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A war hero labeled a deserter might have been a high ranking US spy.
In September of 1945, at the end of World War II, Lt. Ray Hickingbotham settled down with his wife, Dorothy, and three year old daughter, Carol, in Arlington, Virginia.
A decorated war hero, Ray was assigned to Army intelligence. The base housed a top-secret radio operation. Ray may have been part of a select group of expert code-breakers. His assignment was monitoring radio communications from behind the Iron Curtain. It was the beginning of the Cold War.
Former CIA operative John Stockwell explains:
In less than a year, Ray and his group were absorbed into the newly created Central Intelligence Agency.
Ray was working long hours and spending little time with his family. In the summer of 1947, he was transferred to another top-secret group, but he didn’t tell Dorothy about the new assignment.
Ray’s daughter, Carol Solstad, remembers her father’s demeanor at the time:
Late that summer, Dorothy took Carol to Long Island for a two-week visit with her grandparents. When Dorothy tried to phone Ray, she was given the surprising news that he had gone on leave. Then, she learned that the military had, without explanation, hired a moving crew to clean out their apartment.
Two weeks later, a moving van showed up at Dorothy’s parents’ house. In the boxes and trunks, there was not one single item belonging to Ray.
Ray’s daughter recalls the incident:
A month later, a man claiming to be from the Army visited Dorothy with shocking news. He said that on October 14th, 1947, Ray was listed as AWOL. Thirty days later, he was dropped from the military rolls and classified as a deserter.
As a result, Dorothy and Carol lost all of their military benefits. Dorothy later tried to get in touch with the visitor, but the Army said they had never heard of him.
Carol Solstad says her mother always felt that the government knew more than they were telling:
Former CIA operative John Stockwell thinks those fears are not over-blown:
After Ray was labeled a deserter, Carol and her mother struggled to make ends meet. Carol grew up, married, and moved to Oklahoma. She became a private investigator, specializing in reuniting families. But she never gave up the search for her own father:
After years of butting heads with government bureaucracy, Carol finally went to the media. An article about her missing father appeared in the local Arlington newspaper. Three hours later, she received a phone call.
The caller identified himself by a code name, Archangel. He provided Carol with what seemed like inside information:
Archangel told Carol that her father had been investigating sensitive leaks regarding atomic energy. He said that in August of 1947, an attempt was made on Ray’s life, so a decision was made for Ray to go underground while making it look like he had been a deserter.
But the most astonishing news revealed by Archangel was that for nearly a year, Ray had lived only three miles away from Carol and her mother. He had been hidden by the government in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He told Carol that her father was currently living in a NATO country and that his name was now Nelson.
Carol didn’t know what to make of Archangel:
Carol never heard from the mysterious caller again. But she and her son, Ian, have never stopped trying to decipher Archangel’s clues: