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Allen Welsh Dulles
"I've Got a Secret."
Allen Dulles loved to attend dinner parties with his old friends among the Washington elite. Even in retirement the old spymaster and his wife Clover were happy ornaments whenever there was a Georgetown gathering of the powerful and well positioned. Dulles enjoyed the cocktail hour and appreciated the good food and wine that followed. But most of all, he relished conversation. Chalmers Roberts, the Washington Post's star political reporter and a frequent social companion of the Dulleses, recalls, "Allen gave the impression of being a gregarious type. He was full of jollity. With his hearty laugh, his tweed coat, and his love of the martini, he cut quite a figure. But he never left any doubt that he was always looking for information rather than giving it out. He was very good at giving you tidbits in order to draw what he wanted from you."
Dulles especially enjoyed the moment at these affairs when someone would try to put him on the spot with an embarrassing question. He came to call these incidents "I've Got a Secret," after the popular television quiz show. Late in the evening, a self-appointed questioner often asked, in a voice loud enough to silence the other dinner guests, "Now, Mr. Dulles, we all want to know what you think about this matter." The topic often was the crisis of the day, some tension along the Berlin Wall, or a fresh outburst against the West by Nehru or Castro. In later years, attempts to lure him into indiscreet criticism aboutthe Vietnam War were the most popular gambit. Within the Georgetown enclave of mandarins of high politics, there was a tradesman's envy of anyone who held a bigger inventory of inside information. Allen Dulles was correctly judged by most to hold more secrets than anyone. There was the delicious possibility that if he could be coaxed into some leak it would be an instant prize for the nonstop gossip mill of the city. It might even turn into a scandal and boost the status of the salon where it occurred.
What did Dulles think? While the others leaned forward in their seats, Dulles, savoring the moment, would take his time to stoke and relight the crusty old pipe that was as much his trademark as his professorial bow ties. He absorbed the attention. Once the pipe was drawing to his satisfaction, he would fix his pale blue eyes on his interrogator. The tutorial was about to start.
One of his favorite opening lines was, "You know, my brother Foster and I ran into a similar situation when we worked for President Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference in nineteen-hundred and nineteen." The anecdote could run as long as half an hour, but no one grew bored. He had long perfected the ability to appear to confide dark revelations. His tales had the taste of crucial current events cast against dramatic history. World figures such as Anthony Eden, Jan Masaryk, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill paraded through the story line. He had been one of the first American officials to interview Adolf Hitler in 1933, and he had actively plotted with German aristocrats to assassinate the Nazi despot during World War II. One of his funnier anecdotes was about how he bypassed a chance to meet Lenin just before the Bolshevik leader left Switzerland in 1917 to capture the Russian Revolution. Instead, Dulles said, he had insisted on keeping a tennis date with a beautiful blonde. And then there was the time Khrushchev told him they both read the same daily intelligence reports; but were they Russian or American reports? His stories usually ended with a punch line that drew appreciative laughter around the table.
At that point, Dulles would glance at his watch. "Is that the time? My goodness, Clover, we must be going." Amid hasty goodbyes and gracious thanks, the couple would sweep out of the room. Those left behind basked in an afterglow, feeling they had been present at a rare inside look into the workings of high affairs. Only later, sometimes the next day, it dawned on everyone that Allen Dulles had once more managed to avoid answering the direct question put to him.
Even in an open democracy, intelligence is the first ingredient of the policies that guide both diplomacy and war. During his life, Allen Dulles gathered and kept secrets for a greater length of time than any man of his day. For more than fifty years he was one of the constant forces in the hesitant march by the U.S. government to create a system to generate information to serve the secret needs of decision-makers. Other actors came and went during the twenty-year drama that saw the dismantling of our World War I spy apparatus and the creation of the one that served us in World War II. Only Allen Dulles was there from the opening line to the final curtain. His imprint is also firmly visible on the uniquely American intelligence process that has evolved since the end of World War II. In shaping the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he took that espionage service from the gentleman's game it had been since the nineteenth century and propelled it into the space age. At that point official espionage ceased to be the sometimes plaything of privileged dilettantes, and became the indispensable tool of strategic thinking for a democracy.
