Next | ToC | Prev

Chapter 9

The Coincidence of Crises

          The National Security Act of 1947 was brewed in a cauldron under great heat and pressure, with the flavoring of spices from many sources. The year 1947 was one of great pressures that simmered and smoldered below the surface of national events. 1946, so close to the end of the great war, had begun as the year of "one world", with faith in the charter of the United Nations. On the first day of March 1946, barely six months after the end of World War II, Truman's Secretary of State, James Byrnes, had said, "So far as the United States is concerned we will gang up against no state. We will do nothing to break the world into exclusive blocks or spheres of influence in this atomic age. We will not seek to divide a world which is one."

          Then, only four days later, the great hero of Britain's war days and the leader of the Loyal Opposition in the British House of Commons, Sir Winston Churchill, speaking in Fulton, Missouri, with President Truman at his side, said: "Beware . . . the time may be short . . . From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent." At about the same time, George F. Kennan, one of the Russian authorities of the U.S. Department of State said, "If Europe was to be divided, the blame should be placed on the Russians and not ourselves."

          Under the pressures brewing at that time, it took only a short time to depart from the dream of one world at peace and to plant the seeds of rupture and divisiveness. The one world had in a brief span become bipolar, with the atom bomb hanging as the sword over the heads of mankind, and Communism as the dread enemy of the Western world.

          Following quickly upon the dismemberment of the victorious military might of the U.S. and upon the dissolution of the OSS came the transfer in January 1947 of the great nuclear weapon technology to the new Atomic Energy Commission. This momentous project had no sooner been set up than a great tumult arose in Congress about the loyalty of two of the leaders of this program, David E. Lilienthal and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Already, Communism, or more properly, a new banner and call-to-arms, "anti-Communism", had raised its head. This issue played an important part in the philosophy behind the development of the CIA.

          The United States had a nuclear monopoly in 1947. At least, it was the only country in the world with weapons on hand, with the means of delivering them, and with the production know-how and capacity to increase the nuclear stockpile. Therefore, it became a matter of great national interest first of all to protect those weapons, the delivery system, and the production techniques from other nations, from their spies, and from those who might aid those nations by giving away our secret. And secondly, it became most important that we have the intelligence capability to learn, without delay, the status of the state-of-the-art in any other nation that might be attempting to build nuclear weapons. Our scientists and other practical men knew that once we had exploded a bomb over the sands of New Mexico and over Japan, other scientists would be well on their way toward duplicating this feat, since they now knew that such a thing was possible. Thus, development of the atomic bomb by another nation would be no more than a matter of time and intention; it would not be helped too much by either the activity of spies or interested parties from within our own country.

          The interplay of these most important factors created great pressures for the realization of a central intelligence capability of much greater capacity and effectiveness than anything that had existed before World War II.

          To add more fuel to this raging conflagration, the British announced on February 21, 1947, that they could no longer provide financial support to the weak governments of Greece and Turkey to enable them to continue their battles against Communist aggression and subversion in the form of strong rebel activity. The sudden departure of the British from this crucial portion of Eastern Europe left a serious vacuum that had to be filled by someone else without delay. Only three weeks after the unexpected British announcement, on March 12, 1947, President Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, which in effect established a stout barrier between the world of Communism and the Western world along the northern borders of Greece and Turkey.

          Churchill had specifically drawn the line from "Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic". Now Harry Truman had extended that line from the Adriatic to the borders of Iran. It had not taken long to totally reverse course from Secretary of State Byrnes's, "We will not seek to divide the world which is one" to the lasting division which continues even today, after twenty-five Cold War years. To strengthen this position and to drive home the full intentions of the United States, the new Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, announced in July of l947, the plan for all of Europe, designed to help those countries that had been ravaged by war and were "threatened by the onslaught of Communism" to recover sufficiently to stand upon their own feet.

          In this test of history, while charges of "Communism" were being hurled back and forth among adversaries who in the great majority of cases had nothing whatsoever to do with real Communism, Congress was debating and writing the National Security Act, which on the surface was primarily concerned with the military establishment, but was beneath the surface, where the real pressures were most at work, fundamentally concerned with the creation of a central intelligence agency. It was in this highly charged atmosphere that the philosophy of the military posture of "defense" emerged. Throughout the history of this country, there had been a great respect for and tradition of the honorable resort to arms in time of war. As a result, this country had a long and proud heritage, which supported the existence of a Department of War and a Department of the Navy with its proud Marine Corps. All men knew that the United States would resort to war only when diplomacy and all other efforts had failed. Yet no one misunderstood the full meaning of such a tradition. The heart of war and its only sure way to victory lies in the concept of the "offense", carried out in pursuit of clear national military objectives, under superior leadership both in uniform on the field of battle and in mufti in the White House. Somehow, under the pressures of the great debates during 1947, this tradition and heritage broke down, and in the face of the responsibilities incumbent upon this country in the Nuclear Age and in the face of a growing "Communist menace", the American military posture became one of defense.

