Sydney M. Williams
Burrowing into Books
Reviews of Selective Readings
May 2, 2017
“But there was no reason for further harsh punishment. Berlin, he [Dulles] wrote, ‘need not
share the fate of Carthage or the retribution which Jehovah visited upon Sodom and Gomorrah.’”
I met Allen Dulles in June 1964. My hands were filled with soiled paper towels. “Topsy,” my in-laws Dachshund, had just thrown up in the backseat of our MG 1100. Newly married, my wife and I had gone for the day to my Father-in-law’s 50th Princeton reunion. Allen Dulles was a classmate and fellow member of Cap and Gown. Apart from being unable to shake hands, my recollection is of a pipe-smoking, jovial man. One would have never thought he had been a master spy.
Agent 110 was Allen Dulles, the number he was assigned, in late 1942, when he was named head of the Swiss station of the OSS (Operation for Strategic Services), the predecessor of the C.I.A. The story Scott Miller tells is of how Mr. Dulles worked with the German Underground, in their attempts to overthrow Hitler. Their hopes: shorten the War, preserve some semblance of German culture, and hope for humane treatment. But politics interfered. Churchill and Roosevelt, at Casablanca in January 1943, had decided on “unconditional surrender,” thus making support for German resistance secondary to annihilating the enemy.
Mr. Miller points out that Joseph Stalin was not part of the Casablanca Conference, so not bound by the demand for “unconditional” surrender. In fact, Stalin played a propaganda game as the European War neared an end – offering what he hoped would be attractive terms to senior Nazi officers and politicians willing to surrender to the Soviet Army, promising them a part in a reconstituted Germany. Despite the Soviet’s reputation for brutality and undemocratic ways, this was an attractive alternative to numbers of Germans grown weary of war. Allen Dulles had to convince resistance fighters that their better alternative was with the West.
Aided by an army of secret agents, including Mary Bancroft who became his mistress, Allen Dulles gained the trust of many of Germany’s resistance fighters. The information he garnered convinced him of Stalin’s nefarious post-War plans for Europe, before Washington had its eyes opened to the risk of Soviet intentions.
For anyone interested in World War II, this is a fascinating tale of Germany’s largely forgotten resistance, and the role played in attempting to shorten the war by assassinating Hitler, but also in ingratiating themselves with what ultimately would be the winning side. But because unconditional surrender was semper primus with Roosevelt, Dulles could not commit assurance to resistance fighters, for example, plotters of the July 20th attempt on Hitler’s life. But he did receive reports on developments within Germany, including sketchy reports on the status of the V-1 and V-2 missiles.
In 1950, General Bedell Smith, who had been appointed the first Director of the newly formed C.I.A. by President Truman, recruited Dulles to oversee the agency’s covert operations, as Deputy Director for Plans. Two years later, with the election of Dwight Eisenhower, Allen Dulles became the agency’s first civilian Director. He remained in that job until President Kennedy forced his resignation in 1961, following the fiasco that was the Bay of Pigs. Nevertheless, the President awarded him the National Security Medal in November of that year.
Miller’s well-told tale is one of a blurred and dangerous world where people, mostly men but some women, met – patriots, traitors and a few idealists. Switzerland was both neutral and central, a perfect venue for intrigue. His story is about a place and of a time that have passed into history.