Film details alumnus’ "Extraordinary Fidelity"

A film about two CIA agents — one of them a Yale alumnus — who spent two decades as prisoners of war in China, was shown on June 3 during the 60th reunion of the Class of 1951 on campus.

Titled “Extraordinary Fidelity,” the hour-long film blends documentary footage and reenactments to tell the story of John T. Downey ‘51 B.A. and his fellow officer Richard Fecteau. The two were captured in 1952 after their plane was shot down while on a secret mission to recover a spy in China working for the CIA.

Fecteau and Downey, age 22 and 25 at the time of their capture, were put on trial by the Chinese. For years, the U.S. government denied they were CIA agents. The film relates the men’s experiences during their imprisonment and details the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to their eventual release — Fecteau, after 19 years; Downey, after 21 years.

Downey became a long-term Superior Court judge in New Haven — in fact, in 2002 the juvenile courthouse on Whalley Avenue was renamed in his honor.

Yale presented the alumnus with the Nathan Hale Award in recognition of his service to the nation and the Connecticut judicial system.

“Extraordinary Fidelity” was created by the CIA in 2009 and originally meant for internal use only. The day before the film was shown at the Yale reunion, the CIA screened it at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The agency has also posted the film on its YouTube channel.

Click here to watch the film.

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