          This was a significant mutation in the dominant cell structure of the life blood and soul of this nation. The very word "offense" connotes action and the existence of a plan of such action. A country that is in command of all of its facilities and has the vigor to shape its own destiny does so in accordance with a plan, a great national plan, and with the sense of action that is the very essence of life and liberty. Liberty itself is a difficult word to encompass within a single definition. But certainly there can be no liberty if there is no action, because one is not free to act if frozen in the posture of defense, waiting to counteract the free action of his adversaries, real and imagined. For the greatest nation in the world suddenly to assume the role of a defensive power is a certain signal of some major change in national character. One would hope to discover that this was to be interpreted as a symbol of magnanimity and understanding while the nation was in sole and undisputed possession of the atomic bomb; but events of the past twenty-five years make it difficult to accept that position.

          This national defense posture places even greater emphasis upon the role of intelligence. If any nation goes on the defensive, then by its very nature it must be -- it is forced to be -- totally dependent upon intelligence. If a man is adequately armed, and he is hiding behind a wall reasonably secure from his adversary, the one thing he needs most is information to tell him where his adversary is, what he is doing, whether he is armed, and even what his intentions are. In that unusual year, 1947, the great pressures upon Congress and the Administration somehow impressed upon the Government of this country the beginnings of a belief in reliance upon a major intelligence structure to be backed up by a powerful Department of Defense.

          It takes a long time, as Darwin made very clear, for an evolutionary process to make itself known. For many years, this nation of veterans, and mothers and fathers of veterans, along with the sisters and brothers of veterans, has looked upon the post-1947 Army, Navy, and Air Force, not as they were becoming, but as they had known them at first hand at Normandy and Iwo Jima, at the Battle of Midway and the undersea services, in the Eighth Air Force over Fortress Germany, and with the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force flying back from a fire-ravaged Tokyo.

          Thus it was that while the country was caught up in the great debate about "unification", about the new role of nuclear weapons and about anti-Communism, it failed to note that our military establishment was being diverted from an active role as an essential element of national planning to a response position of re-action to the inputs of intelligence. This was not evident during the remaining years of the forties. Its first indication became apparent at the time of the Korean War, and what was not prominently apparent in the more open and overt military establishment certainly was scarcely noticed in the early days of the CIA.

          In support of this low-key first blush of a defense posture, the CIA was placed under the direction of an admiral who had as his deputy a general. Both of them supported the idea that for the new CIA, intelligence was to be business as usual. As had been expected, and in strict compliance with the language of the law, the CIA was developed along military lines. In fact, little thought was given to organizing it any other way by those who were given the responsibility of getting things started. As Lyman Kirkpatrick wrote, " . . . most of the senior positions in the Agency at that time were held by military personnel who had been detailed for a tour of duty. Some of these were well qualified, but many were not. In any event they were in key positions . . . "

          These were the type of men who believed that intelligence was a supporting staff function only and that the object of an intelligence organization, whether it was in the field with a fighting outfit or at the seat of government serving as the "quiet intelligence arm of the President", was simply to coordinate, evaluate, and analyze information and to provide it to the President and his Cabinet members for their own use as they saw fit. They did not view their job as secret operations, to be set in motion by the intelligence agency itself. Not only was this the outlook of men in the key positions of the Agency; but this was also the way the President saw it. President Truman looked upon this new agency as his staff section for information, and no more; and there were many others in Washington who wanted it that way too.

          Although a central intelligence agency had been created, under law, and had been accepted within the already existent community as essential for the purpose of coordinating national intelligence, there were many who wished to keep its role to a minimum. None of the traditional intelligence organizations wanted to give up anything to the CIA. They agreed to share with it the role of formulating "national intelligence", but that was it, as far as they were concerned. As a result, they all participated, more or less evenly, in manning the fledgling agency and in seeing that it got under way in a manner sufficient to accomplish its primary assigned task, and no more. Within this group there was little desire to make the CIA into the agency it is today, nor was there any desire to see the Agency enter into clandestine activity of any kind. They believed that if such a task was required by higher authority and in support of a national plan of supreme importance, then the new NSC would, with approval of the President, direct that it be performed by any of several possible organizations, one of which might be the CIA. This was a more or less routine assumption, and it was about as far as any of those officials at that time wanted to go.

          It should also be noted that among the early military assignees to the Agency there were those who had personal ambition and plans to work up in this new organization, bypassing the conventions of their old units to achieve some personal goal, which in some cases included the desire for a "fun and games" career. As the years passed, many of these men were able to do just that, and they formed a nucleus within the Agency, which for a variety of reasons, strove to exploit the covert side of the house.

          It was from among this group that the first activists emerged to begin the covert process of using the Agency to utilize and later to dominate the military. We shall see beginnings of this in this chapter; it will be more fully developed later. These agents employed covert methods not always to conceal their actions from the "enemy", but more often to keep the inroads they were making in the actual exploitation and use of our own military from being discovered. One of the better examples of such activity has been the "mutual" development of a method of operations between the CIA and the U.S. Army Special Forces.

          There were other men in Washington at that time who opposed the way military men in key positions were developing the Agency. They were actively and vociferously opposed to the Agency development as it was being performed by the military men in the key positions. Chief among these critics and self-interested agitators was the former head of the OSS, General "Wild Bill" Donovan. He went up and down the country, preaching the doctrine of active anti-Communism and demanding that the CIA be made the first line of defense of the country in the Cold War. General Donovan was always clamoring for "civilian control" of the intelligence establishment -- an unusual stipulation, considering his long military background; but more importantly, he spoke of the CIA role as an active and operational role. He was less interested in intelligence than he was in clandestine operations. This, even though he did not link up the two conditions at any one time, he would, if he had had his way, have used the CIA to develop and direct operations that would have been fleshed out by the military establishment.

