The Biography of Sterling Ralph Ryser
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Col Ryser, 1952. Click for full image
Civilian life was put on hold yet again as they made preparations to relocate
more permanently to Washington. The business at hand included leasing their
beautiful new home, storing the furniture and packing the rest of their
belongings in a 1950 Buick, having earlier sold their old 1941 Chev to Willie Mauerman. He was the ward clerk, of Sugarhouse Ward, Sterling had worked with
for so long and like so well. The threesome headed for Washington behind a
terrible storm that crossed the entire country—" a miserable drive!"
On the east side of Laramie, Wyoming, they hit slick ice and plowed into a snow
drift. Fortunately, a logging truck with chains came to their rescue.
While attending the Strategic Intelligence School, a friend,
James Connors, invited Sterling to share his large room in downtown Washington
D.C. The offer was eagerly accepted. Sterling and Jim had worked together for
the V.A. at the University of Utah. Jim was a vocational guidance counselor and
when the office at the U was closed, he accepted an offer to work in Washington
D.C. at the VA headquarters. He was sort of "camping out" until he
could find satisfactory quarters for his family. The Washington areas at that
time housed a large number of former Utahns and westerners. Some personal
acquaintances besides Jim were Neal and Colleen Maxwell, Paul Cracroft, Robert
Parker, Tony and Pat Nicoli, Sterling’s old friend (Colonel) Earl Lang and
many others. Almost without exception, they considered this stay in the area as
temporary. All planned to go "home" someday. A large percentage of the
membership of the wards and branches of the Washington D.C. Stake (the only
stake in the area) were displaced westerners. The church and non member friends
from Salt Lake were a great blessing to Sterling and his family.
Finally in Washington, the Rysers rented a temporary room in
the downtown area near where Sterling stayed earlier, and Sterling reported for
duty in the Pentagon.
THE AGENCY & THE RESERVE
General Ryser. Click photo for full image.
Simply stated, Sterling’s duties in the Central
Intelligence Agency were to collect information according to intelligence
requirements, from domestic sources and to support overt and covert activities
as requested. In performing these duties in the intermountain area, Utah,
Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, he met and worked with many of the leading
business, educational, military, governmental, religious, scientific, and social
elite who were living or working in the area. He enjoyed the work for CIA, and,
of course, carried credentials identifying him as such.
The Hungarian Revolt of 1956 and the violent Soviet military
suppressions resulted in thousands of Hungarian refugees escaping to the U.S.
Very few of these refugees came to Utah, but a reception center was set up in
New Jersey where they could be screened prior to their dispersal throughout the
Sterling was sent to help with the interviewing. The
information they provided was very useful. The personal tragedy of the refugees
was heart rending. Major intelligence interests of the twenty five years
Sterling worked for "The Company," a common term used to refer to the
CIA, included all aspects of life in a world of turmoil and change with emphasis
on the USSR, China and other potential problem areas such as Cuba, Korea, etc.
He soon began to see a picture of the Soviet Union not available to the general
population at the time. It was a military superpower so mighty that nothing
else, including the lives and welfare of its people, took precedence. The stock
of equipment, rockets, artillery, aircraft, ships, and personal man power was
formidable. Though their supply of nuclear warheads and megaton weapons was
simpler and less sophisticated than America’s, generally intended for broad
area targets, it was nonetheless immense. In Sterling’s words, "It was a
miracle some nut didn’t get a hold of the controls and start some serious
Ryser rifle practice. Click photo for full image.
It was a well known fact that human rights there were nearly
nonexistent. Even the maps available to the public were intentionally
inaccurate. Any detailed map in the USSR was classified secret. What was unseen
to the American public were the atrocious living conditions of the Russian
masses. Modern media has only recently been able to reveal the shortages,
suffering, starvation, and the crumbled infrastructure. There was no workable
system for harvesting, storing, and distributing food, few paved roads.
Governmental energy was expended solely to benefit military might, "and the
common man paid for it in spades. It will be a very long time before they obtain
anything approaching our standard here." Sterling’s intimate familiarity
with the Soviet Union through his Agency work gave him great sympathy for the
Russian people and disdain for the Communist leaders and party system.
Click photo for full image.
Samuel and Marianne Ryser Family. Seated, l-r: Ella Emma (1893 -
1981), Marianne (1846 - 1930), Samuel (1843 - 1919), Paulena (1887 - 1957).
Standing, l-r: Jonas Thomas (1885 - 1973), Mary Elizabeth (1879 - 1947), John
Frederick (1877 - 1960), James Joseph (1881 - 1968), George Peter (1883 - 1973).
Click photo for full image.
Ryser Ancestral Home in Switzerland.