The Company Man

Richard Bissell, Jr.

Issue: Winter 1996-1997

Richard Bissell, Jr., with Jonathan E. Lewis and Francis T. Pudlo, Reflections of a Cold Warrior (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996)

The late Richard Bissell was a career intelligence officer known for his most colossal failure-the management of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. At the time he had already devoted nearly a quarter century to government service, yet the wider public first became aware of him only as he made his inglorious exit through the side door. As befits a serious professional, over the next thirty years Bissell maintained a discreet silence regarding the tumultuous events in which he had played a part. Only in death has he broken his silence, in this case with the joint assistance of a young historian and his former secretary.

Three aspects of Reflections of a Cold Warrior immediately impress themselves on the reader. The first is the tone-which in spite of the dramatic subject matter manages to be consistently flat, gray, clinical, and self-effacing. The style faithfully reflects the man: Bissell was no sensational cloak-and-dagger spy given to bouts of self-dramatization ˆ la Howard Hunt, but a career security bureaucrat who understood the importance of discretion, teamwork, and prudent assessment.

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