top of page

Joe Maggio, company man

I'm reading Norman Mailer's 1991 doorstop Harlot's Ghost, and its descriptions of the infamous Camp Peary had me wondering about when "The Farm" first entered the public consciousness as a CIA training camp. After a little bit of poking around, it would appear that it came to light in an interview with author Joe Maggio, following the publication of his novel Company Man. The front-page headline of the December 22, 1972, edition of Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette (motto: "Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign and Domestick") was plain: "Camp Peary Exposed as CIA Training Base." A four-week investigation by the Gazette's staff writer Ed Offley and news editor W.C. O'Donovan included a phone conversation with Maggio, who'd barely disguised the center as "Camp Perry" in his book. He had been, he said, a contractor with the CIA's Special Operations Division (SOD). "My cover was that of a civilian training advisor for the Department of Defense," he told them. "I was part of an outfit called the "United States Army Technical Training Advisory Group." Maggio told the Gazette that Camp Peary hosted training for assassination, demolition, parachuting, wiretapping, and even experiments with LSD and "mini-nuclear bombs." If a blue-ribbon committee investigated, he promised, "they'd find a whole new world, a Disneyland of war." He predicted that the base would one day suffer a catastrophic "Dr. Strangelove explosion that really is going to rock that area."

"The book could never have been published as non-fiction," Maggio said. But even though it was labeled a novel, CIA policy called for him to submit the manuscript for approval. Maggio did not, he said, and as a result, the agency "screamed at my publisher," especially about the descriptions of SOD "kill teams." "The entire cadre that caught Che Guevara was trained at Camp Peary," Maggio said. "Those were the guys who went to Fort Sherman in the Canal Zone and trained the people from Bolivia. They were all agents."

The Gazette also includes a mention that Maggio had spoken to Seymour Hersh the previous week, and related charges that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was provoked by "a series of massacres of North Vietnamese fishing villages by CIA gunboats disguised as U.S. Navy vessels." [This sounds like a more violent variation of Plan 34A, which had been revealed with the publication of the Pentagon Papers in June 1971.] Joe Maggio's name is pretty annoying to search on databases, which will often scoop up mentions of a certain center fielder. But I have figured out that Joseph A. Maggio was born March 19, 1938, in Atlantic City to Peter and Marie Maggio; graduated from Pleasantville High in 1956; detoured to the Citadel and then the Marines before attending University of Miami. He spent time in Cuba, Laos, Cambodia, and the Congo. He was also apparently a Vietnam War correspondent for UPI. He wrote for the Miami Beach Sun and sold his book to Putnam under the title What God Abandoned. He lived on a schooner. Curiously, he appeared on Larry King's WIOD radio show in October 1970 to promote the book, although it wouldn't come out for another year and a half. Putnam published The Company Man on August 17, 1972. Had he submitted it to the CIA for approval, it may well have been drastically altered. Just weeks earlier, the agency had persuaded Harper & Row to submit Alfred McCoy's manuscript for The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia—after a personal visit to the Harper offices by Assistant Deputy Director of Plans Cord Meyer. The Justice Department had recently obtained an injunction against Knopf, the prospective publisher for former CIA employee Victor Marchetti's nonfiction book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. And, as a result of the Pentagon Papers leak, Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were on trial for violating the Espionage Act. In the meantime, Maggio's disclosure about "The Farm" was scooped, sort of. A letter to the Washington, DC, underground Quicksilver Times revealed its CIA ties in early 1972, about ten months before the Virginia Gazette story, and purported to give the names of officers there. The letter was signed by one "Cosmic Charlie."


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page