The mystery and controversy over the life of Allen Dulles persist even to this day. His life remains one of the few topics that can lead to a heated dinner table argument in many capitals of the world, Washington, D.C., included. There is often a feigned confusion between Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles. It is a plausible enough ploy, but one that is usually disingenuous. Foster Dulles was secretary of state for President Eisenhower at the same time Allen Dulles was building the CIA. Both men bore a strong family resemblance; they both dressed in the uniform of Wall Street attorneys, which is what they were when they were not engaged in the broader arena of world affairs; and they were partners in the policy objectives of President Eisenhower. But as their sister, Eleanor Lansing Dulles, shrewdly observed, "It was easier to notice the similarities when they were apart. When you looked at them close together, you noticed the differences."
First, Allen Dulles was a far more complex personality than his brother. He shunned the front rank of history but hungered for power and the accompanying celebrity. He was a driven man who worked single-mindedly at a pace that damaged his own private life and wore out those who served him. Yet he played at a genial casualness, a gentleman's ease that made those who did not look closely conclude he was a lightweight in a heavyweight's job. One of his undisputed strengths was his sense of moral certainty and his reputation for incisive honesty, and yet his private life was marred by blatant sexual escapades. At the time, his affairs merely added weight to the belief among his critics that he was a frivolous man.
In the popular histories of our just ending century, Allen Dulles rates only a footnote as a character who was on the stage during most of the 1950s but who had entered a deserved exile by the early 1960s. Yet an astonishing number of those who dominate our history of the past hundred years had a high regard for Allen Dulles. Many looked to him for guidance and insights into the most pressing problems of war, peace, and survival that engaged them then and still engage us now. Allen Dulles never laid claim to being the father of either modern American intelligence or the CIA. Nevertheless, most of his early life and all of his later years were devoted to honing and positioning this country's main intelligence weapon.
A moment's reflection on the more than fifty-year career of Allen Dulles—from fledgling intelligence agent in 1916 to public defender of his agency's beleaguered reputation at his death in 1969—prompts one to argue that he can certainly lay claim to two very important achievements that set him apart for history's consideration.
First, consider that intelligence drives the world of nations as we know it. When defined as seeking out "the intentions and capabilities" of other governments, intelligence becomes the raw ingredient of any foreign policy. This is true no matter whether kings or committees direct those strategies. What one does not know, one cannot consider. Absent the perfect universe of total knowledge, what policymakers are told by their intelligence providers takes on a weight beyond the raw facts themselves.
So while Allen Dulles did not "invent" America's intelligence system, he was one of its earliest midwives, first as an active agent in World War I, then as a planner and designer in the gray testing time between the wars, and again as the most productive generator of intelligence for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), that romantic secret spy agency of World War II.
Dulles was not merely a "gentleman spy," as one early biographer dismissed him. He transcended the mechanics of espionage technique and became one of the most important voices in the debate on the conduct of the war with the Axis powers and on what our strategy should be after the war. As OSS station chief in Bern, Switzerland, during World War II, Dulles is justly credited with developing unrivaled sources of intelligence within the highest levels of the Third Reich. His intelligence network included all of the often competing resistance groups in France, Italy, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe; in return he sent back into the war zone invaluable resources of arms, equipment, money, and information gathered elsewhere. The result was an output of intelligence "product" and "interpretation" that at times dwarfed the amount produced by all of the other OSS stations combined. In value, the information Dulles produced and sent to Washington and London became the dominant witness to what was happening inside Nazi-held Europe. Dulles thus became a compelling voice inside Allied war councils. But his was not the only voice. Dulles operated under the handicap of being isolated thousands of miles from Washington, which allowed others to discount or dismiss his views when they disagreed with their own. Yet even British intelligence officials, whose own goals and strategies were often at odds with those of Dulles, have since freely conceded that his contribution was the most important single force in the Allied intelligence effort. Sir Kenneth W. D. Strong, who served as General Eisenhower's wartime intelligence aide and dominated Britain's spy services for twenty-five years, thereafter judged Allen Dulles the "greatest intelligence officer who ever lived."
