”
Encompassing 30 volumes, much of this history was classified, but it remains the most comprehensive historical account of a major portion of the Military Intelligence story. Years later, after she retired from the Army and much of the history had been declassified, Bray condensed the history and wrote a manuscript entitled “The Spy Catcher: CIC in Combat in World War II.”
Ann Bray left the Army at the rank of major in 1963. She died of emphysema in 1976, but she managed to complete the first draft of “Spy Catchers,” even though she was restricted to bed, on oxygen, and had to dictate the text. She was inducted into the MI Hall of Fame in 1989.
Special Agent Major Ann Bray had a fascinating career and left a lasting legacy. She was a pioneer for women in the field of counterintelligence, as well as for all women in the military. Her nominator and fellow Special Agent, Chief Warrant Officer Ann McDonough, explained in a letter to the Hall of Fame committee that while Bray had served 20 years on active duty, her initial service had been in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC. In 1963, women were not given credit for time served as WAACs. Ann found this unjust and fought to have the law changed. With the help of her brother, Congressman Bill Bray, she was successful. There is no doubt she truly earned her nickname of “First Lady of Counterintelligence.”