Au­thor of a me­moir on the life of a CIA wife

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BINA CADY KIYONAGA, 92 BY BART BARNES new­so­bits@wash­

Bina Cady Kiyonaga, the widow of a Cold War spy and CIA sta­tion chief whose deathbed re­quest was that she go pub­lic with de­tails of his ca­reer and their clan­des­tine life to­gether, died Oct. 5 at her home in Chevy Chase, Md. She was 92.

The cause was com­pli­ca­tions from a fall, said a son, Paul Y. Kiyonaga.

Mrs. Kiyonaga was mar­ried for 30 years to Joseph Y. Kiyonaga, who served as a CIA sta­tion chief in Brazil and Panama. From a base in Ja­pan, he ran psy­cho­log­i­cal op­er­a­tions against North Korea dur­ing the Korean War. He plot­ted es­pi­onage op­er­a­tions with mil­i­tary strong­men and busi­ness­men in Panama, El Sal­vador and Brazil.

When he died in 1977, of stom­ach can­cer, the CIA was com­ing un­der pub­lic crit­i­cism for ex­ceed­ing its author­ity in covert op­er­a­tions overseas. In the face of such crit­i­cism, Joseph Kiyonaga told his wife, he wanted to “stand up and be counted.”

So she got a yel­low lined le­gal pad and took notes while he talked. Twenty-three years af­ter his death, her book was pub­lished, “My Spy: Me­moir of a CIA Wife.” The vol­ume de­scribed her hus­band as sexy and ur­bane, tightlipped and mys­te­ri­ous. They had a mar­riage that was some­times stormy but sel­dom dull.

He would dis­ap­pear for days with­out no­tice and re­turn with­out ex­pla­na­tion. There were shad­owy char­ac­ters around the house, nei­ther friends nor busi­ness as­so­ciates nor rel­a­tives. They lacked names. They lacked iden­ti­ties. Meals were some­times prone to abrupt si­lences.

As the wife of a spy, Mrs. Kiyonaga fol­lowed the req­ui­site code of si­lence.

“We lied about our hus­bands’ jobs,” she wrote, “stalled in­quis­i­tive po­lice­men, be­friended min­is­ters’ wives, kept our ears open at par­ties, de­flected the chil­dren’s ques­tions, wor­ried in si­lence alone. We were CIA wives. You never knew us.”

They had five chil­dren. In­evitably the chil­dren would won­der what their fa­ther did for a liv­ing. He told them him­self, call­ing each one into his study some­time around their 12th birth­day. One child was an­gry. She had al­ready heard from a play­mate that her fa­ther was a spy. She had wanted to hear it first from him. An­other said she’d never heard of the CIA.

The youngest son, Paul, sus­pected the truth long be­fore his fa­ther told him.

“When you see Manuel An­to­nio Nor­iega in your liv­ing room at 2 o’clock in the morn­ing,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Pana­ma­nian strong­man, “you might be sus­pi­cious that your fa­ther’s job in­volves some­thing other than be­ing spe­cial as­sis­tant to the am­bas­sador.”

Mrs. Kiyonaga’s book drew warm re­views. Pub­lish­ers Weekly praised it as an “un­pre­ten­tious ac­count of their 30-year mar­riage and its de­scrip­tion of her lonely life as a mother of five . . . which un­folded on a need to know ba­sis.”

Jon A. Wiant in the CIA in­house jour­nal Stud­ies in In­tel­li­gence called the book “a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to in­tel­li­gence lit­er­a­ture,” re­flect­ing “the dif­fi­cul­ties of hold­ing a re­la­tion­ship to­gether when she was ex­cluded from a sig­nif­i­cant part of her hus­band’s life.”

Bina Cady was born in Bal­ti­more on Sept. 18, 1925. She at­tended the Univer­sity of Michi­gan for two years, then in 1947 mar­ried Kiyonaga, a na­tive Hawai­ian of Ja­panese an­ces­try whom she had met on cam­pus. He had served dur­ing World War II with the 42nd Reg­i­men­tal Com­bat Team, a highly dec­o­rated unit com­posed al­most en­tirely of Amer­i­cans of Ja­panese de­scent.

In 1949, she grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Hawaii and then set­tled in Wash­ing­ton, where her hus­band was a stu­dent at the School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, now part of Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. He was re­cruited that year to the CIA.

Be­ing a CIA wife re­quired ad­just­ments of Mrs. Kiyonaga. Early on, at a so­cial gath­er­ing, one of her guests ex­cused him­self to use a tele­phone, then re­turned, stern­faced, to chas­tise her for leav­ing out a Rolodex with names and num­bers she fre­quently called. That might re­veal the iden­ti­ties of other spies, the man said.

Sleep­over guests for her chil­dren were pro­hib­ited, she was told. They might en­counter some­one who did not want to be seen. The CIA, un­like the fic­tional spy James Bond, used the tele­phone as its pri­mary piece of equip­ment, Mrs. Kiyonaga said, but she did have to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the fact that her hus­band, when serv­ing overseas, did carry a weapon in the front seat of his car.

Sur­vivors in­clude five chil­dren, Mary Kiyonaga of New York City, Ann Kiyonaga of St. Au­gus­tine, Fla., and David J. Kiyonaga, John C. Kiyonaga and Paul Kiyonaga, all of Chevy Chase; and 14 grand­chil­dren.

Mrs. Kiyonaga was a long­time vol­un­teer at the Mis­sion­ar­ies of Char­ity’s Gift of Peace House in Wash­ing­ton.


Bina Cady Kiyonaga with hus­band Joseph Y. Kiyonaga, who ran psy­cho­log­i­cal op­er­a­tions against North Korea in the Korean War.

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