Memoir Literature


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."

CIRA Newsletter. "An Interview with Former General Counsel John S. Warner." 23, no. 3 (Fall 1999): 9-12.

Warner was Deputy General Counsel in the Central Intelligence Group in 1946 and remained in that post with the CIA until his appointment as General Counsel in 1973, in which position he served until 1976. His responses to interviewers here are not meant to be in-depth analyses, but rather snapshots.

Chavchavadze, David. Crowns and Trenchcoats: A Russian Prince in the CIA. New York: Atlantic International, 1990.

Bart Barnes, "David Chavchavadze, CIA Spy with Russian Royal Roots, Dies at 90," Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2014.

Surveillant 1.1: "First-hand account of the CIA experiences of ... a direct descendant of the House of Romanoff.... [He] entered the U.S. army in 1943 and after the war joined CIA. He spent most of his career as an Intelligence Officer in the Soviet Russia Division."

Clarridge, Duane R. ("Dewey"), with Digby Diehl. A Spy for All Seasons: My Life in the CIA. New York: Scribner's, 1997.

Clark comment: These are the memoirs of a long-time, senior CIA officer whose personal and sartorial eccentricities are known to all who came into contact with him. Clarridge's close association with running the Reagan administration's anti-Sandinista war, as well as with other major operations in his lengthy career, makes this book interesting reading. Click for reviews of Clarridge's memoirs.

Colby, William E., with Peter Forbath. Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.

Clark comment: This autobiography covers Colby's career from OSS to DCI. Bill Colby remains controversial both inside and outside the Agency.

Constantinides finds Colby's explanation of his "philosophy about operations and the role of an intelligence service in a democratic society ... the book's most significant features.... CIA veterans agree[] on the following: the book faithfully reflected Colby's preference and understanding of action operations, which mirrored the man's strong missionary and reformist strain, and the author was candid about his understanding of counterintelligence."

For Powers, NYTBR (21 May 1978) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 275-282, "Colby's book is important, a serious treatment of a serious subject, but at the same time it is flavorless.... More damaging to the book, however, is the impassive, almost muffled quality to Colby's voice -- the fact that he approaches his main points in a guarded manner -- as well as a certain confusion of purpose. His memoirs are addressed to the public, but they are aimed at his one-time friends and colleagues, in particular Richard Helms."

Colby, William E., with James McCarger. Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of America's Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989. 1990. [pb]

Clark comment: The title sends a clear message of Colby's theme. The former DCI was convinced that mistakes, both of omission and of commission, made in the White House and by the military cost the United States a victory in Vietnam.

For Valcourt, IJI&C 3.4, Colby's book "should have been the definitive insider's guide to the intelligence side of the Vietnam conflict. Perhaps not so surprisingly he has fallen short." Colby's explanation of how he developed the Phoenix Program "is inadequate because he fails to delve deeply enough into his own frame of mind.... Despite its shortcomings,... [this is] an informative book, giving numerous personal insights of a sad and controversial period in American history."

Wirtz, I&NS 5.3, comments that readers "interested in the conduct of CIA operations ... will be disappointed by the book, which largely provides Colby's interpretations of major developments during the Vietnam war." The author "fails to address adequately the reasons why Americans so badly miscalculated the gravity of the task they faced in Vietnam.... Colby's work does offer important insights into past and present American efforts at counter-insurgency."

Other reviews include: Robert Manning, "We Could Have Won Vietnam," New York Times Book Review, 12 Nov. 1989, 18-19; and Angelo Codevilla, "The Bureaucrat & the War," Commentary 89, no. 1 (Jan. 1990), 60-62.

Copeland, Miles. The Game Player: Confessions of the CIA's Original Political Operative. London: Aurum, 1989.

Critchfield, James H. Partners at the Creation: The Men Behind Postwar Germany's Defense and Intelligence Establishments. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003.

