Memoir Literature


DeForest, Orrin, and David Chanoff. Slow Burn: The Rise and Bitter Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

According to Surveillant 1.1, Slow Burn tells the story of a "CIA officer's creation of a spy network in Vietnam.... [He] describes the anxieties and frustrations of the final days of U.S. involvement." Petersen identifies the author as "a disillusioned CIA regional officer who personally handled defectors and agents."

Wirtz, IJI&C 4.2, notes that from November 1968 to Spring 1975, DeForest was a "CIA operations officer in the city of Bien Hoa.... [His] reminiscences are informative.... He provides a compelling description of a single CIA success amidst the general disaster that engulfed much of American intelligence during the war." This is a "useful contribution to the literature on the Vietnam war."

De Silva, Peer. Sub Rosa: The CIA and the Uses of Intelligence. New York: New York Times Books, 1978.

Clark comment: This is De Silva's memoir of his intelligence career from 1945 to 1973. He was the CIA Chief of Station in Vietnam 1964-1965, where he was injured by a terrorist bomb. For Constantinides, much of what De Silva recounts about the Vietnam War "does not enlighten us about the intelligence effort and operations that provided the basis of his ... opinions." Pforzheimer finds that De Silva's presentation "suffers from the author's garrulous details of his personal life"; however, the book "brings out the flavor of an intelligence career."

Devine, Jack. "What Really Happened in Chile: The CIA, the Coup Against Allende, and the Rise of Pinochet." Foreign Affairs 93, no. 4 (Jul.-Aug. 2014): 26-35.

The author states "with conviction that the CIA did not plot with the Chilean military to overthrow Allende in 1973." As the CIA officer handling the "media account," Devine asserts that "the agency had no role in what was printed" in El Mercurio. He also argues that the CIA did not pay the Chilean truckers' union to go on strike in October 1972. Nevertheless, "the Santiago station had helped create a climate for the coup."

In an effort to read the historical record to mean what he wants it to mean, Peter Kornbluh, "Showdown in Santiago," Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5 (Sep.-Oct. 2014): 168-172, continues to lay the blame for Allende's overthrow (and even his death) on the CIA. Yet, he clearly understands that "Washington developed a longer-term effort to destabilize the Chiean government economically, politically, and militarily" of which the CIA and its media operations were only a part. Devine replies at 172-174.

Devine, Jack, with Vernon Loeb. Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2014.

Mudd, Wall Street Journal, 10 Jun. 2014, says this memoir "is a refresher course on the breadth of America's covert campaigns against the spread of Soviet influence and ideology." The author's "remarkable 32-year career is a microcosm of the secret thrust and counterthrust that defined those years." He relates "a rich catalog of espionage history and tradecraft," and "offers particular insights into Aldrich Ames." The reviewer is less impressed with Devine's comments on more current national security issues. However, Goulden, Washington Times, 26 Aug. 2014, suggests Devine's warning of "myriad world troubles stretching into the foreseeable future" deserves attention.

For Kelly, Washington Post, 26 Jun. 2014, the author shows flashes of his "keen sense of humor," but the book "is a mostly serious reflection on a long career at an institution that Devine clearly still loves.... Devine doesn't deliver Earth-shattering revelations. His strength lies instead in humanizing the many larger-than-life characters he tangled with over the years.... Devine has produced an entertaining chronicle of his decades at the agency and a persuasive case for its continued relevance."

Peake, Studies 58.4 (Dec. 2014), notes that "[w]hile the format of Good Hunting is conventional -- a roughly chronological progression -- the career experiences and policy messages it conveys are not." The former A/DDO provides "incisive remarks on the management and bureaucratic issues that often complicated what should have been straightforward decisions." To Wippl, IJI&C 28.1 (Spring 2015), "the CIA needs to have given Jack Devine" a "five-to-ten year term" as DDO in order to improve the system.

Fischer, IJI&C 28.2 (Summer 2015), suggests that "[w]hile Devine's general readers will learn a lot about the DO's internal workings and operations during the last two decades of the Cold War, intelligence historians will find a plethora of new details that fill some gaps in existing lnowledge."

Devlin, Larry. Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960-67. New York: Public Affairs, 2007.

Lawrence Raymond Devlin died 6 December 2008. Joe Holley, "Larry Devlin, 86; CIA Chief of Station, Congo," Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2008, B5.

Clark comment: This is an invigorating read about a curious corner in the Cold War, written by a man who lived it closely. There is certainly plenty of Devlin's opinion on U.S. foreign policy of the era spread about in his memoir, but such does not represent more than momentary pauses in the narrative of the story he unfolds. This was neither the first nor the last time that officers (whether CIA or State Department) in the field and Washington had different views of developing situations. Devlin writes an easily read brand of English, introduces his colleagues and the Congolese leaders with both candor and sensitivity, and seeks to put to rest canards directed at the CIA institutionally and him personally for such actions as Lumumba's death and Mobutu's coup. It is, perhaps, easy at this late date to wonder "who cares" about these actions of long ago; it is, however, even easier to agree with Devlin's deepseated belief that it really did matter at the time. I am grateful that fate placed Larry Devlin in the Congo at this juncture as Africa began to move beyond its previous colonial existence.

EAB, AFIO WIN 06-07 (12 Feb. 2007), notes that when the author arrived in the Congo in 1960, there was "no central authority ... and local strongmen were struggling for power.... Devlin devotes a large portion of the book refuting his or the agency's part in Lumumba's death." Similarly, a Publisher's Weekly reviewer (via Amazon.com) finds that the author uses his last chapter for "a point-by-point refutation of his or the agency's involvement in Lumumba's death.... Devlin's straightforward, plainly written approach ... lends credence to his assertion of innocence."

For Cassilly, IJI&C 21.1 (Spring 2008), "this is the first report written exclusively from the CIA's point of view and, as such, a valuable contribution to the history of the time.... [A]s the Cold War recedes further, the time may soon arrive for a reexamination of the situation in a less emotional context. When doing so, Devlin's book will be required reading, if perhaps not the final word."

Rogers, CIRA Newsletter 32.1 (Spring 2007) and Intelligencer 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), calls Chief of Station, Congo "an important piece of history about the United States' skirmishes with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries during the Cold War as specifically played out in the Congo.... The Congo experience is a textbook lesson on how CIA can and should work with the Department of State, and how Department of State diplomats can use effectively intelligence resources."

See Scott Shane, "Memories of a C.I.A. Officer Resonate in a New Era," New York Times, 24 Feb. 2008, for the journalist's interview of the 85-year-old Devlin at his home in Virginia.

Doyle, David W. True Men and Traitors: From the OSS to the CIA. New York: Wiley, 2001.

Jonkers, AFIO WIN 12.2 (25 Mar. 2002), highly recommends this book as "a great starting point for both outsiders and insiders who want to know more about clandestine operations." As the title indicates, the author served with OSS in World War II and, later, with the CIA.... Doyle provides a window on how CIA operated..., including agent recruitment, tradecraft in operations and successes as well as various inevitable snafus.... This is a positive, constructive, interesting book, easy to read, a straightforward account that is a credit to the author."

The reviewer in CIRA Newsletter, Spring 2002, believes that former CIA Africa-hand Doyle provides "real insight into the business of espionage.... [T]he book examines the daily grind and drudgery of the espionage business as well as the great personal satisfaction that comes from winkling out vital information from sometimes unlikely and unlikeable sources." Bath, NIPQ 18.2/3, sees the author introducing the reader "to the problems and perils of agent running in the Third World in the 1960s" and offering "interesting insights into tradecraft." In the "Traitors" part of the book, "there is little new for the student of intelligence."

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