Kids' Zone

 

Cold War

The president who saw the need for the CIA and the CIA director who became president are the key figures in the modern-day Intelligence Community. Read their stories here.

Harry Truman

George Herbert Walker Bush

 

*Historical sketches in this section are written in the first person for stylistic reasons. Biographies should notbe interpreted as direct quotations. Sources are listed at the end of each sketch.

 

Harry Truman

Early Life
Harry TrumanWhen I was a farmer and later a shopkeeper, little did I know that I would become President of the United States and that one of the things I would be remembered for would be establishing an intelligence agency. You just never know in this country, and I guess that's what makes it such a special place. I was born in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. Like a lot of the other people you've been reading about in this history section, I didn't have much fancy education. I grew up on a farm and, outside of all the reading I did, that was the only world I knew. Fighting in World War I helped prepare me for the different battles I would face later in life.


A Long Way From Missouri

When I came back from the war, I opened a haberdashery, but I was destined for bigger things. I became active in the Democratic Party, held local political offices, and later became a senator. President Franklin Roosevelt chose me to be his running mate in his fourth term and I was deeply honored, but little did I realize that I would become President. When President Roosevelt died, I told those around me that I felt like the moon, stars, and all the planets had fallen on me. Could I summon the courage to make the tough decisions, especially during wartime? Well, I did. It wasn't easy and a lot of people didn't always agree with me, but I used common sense and did the job to the best of my ability.


Beginnings of the CIA

After the war, I remembered December 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. I considered the changing postwar world and the threat of a new enemy, the Soviet Union, looming ahead. After the disbanding of the OSS at World War II's end, there was no concentration of information available to help the President. To better protect the United States, we needed a better way to collect intelligence. An agency that would be independent of any policy making branch, with no ties to any other part of government. One that would gather intelligence and advise the President and other policy makers about what was happening around the world. I listened to General William Donovan's advice on how it should be built. After all, who better to get advice from? He headed the Office of Strategic Services and was the nation's head spy during World War II. I also talked to my personal representative, Admiral William D. Leahy, and he agreed with me that there should be a Central Intelligence Agency to benefit not just myself, but the whole government. Admiral Leahy and I proceeded to work out a program. So in 1947 Congress passed the National Security Act, which formed the Central Intelligence Agency. I signed it into law, and I think this action was one of the most important during my presidency. It ensured that the President, his Cabinet, and the National Security Council would get the best information possible so they could do their jobs better and help us keep this world peaceful. Hmm, not bad for a Missouri farmer!


Sources

O'Toole, G.J.A. Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage. New York and Oxford: Facts on File, 1988.

Factbook on Intelligence. Central Intelligence Agency, 1997.

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George Herbert Walker Bush

George Herbert Walker BushNaval Aviator and Businessman
During my career, I have had the rare opportunity to serve on both sides of the coin in the intelligence cycle–producer and consumer. As the Director of Central Intelligence, I advised the President and the National Security Council on foreign intelligence matters, and I have been recipient of that intelligence as President of the United States!

I was born in Milton, Massachusetts, and when World War II broke out, I joined the Navy and became a Naval aviator. It was tough and risky business flying off aircraft carriers during the war. I think it strengthened my ability to meet the challenges that lay ahead. I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. I was discharged with the rank of lieutenant (junior grade).

I went to Yale University, graduated in 1948, and eventually started (with a partner) an oil company, Zapata Petroleum Corporation. I was director and later president of the Zapata Off Shore Corporation.


Congressman and Diplomat

The call to serve my country lured me from business; I was elected congressman from the Seventh District of Texas. Later, I served my country as a diplomat, working as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations during 1971-72. I was chairman of the Republican National Committee (1973-74) and then I got to travel to China and serve as chief of the US Liaison Office in Peking.


DCI and President

In January 1976, I joined the honored circle of intelligence officers when I was appointed Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). I carried on the work started by my predecessor, William Colby, putting in place reforms begun by him, but I also realized the Agency was at a low point. I needed to restore the Agency's confidence in itself and the public's confidence in the Agency. This was tough to do because intelligence agencies can't always talk about their successes. I believe all the jobs I had before helped me to restore confidence in the year I was there. I also believe that my time as DCI prepared me for the vice-presidency and presidency; it taught me to see the hard work put into pulling together the intelligence reports delivered to our policymakers each day. I could appreciate my President's Daily Brief because I knew the dedication poured into that and every other intelligence report I received from the agency. I might not be in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame like Moe Berg's friends, but you can find my portrait in the White House!

I strongly believe that having the best intelligence in the world is a must for any president. I strongly support the CIA.


Sources

O'Toole, G.J.A. Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage. New York and Oxford: Facts on File, 1988.

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Historical Document
Posted: Apr 15, 2007 12:04 PM
Last Updated: Jun 19, 2013 08:13 PM