Dulles's second claim to eminence lies with his influence in shaping America's postwar foreign policy. While America's leaders were quick to scrap the OSS and retire its senior officials once the fighting stopped, Allen Dulles was preserved for future use. He had sharp and well-defined opinions about what America's goals should be in the Cold War that came after open-armed conflict had ceased, and they were opinions that changed history.
Allen Dulles's private life and public career have as many detractors as devotees. Much of the argument over the man's worth centers on a paradox built into the CIA. America, the peace-seeker and sower of democracy, rightly stands blamed for committing all manner of mayhem around the world nominally in the cause of universal freedom and in its own national interest. First as the CIA's deputy director for operations, and then as director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles gave American presidents a new weapon—an Alexander's sword to cut through the insoluble stalemates that confound diplomats and block generals from resorting to all-out war. By more closely merging intelligence gathering and assessment with covert operations and paramilitary intrusions than had been attempted before, the Dulles CIA provided the presidency with a liberating device that was satisfyingly direct. Covert action stops just short of the horrors of modern armed combat, which is made all the more unthinkable with the threat of nuclear weapons. No president from Harry Truman onward has been able put that weapon aside.
Allen Dulles is praised among those who were intimately involved in America's Cold War conflict, but some now wonder whether the agency he shaped has become as much a part of the problem as it was a solution. The questions he addressed nearly fifty years ago are as current as today's hot public debate about whether we even need a CIA in this post-Cold War world. We would not be Americans if we did not have two minds about whether clandestine spying and covert force are fit tactics for the kind of nation we hold ourselves to be. It does not seem as important as it might that the agency proved to be both a potent force against our enemies and a protector of our friends. There is in our national character a self-absorbed strain that makes us shrink from the hostilities of the world even when our own security is threatened. We want to be universally admired as a people while as a nation we are kept safe from the world fray. Allen Dulles knew that the choice was not a simple trade-off between morality and safety.
This story is about how Dulles came to that viewpoint and how our present intelligence service evolved over more than a century of experimentation and testing. After watching other approaches fail through two world wars, Dulles knew what he wanted to do when he got his chance. He had been preparing for such a task all his life. We live with the legacy of that life today, three decades after his death.
Allen Welsh Dulles was born at 3:00 AM on April 23, 1893, to a family that was neither wealthy nor especially advantaged. Other histories of his family have portrayed the Dulleses as pompous pretenders to Gilded Age aristocracy, or as dried-up Presbyterian messianics. These portraits are not true. The Dulleses of Watertown, New York, were eminent but not rich. They invested a level of energy in their careers that is remarkable even in today's hectic times, but they enjoyed life's simpler pleasures to the fullest.
The father, Allen Macy Dulles, was a third-generation Presbyterian minister and a self-propelled rising star in the progressive movement within the Protestant clergy. The mother was Edith Foster Dulles, the daughter of a former secretary of state, a match to her driven, outspoken husband. Between them, the minister and his wife managed to build two significant careers devoted to the service of others. At the same time they raised five children (two sons, three daughters) who were themselves remarkable characters for their time; three of them would go on to have spectacular public lives of their own.
There were, however, key differences between the Dulleses and other notable nineteenth-century American families. An enlarged portrait of several generations of the Dulles clan reveals a level of eminence—three secretaries of state and other holders of important positions in diplomacy, government, the law, and the church—that places them among such monumental historical names as the Adamses, the Lees, and the Roosevelts. Yet during his life, the Reverend Allen Macy Dulles never earned more than $3,500 a year (roughly $30,000 a year in today's money), and the broader family fortunes did not reach significant prosperity until well after most of the five children were young adults.