          At the same time, Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles were actively engaged in international affairs of a somewhat chameleon-like nature, with religious groups, international societies, the Council of Foreign Relations, and others. After one special Council meeting in early 1947, the Under Secretary of State, Robert Lovett, said that he had been convinced that " . . . it would be our principal task at State to awaken the nation to the dangers of Communist aggression." Of course, there are various ways in which a statement such as this may be interpreted. There can be the straightforward approach, which takes such action as a result of bona fide Communism aggression and to awaken the country to such a danger; or there may be the interpretation, more properly borne out by the events of the past twenty-five years, that "the task . . . to awaken the nation" would be one akin to the operation of a propaganda machine. When we recall some of the comments made in earlier chapters about stirring up such visions in Indochina and omens like that, the real intentions of such words bear close scrutiny. In any event, the men of whom mention has been made above, were among the most ardent advocates of a stronger CIA, one to be developed as a bulwark against Communism and to be prepared for operational tasks of secret intelligence collection and clandestine operational activities.

          The pressures in public and upon the Administration were so great that even before the CIA had been in existence for one year, the President was persuaded to appoint a select committee to "report on the effectiveness of the CIA as organized under the 1947 Act and the relationship of CIA activities to those other intelligence organs of the government."[1] It was quite unusual to have so new an organization so suddenly on the carpet. But 1948 was an election year, and the Governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, had been selected by the Republicans to carry their standard against the old and war-weary Roosevelt team, which had the doughty Harry Truman at its helm. While Truman declared he would "Give 'em Hell," Dewey calmly and with great assurance and confidence told the country that it was time for a "new rudder on the Ship of State" and for "a new man at the helm". The country believed that Dewey would be elected easily. He had been a renowned crime-fighter, and his campaign was built on the idea that he would be a superior Communist-fighter. Meanwhile, the issue of Communists in government plagued the Democratic party incumbents as a result of campaign tactics attributable to Allen Dulles and his clan.

          It was, then, most surprising to learn that the men whom Harry Truman chose to put on the Intelligence Review Committee were none other than Dewey's chief speech-writer during the campaign, Allen W. Dulles, along with William H. Jackson and Mathias Correa. There is no doubt that these men were qualified and competent, but they could hardly have been accused of being objective. Certainly, the President must have known that Dulles was strongly committed to the Dewey campaign, which was in action at the same time that he was to be working with Jackson and Correa. And he also knew that Dulles had been opposed to the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 since the beginning.

          William H. Jackson's career in Military Intelligence dated back into the early days of World War II, and he was known to favor the "military" side of the issues that confronted the committee; but he had been very active in the "new intelligence" picture, in spite of this parochial background. The other member of the committee, Mathias Correa, was also experienced in intelligence and had worked closely with the former Secretary of the Navy and first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal. However, there can be no question about the fact that this committee was dominated by Allen Dulles.

          Another factor that did much to shape the course of these events was the fact that by the summer of 1948 the NSC itself had published certain directives that delineated the functions of the Agency. One of these, published in August 1948, was NSC Intelligence Directive 10/2 (NSCID, commonly known as "Non-skids"). This regulation authorized the CIA to create a small section that would have the ability to carry out secret intelligence operations, and that at some point might contemplate the pursuit of secret operations.

          The issuance of this directive did not mean that the NSC was encouraging the CIA to enter into the world of secret operations. In fact, the real language of the NSCID was so restrictive that had it been faithfully followed there would have been few such operations under any conditions. The Council took this first step with extreme caution. The new section, which was to be called the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was to be a part of the Agency. However, its director was not to be under the control of the DCI. The NSC directed that he would be selected by the Secretary of State and seconded by the Secretary of Defense. The first man appointed to be director of the OPC was Frank Wisner, a former OSS agent and at that time an official of the State Department. Although Wisner had been with State, his assignment there was a matter of convenience for him, as it was for several other old OSS hands while they awaited the creation of the CIA. While they were with State, these men took care of certain records and other valuable assets of the OSS, which had been handed down from World War II.

          As a result of this NSC action, by the end of 1948 the DCI did have a secret operations potential, but it was so rigged that he did not have full control of that office, and he could not take things into his own hands if he wanted to. He had to await directions from the NSC. This was unwieldy; but it was the only way the Council would agree to the establishment of such a function. It was a small first step which led to others. It was another part of the pressures building up under the surface while the Agency was busying itself with organizational matters and the task of coordinating national intelligence.

          This was the background that led up to the time of the Dulles-Jackson-Correa report. No single report on the subject of intelligence, and perhaps even on any subject, has had a greater impact upon the past twenty years in this country than that work of Allen Dulles. Throughout the closing months of the 1948 election campaign, John Foster Dulles was acting as personal liaison representative between Thomas E. Dewey and the State Department. Not a word appeared in the press about the Dulles-Jackson-Correa report, although the principals were busy reviewing drafts and working on the broad subject before them. One can imagine with some interest the position Allen Dulles found himself in, writing for Dewey as he campaigned all over the country and then busily engaging himself in his real labor of love -- the intelligence report. Undoubtedly he saw this report, which he expected to complete just after the election, as the stepping stone to reaching the office of the DCI. It is inconceivable to imagine that he worked so hard on a report that would be submitted to Harry Truman as President for a new term. He fully expected to hand it in to a lame duck president. As it happened, Truman surprised the entire country by being re-elected.

