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Reflections of a Cold Warrior

Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs

Jonathan E. Lewis
Frances T. Pudlo
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Reflections of a Cold Warrior
    Book Description:

    Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the most important CIA spymaster in history, singlehandedly led America's intelligence service from the age of Mata Hari into the space age. Under his guidance the U-2 spy-plane, the SR-71 "Blackbird," and the Corona spy satellite were developed, and the agency rose to the pinnacle of its power. Bissell was also, however, the architect of the infamous Bay of Pigs operation that failed to overthrow Castro in 1961 and led to the decline of the CIA. In this compelling memoir, Bissell gives us an insider's view of the personalities, policies, and historical forces surrounding these and other covert operations and the lessons learned during those times of conflict.Bissell begins by describing his early years as a member of America's unofficial aristocracy. Born in a house that his father bought from Samuel Clemens, he was educated at Groton and Yale and befriended by Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, among others. Bissell recounts how he became acting head of the Economic Cooperation Administration, the agency in charge of the Marshall Plan after World War II, and helped to create the European Payments Union. Bissell was brought into the CIA in 1954, where he initiated a revolution in intelligence-gathering techniques. He reveals the details of these developments, as well as of the unique CIA-Lockheed partnership he pioneered, his participation in the CIA-sponsored coup to overthrow Arbenz in Guatemala, and his involvement in crises in Laos and the Congo. Bissell's memoir sheds light not only on pivotal points of American foreign policy but also on America's evolution from isolationist to interventionist superpower.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14610-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Early Years
    (pp. 1-14)

    Bissells have deep roots in Connecticut soil. According to my grandfather George F. Bissell, the first Bissell settled in Windsor, Connecticut, having arrived from England in 1636, and “the family became an influential one and played a conspicuous part in public matters, in founding of churches, and in conflicts with the Indian tribes that harassed the Colony.”¹ One ancestor, Sergeant Daniel Bissel, also from Windsor, was a spy for General George Washington. In August 1781 he was assigned to penetrate British lines in New York City and obtain information about British operations. Enlisting in the British army, he found himself...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The War Years
    (pp. 15-29)

    I accepted the position in the Department of Commerce with every expectation that I would spend one year in Washington and then return to New Haven to resume my teaching career at Yale. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything.

    Late in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met in Washington to decide the structures that would run the Anglo-American war effort. Among these were a Combined Raw Materials Board, a Combined Production and Resources Board, a Combined Food Board, and a Combined Shipping Adjustment Board (CSAB). Each board served as a bilateral committee of British and...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Marshall Plan
    (pp. 30-73)

    It is tempting to turn a commentary on the Marshall Plan into a historical note on the success of the most dramatic and, for its duration, the largest program of foreign aid in our nation’s history. Nevertheless, to describe the Marshall Plan as a foreign-aid program, even a bold one, would be a misleading oversimplification. The wordrecoveryin its official name, the European Recovery Program, describes its purpose correctly. Its accomplishment within the originally established time limit of four years was to restore Europe to its prewar position as a wealthy and highly developed economic area. That this could...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Transition: The Ford Foundation to the CIA
    (pp. 74-91)

    The period following my departure from the EGA and its successor, the Mutual Security Agency, was one of transition. In January 1952 I joined the Ford Foundation at the urging of Paul Hoffman, who, having left the EGA in late 1950, had been selected by the trustees of the foundation to be its president and direct its revitalization. As he settled into his new position, he realized the benefit of recruiting his Marshall Plan colleagues, whose experience qualified them to help direct the foundation’s disbursement of large sums of money for research and public-service projects. Assisted by Sam Van Hyning,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Overhead Reconnaissance
    (pp. 92-140)

    As the Korean War wound down in the early fifties and as economic recovery seemed assured in Europe and Japan, the threat of massive Soviet strategic bombing attacks on the United States received increasing attention from civilian and military planners. The main preoccupation was with the Soviet long-range bomber force and the threat it posed to North America, as well as to Europe. With the memory of Pearl Harbor still fresh, President Eisenhower established the Technical Capabilities Panel, headed by James Killian of MIT and usually referred to as the Killian Surprise Attack Committee. One of the three subcommittees through...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Crises
    (pp. 141-151)

    As the last year of the Eisenhower Administration drew to a close, the tempo of conflict between the Soviets and the United States began to escalate. The downing of the U-2 and the resultant collapse of the Paris summit contributed to a sense of impending crisis. The Soviet threat to Western Europe had been thwarted by the establishment of the Marshall Plan and NATO, and although Communists exhibited strength in France and Italy, it was apparent that they would not take over by majority vote. As the struggle between the two superpowers reheated, the focus of the contest moved to...

    (pp. 152-204)

    Latin America became a frequent battleground of the cold war. My experience with the Guatemalan operation provided me with a lively appreciation of what seemed to be the vulnerability of most Latin American societies to subversion of one kind or another. In countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua, there was no competent middle class performing the function it did in most Western societies. Because of this inherent vulnerability, it was not difficult to perceive the disorder a Soviet-backed country like Cuba could inflict in this hemisphere, and it was natural to want to forestall it.

    The general feeling in intelligence...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT A Philosophy of Covert Action
    (pp. 205-224)

    The need for an institution like the Central Intelligence Agency in today’s multipolar world is at least as great as, if not greater than, it was during the cold-war era. In the past, intelligence was mainly an area of combat between the major developed powers, but with the rapid spread of weapons of mass destruction our potential foes have multiplied and become more diverse. Such challenging and threatening circumstances require that the CIA have at its disposal all appropriate capabilities to counteract them. An analytic framework is necessary, therefore, to assist policy makers in determining why, where, and when we...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Institute for Defense Analyses
    (pp. 225-237)

    I joined the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) as executive vice president on March 1, 1962, immediately following my departure from the CIA. I viewed my new job at IDA, which bridged the academic and military worlds, and more generally the area of U.S. foreign policy, as providing an opportunity to stay in Washington and continue working on problems that would prove interesting. My background was thought to be useful, particularly since I had had more academic experience than a good many of the people who might have been considered for the post. Jim Killian, my friend from U-2 days...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Private Life
    (pp. 238-245)

    I had been badly spoiled by the succession of jobs I had held in the government, beginning with my position with the War Shipping Administration soon after Pearl Harbor. All of them had been exciting, difficult, and intellectually challenging, particularly since I believed deeply in what I was trying to accomplish. They involved a mix or alternation of two different emphases, one on organization building and the other on the substance of the current activities of whichever agency I was with. The intense, urgent, time-limited projects like the U-2, where the focus was on substance, provided excitement; the opportunity for...

  14. How This Book Was Written
    (pp. 246-250)

    Mr. Bissell passed away peacefully at home in his sleep on February 7, 1994. A deteriorating heart condition had sapped his physical strength, but his ever-sharp mind and intellect never faltered. He worked on this memoir until the last days with the same interest and resolve he put into all tasks throughout his career. He was not a man who was comfortable talking about himself or his accomplishments, but he recognized a duty to historians and scholars to try to give some insight into the period in which he worked and the actions for which he was personally responsible. He...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 251-262)
  16. Index
    (pp. 263-268)