Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the most important CIA spymaster in history, singlehandedly led America's intelligence service from the age of Mata Hari into the space age. Under his guidance the U-2 spy-plane, the SR-71 "Blackbird," and the Corona spy satellite were developed, and the agency rose to the pinnacle of its power. Bissell was also, however, the architect of the infamous Bay of Pigs operation that failed to overthrow Castro in 1961 and led to the decline of the CIA. In this compelling memoir, Bissell gives us an insider's view of the personalities, policies, and historical forces surrounding these and other covert operations and the lessons learned during those times of conflict. Bissell begins by describing his early years as a member of America's unofficial aristocracy. Born in a house that his father bought from Samuel Clemens, he was educated at Groton and Yale and befriended by Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, among others. Bissell recounts how he became acting head of the Economic Cooperation Administration, the agency in charge of the Marshall Plan after World War II, and helped to create the European Payments Union. Bissell was brought into the CIA in 1954, where he initiated a revolution in intelligence-gathering techniques. He reveals the details of these developments, as well as of the unique CIA-Lockheed partnership he pioneered, his participation in the CIA-sponsored coup to overthrow Arbenz in Guatemala, and his involvement in crises in Laos and the Congo. Bissell's memoir sheds light not only on pivotal points of American foreign policy but also on America's evolution from isolationist to interventionist superpower.
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