Capt. Leonard LeSchack
It is with regret we wish to inform friends and the naval community of the passing of Capt. Leonard LeSchack on Dec. 15, 2017: spy; CIA analyst; U.S. Navy Captain; author. He was 82.
Born in Freeport, N.Y., March 6, 1935, to Selma (Kaminsky) and David LeSchack, LeSchack 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, LeSchack wanted to travel to ‘faraway places with strange sounding names.’
He started at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. in 1952. After finishing the first two years in electrical engineering, LeSchack changed majors and began studying geology. He graduated as a petroleum geologist and was accepted into Shell Oil’s geophysical training program. By the end of 1957, LeSchack was asked to join the U.S. 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 (coord|85|25|S|124|0|W|) is a distinctive flat-topped mountain, 2,265 m, standing on the north side of Perkins Canyon in the Wisconsin Range, Horlick Mountains.
Early on, LeSchack noticed a common denominator about all his favorite explorers: they were commissioned by the government or had military training. Since the U.S. Navy handled most of the logistics, he got to know the Navy officers and men, resulting in the Navy’s senior commander in the Antarctic agreeing to recommend LeSchack for Navy Officer Candidate School after returning to the U.S.
LeSchack was the originator of the well-known mission ‘Project Coldfeet;’ his brainchild was to investigate a recently abandoned Soviet drift station to determine if they had the capability to track U.S. submarines. The CIA provided the aircraft with Skyhook Aero-retrieval system; the Navy and Air Force all were involved in both the dropping and extraction of both LeSchack and one other participant. LeSchack had exactly what he wanted: adventure!
Operation Coldfeet was a definite success, and LeSchack received the Presidential Legion of Merit for his role in it. A painting of the Project Coldfeet mission called ‘Seven Days in the Arctic’ by artist Keith Woodcock proudly hangs in the CIA Museum.
His next assignments included acting as the U.S. official representative to the Argentine Navy in the 1962-63 Antarctic Expedition, and studying in Paris at Les Expéditions Polaires Françaises and geophysics at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). He then traveled to Panama, Peru and Colombia to conduct environmental research under various U.S. 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 ordered him to the U.S. 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 U.S. Forces Caribbean Command in Key West. LeSchack became its first commanding officer and served as deputy chief of intelligence for that command.
After leaving the Military, LeSchack worked in oil exploration, with several contracts conducting research with Oil Companies: AMOCO, ARCO, Chevron, Dome, EXXON, Gulf (US), Gulf Canada, Marathon, Mobil, Phillips, Shell, SOHIO, and Sun Oil Companies. These contracts all involved exploration in the Canadian and U.S. sectors of the Arctic Ocean. In Alberta, 2002 Len founded Hectori Inc., an operating company for finding and exploiting prolific Devonian reefs in Alberta.
LeSchack was very proud of the books he wrote. He co-authored ‘Project Coldfeet’ with William M. Leary and published his memoirs four years ago, entitled ‘He Heard a Different Drummer.’ He also authored geological reference papers with the U.S. Geological Society. LeSchack had also been the subject of many news articles and interviews. His favorites were in Eye Spy magazine, and an episode of ‘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. LeSchack was an active member in the Naval Officers Association of Canada (the first U.S. 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 the Russians’ activity in that region.
LeSchack maintained a residence in Calgary, and Parsons B.C., for a number of years, eventually moving to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in 2011.
In Bonners Ferry, LeSchack 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 LeSchack during his time in Bonners Ferry.
Despite all his professional achievements, LeSchack’s proudest achievements were his children and grandchildren, and he spoke of them often and with great love and pride.
As per LeSchack’s wishes, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 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 honored their service. He would consider it an honor and privilege to be amongst them.
Mourning LeSchack’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; and 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.
A service will be held in 2018 at Arlington National Cemetery on May 8, 2018 at 9 a.m.
“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 far away.” — Henry David Thoreau