Allen W. Dulles

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Allen W. Dulles

Allen Welsh Dulles (April 7, 1893 – January 29, 1969) was the first civilian and the longest-serving (1953-1961) Director of Central Intelligence (de-facto head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency), as well as a member of the Warren Commission. Between stints of government service, Dulles was a corporate lawyer and partner at Sullivan & Cromwell. Dulles led the C.I.A. as the Cold War was beginning to dominate foreign policy and defense concerns. Gathering intelligence on the Soviet's military capability and on their research and development initiatives was a vital component in the prosecution of the war conceived as an ideological battle between democracy and communism. The policy of brinkmanship, pioneered by Allen Dulles' brother, John Foster Dulles, on the one hand resulted in the two superpowers avoiding direct military confrontation while on the other it drove much of the war underground. Clandestine and covert operations became the main modus operandi of the Cold War struggle. It fell to Allen Dulles to develop the tactics and strategies that would be used for the next several generations.

Dulles may be best remembered for the failed Bay of Pigs attempt to overthrow the Cuban communist leader, Fidel Castro and for deposing several foreign leaders, including the Prime Minister of Iran and the President of Guatemala. This began a trend of supporting tyrannical regimes as long as they shared U.S. hostility towards communism and of compromising the U.S.'s role as the champion of democracy and freedom. The tendency of the CIA under Dulles' leadership to operate on the fringe of conformity to its charter attracted censure and criticism from those who thought the agency too free from oversight, raising the issue of how an intelligence organization can operate effectively while also being open to political scrutiny.

Early life and family

Allen Dulles was born on April 7, 1893, in Watertown, New York, and grew up in a family where public service was valued and world affairs were a common topic of discussion. Dulles was the son of a Presbyterian minister, the younger brother of John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State and Chairman and Senior Partner of Sullivan & Cromwell, and the grandson of John W. Foster, another U.S. Secretary of State and brother to diplomat Eleanor Lansing Dulles. His uncle (by marriage) Robert Lansing also was a U.S. Secretary of State.[1] His nephew, Avery Dulles, is a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and a Jesuit priest and noted theologian who teaches and resides at Fordham University in The Bronx, New York.

Allen graduated from Princeton University, and in 1916 entered the diplomatic service. Dulles was serving in Switzerland and was responsible for reviewing and rejecting Lenin's application for a visa to the United States. In 1920 he married Martha Clover Todd of Baltimore, Maryland, and together they had three children. In 1926 he earned a law degree from George Washington University and took a job at the New York firm where his brother, John Foster Dulles, was a partner.

Background in Intelligence

Dulles was appointed by William J. Donovan to become head of operations in New York for the Coordinator of Information (COI), which was set up in Rockefeller Center, taking over offices staffed by Britain's MI6. The COI was the precursor to the Office of Strategic Services, renamed in 1942.

During the 1930s, Allen Dulles gained much experience in Germany. An early foe of Adolf Hitler, Dulles was transferred from Britain to Berne, Switzerland for the rest of World War II, and notably was heavily involved in the controversial and secret Operation Sunrise. He is featured in the classic Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring for his role in that operation. Dulles became the station chief in Berne for the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), a logical one. Dulles supplied his government with much sensitive information about Nazi Germany.

While working on intelligence regarding German plans and activities, Dulles established wide contacts with German émigrés, resistance figures, and anti-Nazi intelligence officers (who linked him, through Hans Bernd Gisevius, to the tiny but daring opposition to Hitler in Germany itself). Although Washington barred Dulles from making firm commitments to the plotters of the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, the conspirators nonetheless gave him reports on developments in Germany, including sketchy but accurate warnings of plans for Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 missiles.

Dulles' career was jump-started by the information provided by Fritz Kolbe, a German diplomat and a foe of the Nazis. Kolbe supplied secret documents regarding active German spies and plans regarding the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. In 1945, he played a central role in negotiations leading to the unconditional capitulation of German troops in Italy.


