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.
The second impression one gets is that of an absolute minimum of introspection. "Never apologize, never explain" might well have been his motto, and while at times his evaluation of some controversial episodes in which he was involved might invite more extended comment, this taciturnity, one feels, is what one really wants in an intelligence professional. Better that, at least, than someone who feels he knows better than our elected officials. There is no evidence here, pace the late Senator Frank Church, of a rogue elephant loose in the corridors of our intelligence establishment.