Melvyn Robert Paisley (born 1924)

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Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Engineering and Systems) , In office December 1981 – March 1987

President Ronald Reagan

Preceded by Gerald A. Cann

Succeeded by Office abolished

Personal details

Born Melvin Robert Paisley on October 9, 1924 , Portland, Oregon

Died December 19, 2001 (aged 77)

Nationality United States

Political party Republican

Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Occupation engineer / consultant

Awards Distinguished Service Cross / Silver Star (2) / Distinguished Flying Cross

Military service

Allegiance United States

Branch/service United States Army Air Corps

Rank Captain

Battles/wars World War II

Melvyn R. Paisley (October 9, 1924 – December 19, 2001) was appointed United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Engineering and Systems) by President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987.[2] He was prosecuted in Operation Ill Wind in which he, numerous other government employees and 60 private citizens were arrested.[3] In 1991, he admitted that while in office he had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes and was sentenced to four years in prison.


Melvyn R. Paisley was born on October 9, 1924, in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in a logging camp where his father was a lumberjack and his mother was a cook. During World War II, Paisley enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and became a distinguished pilot. He flew the P-47 Thunderbolt in the 9th Air Force, downed six enemy airplanes and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars[1][4][5] and the Distinguished Flying Cross.[6]

After the war, Paisley studied engineering and received a bachelor's degree from the American Institute of Technology in 1953 and a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954.


In 1954, Paisley joined Boeing. His first job was working as an engineer on the CIM-10 Bomarc. In 1959, he became head of the electronics staff for the LGM-30 Minuteman, focused on the development of a radio launch system. In 1961, he became engineering manager of the Minuteman missile facility at Great Falls, Montana. He later headed Boeing's efforts on the Safeguard Program and later as electronics proposal manager for the B-1 Lancer. In 1971, he became head of Boeing's Evergreen 747 Supertanker program. Finally, he was promoted to the role of Boeing's Director of Planning.

Paisley was close to John Lehman. When Lehman became United States Secretary of the Navy in 1981, Lehman convinced President of the United States Ronald Reagan to nominate Paisley as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Engineering and Systems). He held this office from December 1981 until March 1987. Lehman and Paisley gained a reputation as being somewhat heavy-handed as managers, but effective at slashing red tape.

Operation Ill Wind

In 1986, federal prosecutors sued Paisley, arguing that a $183,000 severance package Paisley received upon leaving Boeing compromised his objectivity as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Engineering and Systems). The Supreme Court of the United States later ruled that such severance packages were not illegal.

Upon leaving government in 1987, Paisley worked as a consultant, guiding companies like Martin Marietta and United Technologies Corporation through the procurement process.

In 1991, federal prosecutors indicted Paisley for receiving bribes during his time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Engineering and Systems). In the course of pleading guilty, Paisley admitted that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from an Israeli manufacturer of pilotless reconnaissance planes (Mazlat, which was a joint venture of two Israeli firms, Israel Aircraft Industries and Tadiran Ltd) and for providing confidential information to allow the Sperry Corporation to enable them to win a bid for the Aegis Combat System. Paisley was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $50,000.


Paisley was released from prison in 1995. He spent the rest of his time painting and collecting World War II films. Shortly before his death, Paisley was a consultant for Shooting War, a two-hour documentary about World War II narrated by Tom Hanks.

Paisley died of cancer on December 19, 2001. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[6]

1988 (June 27) - LA Times - "Scandal Figure Had Right Stuff : For Paisley, Shadows Overtook Hero Image"


WASHINGTON — In a corner of history far from the Pentagon fraud scandal that is now consuming his life, Melvyn R. Paisley was a hero--a World War II ace fighter pilot with a reputation for daring and a raft of medals to prove it.

Like every other fighter pilot of that time, the young Paisley lived by his wits and flew by the seat of his pants. In defense of his country he suffered permanent ear damage, but when the dogfights were over, Paisley was always the victor.