To dig deeper into the early years of young Allen Dulles, one turns to that most valuable of biographical records, the "Line-a-Day" diary that Allen Macy and Edith Dulles kept during most of their married lives. The Dulleses took a leather-covered plain notebook and dated each page with 1 of the 365 days of the year. In tiny script, one or the other would write a one-sentence description of that date's events, year after year, for more than forty years. Each page marked the ebb and flow of family life across the years. There emerges a sense of enormous energy being expended as those lines reveal remarks about the weather, trips, social events, and the minister's sermon topics. Other family recollections and interviews reinforce the same sense that the Dulles family was in constant motion. Adults and children alike were always busy doing something, striving, learning, working. Even on the long summer vacations the family took together, there was never an idle moment. Dulles family life was comfortable and secure, but it was robust to the point of being somewhat spartan. A Dulles plunged ahead. A Dulles did not dwell on the past.
This explains Allen Macy Dulles's terse notation on the birth of his second son, "Allen Welsh Dulles born 3 AM." It would not be until July that the diary, again in the father's hand, notes, "E. [Edith] takes Allie to Philadelphia to see about leg." Allie Dulles, as he was called, had been born with a clubfoot. Such malformations were easily correctable by surgery in those days, but there was still something jarring about it. More than the commonplace belief that birth defects were some sort of curse, Edith and her husband had been much worried about their decision to have a third child. When eldest son John Foster Dulles was born in January 1888, and, fifteen months later, when daughter Margaret was delivered, the births were so difficult as to be life-threatening to both mother and children. Edith's doctor warned her that the infections associated with childbirth in those days had so weakened her that she must postpone the decision to have more children for at least five years. That meant giving up the physical intimacies that were very much a part of their married life. Their resolve lasted little more than three years.
After Allie's troubled birth, the minister and his wife continued a sexually active marriage despite the increasing toll it took on Edith. In 1895 a second daughter, Eleanor, was born. She was, by her own description, "a tough little nut" who was afflicted with weakened eyesight. She compensated for her poor vision by becoming a sharp judge of character. She also shared Allen's adventurous spirit, and it would take her every bit as far in the world of history-making affairs as her two elder brothers. The baby of the family, Nataline, was born in 1898. That event apparently marked a final change in the parents' relations. The Reverend Dulles built a larger house, a colonnaded manse on Mullins Street in Watertown, New York, that included a separate study on the third floor where he spent considerable time. There he found refuge for his heavy burden of theological studies and writing. Edith, although she kept up a breathless round of good works and lengthy travel, suffered increasingly from debilitating headaches and bouts of melancholy that often left her bedridden. Depression would haunt later generations of Dulles offspring.
Eleanor Dulles remarked later, "I remember asking Mother about the gap in the births of Foster and Margaret and then of Allen, who was born four years later. She said about how ill she had been for months after each of them had been born, and what the doctor had said. Then she added, `It was hard on your father,' and that was the closest I came to talking about sex with her. There were, of course, no birth control devices that worked very well in those days."
Allen Dulles was influenced throughout his life by the solitary personalities of so many in his family. Outsiders often mistook this aloofness as a sign of clannishness. Yet the Dulleses were socially adept and convivial company; Allen was especially lighthearted and charming. And there was a robust sexuality that ran through most of their lives. Yet there was a point beyond which non-Dulleses could not penetrate, an inner recess where others, be they lovers, wives, or friends, could not go. It was not easy to be a Dulles, harder still to love one. It was difficult to be a child of Allen and Edith Dulles, harder still to be a grandchild.
Family history speculates that the original Dulleses may have been named Douglas and been part of the Scots transplantation into Northern Ireland during the time of the Tudors. The first of the line to arrive in America was a Joseph Dulles, who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, during the Revolutionary War. He undertook stints as a soldier and storekeeper before marrying a wealthy land-owning widow. The two children from this marriage both gravitated northward. The son, also Joseph Dulles, went to Yale and became a minister. The daughter, Elizabeth, married Langdon Cheves, a South Carolinian who was sent to Congress and then stayed on in Washington as president of the short-lived Bank of the United States.