          The Dulles clan had to wait another four years before they rode into power with General Eisenhower. But this very delay may have made things much easier for Allen Dulles when he did become the DCI. Dulles wanted to expand the Agency and so stated in his report; yet the years following the 1948 election were years of government austerity. He could not have done it then. Dulles was not a strong administrator, and he would have had real problems getting all of his plans into operation. But he was an expert at getting things done by a special kind of secrecy-shrouded wheeling and dealing. This would not have worked during Truman's administration, with Louis Johnson as the Secretary of Defense.

          There was in the official files of that time a long and very detailed letter to the DCI signed by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, which stated that the Agency should not become involved in any operational activities that involved any part of the DOD unless the Agency was fully prepared to be able to disclaim the role of the military and unless the Agency was prepared to reimburse the Defense Department for all actual and out-of-pocket expenses it might incur. Asking the CIA to be prepared to disclaim the role of someone else who gets caught in a CIA operation is one thing; but asking the Agency to pay for what it uses and expends is entirely different. The Agency gives lip-service to the former and cringes at the latter. The latter is the only effective control there is over the Agency, and this is something the Congress should do more thinking about today.

          In 1949 and 1950 this letter from the Secretary of Defense to the DCI was the normal way of handling such matters. Staff officers in the late sixties and early seventies would be shocked at such language from the Office of the Secretary of Defense in an official letter to the DCI. Allen Dulles could not have attained his goals under that type of "cooperation" from his biggest benefactor. The time was just not ripe. Thus it may have been another one of those favoring coincidences, which have always seemed to crop up at the right time for the CIA to pave the way for later developments.

          With the surprise election of Truman, there was nothing to do but to turn in the report to those in charge of the Agency. It is inexcusable that security impediments can bury such letters and reports as we have mentioned, for so many years. The Dulles-Jackson-Correa report was the CIA Mein Kampf. In this study, Dulles described exactly how he would lead the Agency from a low-key intelligence coordination center to a major power center in the U.S. Government, and in the process, how he would become the closest adviser to the President. He foretold the existence of a vast secret intelligence organization, a top echelon clandestine operations facility at White House level, a hidden infrastructure throughout other departments and agencies of the Government, and the greatest clandestine operational capability the world had ever known primarily based upon the exploitation of military manpower, money, and facilities all over the world.

          For all the dynamite contained within its pages, the report was practically ignored when it was given to President Truman early in January 1949. (It was dated January 1, 1949.) The major elements of the report were so arranged within its chapters that the military men who were at that time in command of the Agency would not notice them for what they were. What caught their eyes were the page after page of charges against their stewardship of the Agency. There were few things being done in the Agency that this three-man committee had approved. Therefore, all the men in the Agency glanced at when they received the report was that portion that concerned them directly. As Lyman Kirkpatrick has said in his book, " . . . most of the senior positions in the Agency at that time were held by military personnel who had been detailed for a tour of duty . . . they wrote the reply to the report, which, needless to say, was not very responsive." And no one should know that better than Kirkpatrick.[2]

          For about a year this report remained in the files, and nothing was done about it. As a piece of information and as a working document, the report never was the center of action. It was so cloaked in security that few people have ever seen it, and fewer have read and studied it; but because Allen Dulles spent eleven years with the CIA, nine of them as its director, the report is most important as evidence of his thought and techniques and because it so comprehensively records his thoughts from the 1947-48 period. It is an essential document of government lore and subsurface action for the years from 1951 to 1961.

          Dulles was not a planner. He was not the type of man who would be a great chess player, seeing his objective clearly, planning his own tactics, and weighing all of that against his opponent's options. He was a counterpuncher and a missionary. He was a meddler. He thought that he had the right and the duty to bring his pet schemes into the minds and homes of others, whether they were wanted or not.

          His system was like a maze full of mousetraps all set to snap and placed side by side carefully over every inch of his domain. When he heard a trap snap, and then another, he would quickly sense that something was happening and would know where the activity was. Because his sounding devices were mousetraps, he would have already prepared his defenses for mice and would throw his anti-mice operations into action immediately. He would not maintain a force of mice-fighting equipment himself but he would get his organization to throw all of its force into the fray in response to his mousetrap information. His trap sensors were the catalytic activators of the greater resources of his entire organization . . . his country.

          Dulles was the personification of the intelligence operator, as contrasted with the intelligence staff officer. He created systems that would respond to inputs from intelligence sources. He did not work with others to establish objectives; he did not make plans to achieve those objectives and then to drive toward the achievement of those goals without permitting himself to be diverted by other irrelevant influences. Rather, he would create a vast mechanism that would sound out bits of data which could then be used to activate response operations, all in the name of the common enemy, Communism. He was proud, and he was proud for his agency. He did not like being the low man on the totem pole, as he was when he first became DCI. As a matter of fact, Lyman Kirkpatrick reports, "The U.S. News and World Report of October 18, 1957, ranked Allen Dulles thirty-fourth on the Protocol List." He goes on to report that after John McCone had been made DCI, his position was raised to the level just under the Cabinet officers. Allen Dulles had always thought that he should work directly for the President and that the Agency should be responsible only to the President. He did not enjoy the position assigned to him by law under the "direction of the NSC", which meant that he was well below a committee of Cabinet officers and a relative thirty-fourth in rank. Such things were very important to him not just as a personal matter but because of the ranking it gave to the Agency.

