Military Wiki
Oliver North
In Iraq, December 2007
Birth name Oliver Laurence North
Nickname Ollie
Born October 7, 1943(1943-10-07) (age 79)
Place of birth San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1968–1990
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Commands held Marine Corps Northern Training Area, Okinawa
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Relations Betsy, married in 1967, and four children
Other work
  • Correspondent with the Fox News Channel
  • United States Senate candidate

Oliver Laurence 'Ollie' North (born October 7, 1943) is a former United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, conservative political commentator and television host, military historian, and New York Times best-selling author.[1] North was a National Security Council staff member during the Iran–Contra affair, a political scandal of the late 1980s. The scandal involved the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran, which was to encourage the release of U.S. hostages then held in Lebanon. North formulated the second part of the plan which was to divert proceeds from the arms sales to support the Contra rebel groups in Nicaragua (which had been specifically prohibited under the Boland Amendment). He is currently the host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel.[2]

Early life

North was born in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Ann Theresa (née Clancy) and Oliver Clay North, a US Army major.[3][4] He grew up in Philmont, New York, and graduated from Ockawamick High School in 1961. He attended State University of New York at Brockport in Brockport, New York, for two years.[5]

While at Brockport, North spent a summer at the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and gained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in 1963. He received his commission as second lieutenant in 1968 (he missed a year due to injuries from an auto accident). One of North's classmates at the Academy was future Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator Jim Webb. Although a heavy underdog, North beat Webb in a championship boxing match at Annapolis.[6]

U.S. Marine Corps career

North served as a platoon commander during the Vietnam War, where during his combat service, he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal and two Purple Heart medals.[7] He then became an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. In 1970, North returned to South Vietnam to testify at the trial of Corporal Randy Herrod, a U.S. Marine formerly under his command who had been charged with the mass killing of Vietnamese civilians.[8] North was promoted to Captain in 1971 and served as the commanding officer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Northern Training Area in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

After his duty in Okinawa, Japan, North was assigned for four years to Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. He was then promoted to major, and served two years as the operations officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, commanded by then Lt. Col. John Southy Grinalds, 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was through Lt. Col. Grinalds that North converted to Christianity[citation needed]. He attended the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and graduated in 1981.

North began his assignment to the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington, D.C., where he served as the deputy director for political-military affairs[9] from 1981 until his reassignment in 1986. In 1983, North received his promotion to lieutenant colonel,[10] which would be his last.

During his tenure at the NSC, North managed a number of missions. This included leading the hunt for those responsible for the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 299 American and French military personnel, an effort that saw North arranging a midair interception of an EgyptAir jet carrying those responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking.Whilst also at the NSC, he helped plan the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the 1986 Bombing of Libya.[9]

During his trial, Oliver North spent his last two years on active duty assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Virginia.

North resigned his Marine Corps commission in 1988.[11]

Military awards and decorations

US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Silver star
US - Presidential Service Badge.png
Basic Parachutist Badge
Silver Star Medal Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V"
Purple Heart Medal with one gold 5/16 inch star Defense Meritorious Service Medal Meritorious Service Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat "V' and two gold 5/16 inch stars Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold 5/16 inch star Combat Action Ribbon
Navy Unit Commendation Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation with one bronze service star National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with five bronze campaign stars Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze service star Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with silver star Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with frame and palm Vietnam Campaign Medal
Expert marksmanship badge for rifle (not shown)
Expert marksmanship badge for pistol (not shown)
Presidential Service Badge

Iran–Contra affair

North's mugshot, taken on the day of his arrest

North came into the public spotlight as a result of his participation in the Iran–Contra affair, a political scandal during the Reagan Administration, in which he claimed partial responsibility for the sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua. It was alleged that he was responsible for the establishment of a covert network, which subsequently funneled those funds to the Contras. Congress passed the Boland Amendment (to the House Appropriations Bill of 1982 and following years) which prohibited the appropriation of U.S. funds by intelligence agencies for the support of the Contras. The money was passed through a shell organization, the "National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty," to the Palmer National Bank of Washington, D.C. and then to the Contras.

In an August 23, 1986 e-mail to National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Oliver North described a meeting with a representative of Panamanian President Manuel Noriega: "You will recall that over the years Manuel Noriega in Panama and I have developed a fairly good relationship," North writes before explaining Noriega's proposal. If U.S. officials can "help clean up his image" and lift the ban on arms sales to the Panamanian Defense Force, Noriega will "'take care of' the Sandinista leadership for us."[12][13]

North told Poindexter that President Noriega could assist with sabotage against the ruling party of Nicaragua, the Sandinista National Liberation Front. North supposedly suggested that Noriega be paid one million dollars in cash, from "Project Democracy" funds raised from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran—for the Panamanian leader's help in destroying Nicaraguan economic installations.[14]