John Welsh Dulles, Joseph's son, also a Presbyterian minister, answered the call of missionary work that had so gripped the American Protestant churches of that time. The Reverend John Dulles and his wife went to India to preach at a mission in Madras and stayed there for years before health problems drove them home to Philadelphia. His wife, Harriet Lathrop Winslow, had income of her own, which helped this Reverend Dulles ascend into the hierarchy of the Presbyterian Missions Board. He became something of a celebrity for his memoirs of his work in India and his tours of the Holy Land. Meanwhile, an uncle earned a tour as U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in London for his charitable largesse to political causes. The Dulleses, in short, were a solid, pious family of notable accomplishment. Since the Presbyterian church was such an important part of the family's identity, it was only natural that later generations of Dulles sons were educated at Princeton College, which was founded by Presbyterians.
When it was his turn, Allen Macy Dulles graduated with honors from both the undergraduate college and the seminary. But he was no bookish, diffident vicar. He played on the school's undefeated varsity football team when the sport was a national scandal for its violence and danger. Princeton's Tigers were noted for their fierce play and for the spirited coaching of one of the upperclassmen, a friend of Allen's named Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the future president. The Dulleses had a knack for making friends early with those who would later prove important to their careers.
Edith Foster Dulles was a nineteenth-century portrait of a dutiful wife, a loving mother, and a tireless worker for disadvantaged women in whatever town her husband's calling took them. But Paris—glorious, gilded, liberating City of Lights—was where her heart lay from her first encounter with it as the teenage daughter of a diplomat. The amount of travel Edith managed during her life was extraordinary, such as the necessary trips with her husband to various church-related conferences. Then, too, Allie had to be taken often in his early years to the New York City surgeons who straightened his clubfoot and worked to rebuild his withered left leg. Also there was an increasing cycle of spur-of-the-moment visits to Philadelphia to visit her husband's family, and to Washington, D.C., where her own father's fortunes were based and where, in time, her sons Foster and Allen would be drawn as well. And there was always Paris. As we will see, the Dulles family's stays in France and the rest of Europe were perhaps more formative for the later public career of Allen Dulles than the time he spent at the primitive public schools of Watertown and Auburn, New York.
Among the forceful characters in Allie's family, perhaps the most important was Edith's father, General John Watson Foster. As much as any person, Grandfather Foster shaped the minds and the outlook of grandsons Allie and Foster and set their careers along the path that he himself had followed quite by accident.
General Foster—he prized that title above others—was one of the genetic keys to the fierce ambitions of the Dulles clan. He also established the family's proprietorial claims on the U.S. State Department and on the diplomatic careers that were viewed as something of a Dulles birthright. If the Dulles progeny got their energy and sense of mission from their parents, they got the grit and vision they needed from this grandfather. The Dulles passion for education and travel was greatly compounded by General Foster's conviction—also passed on through his daughter—that one could not travel too much or learn enough.
By the time Allie became aware of his grandfather, General Foster had already worked through several careers—lawyer, soldier, editor, politician, diplomat—all culminating in a brief lameduck term as secretary of state in 1892, in the waning days of the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. Foster was one of those Americans of the Gilded Age who won advancement and place in the world beyond the wildest dreams of his youth. But what set him apart from his contemporaries was that his vision of the future stretched beyond the curve of sight of others of his day.
General Foster was the third son of a pioneer into the Indiana region in the early 1800s who had prospered as a grist mill operator. The young man was accorded a first-rate education. He was the valedictorian of his class of 1855 at Indiana University, and his stint at Harvard Law School was followed by a year of reading law with Algernon Sullivan, an established attorney in Cincinnati. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Indiana Volunteers and, through the prevailing system of choosing officers, was elected to the rank of major. He had what the British call "a good war." He had never been in robust health—he was thin, taciturn, with delicate skin that would redden painfully if exposed too long to the sun—yet, oddly, he was one of those who thrived and actually enjoyed the privations of military campaigning. Foster became an officer who was not only popular with the soldiers but also able to command them with skill in the chaos of a skirmish. He managed to transfer from the infantry to command a cavalry brigade and won commendation repeatedly for bravery and skill in the bloody battles at Fort Donelson and Shiloh. The friendships he formed with two other rising stars—Ulysses Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman—would prove invaluable in later life.
