Smokejumpers are some of the bravest and most daring groups of firefighters. In World War II the US Forest Service paired up with the US military. Paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were a part of an exchange program with the smokejumpers.
A group of all-black paratroopers was picked and trained, earning the name Triple Nickles. Their team was used to prevent fires started by Japanese balloon bombs from growing.
When China forced Tibet to sign a treaty, the U.S. was looking to help the country out. The CIA wanted to use people who were familiar with remote areas and rough terrain.
They did want to train new paratroopers this time, instead, they used the best smokejumpers the forestry service had to offer.
In 1951, Garfield Thorsrud was in charge of training CIA officers at the Nime Mile facility in Montana. He and six other smoke jumpers were tasked with a covert mission in Taiwan.
They worked training Chinese Nationalists in cargo and personal drops from 1957 to 1960.
But the partnership eventually went global, with the smokejumpers and the CIA working together all over the world.
Over 100 smokejumpers worked covertly with the US government. Ray “Beas” Beasley was a Air Force winter survival expert and he worked in multiple capacities with the teams.
“We were training aircrews for Africa and Ivy Leaguers for the Central Intelligence Agency. Those Ivy Leaguers thought they were special, but they didn’t know a goddamned thing. It was truly unbelievable.”Ray Beasley
Beasley and other smoke jumpers were kickers who pushed out 10,000 pounds of weapons, ammo, and equipment into Tibet. Drops came from 14,000 feet and the pilots were from the CIA’s Air Transport unit.
They used CB-130B planes and dropped agents then the equipment. During these missions, they also trained Tibetan forces at Camp Hale in Colorado.
Dalai Lama In Exile
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, and the CIA set up a pallet with 300,000 Rupees and a yellow parachute. They continued to find the fight while he was in exile.
Once they were done in Tibet, Beasley and the others participated in many other covert operations with the CIA. Especially during the 1960s, if the CIA wasn’t supposed to be somewhere, it was generally smokejumpers fielding the missions.