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

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9780300064308: Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs

Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the most important CIA spymaster in history, singlehandedly led America's intelligence service from the age of Mata Hari into the space age. Under his guidance the U-2 spy-plane, the SR-71 "Blackbird," and the Corona spy satellite were developed, and the agency rose to the pinnacle of its power. Bissell was also, however, the architect of the infamous Bay of Pigs operation that failed to overthrow Castro in 1961 and led to the decline of the CIA. In this compelling memoir, Bissell gives us an insider's view of the personalities, policies, and historical forces surrounding these and other covert operations and the lessons learned during those times of conflict.
Bissell begins by describing his early years as a member of America's unofficial aristocracy. Born in a house that his father bought from Samuel Clemens, he was educated at Groton and Yale and befriended by Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, among others. Bissell recounts how he became acting head of the Economic Cooperation Administration, the agency in charge of the Marshall Plan after World War II, and helped to create the European Payments Union. Bissell was brought into the CIA in 1954, where he initiated a revolution in intelligence-gathering techniques. He reveals the details of these developments, as well as of the unique CIA-Lockheed partnership he pioneered, his participation in the CIA-sponsored coup to overthrow Arbenz in Guatemala, and his involvement in crises in Laos and the Congo. Bissell's memoir sheds light not only on pivotal points of American foreign policy but also on America's evolution from isolationist to interventionist superpower.

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Review:

Richard M. Bissel Jr. followed the preferred path to spy superstardom: Groton, Yale, military service in World War II, and a stint helping to write the Marshall Plan, followed by time as an operative and then as an assistant to Allen Dulles, director of the CIA. In 1959, he assumed the reigns as head of the agency's covert operations. But his career ran into a brick wall with the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. In Reflections of a Cold Warrior, Bissell, who died in 1994, recounts his involvement in operations ranging from the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Guatemala to the creation of the U-2 spy plane project to the fiasco in Cuba.

From 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. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Book Description Yale University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Hardcover. 280 pages. Dimensions: 9.3in. x 6.1in. x 0.9in.In this revealing memoir, the CIAs most important spymaster provides an insiders 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. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Bookseller Inventory # 9780300064308

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