Benedetto DeFelice’s job was to help in times of crisis.
As the chief of the CIA’s casualty affairs branch, DeFelice was the official liaison to families of missing, killed or captured employees. For 20 years, his duties involved sharing information, taking care of finances and consoling families of agents. He worked with the Red Cross and the State Department to get food delivered to captive CIA employees and arrange for family visits.
DeFelice aided the families of Richard G. Fecteau and John T. “Jack” Downey, two CIA employees who were shot down over Manchuria by the Chinese government during the Korean War. Fecteau was sentenced to 20 years for espionage; Downey received a life term. When Downey returned to the states in 1973, DeFelice was there to greet him.
The Rhode Island native served in the Army during World War II. He graduated from the foreign service school at Georgetown and earned a law degree from the university’s law school.
DeFelice joined the spy agency in 1953. For 20 years, he headed the Ad Hoc Committee on Prisoners, and spent a decade as deputy director of personnel. He was also instrumental in creating a program that provided retirement, health and life insurance benefits to U.S. citizens contracted by the agency. DeFelice retired in 1987 as director of information services. For his many years of dedication, he received a “trailblazer” award for being one of the 50 officers who most helped shape the CIA.
DeFelice died on April 5 of cancer. He was 79.