In November 1986, as the sale of weapons was made public, North was dismissed by President Ronald Reagan and, in July 1987, was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint Congressional committee that was formed to investigate Iran–Contra. The image of North taking the oath in full Marine uniform became iconic, and helped to define him in the eyes of the public.[citation needed] During the hearings, North admitted that he had lied to Congress previously, for which among other things, he was later charged. He defended his actions by stating that he believed in the goal of aiding the Contras, whom he saw as freedom fighters, against the Sandinistas and said that he viewed the Iran–Contra scheme as a "neat idea".[15] North admitted shredding government documents related to his Contra and Iranian activities, at William Casey's suggestion, when the Iran–Contra scandal became public. He also testified that Robert McFarlane had asked him to alter official records to delete references to direct assistance to the Contras and that he had helped.[16]

North was tried in 1988. He was indicted on sixteen felony counts, and, on May 4, 1989, he was initially convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity; aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry; and ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years' probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service. Oliver North performed some of his community service within Potomac Gardens, a public housing project in Southeast Washington, DC.[17]

However, on July 20, 1990, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),[18] North's convictions were vacated, after the appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony.[19]

Because North had been granted limited immunity for his Congressional testimony, the law prohibited a prosecutor from using that testimony as part of a criminal case against him. To prepare for the expected defense challenge that North's testimony had been used, the prosecution team had—before North's congressional testimony had been given—listed and isolated all of its evidence.[citation needed] Further, the individual members of the prosecution team had isolated themselves from news reports and discussion of North's testimony. While the defense could show no specific instance in which North's congressional testimony was used in his trial, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge had made an insufficient examination of the issue. Consequently, North's convictions were reversed. After further hearings on the immunity issue, Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991.

Allegations of involvement with drug traffickers

Allegations were made, most notably by the Kerry Subcommittee, that North and other senior officials created a privatized Contra network that attracted drug traffickers looking for cover for their operations, then turned a blind eye to repeated reports of drug smuggling related to the Contras, and actively worked with known drug smugglers such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to assist the Contras.[20] Most Contra associates found guilty of trafficking by the Kerry Committee were involved in the supply chain (ostensibly for "humanitarian goods," though the supply chain was later found to have serviced the transport of arms), which had been set up by North. Organizations and individuals involved in the supply chain under investigation for trafficking included the company SETCO (operated by large-scale trafficker Juan Matta-Ballesteros), the fruit company Frigorificos de Puntarenas, rancher John Hull, and several Cuban Exiles; North and other US government officials were criticized by the Kerry Report for their practice of "ticket punching" for these parties, whereby people under active investigation for drug trafficking were given cover and pay by joining in the Contra supply chain. In addition to the Kerry Committee's investigation, the Costa Rican government of Óscar Arias conducted an investigation of Contra-related drug trafficking, and as a result of this investigation, North and several other US Government officials were permanently banned from entering Costa Rica.

Later life and career

Oliver North in April 2002, autographing one of his books for a U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant.


In 1994, North unsuccessfully ran for the United States Senate as the Republican Party candidate in Virginia. Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia endorsed Marshall Coleman, a Republican who ran as an independent, instead of North. On the eve of the election, former first lady Nancy Reagan told a reporter that North had lied to her husband when discussing Iran–Contra with the former president, effectively stopping his campaign.[citation needed] North lost by a 46% to 43% margin to incumbent Democrat Charles Robb,[21] a son-in-law of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Coleman received 11%. North's candidacy was documented in the 1996 film A Perfect Candidate.[15]

Oliver North in 2005, pictured with Clinton Township, Franklin County, Ohio Assistant Fire Chief John Harris and Lieutenant Douglas Brown, at a public speaking event.

In his failed bid to unseat Robb, North raised $20.3 million in a single year through nationwide direct mail solicitations, telemarketing, fundraising events, and contributions from major donors. About $16 million of that amount was from direct mail alone. This was the biggest accumulation of direct mail funds for a statewide campaign to that date, and it made North the top direct mail political fundraiser in the country in 1994.[22]

Books and media

North has written several best-selling books including Under Fire, One More Mission, War Stories – Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mission Compromised, The Jericho Sanction, and The Assassins.

His book, American Heroes, was released nationally in the U.S. on May 6, 2008. In this book, North addresses issues of defense against global terrorism, Jihad, and radical Islam from his perspective as a military officer and national security advisor and current Middle East war correspondent.[23] He writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column through Creators Syndicate.[24]

On November 5, 2013, North's new book, American Heroes on the Homefront, was released. This is a non fiction book that gives a firsthand account of the American volunteers that have volunteered to join the United States Army. The book was a collection from the dozen years North and the Fox News Channel have traveled the front lines of the War on Terror. During those years North and his team have profiled hundreds of soldiers and chronicles what it means to be a hero. In the book he continues the journey by following these soldiers from the battlefield back to the homefront.[25] In this new volume of his New York Times bestselling American Heroes series, North describes in vivid detail the breathtaking courage, steadfast commitment, and resilient strength of those who serve—and those who love them. The term “selfless devotion” may be a cliché to many in our modern culture—but not to the men and women on the pages of this book. Their stories resound with bravery, a warrior ethos, and spiritual strength that ought to encourage us all. In 1991, North appeared on the first season of The Jerry Springer Show. From 1995 to 2003, North was host of his own nationally syndicated radio program known as the Oliver North Radio Show or Common Sense Radio. He also served as co-host of Equal Time on MSNBC for a couple of including the years starting in 1999. North is currently the host of the television show War Stories with Oliver North, and a regular commentator on Hannity, both on the Fox News Channel. North appeared as himself on many television shows including the sitcom Wings in 1991, and three episodes of the TV military drama JAG in 1995, 1996 and 2002.[26] In addition, he regularly speaks at both public and private events. North appears in an episode of Auction Kings who gets his sword back after it was stolen in 1980. North was credited as a military consultant in the 2012 video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and voiced himself in one level of the game.