Friends call him “a survivor,” but Paisley was far more than that. His drive for success followed him into private life, where he rose to a prominent marketing position and helped win billions of dollars in military defense contracts for the Boeing Co.

And when Paisley reached the apex of his career, it was right back where he started, in the military arena--appointed in 1981 to one of the most powerful jobs in the Pentagon, assistant secretary of the Navy.

Along the way, however, Paisley’s glow of success was shadowed by rumors and allegations, much of it, according to a wide range of sources, fostered by his own boastful accounts, of purported scandals ranging from paying bribes to putting prostitutes on his company expense accounts.

Earlier this month, those shadows overtook the hero’s reputation. What emerged was a portrait of a man who had a lot of the right stuff but who investigators suspect did not always do the right thing.

It was this side of Melvyn Paisley that has led to a federal investigation of what is being described as a central role in the expanding case involving widespread fraud in the Pentagon’s weapons procurement system, the worst scandal of its kind in Defense Department history. Paisley has been linked to a variety of allegations, including bribery and the misuse of classified documents--all of it on a grand scale.

“He’s never changed,” said one former colleague who knew him well. “Paisley’s a World War II fighter ace who never grew up.”

At the base of a basketball pole in the Kent, Wash., home where Paisley lived before moving to the nation’s capital, another moment in Paisley family history is preserved in concrete--an array of hand prints, circa 1975. Mel’s is next to then-wife Millie’s and those of the four children: Chip, Frank, Debbie and Beau.

Conflict, Tragedy

The little cement tableau suggests a successful family life for Paisley. But that image, too, is shadowed by conflict and tragedy spelled out in legal documents in the courts and the coroner’s office. He has been divorced twice, and another wife died in an accident.

Paisley’s current wife, the former Vicki Ann McKim, a Boeing computer consultant with whom sources say he had a lengthy affair while still married to Millie, has been linked to the Pentagon fraud scandal. Government sources told The Times last week that Vicki Paisley allegedly assisted her husband in copying classified documents smuggled from the Pentagon and that she had been paid up to $50,000 by a private defense consultant while Paisley was still overseeing Navy weapons procurement.

Paisley’s Boeing career gave every appearance of success.

He joined the company as an engineer in 1954 and worked on a number of projects, including the BOMARC and Minuteman missiles. Subsequently, he moved through a number of management jobs and in 1971 became the program manager of the 747 tanker project, a military program. By 1981 he was manager for international operations with the Space and Information Systems Division of Boeing Aerospace and vice president of Boeing International Corp.

Masked Controversy

But his impressive corporate resume did not reveal the controversy that marked his career.

His own colleagues accused him of bribing foreign military officials, bugging the offices of competitors and billing fees for prostitutes to the company on his expense accounts. At least two former Boeing executives had sought to get Paisley fired from his job 10 years ago because they were alarmed about his conduct, retired officials have said.

According to former Boeing executive James Durst, Paisley did “dirty business.” Boeing officials said they would not answer any questions about Paisley this weekend.

Paisley lived well during his tenure at Boeing. There were European vacations, ski trips to a condo in Sun Valley, tennis and season football tickets.

He hosted lavish company Christmas parties on the 13-acre Kent estate where he often kept a couple of head of cattle in a nearby corral. He sold the house late last year for $182,000, according to county records.

Yet the Paisleys were not ostentatious. He didn’t drive fancy cars. Friends called him “a pickup truck kinda guy.” He tinkered at converting a bus into a motor home in his back yard and served inexpensive beef ribs when colleagues were invited for dinner.

Served Guests 4-Star Meals

Paisley was generous, a back-slapper with an unlimited expense account for his guests’ four-star meals and nightclubs at the annual Paris Air Show, when Boeing would send 400 people.

“When Mel wants to turn on the charm, he can be the most charming, humorous, delightful guy you’d ever want to meet,” retired Boeing executive and Air Force Col. Harlan Wilder said. “But he could turn it on and off like a switch.

