The Foundation of the CIA: Harry Truman, the Missouri Gang, and the Origins of the Cold War.
Richard E. Schroeder is an Adjunct Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown and a retired CIA intelligence officer. Over the last twenty years a number of scholarly books on the origins of the CIA have appeared. Many of these books have concentrated on the development of American covert Operations, often to the detriment of other topics. Thus, Richard Schroeder's new book, which purports to concentrate on the role played by the "Missouri Gang" in the creation of the CIA, would seem to be a welcome addition to the literature.
The "Missouri Gang" was a "derogatory" term created by some of Harry Truman's contemporaries to denote the supposed "corruption and cronyism" of the president's advisors, who originated from Missouri and subsequently served with him in the executive branch after he had assumed the presidency. Not surprisingly, then, the term has its own historiography. Some scholars have highlighted the negative impact that the men from the President's home state had on Truman. For example, historian Robert J. Donovan argued that by installing men on the basis of "loyalty and personal devotion" the President "trapped himself with poor appointments" that were "haphazardly made." (1) In contrast, historian Alonzo Hamby has suggested that "the imputation of pervasive crass mediocrity [in this regard, was] much over done". (2) Indeed, he suggests that some of these men served the President ably and well.
In his account Schroeder comes down closer to Hamby than to Donovan. He argues that it was men from Missouri--Rear Admiral Sidney William Souers, the first director of Central Intelligence, Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the first Director of the CIA, and Clark Clifford, a lawyer who served as a close friend and presidential advisor--who created the framework for the postwar American intelligence agency. It is worth mentioning, in this context, that the only member of the "Missouri Gang" who makes it onto each of Donovan's, Hamby's, and Schroeder's lists is Clark Clifford. And while Clifford did have connections to Missouri, as he attended law school there, he played only a tangential role in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Schroeder's real contribution to the subject comes when he focuses his attention on Souers and Hillenkoetter, whom, he laments, were never "recognized for their important roles in American intelligence" (x). He is right. To date there is no monograph on either individual, and both are fully deserving of further study. (3) If Schroeder had concentrated his account on these two individuals he could have added a great deal to our understanding. Unfortunately, however, he strays into a number of other topics. For example, his book includes a chapter on William Donovan, who, while crucial to the development of the CIA, had no connection to Missouri. He also offers up a substantial discussion of the role played by Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy. Leahy's only connection to Missouri was, as near as I can tell, his command of the U.S.S. St. Louis.
Aside from its lack of focus, the central problem with the book would seem to be its structure, which, I think, reflects the contradiction in aims belied by the book's title and subtitle. The book itself is only 145 pages, excluding notes and bibliography. However, it consists of only five chapters and only the final two deal extensively with Truman, Souers, and Hillenkoetter. The subject matter of the first two, which focus on American intelligence from the revolutionary war to World War Two and the OSS, has been covered in a number of other histories. Moreover, because Schroeder tends to rely heavily on somewhat outdated secondary sources, he is not able to add a lot that is new. That said, there is enough fresh information on Hillenkoetter here that anyone interested in his tenure should pick up the monograph.
University of New Brunswick
(1.) Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman 1945-1948 (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1996), p. 24.
(2.) Alonzo Hamby, Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 301.
(3.) There is a biography of Hillenkoetter produced by the Navy but it ends in 1947. See Schroeder, p. 146.
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|Title Annotation:||THE AMERICAS|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
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