Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs

Richard M. Bissell, Author, Frances T. Pudlo, With, Jonathan E. Lewis, With Yale University Press $61 (280p) ISBN 978-0-300-06430-8
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 Bissell's family generously gave Thomas access to this unpublished manuscript, and Thomas mined many of the nuggets.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)
Reviewed on: 05/27/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Open Ebook - 277 pages - 978-0-585-37912-8
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