          We shall see the impact of this report further as we continue with this account. Another event of these times was having a great impact upon the Agency and would be fundamental to its role in Indochina many years later. In Greece, a civil war was under way, and it was evident that the Communist neighbors of Greece -- Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania -- were providing safe haven for the Greek rebels and, on their own part, were assisting the rebels with supplies and arms. At the end of World War II, the United States had a strong force in Greece, which had been there since the Germans had been driven out in 1944. The Americans, mostly Army but with a number of CIA personnel, played an active role in assisting the Greek Government against these rebels. A good number of the CIA men, and U.S. military men who worked with the CIA or on assignment to the CIA, became a closely knit cadre of Communist rebel fighters. They learned their trade on the proving ground of Greece and later went on to play the same role in other countries such as Iran, Guatemala, Thailand, and especially Vietnam. If one were able to discover the real names of the CIA personnel, including the U.S. military personnel on assignment to the CIA who served first in Greece and then years later in Southeast Asia, he would find some very striking and significant parallels. This Greek experience was very influential on the fledgling agency. Men like John Richardson, who was the station chief in Saigon during some very crucial times, was also station chief in Athens. Ambassador Puerifoy played an important role in Greece and then went on to Thailand, where he died in an automobile accident. General Marshall Carter, at the time aide to Secretary of State George Marshall, served briefly but importantly in Greece and later was the DDCI. Henry Cabot Lodge, while Ambassador to the UN, became much involved in the Greek rebellion and of course played a most important role in Vietnam, where he was Ambassador on two different occasions. The list is long and most significant. The Agency obtained some of its first field experience, much on the wartime OSS pattern, in Greece and then applied the same formula to many other countries, using the same paramilitary-trained men.

          By 1950, the DOD had reached its lowest ebb since World War II, and it looked as though the Agency would do likewise. Then two most important things happened. Again the coincidence that saved the Agency when all looked like a lost cause came to the rescue. First of all, the Korean War snapped the military out of its lethargy and provided the impetus for a major build up and rebuilding of forces. This gave the CIA a chance to play an active role, along with the military, as sort of a wartime "Fourth Force" during the Korean War. The other event that had a great impact upon the Agency was the assignment of General Walter Beedle Smith as DCI following Admiral Hillenkoetter. This dramatic change took place in October 1950, four months after the start of the Korean War.

          The "Fourth Force" concept was influential in the expansion of the CIA in a way that was never intended and which has been quite unnoticed, even to this day. As we have mentioned, one of the dominant forces behind the requirement for a national intelligence authority was the existence of the atom bomb and all that it meant. It goes without saying that the atomic weapons system totally obsoleted most of the concepts of World War II. There may never have been a time in all of the evolution of warfare when the introduction of one weapon had so suddenly and so totally overwhelmed all other weapons and all other tactics and strategy. World War II was the major war of all time, and the weapons systems and the tactics and strategy employed by the U.S. military forces during this war were the supreme high water mark of battle effectiveness. Whether we credit the massive system of over-the-beach invasions, or strategic bombardment or carrier task forces, or armored blitz warfare, or others for the supremacy of U.S. forces is not the point. The remarkable thing is that even before that great war ended, a new weapon that completely changed the whole concept of warfare with one great big bang came into being.

          This change was so dynamic that even though the United States and its allies were victors by virtue of the unconditional surrender of the vanquished, and thus were total masters of the field, they could not rest upon their laurels once another country had unlocked the secret of nuclear weapons systems. The great fact in this realization was that there could be no peacetime relaxation and no resting upon the fruits of victory, secure in the knowledge that we were masters of the world.

          As a result, in the dim halls of the Pentagon and in the many major and overseas commands of the U.S. and allied military forces, the war planners worked long hours to rewrite basic war plans. This is well worth a story by itself. No two groups agreed exactly on what warfare in the future would be, and no two groups were willing to admit that their services were not made obsolete by the nuclear weapons system. As a matter of fact, as late as 1955, the new Joint Staff school, the Armed Forces Staff College, was just beginning to include a nuclear weapons system annex in its classical War Plan. Even up to 1955, they had not agreed sufficiently upon nuclear weapons and how to use them to permit the inclusion of such weapons in war games and school exercises.

          In spite of all this, it was generally accepted that World War III would be a nuclear war, that it would be a brief war during the nuclear exchange period, and that it would be followed by a long, protracted, and very complex post-strike campaign in which the least devastated nation would try to mount forces sufficient to occupy the territory of most of the damaged nation and to bring about some order in what would most certainly be a totally devastated area. Such plans visualized that there might very well be strong cells of more or less conventional forces and other cells of varying degrees of local political power that would have to be taken over and organized in the enemy's homeland.