After the war in Europe, Dulles served for six months as the OSS Berlin station chief. In 1947, Congress created the Central Intelligence Agency and Dulles was closely involved with its development. His translator at this time was Henry Kissinger, who worked for Army Intelligence and was later to become Secretary of State in the early 1970s.

Dulles' CIA Operation Paperclip assimilated Nazi scientists into the American establishment by obscuring their histories and preventing efforts to bring their true stories to light. The project was led by officers in the United States Army. Although the program officially ended in September 1947, those officers and others carried out a conspiracy until the mid-1950s that bypassed both law and presidential directive to keep Operation Paperclip going. Neither Presidents Truman nor Eisenhower were informed that their instructions were ignored.

In the 1948 Presidential election, Allen Dulles was Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey's chief foreign policy adviser.

CIA career

In 1953, Dulles became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence, which had been formed in 1947 as part of the National Security Act; earlier directors had been military officers. The Agency's covert operations were an important part of the Eisenhower administration's new Cold War national security policy known as the "New Look."

Under Dulles' direction, the CIA created MK-Ultra, a top secret mind control research project that experimented with psychiatric drugs as tools for interrogation. Dulles also personally oversaw Operation Mockingbird, a program which influenced American media companies as part of the "New Look."

At Dulles' request, President Eisenhower demanded that Senator McCarthy discontinue issuing subpoenas against the CIA. In March, McCarthy had initiated a series of investigations into potential communist subversion of the Agency. Although none of the investigations revealed any wrongdoing, the hearings were still potentially damaging, not only to the CIA's reputation but also to the security of sensitive information. Documents made public in 2004 revealed that the CIA had broken into McCarthy's Senate office and intentionally fed disinformation to him to damage his credibility.[2]

In the early 1950s the U.S. Air Force conducted a competition for a new photo reconnaissance aircraft. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's Skunk Works submitted a design number called the CL-282, which married sailplane-like wings to the body of a supersonic interceptor. This aircraft was rejected by the Air Force, but several of the civilians on the review board took notice, and Robert Land presented a proposal for the aircraft to Dulles. The aircraft became what is known as the U-2 spy plane, and it was initially operated by CIA pilots. Its introduction into operational service in 1957 greatly enhanced the CIA's ability to monitor Soviet activity through overhead photo surveillance. Ironically, the aircraft eventually entered service with the Air Force, which still operates it today.

Following the Cuban revolution of 1959, and at the request of Colonel J. C. King, chief of CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, Dulles established the anti-Castro organization Operation 40 - so named because originally there were 40 agents involved in the operation. The organization would later be expanded to 70 agents. The group was presided over by Vice President Richard Nixon. On March 4, 1960, La Coubre, a ship flying a Belgian flag, exploded in Havana Bay. It was loaded with arms and ammunition that had been sent to help defend Cuba's revolution from its enemies. The explosion killed 75 people and over 200 were injured. Fabian Escalante, an officer of the Department of State Security (G-2), later claimed that this was the first successful act carried out by Operation 40. Operation 40 not only was involved in sabotage operations but also, in fact, evolved into a team of assassins. Over the next few years Operation 40 worked closely with several anti-Castro Cuban organizations including Alpha 66.

Dulles went on to be successful with the CIA's first attempts at removing foreign leaders by covert means. Notably, the elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran was deposed in 1953 (via Operation Ajax), and President Arbenz of Guatemala was removed in 1954. The Guatemalan coup was called Operation PBSUCCESS. Dulles was on the board of the United Fruit Company. He saw these kinds of clandestine activities as an essential part of the struggle against communism.

During the Kennedy Administration, Dulles faced increasing criticism. The failed Bay of Pigs Invasion - led by Operation 40's successor, Brigade 2506 - and several failed assassination plots utilizing CIA-recruited operatives from the Mafia and anti-Castro Cubans directly against Fidel Castro undermined the CIA's credibility, while the pro-American regimes put in place in Iran and Guatemala were castigated as brutal and corrupt.

