washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Obituaries

Robert H. Dreher, 88; Founded Radio Liberty

Sunday, October 24, 2004; Page C11

Robert H. Dreher, 88, who as a young U.S. assistant naval attache was labeled a spy and expelled from Moscow in 1948 and who later helped found Radio Liberty, died of a stroke Sept. 24 at his home in the Foulkeways retirement community north of Philadelphia. He lived in Arlington for 30 years.

During the tense aftermath of World War II, Mr. Dreher was a Navy lieutenant serving in Moscow and Odessa when he was charged with espionage. The State Department quickly dismissed the claim, saying he had been framed.


Mr. Dreher befriended several Soviet citizens during his two-year stay, including a 21-year-old medical student. After returning to the United States, he learned that the student, Galina M. Spiridonova, had been sentenced to eight years prison for her friendship with him.

In 1994, nearly 50 years later, Mr. Dreher and Spiridonova renewed their friendship after she contacted him.

In 1951, Mr. Dreher joined the new Central Intelligence Agency, performing intelligence and liaison duties in Washington and overseas.

From 1953 to 1961, he was one of the original planners of Radio Liberty, which recruited emigres from Soviet countries to broadcast news of the outside world to those trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

He helped develop policy and program techniques and supervised emigre and host-nation affairs in the New York and Munich offices.

As a lieutenant commander, he was active in the Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1951.

Mr. Dreher, a native of Oil City, Pa., received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

He did graduate study in political science and international affairs at Georgetown University from 1950 to 1952.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and supervised testing vessels at naval shipyards in Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., from 1942 to 1945.

He completed the Navy's Russian language training before serving in the Soviet Union.

From 1961 to 1972, Mr. Dreher worked with the CIA in Washington and overseas, analyzing international politics and policy developments and implementation. He lived in Arlington during that period.

After retiring in 1972, he became active in community affairs.

He pushed for preserving urban green space and supported the local Democratic Party.

He also was on his condominium association's board in Arlington's Hyde Park neighborhood.

He was a financial contributor to Washington National Cathedral, the Arlington Community Foundation and the Nature Conservancy.

He moved to Foulkeways in Gwynedd, Pa., in 2002 because of declining health.

Survivors include a sister.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company