Allen Welsh Dulles: 1893-1969

22 SEPT 93


Allen Welsh Dulles

There is scarcely a reader of these paragraphs who will be satisfied. Beyond the normal desire to alter and amend will be a special urge to expand. Everyone will regret not finding notice of a particular something which to him revealed the integrity and warmth, or the wit, or the talent, or the courage, or the staying power, or the canniness, or the wide diversity of interest of this remarkable man. There has never been a chief who had a closer rapport with more of his people than Allen Dulles; each of us treasures his special encounters and favorite stories.

One thinks back to those moments of unwelcome news and the "Great Scot!" sentence that indicated an instant awareness of its portent and presaged the call to speedy action; or those other times—moments to be dreaded—that opened with an ominous "See here." One remembers with an inner smile his end of the unavoidably-overheard telephone talks, when he fell into transparent double talk, which one could not help but translate almost as fast as he spun it out. One can never forget the times of gaiety often hilarity, nor the flashes of anger which usually cooled as fast as they exploded.

One thinks back to those late afternoon sessions—seven o'clock—when our Director had already worked a twelve hour day at full throttle. The task would be the clearing of a difficult paper on a complicated substantive issue. There would be a pause as he shifted his mind from what to do about Antarctica or a clandestine operation of which he was self-appointed senior case officer. "All right," he would say, "now let's look at your paper." Spectacles pushed up the forehead to the front hair, he would read, puzzle silently, reread, and then challenge. Unsatisfied he would draft something and ask "How about this?" And the "this" would reveal a man, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and sharp at the end of a day that would have numbed people twenty years his junior.

What's the matter with getting exhausted," he once replied to a lieutenant who had observed uncomplainingly that he found a certain assigned task more onerous than all his other duties. The trouble with this story is that Allen Dulles gave the impression of not knowing what exhaustion was. Yet of all the men of our experience in command positions none more consistently courted it. How did he stay fresh for all those years of neverending days and at the same time be the finest hand in the demanding and nerve-wracking craft of intelligence?

What Allen Dulles did for the people under him, he did for the Agency as an institution. By example he suffused both with a consciousness of professionalism and a reverence for it. He did more. He made his Agency the most competent in the world. The amount of attention accorded it by adversary services is the flattering acknowledgment, however unpleasant, of his talents as organizer and executive. He was the living and highly visible exemplar of the inspired master and the expert journeyman in his tireless efforts to defend the faith and serve his country.


[Top of page]



Posted: May 08, 2007 08:23 AM
Last Updated: Aug 04, 2011 01:33 PM