“When he set out to do the job, if he couldn’t do it one way, he’d do it another,” Wilder added. “But, by God, he got the job done.”

Wilder, who directed Boeing’s international government sales for the Pacific and the Far East, said Paisley’s “brassy” style sometimes irked his colleagues.

Another colleague, Orvil M. Roetman, now vice president of government and international affairs for Boeing Co., said he is “still surprised” that Paisley got his high Pentagon post, given his flamboyant personality.

“Since I’m retired Navy, you tend to put the top Pentagon guys on a pedestal,” he said. “Mel wasn’t a guy you put on a pedestal.”

It was late in his Boeing career that Paisley’s friendship with former Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. flourished. Paisley hired Lehman as a Boeing consultant, worked closely with him and had him over to the house a number of times. When Paisley “started angling for the Pentagon job,” he went fishing with Lehman, recalls Paisley’s ex-wife, Mildred McGetrick.

Start of New Career

He got the job. It was the beginning of a new career for Paisley.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he quoted George Washington when asked why he wanted the job as assistant secretary of the Navy:

“Every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a portion of his property, but even of his personal service to the defense of it.”

A photograph of Paisley taken in September, 1986, provides a telling indication of the way the former fighter pilot plied his trade after getting his key job at the Pentagon.

He and his wife are standing, smiling, on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth 2, sailing home to the States after a visit to an air show in Farnborough, England.

Beside them, with his wife, is William M. Galvin, the defense consultant who investigators suspect was Paisley’s conduit of valuable information to contractors in an arrangement that was central to the Pentagon fraud scheme.

The lavish cruise was but half of the foursome’s joint voyage. On the way to England, said a former Pentagon official familiar with the trip, the Paisleys and the Galvins--Mel Paisley responsible for awarding Navy research contracts, Bill Galvin responsible for winning those contracts for his clients--had flown the supersonic Concorde.

Defense Industry Lore

Paisley’s ties to Galvin had already become defense industry lore. “The understanding was that you want to see Paisley, you ask Bill Galvin,” the former Pentagon official said. “He makes it happen.”

That Galvin was a powerful influence on the assistant Navy secretary was also widely believed among Paisley’s deputies. What few apparently knew was how tight the ties were. In the year of the Atlantic crossing, Vicki Paisley received the payment from VAMO, the company formed by the Galvins. About the same time, sources close to the investigation say, she was allegedly helping her husband copy Pentagon documents that, when passed on to a defense contractor, would provide an almost unbeatable advantage over its competitors.

Even before those allegations emerged, however, Paisley’s expansive, free-wheeling style had kindled skepticism and distrust among some of his Pentagon colleagues. They say he inexplicably embellished what was already impressive, boasting that he shot down nine enemy aircraft when in fact he shot down five, and claiming to have won 16 air medals when in fact he won 12.

His colleagues said he lied about his academic record too, passing himself off as a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when in fact he received his degree from the unaccredited American Institute of Technology, and attended MIT only for a few months.

Enamored of His Style

But others, weary of bureaucratic caution, grew enamored of the fiery, blustery style of the man many refer to as the “the fighter pilot.”

“He’s colorful,” said retired Marine Col. R. N. Patrick Jr. “He lives life as full as he can. . . . The whole time I worked for him, I never saw him do anything that wasn’t to the benefit of the Navy and the Marine Corps.”

“He was what that office needed,” a former Paisley colleague said. “He took charge from the first.”

Paisley’s critics, however, had no patience for a broad-swath style that left little time for the details they thought important for a procurement chief to master. “There was no substance to him,” said the former Paisley deputy, who told of preparing a slide presentation to brief his boss on a vital program only to find that Paisley fell asleep as soon as the lights were turned out.

“I could tell I was not getting through to him,” the deputy said.

Others felt similarly powerless. At a secluded Navy base in the California desert, missile and bomb designers grew furious in the spring of 1986 at what they regarded as Paisley’s capricious decision to force their boss to resign from his job as technical director of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center.

