Intelligence in Public Media

John McCone As Director of Central Intelligence 1961–1965

David Robarge (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015), 482 pp., footnotes, bibliography, photos, index; available at

Reviewed by Hayden Peake

The Bay of Pigs calamity led directly to the retirement of Allen Dulles, the fifth and best known director of central intelligence (DCI). His successor, John McCone, was a conservative Republican industrialist who had served in the Pentagon and been chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission during the Eisenhower administration. His selection by President Kennedy “came as a complete surprise to me” recalled McCone, (28) but some Kennedy loyalists were appalled and privately expressed opposition. The 59-year-old McCone didn’t fit the youthful image of the new administration: he opposed arms control, and he was, after all, a Republican. “Liberal and left-wing circles” also voiced “loud objections” (31) but Kennedy ignored them. Intelligence Community leaders and CIA careerists were similarly unsettled by the selection of someone with no experience in the business and they wondered: who is this man, why was he chosen, and what are his marching orders? Only partial answers to these questions emerged during McCone’s tenure.

Few would discover his “overalls to riches” story that included graduating with honors from U. C. Berkeley with a degree in mechanical engineering, working as a riveter for 40 cents an hour, and his steady rise to the top of Consolidated Steel Corporation during the depression. These details and ‘the rest of his story’ are skillfully told by CIA historian, David Robarge, in John McCone As Director of Central Intelligence 1961–1965.

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Posted: Feb 08, 2016 12:09 PM
Last Updated: Feb 08, 2016 12:09 PM