The Frank Olson Legacy Project

Getting the news on June 11, 1975

See the Washington Post front page for June 11, 1975

On June 11, 1975 Rena Dorrell was startled, shocked, stunned, by the story she read on the front page of The Washington Post. "Suicide Revealed" the article was called. The story reported the just-released finding of the Rockefeller Commission, the gist being that in November of 1953 an unnamed Army scientist had plunged to his death from the window of a New York hotel room after having been drugged with LSD a week earlier.

Rena’s husband Bill was also a Detrick scientist and Rena herself was my mother’s closest friend. Our families had been having Thanksgiving dinner together every year before my father died, and this tradition continued after his death.

Immediately recognizing the fit between the Post story and what she knew of Frank’s death, Rena telephoned the Olson house. The call was received by my sister Lisa. Breathless with what she had to tell, Rena came directly to the point. "There’s a story in the Post today that you have to read." She then recounted the story of the LSD-drugging and subsequent suicide, suggesting that even though the scientist involved had not been named the story must certainly be referring to Frank. (In 1999 we would learn that after the 1975 LSD revelations Bill Dorrell had confided to another mutual Detrick friend that he was convinced that Frank Olson’s death was not an LSD-related suicide at all, and that in fact “they did Frank in.”)

After hanging up the phone Lisa related what she had just heard to her husband Greg. Without hesitating Greg picked up the phone to call Frank’s boss Vincent Ruwet, who would undoubtedly be able to confirm whether the story in the Post was referring to Frank.

The call to the Ruwet household was received by Ruwet’s wife Hazel, who told Greg curtly that Vin wasn’t home. When Greg explained the purpose of his call Hazel responded assuredly, "Vin wouldn’t know anything about this."

Later that day Greg again called the Ruwet household, this time finding Vin there. At that point Vin confirmed that the unnamed scientist in the Post story was in fact Frank Olson. Ruwet added that he had just returned from a meeting at the CIA where he had gotten authorization to provide precisely this confirmation. That was where he had been that very afternoon, Ruwet explained, at the time when Greg had called first and spoken to Hazel. Ruwet told Greg that—along with several others, including himself—Frank had been drugged at a scientific meeting at Deep Creek Lake.

After hanging up the phone with Ruwet Greg’s next call was to me in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "There’s a story in the Washington Post today that you need to read," Greg told me. "It’s about your father." My immediate thought was that a long-lost bottle had finally washed up on my shore. I hung up the phone and sprinted to Out-of-Town-News in Harvard Square to buy the Post.