The reputation of the agency and its director declined after the Bay of Pigs Invasion fiasco; so much so that Dulles and his staff (including Director for Plans Richard Bissell) were forced to resign in (September 1961). President Kennedy did not trust the CIA, and he reportedly intended to dismantle it after the Bay of Pigs failure - he went as far as to say he wanted to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds."[3]

Later life

Dulles published the book The Craft of Intelligence in 1963.

On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Dulles as one of seven commissioners of the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Despite his knowledge of the several assassination plots by the CIA against Castro, he is not documented to have mentioned these plots to any investigating authorities during the Warren Commission.

In 1969 Dulles died of influenza, complicated by pneumonia, at the age of 75. He was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.

"The Dulles Plan"

Since the early 1990s, anti-Western media in Russia have referred to the so-called Dulles plan (Russian: план Даллеса). It is the text (in Russian) of a secret plan to destroy the USSR through the ideological manipulation of the Soviet population and the corruption of its morals. The source of this text is unknown. It is reported to have been his speech to the U.S. Congress made in 1945 or a passage from his book published in 1945 or 1953. There are no known speeches or writings of Dulles that contain this plan. Interestingly, this text almost literally coincides with the words spoken by a character in The Eternal Call (Russian: Вечный зов), a novel by Anatoly Ivanov published in 1971-1976.


Some of the policies and practices from Dulles' time as head of the C.I.A. continued for some time but many of these, such as the assassination of foreign leaders and the support of dictatorial regimes that opposed communism, later attracted criticism. Assassination was outside the C.I.A.'s charter, so while domestic law enforcement agencies moved to root out the Mafia, the Agency turned to the Mafia for assistance in its own objectives. At the time, there was debate about whether the C.I.A.'s primary job was to gather and analyze intelligence or to engage in covert activities. Dulles emphasized covert action. He led the Agency at a time when the threat of communist expansion and militancy was perceived to be very real, and when many in the West were convinced that this threat had to be countered by aggressive means. The Cuban revolution brought communism too close for comfort, and almost certainly sparked panic in the American administration. Dulles' leadership saw the C.I.A. mature as an organization with human assets that stretched around the globe. Information collected by the CIA did assist the prosecution of the Cold War at the time, but in the post-Cold War era, the Agency has had to contend with new challenges, particularly the threat posed to U.S. security by terrorism.


  1. "Allen Welsh Dulles - CIA Director," CNN Cold War Allen Welsh Dulles - CIA director Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  2. Tim Weiner. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. (NY: Doubleday, 2007), 105-106.
  3. "CIA: Marker of Policy or Tool? survey finds widely feared agency is tightly controlled" The New York Times, April 25, 1966


  • Dulles, Allen Welsh. The Craft of Intelligence: America's legendary spy master on the fundamentals of intelligence gathering for a free world. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2006 ISBN 1592282970
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh, and Neal H. Petersen. From Hitler's doorstep: the wartime intelligence reports of Allen Dulles, 1942-1945. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. ISBN 0271014857
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh.Germany's underground. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947. ISBN 0306809281
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh, and Michael Wala. The Marshall plan. Providence, RI: Berg, 1993 ISBN 0854963502
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh. The Secret Surrender: the classic insider's account of the secret plot to surrender Northern Italy during WWII. Guilford, Conn: Lyons Press, 2006. ISBN 1592283683
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh. Great true spy stories. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. ISBN 1592284841

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Andrew, Christopher M. For the president's eyes only: secret intelligence and the American presidency from Washington to Bush. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1995. ISBN 0060921781
  • Carpozi, George. "Allen Dulles, master of U.S. spies." True Detective 74 (1)(1960): 34-37,
  • Grose, Peter. Gentleman spy: the life of Allen Dulles. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994 ISBN 9780395516072
  • Janis, Irving L. Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. ISBN 0395140021
  • Steven, Stewart. Operation Splinter Factor. St Albans: Panther, 1976. ISBN 9780586042106
  • Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. NY: Doubleday, 2007) ISBN 9780385514454


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