Foster returned to Evansville, Indiana, where he edited the local newspaper and participated in the rowdy politics of that brawling time. In the 1872 presidential campaign, President Grant's tolerance of the corruption of his inner circle nearly cost him reelection. Yet despite the thousand faults and worries that beset Grant, General Foster, who was chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, stuck loyally to his wartime commander. Through his newspaper's fiery editorials and his own personal campaigning, Foster won credit in Washington for leading the upset win in Indiana for Grant, who carried all but six states and polled 800,000 votes more than his nearest rival. In 1873 Grant rewarded his old friend by naming him minister to Mexico. Foster would later recall that he had wanted the envoy's job in Switzerland because it was a quiet, out-of-the-way place where his inexperience would cause no harm.
The Mexican posting, by contrast, was a sensitive one. The United States had leaned heavily on the French government to remove its suzerainty over Mexico but had not assured the succeeding governments of Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz that the United States was a benevolent neighbor. Although a more polished and seasoned diplomat might have made more sense as the choice for ambassador to Mexico, Grant believed Foster would be as quick a study of the task as he had been of military command. And indeed, in the seven years the Fosters spent in Mexico, he insisted that his family mingle freely among the leading Mexican families, joined his children in learning Spanish, and sent Edith and Eleanor to a school for the young daughters of Mexican government officials. While Mexican wariness of its neighbor to the north would remain for another hundred years, Foster did win a number of commercial agreements that eased tensions.
The seven-year tour of duty in Mexico was the first of nearly thirty years of assignments that took Foster and his family far away from Indiana forever. The next stop was an appointment by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880, as minister to the court of Russian Czar Alexander II. By then, daughter Edith, seventeen, was keeping a diary that recorded the lavish life of the Imperial Court, the glittering dances, and the moonlight races of horse-drawn troikas across the frozen wastes outside St. Petersburg. Edith was observant enough to notice the explosive pressures building up in Russian society, even from the protected safety of the American Legation. Years later, in a memoir crafted from her diaries for her grandchildren, she would recall, "It is hard to exaggerate the oppression, the cruelty of the Russian system of government, the ignorance in which the people were kept, the espionage to which all were subjected." General Foster too learned his first lessons about intelligence operations from the czar's dreaded Okhrana secret police.
The family headed home from St. Petersburg to Washington in the spring of 1881 but paused for a lengthy stay in Paris, the first of many long visits that would lie wrapped as a treasure in Edith's heart. Mary Foster ensured that Edith and Eleanor continued regular schooling during the long visit there. The family also made friends with many wealthy Americans who had sought culture and relief from boredom by living abroad. The Fosters with their two lovely teenage daughters were immediately welcomed into the lavish apartments along the Champs Elysées that were home to the Yankee expatriates.
Edith's diary for the 1881 stay in Paris records one of the regular Sunday soirees where she met a confident, athletic young Princeton seminarian named Allen Macy Dulles. She recorded his name as "Mr. Dunis" with a question mark after it and thought little more about him. Some of the matchmakers among the ladies of the American clique in Paris invited them both to teas during that summer interlude before both were to return home. With her head still swirling from visions of the Russian court, of nights at the opera in Paris, Edith was not much interested in any young man at that moment. Allen Macy Dulles, however, was smitten at once and laid a dogged siege for Edith's affections that lasted six years.
|CHAPTER 1 Allen Welsh Dulles (1893-1969)||1|
|CHAPTER 2 1915-1917||41|
|CHAPTER 3 1917-1920||69|
|CHAPTER 4 1920-1926||107|
|CHAPTER 5 1926-1933||141|
|CHAPTER 6 1934-1941||177|
|CHAPTER 7 January-November 1942||209|
|CHAPTER 8 December 1942-August 1943||241|
|CHAPTER 9 August 1943-September 1944||277|
|CHAPTER 10 September 1944-May 1945||313|
|CHAPTER 11 1945-1950||351|
|CHAPTER 12 1950-1953||399|
|CHAPTER 13 1953-1958||431|
|CHAPTER 14 1958-1960||469|
|CHAPTER 15 1960-1961||507|
|CHAPTER 16 1961-1969||543|