Legendary Marine Maj. Zembiec, the ‘Lion of Fallujah,’ died in the service of the CIA
In the foyer of the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters, there is a marble wall covered in stars. They are carved divots that represent those who have fallen in the service of the CIA. Below them, jutting out from the polished rock, is a black book entombed in a case of glass and steel. The book is a guide to the stars, giving the names of some of those who died and withholding the names of others.
On the pages of the CIA’s Book of Honor are 111 hand-drawn stars organized by the years those officers died. For 2007, there is a single, anonymous star.
It belongs to Marine Maj. Douglas Alexander Zembiec.
Long thought to be an active-duty Marine when he was killed in Baghdad, Zembiec was actually serving with the CIA’s paramilitary arm. While the CIA would not comment on whether Zembiec worked for the agency, former U.S. intelligence officials said in interviews that he died in an alley in Sadr City on May 11, 2007, as a member of the Special Activities Division’s Ground Branch.
It was the final chapter in the life of a Marine known to many as the Lion of Fallujah but whose story, until now, has never been fully told. He is one of the few Americans to be simultaneously honored by the military and the CIA for his actions. But because he was working covertly, his role was never acknowledged publicly.
First published July 15th 2014 by: Thomas Gibbons-Neff