As an officer with the CIA, E. Howard Hunt was involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961. In 1970, Hunt joined the Nixon administration as a PR consultant and, along with G. Gordon Liddy, plotted a break-in of the Watergate Hotel to gain information for Nixon's re-election campaign. Both men were convicted and served time. Throughout his career, Hunt also wrote spy novels and memoirs like American Spy.
E. Howard Hunt was born Everette Howard Hunt Jr. on October 9, 1918, in Hamburg, New York. A former CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt is best known for his involvement in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. A graduate of Brown University, Hunt served in the U.S. Naval Reserves in the early 1940s before joining the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. Also around this time, he worked on a documentary film for TIME magazine and served as a war correspondent for LIFE magazine. Skilled with words, Hunt won a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship in 1946 and worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood for a time.
It is believed that Hunt began working for the CIA around 1949, which was a fairly new organization then. Over the years, he worked on a number of operations around the world, including the failed attempt to unseat Cuban dictator Fidel Castro known as the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 during the Kennedy administration. Outside of his duties as a CIA operative, Hunt found time to write a number of thrillers and spy novels, including The Violent Ones (1950), Return from Vorkuta (1965) and Diabolus (1968).
After retiring from the CIA in 1970, Hunt worked at public relations firm in Washington, D.C., for a time before becoming a part-time consultant at the White House in 1971. Serving the administration of President Richard Nixon, he was known as a "plumber," or a person who helps fix information "leaks." Hunt was involved to stopping the leaks associated with the Pentagon Papers incident, in which a defense analyst gave The New York Times a confidential report on Vietnam. For his next project, Hunt worked with G. Gordon Liddy to gain information on Nixon’s political opposition for his re-election campaign. The two devised a plot to spy on the National Democratic Committee by breaking into its headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington, D.C. Hunt recruited five men for the job-four of whom he had known from the Bay of Pigs incident. The secret mission proved not to be so secret when the burglars were caught in the NDC offices on June 17, 1972.
Although the White House denied any involvement in the crime, the plot began to unravel as Hunt's telephone number was found in the address books of some of the burglars. Three months after the burglars' arrest, he and Liddy were indicted charges related to the crime. Hunt also suffered a personal tragedy that December. His wife, Dorothy, died in a plane crash. The crash was investigated and eventually ruled an accident.
In January 1973, Hunt pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy, burglary and eavesdropping. That same year, his memoir, Give Us This Day, was released and provided an inside look at his career with the CIA. Hunt continued sharing spy stories with 1974's Undercover: Memoirs of an American Secret Agent.
Originally sentenced to 35 years in prison, Hunt's sentence was later reduced to two and a half to eight years in prison and he was fined $10,000. He served more than 32 months in prison before being paroled in 1977. All the while, Hunt continued with his writing career. He published such novels as The Gaza Intercept (1981), Cozumel (1986), Ixtapa (1994), Dragon Teeth (1997) and Sonora (2002).
E. Howard Hunt died on January 23, 2007, in Miami, Florida. His final book, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond, was released after his death. He was survived by his four children from his first marriage and two children from his second marriage to Laura E. Martin.
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