Reflections Of A Cold Warrior / Edition 1

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Overview

In this revealing memoir, the CIA's most important spymaster provides an insider's view of American intelligence activities during a pivotal period in history. The author tells of the personalities, policies, and historical forces that influenced events while he was in charge of the development of the U-2 spy-plane, the Corona spy satellite, the infamous Bay of Pigs operation, and other covert CIA operations and discusses the lessons that were learned during the Cold War.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For decades, Bissell had a reputation as the smartest person in Washington, D.C. Unrecognized by most citizens, he was a celebrity among the foreign-policy elite. He played a role in formulating the Marshall Plan. He drafted CIA operations from his Ford Foundation perch in the early 1950s, then joined the spy agency in 1954, serving during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Although he kept a low profile even in retirement, Bissell eventually began working on this memoir when he was 81, enlisting the help of two younger confidantes, Lewis and Pudlo, and it was almost finished when he died four years later in 1994. Although the writing style is at times stilted, the memoir is refreshing in its apologetic hindsight. Bissell admits his and his government's mistakes in the U-2 spy plane missions over the Soviet Union and in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Ironically, though, what could have made headlines thanks to Bissell's candor has been diluted by the publication last year of Evan Thomas's The Very Best Men, about the CIA's early history. Bissell's family generously gave Thomas access to this unpublished manuscript, and Thomas mined many of the nuggets. Bissell's version is worth reading anyway for its insights into the links between bureaucratic process and government policy. Even enemies of the CIA are likely to be engaged by Bissell's unpretentious voice and periodic admissions of fallibility. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A reticent but still revealing memoir by the man who was in overall charge not only of the development of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes and the spy satellite program, but also of the Bay of Pigs.

Bissell was one of the best of that remarkable group of public servants that emerged during and immediately after the Second World War. In 1954, shortly after joining the CIA, he was given responsibility for the U-2, and only 20 months elapsed before its first overflight of the Soviet Union. Eisenhower insisted on approving each and every flight, and though Bissell blames himself for recommending the mission of Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down just before the summit with Khrushchev, it is clear that the program gave the US invaluable insight into Soviet capabilities, which were considerably less than the public feared. That knowledge, Bissell contends, enabled Eisenhower to be calm in periods of great international tension and also to resist efforts to build more expensive weapons systems. It later completely discredited the notion of the "missile gap." By contrast, even Bissell is not sure that the Cuban Brigade could have succeeded in overthrowing Castro, but he is certain that the effect of Kennedy's decision to change its objective away from an area where defections were possible and guerrilla operations more feasible, and then to reduce the air strikes by 80 percent (so that Castro's air force of four or five aircraft survived) doomed the enterprise. Again Bissell blames himself for not recommending cancellation of the invasion when it should have become clear that it could not succeed.

This is not a book of moral anguish or the telling personal detail. But as the record of an honorable and effective public servant in dangerous times, it is wise and worthwhile.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300064308
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 1,024,764
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Early Years 1
2 The War Years 15
3 The Marshall Plan 30
4 Transition: The Ford Foundation to the CIA 74
5 Overhead Reconnaissance 92
6 Crises 141
7 Cuba 152
8 A Philosophy of Covert Action 205
9 The Institute for Defense Analyses 225
10 Private Life 238
How This Book Was Written 246
Notes 251
Index 263
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Nothing Revealing Here

    Mr. Has taken his secrets to the grave.

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