Much has been made of the origins of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Shrouded in myth, the notion of the CIA ushers forth images of skulking in back alleys and fighting security threats in secrecy. Yet, to shield intelligence collection from the political maelstrom after World War II, the CIA needed quiet warriors who had mastered the art of bureaucratic diplomacy and understood the implications of effective intelligence and covert action. Not normally identified as a swashbuckling intelligence officer like Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Director William “Wild Bill” Donovan, RAdm. Sidney Souers served as a critical founder of the CIA even after his tour as the director of central intelligence (DCI) and director of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG—the immediate successor of OSS) ended. Souers understood how to move within a bureaucracy to win battles through compromise, wielding power and influence with a heavy hand only when needed. He balanced creation of an apolitical intelligence agency with the demands of the early Cold War and an equally demanding White House.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the completion of Souers’s service as the first DCI (January 23, 1946–June 10, 1946), this article commemorates his leadership, which set the foundation for the modern CIA. Souers served as DCI for only six months, but his service to the agency extended well beyond his tenure in office.