Fitzpatrick, CIRA Newsletter 28.4, designates Partners at the Creation as "an easily read and important work of history." It is "important because it delineates the thinking and the actions taken by U.S. officials." The author's memoir refutes allegations that the CIA used Nazi war criminals after the war, and "shows both the benefits and drawbacks of working with the Gehlen Group to create a modern new Germany capable of becoming a strong ally of the United States." This "is not a cloak and dagger spy book. Rather, it is filled with the intellectual and diplomatic minutiae which is the real life of intelligence officers."

For Bath, NIPQ 20.1, the author "adds significantly to our knowledge" in the areas of the formation of the postwar German intelligence service and the rebirth of the German army. "These are interesting stories, well told." Goulden, Washington Times, 29 Feb. 2004, and Intelligencer 14.1, notes that "Critchfield carried out another mission perhaps even more important than caring for Gehlen -- the shaping of the intelligence and military structure of a democratic Federal Republic that took its place in NATO." The author "tells a good intelligence story and gives insight into how 'diplomacy' functioned during the Cold War."

Peake, Studies 48.3 (2004), says that this book "is an important contribution from a member of the 'Greatest Generation.'" Critchfield emphasizes "the political, operational, and organizational problems he encountered [in Germany] and in Washington." To Hutchinson, IJI&C 17.4 (Winter 2004-2005), the author "adds significantly to the public knowledge of postwar Germany." He tells his story "without excessive detail" and "provides valuable details about the general development of a democratic Germany, along with more specific insights to the defense and intelligence establishments."

In a Review Essay, Naftali, FA 83.4 (Jul.-Aug. 2004), asserts that the cost of working with Gehlen and similar individuals is too high. In FA 83.6 (Nov.-Dec. 2004), former BND President (1985-1990) Hans-Georg Wieck (pp. 138-139) and Critchfield deputy (see below) Clarence W. Schmitz (pp. 139-140) take issue with that argument; Naftali replies at pp. 140-141.

See Clarence W. Schmitz, "Comments on the Book, Partners at the Creation by James H Critchfield and on Other Related Subjects," CIRA Newsletter 29, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 35-38. Schmitz was on Critchfield's staff at Pullach from 1949 to 1954 and was his deputy for operations from 1952 to 1954. From 1954 to 1957, he was in charge of the Headquarters component that supported the Gehlen operation. And from 1957 to 1964, Schmitz was in Bonn in charge of liaison with the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution (BfV). He believes that "[a] book dealing with this particular subject could have been written only by Critchfield."

Paehler, H-German, H-Net Reviews, Nov. 2005 [http://www.h-net.org], finds that this work "derives much of its originality from the author's prominent place in the development and inside information and knowledge available to him.... [It] is a worthwhile read for historians and those interested in intelligence history alike." However, "Critchfield's memoirs suffer from a few problems, some of which afflict the genre in general and some of which are rather unique to this particular defense of CIA policies some fifty-five years ago and, to some extent, the defining years of Critchfield's own life. Thus, the account has to be approached with some caution."

Crumpton, Henry A. The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Finn, Washington Post, 25 May 2012, says that this "is a lively account" of Crumpton's "24-year career in the CIA that charts one of the most significant legacies of the past decade of warfare: the rise of drones." The book "combines the derring-do of old-fashioned spycraft with thoughtful meditations on the future of warfare and intelligence work." For Peake, Studies 56.2 (Jun. 2012), the author "is forthright in his insights regarding the successes and challenges associated with executive branch poliicies, his CIA colleagues, and Agency management and politics.... [H]e adds a perspective seldom found in a career memoir."

Hedley, IJI&C 26.2 (Summer 2013), notes that Crumpton "relates his own real-life experiences, providing detailed, understandable examples of each element of clandestine operations." He provides "vivid stories illustrating tradecraft and undercover operations." However, the work "can be faulted for becoming mostly about Afghanistan." However, even there his "direct, senior-level involvement" in U.S. counterterrorism earns him "the benefit of the doubt." To Goulden, Washington Times, 20 Jun. 2012, and Intelligencer 19.2 (Summer-Fall 2012), this is a book he can recommend as a "must-read for current ans aspiring intelligence officers."

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