          During World War II, the military had developed a most useful Civil Affairs and Military Government Command (CAMG). It had done an exemplary job in moving in behind the advancing army and getting the civilian population back on its feet, as well as in assisting local political leaders to begin the process of setting up some form of basic government. The new war plans began to expand this role and to see a major task for the CAMG forces. As a result, the CAMG school at Fort Gordon, Georgia, was kept in operation, even though many others had been closed, and a number of CAMG reserve units were kept active throughout the country to retain the experience that had been so laboriously created during World War II. A major issue facing President Truman during the 1948 campaign year was the attack upon the lack of preparedness of the Armed Forces, particularly the reserve forces, which had been allowed to reach a low ebb. In spite of this, the CAMG program had been kept very much alive.

          What had kept it alive was the increasing responsibility of its role in war plans. At the same time, a number of the military men who were serving with the CIA also recognized that if CAMG work was to succeed and if it was to have any chance to even begin to operate, something must be done during peacetime to prepare for this exigency during wartime. This brought about some serious studies of what could be done in eastern Europe and even in the Soviet Union to establish contacts, agents, and stay-behind networks, which would help to form the essential cadres for the CAMG troops who would be parachuted into certain selected areas immediately following a nuclear exchange. Such plans required that certain areas of any potentially hostile country must be left untouched by atomic warfare in order that radioactivity from direct hits and from the much more unpredictable fallout patterns would not become a retarding factor. Various studies were made of meteorological patterns and other known physical factors in order that war plans could be drawn that would leave certain selected uncontaminated pockets in the target countries.

          With this basic work under way, the next thing to do was to see what might be done about building up the number of agents and cadre personnel in those areas. For one thing, the vast refugee and displaced personnel programs, which resulted in a flood of millions of persons from the eastern European countries into western Europe, provided a great opportunity to ferret out certain people who knew about these areas and perhaps knew individuals who were still there and might be contacted and trained to be cadre personnel, on the promise that in the event of such an all out nuclear war they would be saved. This was a most appealing prospect to certain selected individuals who had loved ones remaining in some of these pocket zones. (In this connection it is interesting to note that in the intelligence business people leaving one area to take up residence in another are called defectors, displaced persons, refugees and the like. In other times and other places, these people have simply been called emigrants.)

          The military and the CIA were working together on the refugee and displaced person program. The military then asked the CIA to participate in top-level war planning. This was a foot in the door for the CIA, and it was a most logical move on the part of the military. After all, the military and the OSS had worked together, although precariously, during World War II. During the late forties and early fifties many of the key personnel of the CIA were active military personnel or veterans of World War II who had converted to civilian status and had become career employees of the new agency. They were well qualified for service with the military in these top-level war planning assignments. To do this, the CIA went through paperwork cover assignments with the military department to have these men called back on active duty in their reserve grades and then assigned to the headquarters concerned.

          Few of the officers of the commands involved knew that these men were CIA agents, and most thought that they were routine military assignees. Care was taken to see that the personnel manning tables of these headquarters were increased by the two or three spaces necessary to cover these men. As a result of this precautionary step, personnel administrators and others such as the finance department personnel had no way of knowing that the men in these positions were not real military personnel. In time, these jobs bred their own supporting requirements, to the extent that civilian secretaries and other staff were added by the same or similar means. Only in some Focal Point offices would the true identity of these personnel be known, and then more for the purpose of protecting their identity and assisting them than for any military considerations of the role they were playing.

          These war-planning military and pseudo-military agents worked on the post-strike part of the war plan, and more specifically, on that part which pertained to the development of safe areas, agents and agent lines, and other CAMC-type matters. At that phase in the development of the war-planning philosophy and strategy, this was a new role for the military and one they quite willingly turned over to these hard-working men who seemed so dedicated to the task. Their offices were usually identified by such titles as Subsidiary Plans, Special Plans, or even the more normal Psychological Warfare and Unconventional Warfare designations.

          Once these annexes of the war plans had been accepted by the remainder of the staff and approved by the commanding general, they became officially part of the war-planning structure of that command and then of its day-to-day mission for operational and supporting logistics functions. If the command was expected to provide forces for the immediate post-strike task, it would have such forces earmarked and trained for that job. They not only had to be ready but they had to have equipment, vehicles, communications, printing presses, aircraft, and all the rest of the tools of their very special trade.

          Here again, the CIA men became prime movers. They drew upon the World War II experience of men in their Washington staff and worked out elaborate tables of equipment and tables of organization, in the best World War II fashion, and presented these to the local command for their guidance. Since most of the real military staff officers had done little work in this special area, and most of them had more than enough work to do in their own fields of specialization, they were delighted to have these helpful members of the staff come to them with such finely drawn staff work. Without too much red tape and delay their figures and tactical proposals were accepted as part of the requirement of that command and were inserted into the new budget planning. This is a slow process covering years of prodigious effort, but once this level of accomplishment has been achieved, the rest is practically automatic, and the opportunity to increase such figures from year to year is almost equally automatic.

