Boyd, Arthur L. 1928-

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Boyd, Arthur L. 1928-


Born June 23, 1928.


Home—Niota, TN.


Writer and Army officer. Military service: U.S. Army, retired as Lieutenant Colonel, 1968.


Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission That Averted World War III (memoir), afterword by Jay T. Young, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.


Arthur L. Boyd, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, is the author of Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission That Averted World War III. Although listed as the sole author of the book, Boyd acknowledges that he had help from author Mike Peterson, a novelist and writer who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of his wife, Kathleen.

As the only survivor of Operation Broken Reed, Boyd recounts an important secret intelligence operation that focused on ferreting out information about the relationship among North Korea, the Soviet Union, and China during the Korean War. The author writes in the book's prologue: "From June 1950 until July 1953 the United States waged war in Korea; though there were 33,686 battle deaths and over 100,000 wounded, it is America's forgotten war, a war so forgotten that 8,100 U.S. servicemen from that time are still unaccounted for."

Operation Broken Reed details a vital effort in the war and one in which Boyd served as cryptographer on a wide-ranging team made up of military professionals and members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to the author, the mission consisted of a ten-man team being smuggled into North Korea and then traveling across the country in a caravan supposedly as prisoners of Chinese Communist troops. In reality, the caravan was headed by Chinese nationalist personnel posing as communists. As the military vehicles traversed the countryside on their way to their rendezvous point at the Yellow Sea, the team gathered vital information, which, according to the author, might have helped prevent World War III.

"The Korean War was one of fear and suspicion—possibly greater than at any other time in American history," Boyd writes. "The cold war dominated all events; it was a period of atomic terror, the Red Scare, and blacklists. Americans were afraid during those years, and their fear was real—the world did teeter on the verge of atomic war."

The author describes in his book how President Harry S. Truman had reached a crisis point in the war concerning whether to escalate the conflict or essentially accept a stalemate with the North Koreans. Of utmost importance was how involved the Soviets and the Chinese were with the North Koreans. As a result, Truman decided on a super-secret mission to determine their involvement. Boyd and his nine fellow "spies" knew that their mission was not only highly dangerous but that their likelihood of surviving the mission was slim. Boyd, who was a young officer in the Signal Corps, was handpicked for the mission and given the job of transmitting reports to various aircraft flying over the Sea of Japan. Almost beyond the team's highest hopes, they made it across almost all of North Korea, gathering much important intelligence along the way. However, as they were nearing their pick-up point, they were ambushed by the North Koreans. Seven of the team members were killed while Boyd and two others were wounded and captured. Boyd recounts that he never learned whether his two comrades, who were seriously injured, survived.

According to Boyd, the government destroyed all evidence of the secret operation, and only fifty years later was he permitted to tell his story about the mission—one that the government still refuses to concede took place. "Boyd acknowledges that given the surreal nature of the mission and the absence of corroborating evidence or witnesses, some readers might question the veracity of his story," wrote Tom Miller for "He also appeals for anyone else with knowledge of the mission to come forward."

Despite the loss of life, which most expected to happen, the mission was an outstanding success in terms of detailing the relationship between the North Koreans and the Chinese. Noting the extensive collaboration between the Chinese and the North Koreans as reported by the team during their time in North Korea, Truman decided that escalating the Korean War could result in a global war. Consequently, he chose a stalemate that remained into the twenty-first century, as North Korea and South Korea are still divided by the Military Demarcation Line, also referred to as the Armistice Line.

"Readers who suspend disbelief will encounter an absorbing, technically accurate story of military derring-do from a half-forgotten war," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Ed Goedeken, writing in Library Journal, called Operation Broken Reed "a chilling story and, if true, certainly an amazing one in the annals of wartime espionage."



Boyd, Lt. Col. Arthur L. (Ret.), Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy MissionThat Averted World War III, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.


Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Operation Broken Reed.

Library Journal, October 15, 2007, Ed Goedeken, review of Operation Broken Reed, p. 76.

Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2007, review of Operation Broken Reed, p. 52.


Curled Up with a Good Book, (July 20, 2008), Barbara Bamberger Scott, review of Operation Broken Reed., (November 19, 2007), Tom Miller, review of Operation Broken Reed.

U.S. Militaria Forum, (March 3, 2008), online forum discussion of Operation Broken Reed., (November 19, 2007), "Convicted Killer Mike Peterson Writing Again," discusses author's uncredited collaborator.