Peer de Silva, 61, a retired senior official of the Central Intelligence Agency, died at his home in Great Falls, Va., Sunday following an apparent heart attack.
Mr. de Silva'a work with the CIA included assignments in Germany, Austria, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam, where he was the agency's station chief in 1964 and 1965. He also headed a special Vietnam study group at CIA headquarters in Langley.
William E. Colby, a former director of the CIA, said yesterday that Mr. de Silva "really did identify the political nature of the war" in Vietnam.
"I think he made a major contribution to the growth of our permanent professional intelligence service."
Mr. de Silva was sent to Saigon as station chief, or ranking CIA officer, in 1964. He was picked for the job by Colby, who was head of the agency's Asian operations at the time.
Mr. de Silva therefore played a role in the process that led to the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in 1965. Mr. de Silva's view was that the war could be won or lost in South Vietnam, and that the terms of victory or defeat were essentially political.
For this reason he opposed plans to bomb the north, although the bombing was advocated by Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, then the U.S. ambassador in Saigon, and by Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the U.S. military commander. Mr de Silva had known Westmoreland when he and the general were cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
By contrast, Mr de Silva worked for the development of pacification programs in South Vietnam.
He was injured in 1965 when the Vietcong set off a bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and was returned to the United States to recover. He lost the sight of one eye in the attack.
He later headed the chief Vietnam study group at the CIA and then served in Thailand, where he developed counterinsurgency programs.
He retired from the CIA in 1973. He wrote a book, "Sub Rosa: The CIA and the Uses of Intelligence," which isscheduled for publication soon. It is a memoir and a history of the American involvement in Vietnam.
Mr. de Silva was born in San Francisco and grew up there. He enlisted in the Army in the late 1930s and then won an appointment to West Point, from which he graduate in 1941.
During World War II, he was an intelligence officer assigned to the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atomic bomb, at the Los Alamos, N. M. laboratories and proving ground. He resigned from the Army in 1953 to join the CIA.
Mr. de Silva was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Intelligence Service Medallion by the CIA and the Legion of Merit by the Army.
Survivors include, his wife, Marilyn, of the home in Great Falls; three daughters, Catherine, of the home, Sharon, of Ukiah, Calif., and Robin, of Glen Echo; a brother, Dr. Paul de Silva, of Puerto Vallarte, Mexico, and three grandchildren.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind Inc., 2021 14th St. NW.