          The timing for this sort of skillful surgery was just right, and the CIA made the most of it. The military, too, was getting swept up in this kind of thinking. It matched with some of the Cold War ideas, generally new to war planning, that derived from new thinking about the role of nuclear weapons and from the urgent pressures of the new anti-Communism. In the eloquent words of Adlai Stevenson, this was the time of ". . . a coincidence of crises . . . that brought together the flames of war, the atom's unlocking, and the emergence of aggressive Communism . . . ." It was the time of a world torn by the predominance of military thought, not only by professional military men but by scientists, professors, and other amateurs and by the high emphasis placed on secrecy. In this turmoil the issue of secrecy was ultimately related to the issue of military control. This was the external mix of issues into which the CIA and later the ST maneuvered, under the cloak of secrecy, to enhance and greatly enlarge its control over elements of the military establishment -- elements that with the growth of the ideas summed up best by the word "counterinsurgency", became dominant over the rest of the establishment. Who in the years from 1949 to 1955 would ever have visualized the use of the hydrogen bomb-carrying strategic bombers and the Navy's nuclear carriers in a war in which the principal adversary was the little, terrorized brown man in the forests of his wasted homeland. Yet this type of war was all but preordained as the CIA gained increasing control over the military during the fifties and early sixties through the tactics described above. A whole generation of military men trained, hardened, and honed by World War II experience believed in the principles of Clauswitz and others who stated that when diplomacy failed, it was time to go to war; but on the other hand, while diplomacy was being tested and while diplomacy was the name of the game, the military should do no more than plan and train for the possibility of war. The most warlike action that the military would be prepared to take during peacetime would be a show of force or an emergency relief action in some ravaged country.

          This was the convention; this is what was overthrown by the new coincidence of crises. Throughout the late forties a new wave of ideas began to spread, and some of these involved military plans and military utilization in peacetime. The idea of the Cold War was making peacetime seem more like a kind of warfare than previous conventional military planning had ever envisaged. For example, at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, in 1949, a new commanding general, directly returned from the postwar staff of General MacArthur in the Far East, General Ennis C. Whitehead, called together the staff of his new command, the Continental Air Command, and in a brief but hard-hitting speech told them that they might have thought that the world was at peace; but they were wrong. Every day, he said, the Russians were sending bombers into the skies of the Arctic, and every day they were coming closer and closer to North America in waves that, if not a direct threat, were at least a symbol of the threat that was always present. And day by day, American interceptor fighter pilots were being sent aloft to investigate these targets that appeared on radar. Some day, he said, and not too far in the future, one of those young lieutenants is going to have to make a major decision. He is going to have to decide on his own, up there in his lonely cockpit, whether the bomber he has in his gun sights has made a hostile act or an act of hostile intent, or whether he is only carrying out an acceptable training mission. Should the lieutenant decide that the Russian is hostile, he will be under standing orders to shoot, and he will knock down a Soviet bomber over North America. At that time World War III will not have begun; it will simply have reached its climax. In the words of General Whitehead, one of the outstanding air combat leaders of World War II, World War III was already under way, and none of those officers assembled to hear him should ever forget that.

          For those officers trained in the history of war and experienced in the fires of World War II, this was strong talk. Only a few months later about half of those men present that day transferred with General Whitehead from Mitchel Field to Colorado Springs to set up the new Air Defense Command. In so doing every one of them knew that he was a member of an elite military unit that was already committed to victory in World War III. They knew that they were at war every day; all they were waiting for was the day when the Strategic Air Command (SAC) would be given the same orders which they already had received and would join the war actively against the Soviet Union.

          Of course, there was a tremendous difference between the missions of the two commands. The battlefield of the Air Defense Command was limited to the skies over North America. The battlefield of the SAC was in foreign skies, but this type of thinking was changing ideas about the conventional role of the military in the Nuclear Age. And into this evolutionary period came the CIA and those of the military who specialized in what came to be called the "unconventional war" or the war against Communist-inspired subversive insurgency.

          High over Italy in a plushed-up old World War II B-17 Flying Fortress, the man who was the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the same man who had been Director of Central Intelligence just prior to the appointment of Admiral Hillenkoetter in May 1947, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, wrote to his second in command a most significant letter. It has been preserved in Air Force files; it is quite distinctive because it is on plain white paper and in the handwriting of General Vandenberg.

          Vandenberg, recalling his Intelligence experience, and thinking about the new area of unconventional warfare and of the heated-up Cold War, wrote to General Thomas D. White that the Air Force should have a full-sized Psychological Warfare Air Command to be the equal of the Air Defense Command, the Tactical Air Command, and the Strategic Air Command. He proposed that the problems of the Cold War were such that they should not be left to the normal forces, but should be dealt with by experts and by highly skilled men who would be in a position to apply and to utilize military strength and influence during the Cold War. He had particularly in mind psychological activities, but he also took into consideration the role of reconnaissance and other technological developments that are commonplace today. In other words, General Vandenberg was proposing that the military should get into the business which the CIA was working its way into and is in today to a considerable degree -- in fact to a degree that even General Vandenberg would have been appalled to witness now.

          The Air Force was not the only service thinking along these lines at that time. At Fort Gordon, Georgia, the Army was still very active with its Civil Affairs and Military Government school. Later, we shall look into some of the language of their doctrine and training manuals to see how influential this material became later in the hands of the ST. Not only at Fort Gordon but at Fort Bragg the Army was nursing along the tiny detachment of Special Forces, which had all but gone out of existence. However, by late 1949 and into the 1950s these small first stirrings became major forces.

          Thus, these three things played into the hands of the CIA as it began to move into areas which it knew best and in which it could make moves unseen and unobserved by others in the Government. The CIA was moving like spilled water. It was not exactly sure of its course and direction but it was following the line of least resistance, aided by its own law of gravity, which in this case was its banner-waving allegiance to the cause of anti-Communism of any kind.

