The 1950s


A - D

Ambrose, Stephen E., with Richard H. Immerman. Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.

Clark comment: Ambrose is a respected historian and Eisenhower biographer. The focus of the first part of the book is on the World War II years, including Ultra, Torch, and Overlord. Ambrose compares the Allied surprise at the beginning of the Battle of Bulge to the German surprise on D-Day. The second part of the book covers intelligence issues during Eisenhower's presidency.

To Constantinides, the "principal fault of this book is the authors' exaggeration of Eisenhower's direct role and first-hand participation in intelligence matters as distinct from his general responsibilities as commander and president.... Little evidence is produced to show that he took more than a normal leader's interest in intelligence operations and techniques." There are enough errors to "cause the reader to be cautious," but there are "some good passages" as well. Lucas, I&NS 12.3/197, comments that Ike's Spies "illuminated covert action's importance within US strategy" but also "fell prey to the myth of Eisenhower as controlling influence."

Barrett, David M. The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

Click for reviews of Barrett's important work on CIA and Congressional relations.

Barrett, David M. "An Early 'Year of Intelligence': CIA and Congress, 1958." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 17, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 468-501.

"If 1975 ... was a year of firestorms [for the CIA], 1958 might be characterized as a year of serious grassfires which led to persistent questioning in Congress of the CIA's competence." Events impacting on the CIA's relationship with Congress in 1958 included the fallout from the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, Vice President's Nixon's trip to Venezuela, and the Iraqi coup.

Barrett, David M. "Glimpses of a Hidden History: Sen. Richard Russell, Congress, and Oversight of the CIA." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 11, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 271-298.

The focus here is Russell's and Congress' relationship with the CIA during the Eisenhower presidency. The author concludes that "[t]here can be no doubt that Russell was powerful in relation to the CIA; the question that remains largely unanswered is the extent to which he exercised that power." In the absence of the release of relevant records by the government, "[t]he well-known contention that no effective congressional oversight of the CIA existed in this and other parts of the 'era of trust' is not yet proven."

Bissell, Richard M., Jr., with Jonathan E. Lewis and Frances T. Pudlo. Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996. JK468I6B55

Shryock, WIR 15.6, sees Bissell's memoirs as "thoughtful, candid, provocative, and ultimately puzzling." However, at times, the author "conveys his thoughts in a stiff, disorganized, and even excessively lawyerly manner." Falcoff, National Interest, Winter 1996-1997, finds the book "informative and stimulating," despite "its unexciting prose and a tendency to flatten what must have been far more dramatic events."

For Immerman, Choice 34.2, this work is disappointing but "nevertheless has value. It provides a succinct history of some of America's most dramatic Cold War initiatives and insight into the mindsets of their architects." Chambers concludes that "[t]here are no major disclosures. However, Bissell's personal recollections do add a new and useful viewpoint to the history of these operations." Click for a full review by Chambers.

"Methodological problems" with Bissell's memoirs are raised by Westerfield, Studies (Winter 1998-1999). Noting the clear acknowledgement that the "actual writing was done by [Bissell's] two collaborators," Westerfield also is concerned that "the posthumous additions (not clearly delineated ) obscure throughout what words were ever personally approved by Bissell and what ones were not."

Cabell, Charles A., Jr. [BGEN/USAF (Ret.)], ed. A Man of Intelligence: Memoirs of War, Peace, and the CIA. Boulder, CO: Impavide Publications, 1997.

According to Peake, AFIO WIN 42-99 (23 Oct. 1999), Cabell held a succession of important Army Air Force and Air Force staff and intelligence positions before being named as DDCI (1953-1962) under Allen Dulles. Cabell devotes "[m]ore than 100 pages ... to his CIA service, and of particular interest here are his candid comments about the Bay of Pigs operation in which he was directly involved." Cabell's assessment of the reasons for the Bay of Pigs failure is "dispassionate," but he does not mince words either. This book "is a valuable contribution to the history of Air Force intelligence and the early years of the CIA."

Chace, James. What We Had: A Memoir. New York: Summit, 1990.

Surveillant 1.1: "[F]ormer editor of Foreign Affairs and CIA informant during his days in Paris."

Chapman, Robert D. "Remembering the Polish Underground." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 19, no. 4 (Winter 2006-2007): 746-752.

The author reviews briefly the CIA's support of the Polish underground organization Wolnosc i Niezawislosc (WiN -- Freedom and Independence) in the early 1950s, as well as events surrounding the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Coriden, Guy E. "Report on Hungarian Refugees." Studies in Intelligence 2, no. 1 (Winter 1958): 85-93.

The author reports on the collection of "intelligence information and material from the Hungarians who were admitted to the US" in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Currey, Cecil B. Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1998.

According to a review in JAH 77.1, Currey has presented "a spirited defense of Lansdale's career." The problem is that neither Lansdale nor Currey's other informants were willing to talk about "what serious students of intelligence want to know most about -- what they did as intelligence operatives.... Because of the difficulty with sources, Currey's account is probably the most detailed that could be written of Lansdale's career."

Commenting on the 1998 edition, Jonkers, AFIO WIN (30-1998), notes that "this book provides both an important contribution to literature of the Vietnam war as well as a monument to a legend." Ahern, CIA and Rural Pacification in South Vietnam [2001], 4/fn.10, suggests that "Currey's credulity regarding many of the claims for and by Lansdale makes the book frequently unreliable."

Darling, Arthur B. The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government, to 1950. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1990.

Click for reviews of Darling's book and that of Ludwell Lee Montague, covering the period from October 1950 to January 1953.

Dujmovic, Nicholas. "Drastic Actions Short of War: The Origins and Application of CIA's Covert Paramilitary Function in the Early Cold War." Journal of Military History 76 (Jul. 2012): 775-808.

From "Abstract": "The thirty-month gap between the dissolution of CIA's wartime predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, and the assignment of the paramilitary function to CIA in mid-1948, as well as other self-inflicted causes, may help explain why CIA's paramilitary activities in the 1950s never were as effective as policy makers and Agency operations officers expected."

Dujmovic concludes: "The history of CIA's early Cold War paramilitary activities suggests that a mandate and the will to conduct these operations are insufficient and that, without devoting the qualified manpower to them in an effective organization, perhaps it would be best after all to have the military take them on."

Dujmovic, Nicholas. "Extraordinary Fidelity: Two CIA Prisoners in China, 1952–73." Studies in Intelligence 50, no. 4 (2006): 21-36.

Associated Press, "John Downey, Judge and Former POW, Dies at 84," 17 Nov. 2014. See also, Donald Gregg, "In Memoriam -- Jack Downey," Studies in Intelligence 58, no. 4 (Dec. 2014): vii-viii.

"Shot down over Communist China on their first operational mission in 1952, these young men [John T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau] spent the next two decades imprisoned, often in solitary confinement, while their government officially denied they were CIA officers. Fecteau was released in 1971, Downey in 1973. They came home to an America vastly different from the place they had left, but both adjusted surprisingly well and continue to live full lives."

Ben Macintyre, "The Lost 20 Years of CIA Spies Caught in China Trap," Times (London), 21 Apr. 2007, picks up on the Downey and Fecteau story from Dujmovic's Studies article.

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