Appeal to No Avail

They appealed over Paisley’s head, but to no avail. Finally, they resorted to donning buttons of protest: a circle with a red bar slashed diagonally across a paisley patterned background.

In international parlance, the message was clear: No Paisley. But, for the time being, the assistant secretary was to remain beyond challenge.

Paisley is still surrounded by symbols of the success he fashioned in business and government--a big house in exclusive McLean, Va.; matching Jaguar luxury cars in the garage, an office in the Watergate complex.

But by Sunday afternoon, two weeks after being implicated in the massive fraud scandal, Paisley’s world was falling in on him.

His phone conversations, he learned, had been monitored for months. His dealings with contractors might have been videotaped. His offices in Washington and Virginia had been picked through by the FBI under search warrants seeking information that might tie him more closely to the allegations of corruption.

Having become a public target, Paisley had turned reclusive. He and his wife parked their matching Jaguars in the garage, renting a Chevy instead. But, for the most part, they have shuttered themselves in. When a reporter rang the doorbell, it went unanswered, though barbecue smoke could be seen wafting from the backyard. [...]

2016 (Nov 02) Blog - "National Security Violations, Murder Cover-Ups, Secret Families and Corruption"

Source - [HW005F][GDrive]

Much of the above comes from the 1995 book When the Pentagon Was For Sale by Andy Pasztor, in which Ben features prominently.

[Ben Telfer Plymale (born 1926)] best friend was Melvyn R. Paisley, a colleague and fellow executive at Boeing. In the late 1960s, Melvyn lived on a farm in Kent, Washington and was married to his second wife, a younger woman named Mary Lou who enjoyed painting as a hobby. Then on May 8, 1968, Mary Lou’s dead body was discovered in their home in suspicious circumstances. She was found in the bathroom, lying face down and her head was surrounded by towels laced with carbon tetrachloride, a toxic cleaning fluid that she used to clean her paint brushes. The story that Melvyn gave was that she had gotten drunk and she took sleeping pills the night before and then accidentally asphyxiated herself with the cleaning fluid. There was a police investigation and an investigation by the coroner. Her death was officially ruled an accident and the matter was officially dropped.

Despite the cause of death ruling, the matter was not dropped entirely; mostly because Mary Lou’s sister didn't believe the official version of events. It became clear that there was more to the story, and the possibility of a cover-up and a murder became plausible. Twenty years later, when Melvyn was being investigated for separate corruption charges while working in the Pentagon, the case was reopened by King County. It became clear that there were many inconsistencies and inaccuracies with the autopsy report, including the fact that the report found no traces of alcohol or sleeping pills in her system and the fact that the coroner who performed the report also worked for Boeing and somehow kept the report from review by his boss, the head coroner. There was also the revelation that not long before her death, Mary Lou had discovered or speculated that Melvyn was having an affair and had hired a private investigator to follow her husband. (Seven months later, Melvyn married the woman he was having an affair with.)

Also damning was that – according to phone records – after Melvyn discovered his wife’s body, the police was not the first number he called. The first number he called was his attorney and the second was his best friend, Ben Plymale. Then that morning, my grandfather’s wife Susan went over to their house to clean it before the county authorities arrived. Susan apparently cleaned or threw away what the investigators assumed was vital evidence. That afternoon the investigators also noted that a fire was burning in the fireplace, which they remarked as unusual because it was May and not cold outside. The inference was that some evidence was probably incinerated in the fire.

Although the investigation was reopened in 1988, no additional charges were ever filed and Mary Lou’s death still remains classified as an accident. However, given the circumstantial evidence, it is likely that there was more to the story. Was Mary Lou Paisley was murdered? If so, my grandfather and his wife were directly involved with covering up the crime. Interestingly, for decades after the fact, the case of Mary Lou Paisley was used an example by the King County Sheriff’s Office as an example of how not to investigate a crime scene. [...]