          By the late forties the Air Force had established by General Psychological Warfare Air Command visualized by General Vandenberg, but other units known as Air Re-Supply and Communications Wings (ARC Wings). These were very large organizations. They consisted of a variety of aircraft, all the way from small specialized light planes to the super-bombers of World War II -- the B-29, or the later version, the B-50. These mixed units had everything from flying capability on a global scale to printing presses and leaflet dispersal units. Once they had been created and shaken down during training exercises, they were deployed all over the world at such places as Clark Field near Manila, at Okinawa, Great Britain, and Libya. Elements of these units became heavily involved in the Korean War, and specialized sections worked with the CIA all over Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

          In accordance with war-planning practice, these Wings had a wartime mission that was highly classified and infrequently discussed, save by those few who knew what it was. Because of the high classification of the mission of these units, something had to be said for their existence and why they seemed to be so busy when they had nothing "officially" to do. As a result, they became actively involved in a whole array of peacetime missions. They engaged in frequent military maneuvers and training exercises, and if there was an earthquake somewhere and a backward nation found itself with a major tragedy on its hands, a detachment from the Wing would show up and begin the process of bringing in as much aid and assistance as could be arranged. Such activities became the cover for the Wing and more or less explained its existence for those who did not know and did not need to know about the war plan requirement.

          The same was true of the Army Special Forces components. Their wartime mission was highly classified, yet they were a large organization, and they had to have some cover reason to exist that would more closely tie them in with the rest of the parts and they took part in other exercises with NATO forces, from Norway south to Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. They added experienced manpower to disaster relief and to other underdeveloped "nation building" work.

          All of these things resulted in a large, active, and consuming military organization. These big units all had to be funded, manned, and maintained by the military. In the days of real austerity this created many problems, but because these units existed under heavy cover and secrecy, no one in the apparent parent services knew how to get to them to cut them back. Thus, they were sustained. Behind the scenes the CIA smoothed out many of these problems, and this vast organization grew. The Korean War saved the day for all of these activities, and for several years in the early fifties there was money, manpower, and plenty to go around for all such units.

          It was in this manner, through the innocent-appearing device of working with the military war planning staffs, that the Agency acquired a vast quantity of equipment, men, and base facilities all over the world, even to the extent of major aircraft and other heavy equipment. Though the NSC directives stated that the CIA could not create an organization to accomplish clandestine activities, and even though the President had said that the CIA must come to the Council for any such equipment, the CIA managed to create a huge capability that cost them nothing and that was ready to do its bidding at the drop of a hat.

          Many have wondered how a small agency, such as the CIA was in the late forties, could have grown so fast and have had so much physical influence and impact upon foreign and military policies. It was this great military war plan-earmarked organization in all of the services which was used by the CIA quite innocently and which gave it its great unsuspected strength. As a matter of fact, the servicemen who became involved in this pseudo-military work enjoyed their special freedoms and the inevitable "fun and games". Even if they did not participate in them, they at least worked close to and in the aura of the big game. There were many like General Vandenberg, the former DCI, who thought that the peacetime military forces should become much more proficient in this type of operation. And once they got into these organizations, they actively and eagerly supported their CIA counterparts. Many of these men accepted duty assignments with the CIA. These units all over the world became the havens for a large number of CIA cover assignment men. These CIA people served as military personnel easily in the pseudo-military units.

          This, too, was a significant departure from the original plans. It was early agreed that military intelligence experts would serve freely and voluntarily with the CIA, and from the beginning a great number of jobs, including many top-level key jobs, were assigned to active duty military personnel, and as we have shown, CIA men served in the military by agreement in the war planning spaces. But it had never been visualized that hundreds of military men would serve with the CIA in its clandestine sections in order to work in support of such units as the Army Special Forces and the Air Force ARC Wings. Nor was it ever envisioned that hundreds of CIA men would cross over into the military to serve with the line military units, such as these were supposed to be.

          Thus it was that while the fledgling agency was getting itself organized, and while it was beginning to be able to perform some of its assigned functions, it was also laying the ground-work, skillfully and in a major effort, for the future when it would use thousands of men in huge clandestine operations such as the Bay of Pigs, the Indonesian support project, and eventually, the prelude to South Vietnam.

          What had begun as a simple central intelligence organization charged with the responsibility of coordinating all elements of the national intelligence community had become the center of a power system.

          This system, through secret and covert channels within the Federal Government's structure -- and beyond that into industry and the academic world, and the world of the media and publishing houses -- had developed a tremendous unseen infrastructure consisting primarily of the vast resources of the national military establishment all over the world. The central intelligence idea that had been born in the realization of the failures of World War II and in the postwar "one world" era became the precocious fledgling of the "Communist threat" protagonists. Then the Central Intelligence Agency, which was more or less the caboose of the National Security Act of 1947, began gradually to work itself around to becoming the hand at the throttle on the greatest peacetime military power ever maintained by any great nation . . . a military force that had been emasculated and reduced to one of response, ever on the defensive, and therefore ready for manipulation and control by an action group such as the ST.


  1. Allen Dulles, The Craft of Intelligence, New York: Harper & Row, 1963.

  2. The Real CIA, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1968.

Next | ToC | Prev

back to JFK | ratville times | rat haus | Index | Search