Freedom Alliance

In 1990, North founded the Freedom Alliance, a 501(c)(3) foundation "... to advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense." The foundation's primary activities include providing support for wounded combat soldiers and providing scholarships for the sons and the daughters of service members killed in action.[27] Beginning in 2003, Sean Hannity has raised over $10 million for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund through Freedom Concerts and donations from the Sean Hannity Show and its listeners. The charity has been criticized by conservative-leaning blogger Debbie Schlussel for distributing too little of its funds for charitable purposes.[28] Hannity, North, and other charity spokespersons claim that all of the net proceeds from the Freedom Concerts are donated to the fund.[29]

Personal life

Oliver North has been married to the former Betsy Stuart since 1967, and they have four children.[30] Although raised Catholic, he has long attended Anglican services with his family.[31] North is a board member in the NRA and had appeared at the NRA national convention in 2007[32] and 2008.[33]


  1. [1]
  2. "War Stories | Oliver North". Fox News. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  3. Under fire: an American story – Oliver North, William Novak. Google Books. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  4. "Obituaries". Los Angeles Times. October 20, 1999. 
  5. Official biography on
  6. Real Clear Sports Top 10 Most Athletic Democrats
  7. Cushman Jr, John H. (July 7, 1987). "NY Times: Washington Talk, July 7, 1987". New York Times.,%20John%20H.%20Jr. Retrieved June 23, 2011. [dead link]
  8. "Did Military Justice Fail or Prevail?" Duke University Law Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security (reprinted from Michigan Law Review1998
  9. 9.0 9.1 Greenwald, John; Beckwith, David; Halevy, David (November 17, 1986). "Washington's Cowboys". Time.,9171,962859,00.html. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  10. "Oliver North". Speaker Line-Up 2002. The Bakersfield Business Conference. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  11. "North Quits Marines". New York Times. March 19, 1988. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  12. Cockburn, Alexander; St. Clair, Jeffrey (1998). Whiteout: the CIA, drugs, and the press. Verso. p. 287. ISBN 1-85984-139-2.'%20the%20Sandinista%20leadership%20for%20us%22&pg=PA287#v=onepage&q=%22take%20care%20of'%20the%20Sandinista%20leadership%20for%20us%22&f=false. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  13. North American Congress on Latin America (1993). NACLA report on the Americas. 27. California: NACLA. p. 31. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  14. "The Oliver North File". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "A Perfect Candidate (1996)". IMDb. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  16. "Hostile Witnesses (Page Three)". The Washington Post. August 19, 1998. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  17. Crawford, Craig. "One Avenue, Two Faces: White House, Crack House". 
  18. Shenon, Philip (July 21, 1988). "New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  19. "Walsh Iran / Contra Report – Chapter 2 United States v. Oliver L. North". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  20. Drugs, Law Enforcement And Foreign Policy: Report By The Committee On Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, DIANE Publishing Company, (2004) ISBN 0-7881-2984-8. Google Books. August 30, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  21. "Statistics Of The Congressional Election Of November 8, 1994". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  22. "Ollie, Inc.: how Oliver North raised over $20 million in a losing U.S. Senate race". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved September 24, 2007. [dead link]
  23. "author Oliver North & editor Chuck Holton's American Heroes Book blog". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  24. "About Oliver North". September 30, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  25. [2]
  26. Oliver North at the Internet Movie Database
  27. the Freedom Alliance Website[dead link]
  28. Watts Jr., James D. (Aug 19, 2010). "A concert with an attitude: Sean Hannity's benefit show isn't without controversy". McClatchy – Tribune Business News. Washington. 
  29.[dead link]
  30. "Oliver North". Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  31. "London Review of Books: Robert Fisk writes about Oliver North's contributions to the ordeal of the Middle East". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  32. "Bolton, Oliver North among speakers at NRA conference". Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  33. [3][dead link]

Further reading

  • Ben Bradlee Jr. (1998). Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North. Donald I. Fine, Inc. ISBN 1-55611-053-7. 
  • Meyer, Peter (1987). Defiant Patriot: the Life and Exploits of Lt. Colonel Oliver L. North. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312910916. OCLC 16774532. 

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Maurice A. Dawkins
Republican Party nominee for United States Senate from Virginia (class 1)
1994 (lost)
Succeeded by
George Felix Allen

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